For Joanne Lapic, the integration of point-of-sale software with mobile credit-card readers proved as irresistible as Tender, a top-selling scent of her bath boutique in Kutztown.
It was a whim two years ago that led Lapic to get a Square, a device that enables people to accept credit-card payments by swiping them through a 1-inch square plugged into a smartphone or tablet.
With it, she tripled Paisley & Co.'s visits to specialty shows to a dozen in 2012. This year, as the software for the card reader improved, she ditched her cash register and credit-card machine in favor Square's setup.
She estimated that she'll save at least $1,500 in credit-card fees annually since Square has no fees, only a 2.75 percent transaction charge -- and no contract. The device is free, as is the software or app.
Factor in the sales and merchandise lost at shows due to declined cards or unreadable carbon paperwork, which could be as much as 10 percent of her revenue from a show, and the switch to Square was irresistible, she said.
Add the ability to get snapshots, trends and analysis of all her sales, including the cash sales, and the little device and its software are quickly becoming indispensable.
"With the latest update, it opened the door to everything we needed to do," Lapic said.
The data is available instantly, which allows her to react to trends or replenish supplies faster. And it integrates with her accounting software.
Since the introduction of Square in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, the mobile-payments market has become crowded with devices and point-of-sale options. Recent entries include eBay (Paypal's Here), Intuit (GoPayment) and Verifone (Sail). Even some banks, which once dominated the credit-card market, are releasing mobile apps and readers. The fee systems differ but generally the transaction fees are less than 3 percent.
In November, Intuit reported card transaction volume grew 11 percent in its first fiscal quarter, driven by customers acquiring GoPayment.
At Lula Hookah & Dessert Bar in Exeter Township's Shelbourne Square, Nadia Muret has used GoPayment since she opened about six months ago.
Having someone bring what amounts to a cash register to the customer improves sales.
"We are completely mobile; that's how we wanted it," Muret said.
Close to 50 percent of Lula's $3,000 in monthly receipts are credit cards. Muret expects its revenues and credit-card customers to rise as the business establishes itself.
Fleetwood artist Rhonda Counts said getting a Square is a game-changer for her and other artists selling original works at festivals. At a recent sale, she noticed about half of her fellow artists and craftsmen had some sort of mobile-payment device.
Counts, a Disney Imagineer who retired in 2005, has had a Square for three years.
"I know I lost sales before it," she said.
It has enabled her to nearly double her sales, now averaging about two paintings a month in the $200 to $400 range. She's selling higher priced works, too, as much as $800.
Customers at festivals who run out of money or don't like to hand over large amount of cash or write big checks seem to be freer with credit and debit cards.
Perhaps they feel the online transaction is safer, Counts said. The customer gets a receipt sent to email moments after the sale is completed.
"It makes you seem a little more professional," Counts said.
The instant authorization also benefits Counts: "She gets a confirmation that I received it" and the funds are in her bank account the next day.
"The service lets the customer and myself know where the transaction transpired," she said. "I have the option of also entering a description of what I sold. It's great inventory tool and helps at tax time."
Counts has encouraged other artists to try them at the nonprofit Studio B, a Boyertown gallery where she is a volunteer.
For Lapic, a bonus is being able to accept the American Express card, which she did not do before getting her Square because AmEx charged 5 percent on each transaction.
Before Square, she had to ask her AmEx customers for a different card. Now, she can accept any card.
"You just never want to say 'no' to a customer," Lapic said. "Even if it's something about the manner of payment."
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