Q & A: Cash Wraps 101

Image from JarrettBay.com
Several readers indicated by their comments in my Q&A: Cash Wraps post that they didn't know what a cash wrap was or understand the concept the way I presented it. So consider this post 'Cash Wrap 101'!
'Cash Wrap' is a regular retail industry term for retailers, designers, manufacturers, and builders. It is a catchall term referring to the 'check out' or 'register' area of a retail setting {otherwise known as the place where the cashier stands, and the customers fork over the dough for the merchandise!}.

You may have heard the term 'cash wrap' in a phrase from a product rep or manufacturer as they sell you small products that are intended to sit on your 'register counter' area, as in: "This POP {Point Of Puchase} display unit holds forty six units of product, for cash wrap placement to maximize your impulse sales". The use of 'POP' identifies a product or display unit as one that is intended to be placed in close proximity to your register - the whole point is that while waiting in line to purchase what they've already chosen, customers are being actively marketed to by these units. {Picture the gum, candy, magazines, etc. at the grocery store}

Configurations and construction of cash wraps are as vast as the array of stores that they exist in, but there are some basics about them that apply to the whole industry.

Cash wrap stations typically consist of either one, two, or three parts:
A one-part unit has a single countertop/ cabinet combination that sits parallel or perpendicular to a wall.
A two –part configuration has a freestanding front and a parallel rear section up against a wall.
A three-part configuration is usually a 'U'-shaped grouping that sits perpendicular to a wall. Often times these become a square configuration by situating them in the center of a space, and then closing off the end of the 'U' with a jewelry case, etc.

When choosing a style for your store, consider the activities that need to take place around the register. {Remember the adage 'Form Follows Function'?} If wrapping & packaging merchandise as your customer purchases it is a large part of your store activities, you need ample space to do this - and NOT the area where the customer walks up and sits her chosen items. Provide a separate location (behind or on the other side of the register) to do this so that customers can be serviced expediently. {Picture a customer at your register with seventeen items.... and the young mother with a two year old and three small items standing behind her. Waiting. Waiting... Leaving.} Do you need two registers? What about a 'hold' area?

The front counter provides space for the cash register, a clear area for shoppers to place their chosen items to purchase, a place for your mailing list sign up and a flyer about an upcoming event. For Laura {yesterday's post} a flat panel computer screen running a continual loop of her portfolio and/or some images in beautiful frames of various sizes would be an excellent extension of her brand presence.  Placing one or two POP displays here is okay - rotate them weekly. Loading this area with five, ten, twenty little containers of small items? Totally negates the purpose and overwhelms your customer. Unless you are 7-11, don't do it.
The front counter could be built as a run of level countertops, or as a desk/cabinet combination – one end would be like a desk with legs under a clear counter top for customer purchases, set at a table-top height/ {This is where Laura would use a clear acrylic substance etched with or embedded with her photo imagery.} That would be connected on the other end to a solid unit with counter top, set at standard height, and cabinet base [for storage and to hide the power cords] for the cash register and computer. On the front of that solid base, Laura can utilize my concept of 'Imagedesigned Furniture' and bring in the element of your images through carving, etching, embedding them, or any other method. Or, simply use a corporate logo there.

The rear section of a cash wrap should include cabinets and drawers for closed yet accessible storage of paper & packaging goods, etc., with a long counter top with lots of workspace. Great lighting up above this is essential, plus you can take the back wall and install your corporate logo and/or imagery to support your brand image.  Don't store major shipping supplies, files, or extra products here. Keep it simple, neat, and accessible. The top of that counter should remain clear at all times. A stack of flat tissue is the only permissible storage here.  A hold area can be created with large cabinets fitted with shelves inside - open storage will look messy no matter what you do
The space between two parallel counters should be three feet wide, to facilitate easy & safe movement of persons and product between them - including open doors/drawers and people turning & bending. With countertops an average depth of 30 to 36 inches, you are looking at an approximately nine foot deep area for this kind of cash wrap. For a single counter cash wrap, you’d still need three feet behind for passage & door operations, so you need to allow approximately six feet in depth.

The length of any unit would be at your discretion, but allow at least a 2 ½ to 3 foot long area of counter space for customer purchases to be placed. If you make that area too small, the psychology is that they are buying something larger and therefore more expensive. Conversely, if you provide a spacious area, they feel that perhaps they can buy more. [I swear don’t make this up, reallyPaco Underhill addresses this in ‘Why We Buy’!]

As for POP displays and merchandise offered ON your cash wrap, think 'simple'.
Don't crowd the space, don't offer too many things (or too many categories) and switch them up often. Keep your display fixtures (boxes, racks, buckets, etc) in keeping with your brand visual identity - no cardboard or plastic, PLEASE! Think about offering a few - three, maybe four - items that have an immediate usefulness to your customers at this time of year, items that catch their eye and make them smile, items that will address a 'pain point' and make them happy that they found it. Ideas? Candy is the number ONE selling POP item! Offering free breath mints here is a win, so would tiny candy bars. Items should relate to your brand, your purpose, the main reason customers come to you and appeal to the largest segment of your demographic as possible: A limited selection of reading glasses displayed on a silver tray. Keyfobs or car air fresheners with sassy quotes displayed in a huge clear glass brandy snifter or bowl. Gift enclosure cards in a few styles, displayed in the top tray of a vintage tool box.

Also include special event postcards and limited time offer coupons here so that customers don't miss them - and please don't just lay them on the counter! Have an upcoming beach-themed fashion event? Put the postcards in a cute beach bucket. Maybe a floral workshop is on your calendar - so put the postcards in a pretty flowerpot! Invest energy and effort into every element that your customers see, and it will pay off.

Then make sure that what you place there can be seen: Hanging warm pendant lighting low over the front counter, or placing a beautiful table lamp there, will help prevent eye strain for your employees. This will also make your customers feel more comfortable than if they are standing under glaring can lights or fluorescent lights overhead.
The material possibilities are endless, and would of course depend upon the overall style of the store design – which ties it all back into 'Telling Your Own Story' and using your brand image to drive your choices.

 The biggest thing to remember about a cash wrap is that it is there for your CUSTOMER. 

It is not a storage facility for junk, a break room or rest stop for employees, or a catchall display fixture for things you aren't sure about. It is an opportunity to provide service, connection, and a clear image of your brand to your customer. Be vigilant about its design and use, and it will serve you well.

2021: the May issue of INSTORE Magazine Online 
includes information and quotes found in this post.
Read 'For Jewelry Stores, the Checkout Counter is a Branding Element' by Eileen McClelland here


  1. It's funny...our cash wrap was a cabinet that we couldn't GIVE away at the mall we were in. Now we couldn't live without it at our own shop. It is a bead board cabinet with 2 doors (which we debate removing) and a 2 drawer file cabinet to our right. It has everything we need handy...now if we would get a more sophisticated cash register..we have a tin can right now!

  2. Hello, I am so happy that I found your blog - great info!! I do have one question, what height would you recommend for a cash wrap?

    1. Sarah, the 'recommended standard height' for a cash wrap counter is no more than 36" high.

      However, actual height and configuration would depend upon the work that needs to be done on the countertop... many times you'll see multiple levels: one to allow for sitting merchandise down to be rung up, another up higher so that a person can write a check (do stores still accept checks?!!!) or sit their purse there while finding their credit card, and often you'll also see a lower shelf - sometimes one that slides into a compartment - to allow a person in a wheelchair to have a writing surface.

      Another consideration is your customer and staff - does your store specialize in merchandise for petite/small women, large/tall men, or children? Adjusting the counter heights in some areas can make the purchasing experience more comfortable for everyone involved.

      ADA guidelines may provide you with more information, and can be found here: https://www.ada.gov/reachingout/salesservice.html