Labor Day is a holiday that’s devoted to the American workforce, which now totals nearly 158 million people, most of whom are employed by small businesses. While businesses come in a wide variety of sizes and industries that serve the consumer public, a few lines of work stand taller than all the rest in terms of sheer numbers. Besides size, they all share a common, equipment-related bond: the use of cash registers.

According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more people work in retail than any other industry in America. Retail employs an estimated 4.6 million people across the country, and that’s just counting this specific sector. Cashiers, whose primary responsibility is to operate cash registers, account for 3.4 million individuals in the country’s workforce, making it the second largest occupation, followed by 3.2 million employees who work in food preparation.

Customer service, which all of these industries are built on, often requires the use of cash registers, where employees make change for the cash payments that patrons exchange for products or services rendered.

First cash register introduced in 1879
Cash registers have come a long way in the nearly 150 years that they’ve been used by business owners large and small. The brainchild of the cash register was James Ritty, who in 1879 developed a patent that enabled merchandisers to more seamlessly exchange funds with customers. While the device made it easier to account for profits and losses, it was initially developed to prevent clerks from stealing.

Several organizations have developed since Ritty’s invention, including the National Cash Register Corporation and National Manufacturing Corporation. These organizations not only manufactured registers, but their infrastructure and financial resources allowed these devices to become as ubiquitous as they are today.

x_0_0_0_14120111_800Cash registers are just about as omnipresent as small businesses.

Few sounds are more identifiable than the jangling of cash register drawers as they spring open, and there are plenty of drawers ringing this time of year with students going back to school. A rite of passage for their parents, the back-to-school shopping season got going a bit earlier this year, according to the National Retail Federation, with 48 percent of families acquiring half of what they intended to purchase within the first couple of weeks of August.

“It is evident that many families are still considering price and value when shopping for their back-to-school and college needs,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Shopping early and often is a trend we have seen from many budget-conscious consumers over the last few years.”

Back-to-college buyers plan on patronizing discount stores
Though back-to-school shoppers can avoid cash registers altogether thanks to mobile payments and e-commerce, there’s still something to be said for purchasing merchandise in store. The NRF poll found that among college students, 42 percent of buyers planned on finishing up their back-to-school lists at brick-and-mortar discount stores.

Next to Christmas, the back-to-school shopping season is the most profitable sales event of the year for retailers. This year, Labor Day falls squarely within that window. Some economists believe that 2016 could be a banner period for sales with more people working. The cash register till, however, will render the final verdict.

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.