The popularity of the Square payment-card reader has sparked a new market for accessories — smaller versions of the cases and sleeves people commonly buy for the iPhones which Square readers attach to.
There may not yet be entire mall kiosks devoted to accessorizing Square readers, but the concept has clear momentum.
“I started the idea back in June of 2010 when Square was still beta testing
the reader with a small group of people,” says Chris Weaver, CEO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Simple Concepts LLC, an entrepreneur who was ahead of the card-reader pouch curve.
“I realized how small the dongle was and knew I would lose it as soon as I received it,” he says.
The card reader, sometimes called a dongle, attaches to a phone or tablet’s audio jack. It allows small merchants to accept swiped card payments and transmits the payment data through the phone or tablet’s wireless connection.
Square’s many rivals range from entrenched hardware makers like VeriFone to industry outsiders like Groupon. While each company brings different features to its product, Square is one of the few to develop the mystique and following more typically associated with Apple’s products.
“I started selling the smaller Square pouch in November 2010 because of all the interest I received,” Weaver says. “I received a lot of great feedback from customers, one being that the jack should not stick out of the bottom of the pouch in fear of it getting broken off.”
Simple Concepts redesigned the pouch in February 2011 to fit the entire Square reader with foam in the bottom to protect the jack. After that, Weaver claims the pouch “became a great hit.”
Simple Concepts has sold thousands of Square pouches since early 2011 on websites such as Amazon.com, Ebay.com, Etsy.com, and squarepouch.com, Weaver adds.
Simple Concepts is not affiliated with Square in any way.
Square spokesperson Katie Baynes says Square does not sell any of the accessory items, but uses social media to highlight merchants who do. These include Simple Concepts, SquareKeyChain.com, Egisworks.com, Etsy.com and squarepouchbydesign.
“We discovered companies were making them about two years ago, actually, and found them to be pretty handy,” Baynes says.
Square has developed pages on the social photo-clipping site Pinterest during the holiday season to showcase accessory sellers as well as highlight certain Square merchants, Baynes adds.
Etsy is an online marketplace for handcrafted goods. Because each Etsy shop owner is responsible for the items listed and sold in their online shop, Etsy spokesman Adam Brown says he is not sure which company was the first to offer the Square pouches.
“All I can say is that Etsy is full of creative people who are always ahead of the trends, especially in the area of tech accessories,” Brown says. “I can attest to the popularity of these types of accessories … I did a quick search and found about 200 items currently for sale.”
As the accessory market for Square devices has grown, it has evolved to include products that do more than act as simple carrying cases.
Weaver’s company recently introduced a product called Square Helper, which stops the Square card reader from twisting and turning while the merchant is trying to swipe a customer’s credit card, Weaver says.
The product was invented in August 2012 and Simple Concepts started selling it
in October 2012, he adds.