The POS Software Blog

News from Tower Systems about locally made POS software for specialty local retailers.

CategoryRetail management advice

How small business retailers can cut shopper theft with POS software from Tower Systems

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Theft is local retail businesses is expensive for retailers. But, this theft by shoppers if often not considered or acted-on by retailers until they understand the real cost of this theft by shoppers.

From what we see, theft by shoppers can cost retailers between 3% and 7% of sales revenue in value. We have seen this across a range of retail business types and in a range of retail situations.

This year, in 2021, we have seen some evidence of co-ordinated theft, groups working together to shop for products they can flip online and air local markets.

The key to reducing theft by shoppers is through a managed process, adopted by the business leaders and implemented by everyone working in the business.

Here are seven steps we suggest to cut the cost of shopper theft in your retail business. While there are other steps you could take, these seven are most valuable from our years of working with retailers.

  1. Use your POS software. Spot stock take. Understand the cost of theft. This is critical for once you understand the scope of theft by shoppers in your business you are more likely to act. In our experience the evidence is that items being stolen are not those you think are being stolen. Data is key here. hence our advice to use your POS software.
  2. Look at people as they enter. Eye contact is key. Ideally, say hello to them. The more they think you have seen them the better.
  3. Have a screen near the entrance / exit so people can see that you filming them with your security cameras. The more people think they will be caught they less likely they are to steal.
  4. Work on the shop floor. That is unpack and price new stock on the shop floor, and not in the back room. This puts you or your employees among shoppers and heightens the chance of detection of theft.
  5. Walk the floor. Every so often, do a circuit. Be present. Talk to people.
  6. During peak shopping periods, station someone outside the business looking. Ensure they are trained on appropriate action should they see misbehavior.
  7. Bring in a security guard on a casual basis during your most busy periods. A good starting point here is to hire someone to look at the business under-cover, to see what they see, that you are not seeing.

The more likely people are to be caught the less likely you are to experience shopper theft.

Tower Systems has many years of experience in helping independent small business retailers mitigate em ploy theft and shopper theft. We leverage this experience for our customers through excellent POS software, free training, group training workshops, data analysis and expert witness support for authorities in specific cases.

Small business retail advice: how storytelling can reinforce the narrative of your local retail business

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For years we have been sharing stories on social media for our own shops. We started this to reflect on the diversity of shopper situations we engage with. The stories provided context for shopping by customers. Here is an example relating the greeting card purchases. It received over 200 lives in less than 24 hours:

Storytime. The twenty-something guy had been standing looking at cards for ten minutes. He seemed lost. “Hey, mate, you need a hand?” I said, without wanting to intrude. “Yeah”, he said with a sadness uncommon for a young guy looking for a card. “What are you looking for?”, I was careful in my approach. “My best mate’s dad died suddenly”, he paused. “He’s angry and wrecked” he paused again. “I, I want to tell him I’m here for him. I figured a card could be good,” he looked back at the range. “But, they’re too flowery.” He was right, the sympathy cards he was looking at were too flowery. After a while, we found a blank card with a dog on it, because his mate likes dogs. We worked out some words that got across what he wanted to say without being flowery.
Some days in retail we get to help in ways that will stay with us for years.

And then there is this one:

Storytime. Joe is 89 years old. He lives in a nursing home. When he moved there, he was limited as to what he could bring. The old shoebox with the collection of cards he’d received was the first thing he chose.
In that box are cards from his time as a local community Aussie rules coach. Parents and players had written cards over the years and Joe had kept them. “Each card is a memory”, he says with a smile, looking through his collection.
The oldest card Joe has is from 40 years ago from a player grateful for Joe’s help. Here it is so many years on, making Joe’s day.
Greeting cards hold the most wonderful memories.
And this one:
Storytime. Ethan’s school assignment asked that he write about his earliest memory. “That’s easy,” he said, “it was the first letter I ever got. It was a birthday card from grandma. I was 4 and she posted me a birthday card with a tiger on it and it came in the mail. That’s the first memory I have. I still have card, and the envelope. Mum got them framed for me.”
The card created in Ethan an interest in mail and letters more specifically. Now, 6 years on, every couple of weeks Ethan will write to a relative in the hope of receiving a response in the mail. And it all started with that birthday card, which remains his first memory.
Cards give us memories and stories long after they are received.
And this one:
Storytime. “Sorry, it’s just a card, no money for a gift this year.” That’s how Chris signed off the card to Jules, her friend of more than 20 years, since they were in high school together. Swapping birthday gifts with a card and a note were a tradition. Since they lived on opposite sides of the country, they’d usually include a note with the card and gift each year.
Jules wrote back: “your card and note mean the world to me, every year. While I may have, possibly but please don’t judge me, re-gifted the odd gift from you, I have kept every card, every single card from you. I have 23. They the story of us. They are a perfect gift. Thank you.”
The card we send today can provide heart-warming memories for many years to come.

Social media provides us an opportunity to share the narrative of our businesses. Local small business retailers are well placed to have wonderful stories they can share.

Our small business retail advice today is to take a break from shop here or shop local or look at this product and share something of yourself, share stories that speak to those who have shopped with you and yourselves.

Oh, and to answer an expected question for comment about using text and not images? Most social media posts use images. Going with text content could be more easily noticed. Certainly that is my experience in using posts like this over recent weeks.

Small business retail advice: how to calculate gross profit by floor space

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Here is another in our series of retail management advice based on our decades of service to local small business retailers using our Tower Systems POS software:

How to calculate gross profit by floorspace and how to use this information

With retail space usually costing between 11% and 15% of (non agency) revenue, it is usually the next highest cost outside of the cost of stock itself.

Spend half an hour on what we suggest here and the result could provide clarity on immediate steps you can take in your business to improve what you make.

This is not advice you will get from your accountant or from reviewing your P&L or computer reports. It is designed to be practically helpful in managing your business.

Please follow these simple steps.

  1. Take a blank sheet of paper, ideally A3, and roughly sketch out the layout of your shop, marking in display units, wall shelving, the counter – everywhere you have product.
  2. The floor plan layout should also include your back room if you have stock there.
  3. Colour-shade the layout by department. For example, shade all areas with magazines in yellow, all floor space for gifts in blue etc.
  4. List the departments on the side of the floor plan.
  5. Calculate the percentage of total space taken by each department. This does not need to be accurate to two decimal places. List this next to each department you have listed.
  6. Use your computer system to report on gross profit dollars earned by each department over the last year.
  7. Calculate the percentage of total gross profit contribution earned by each department and list this next to the floor space allocated to each department – on the floor plan map you have done.
  8. Circle in green those performing the best and in red those performing the worst. A best performing department will typically be responsible for a significantly higher percentage of gross profit than percentage of space allocated whereas a worst performing department will be contributing a percentage of overall gross profit considerably lower than the percentage of floor space allocated.

Once you have the marked-up floor plan with the space percentage and percentage of total gross profit, think about your floor space allocation.

The above steps do not take into account product size and the average gross profit percentage from each dollar of revenue for a department. For example, ink is a lower margin product than stationery, gifts are a higher margin magazines. Typically, the analysis will highlight challenges with lower margin product.

Here are actions the work you do could lead to:

  1. Changing the location of a department within the business.
  2. Increasing floor space for a department.
  3. Decreasing floor space for a department.
  4. Working on improving the GP achieved for a department through better buying.
  5. Working in increasing sales for a department to lift the overall GP dollar contribution achieved.

You can take the analysis a step further by looking only at one department and analysing performance by category, using the method outlined above.

For example, in one business we saw pens taking 7% of stationery space while they contributed more than 40% of gross profit earned from all stationery.

The type of analysis we are suggesting here is intended to give you a fresh view of your business as you engage in the process of constant change.

Small business retail advice: if you are finding things tough in your local shop

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We are often asked at our Tower Systems POS software company for help when it is too late. In this article, we share steps any retailer can contemplate from them moment they realise their business is in trouble, from the first thought that closing may be the only option.

Tower Systems is more than a software company. We are retailers too. We cherish the relationships with our retail business customers. We will help whenever and wherever we can to help small and independent retail businesses survive challenges and grow. 

If your retail business is in tough times and facing imminent closure, you may be able to save it if you act quickly and ruthlessly. Based on years of working with many different retailers, I have found that some basic steps can successfully turnaround a business in trouble. But you need to be ruthless.

The following tips are designed for businesses with a little (but not too much) time available to fix things. While they are not appropriate to every business, the ideas can lead to others that may be appropriate.

This advice is also appropriate or businesses not facing imminent closure but certainly facing tough times.

Crucial to saving a business from closure is to understand why it is in this situation. You have to be honest with yourself about this. How did it get to this?

  • Did you not make changes to your business when you should have?
  • Has something local and unexpected impacted your business?
  • Have you been a bad retailer, allowing the business to fade away?

Do not be afraid or ignorant in confronting these questions.

Make an honest appraisal of the state of the business as the truth can inform what you do next.

You have to own your situation. This means being realistic about what you face and what got you there. This is important as it opens you to what you need to do to resolve the situation, to rehabilitate your business.

Now, to the urgent steps you could take to avoid the closure of your retail business:

      1. Know your truth. If you run a computer system, analyse the data it collects. If you don’t know how to do this, find out. Look for surprise information in your data, things you did not know about your business. For example, look at the top selling items. If there are surprises there they could inform other decisions you make to urgently address your situation. Talk to your computer software company, ask for their assessment. Knowing your truth is key to owning your situation.
      2. Quit dead stock. If you have stock on the shop floor which is old – ‘old’ can vary between product categories – and for which you have already paid, quit it. However, stock that is greater than six months old is a reasonable guide – then take action to sell this at a substantial discount. Move the stock off display units. Line it up to look like clearance stock – stacked up on tables. Setup plain and simple signs indicating the discount prices. Create signage to show it as clearance stock. If you have enough clearance stock in your business, consider signs across your front windows. Give your sale a name that is unrelated to your situation. Here are some suggestions: MEGA SALE, FIRST EVER MARCH SALE, AUTUMN SALE, SMALL BUSINESS MIGHTY BIG SALE. Give it a name you can theme around.
      3. Run a loyalty offer. Immediately setup and run a loyalty program rewarding shoppers with dollars off their next purchase. The most successful loyalty offer in recent times is discount vouchers whereby vouchers are included on receipts offering an amount which is cleverly calculated by your software based on the items in the purchase. The goal has to be encouraging shoppers to purchase again soon based on the offer on the receipt for items they just purchased.
      4. Move things around. If your business is in trouble it is likely that it has not changed much in recent years. Change it. Move departments around, shake things up so your customers trip over things they did not think you sold.
      5. Review prices. Look at the common items you sell, consider a small increase in your prices. It could be a small increase will not hurt sales volume yet will add profit to your bottom line.
      6. Upsell well. At the counter, work to extend the basket for every sale possible. Do this with clever counter product placement and witty and engaging banter with customers offering upsell products. You goal has to be to make more from each customer.
      7. Stand for something. What is different about your business? What is special about it? What makes people want to come back? If you don’t know the answer to these questions you’re in trouble. If your answer is we’re the only shop of your type nearby you’re in trouble. If the answer is people have always shopped here you’re in trouble. You need to have a difference that people want and will talk about to others. It could be a product or a service. However, it cannot be a product line that is traditional to your type of business as that will not add value to your shingle in the way you want or need. What do you stand for?
      8. Market within your budget. Photocopied black and white flyers designed with care can be cheap and effective.
      9. Attract people who don’t know what you sell. Run a no-cost or low-cost campaign to reach out to shoppers who have no ideal what you sell yet which could appeal to them. They are not to blame for not knowing what you sell.
      10. Different retail options: Consider becoming an outlet shop selling items from a supplier keen to quit bulk items. Rent space in your shop to another retailer. If you have higher priced items consider offering employees commission on sales. Maybe become an outlet for local artists taking on items on a consignment basis.
      11. Stop unprofitable behaviour. If you are doing things in your business which lose money or do not contribute to a good future for the business, stop doing them. Regardless of history or what your business might stand for, continuing with unprofitable activity only makes your situation worse. If you know something to be unprofitable and yet you say you can’t stop it, think carefully about that, about why you can’t stop losing money.
      12. Get suppliers to help. Suppliers often have old stock themselves which they want to quit at a substantial discount. Buy items you have not stocked before, negotiate good prices and put the stock out with a healthy margin but still at a discount to what others would be charging. Negotiate to pay once you are paid by customers.
      13. Trim employee costs. Cut employee hours and work more in the business yourself if you are not doing so already. While this can have a significant personal cost, the less you pay others the more be business benefits in financial terms.
      14. Trim overheads. Cut everything you can: cleaning, power usage, insurance, freight, banking. Look at every supplier relationship you have and see if you can negotiate a better deal to cut your operating costs. However, do not turn off lights as darkness is death in most retail businesses.
      15. What assets can you sell? Do you have computers, retail fixtures, vehicles or other assets you no longer use in the running of the business? If they are not being used, turn them to cash as quickly as possible.
      16. Get a job. If you have a partner in the business with you and the business can run with one partner, one of you should get a job outside the business. This is especially helpful in a husband and wife situation where the family income can benefit.
      17. Talk to your landlord. A good landlord will prefer a good business to stay rather than have then close down and a new tenant having to be found. Talk to the landlord, be honest with them about your situation. Given the landlord all of the information they need to make the decision you need them to make. This information will include sales figures, expenses and margin information. Usually, the more transparent you are with the landlord the more they will support your business.
      18. Talk to your bank. While banks tend to not get involved in lending to businesses that are struggling, it may be that they have contacts that can help you navigate to a solution. Maybe talk to another bank.
      19. Talk to colleagues. If you have nearby business colleagues in the same line of business, they might have stock they are happy to provide you for free or at a discount to give you stock to move for a good price.
      20. Refresh the business. Make the business look, smell and sound fresh. Beyond the products you sell and where tings are located, change the environment itself using scents and sounds. Too often when a business is struggling, those involved let standards slip and the business does not look attractive to shoppers. Avoid this laziness at all costs.
      21. Deliver amazing customer service. When serving customers be the perfect shop assistance and not the owner of the business facing closure. Keep your mind on the job at hand and not the cliff you’re worried might be a few steps ahead.
      22. Whoever is pressuring you the most to close or contemplate closing, talk to them. If it’s a supplier, the tax office or some other organisation or individual pressuring you about debts, be upfront with them, lay out for them your plan detailing the action you will take to turn your situation around, be clear about what you are doing and outline a timeline step by step for them. Seek their support.
      23. Set a timeframe. Decide where you want to be in a week, four weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks. Set realistic goals. Measure yourself against those goals. Know what you will do if you fall short.

What we offer here is general advice, a shopping list of advice from which you can choose. It is intended to get you thinking of ideas that could work for you.

No two situations are the same. No situation is impossible. No business is dead until the doors are closed for the last time.

Never give up. Fight hard and fight smart to turn your business around.

Facing tough circumstances in retail can be like the deer in the middle of the road at night facing the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Don’t freeze. Take action to mitigate your situation. A series of small steps could be the difference between closure and trading out of the problem.

In your business data there are bound to be opportunities and insights around which growth can be achieved. If you are not sure where to look or what they could mean, ask us. We will help.

Checklist for those considering buying a local retail business

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In our work here at Tower Systems providing POS software for local small business retailers we are often asked for advice about buying businesses. A common question is: what should I ask for when looking at buying a newsagency?

The question itself, when asked, indicates how green a prospective purchaser is when it comes to purchasing a business.

Here is an updated list of data we suggest local retail business purchasers access from the vendor or their representative. We first published this list ten years ago. It has been regularly updated since. here is our latest version:

  1. P&L from the accountant for at least the last two full years. i.e. not a spreadsheet created for the purpose.
  2. Management accounts for the current part financial year.
  3. Tax returns for the same two years. While note always appropriate given business structures, they can provide a cross check with the accountant P&L.
  4. A good explanation of any add-backs proposed for the P&L.
  5. Sales data reports, for the last two years, from the POS software in use – to verify the income claim.
  6. Sales data reports from any external supplier or data source to verify the income claim.
  7. BAS forms to confirm data in the P&L.
  8. A list of all inventory to include purchase price and date last sold for each item.
  9. Copies of invoices from which you can randomly select to verify the above point.
  10. A copy of the shop lease.
  11. A copy of any equipment or other leases the vendor expects you to take on board.
  12. A detailed list of all forward orders placed on behalf of the business.
  13. A list of all employees: name, hourly rate, nature of employment, start date, accrued leave and accrued long service leave.
  14. A testament from the vendor as to the claimed accuracy of sales data.

This is good basic information that will enable any purchaser to undertake reasonable initial assessment of a business.

A good business will shine through the numbers just as a business with upside achievable by new owners will shine through.

Our advice to local small business retailers looking to sell who are concerned about this list is: think about it now and focus on your business so the data we have listed looks appealing to any prospective purchaser.

Every day you make decisions in your business that impact many of the data points listed.

This is why we often say every day is your pay day. Run a smart, lean and profit focused business and you will have a good pay day today and a good one when you come to sell.

The most appealing businesses are those that are easier to run and are making money.

The time to focus on that is now.

Sure a purchaser can turn a business around. They should get the rewards if they are expected to do that for your business.

The price you can sell your business for will be based on what it is making now.

Getting the data ready for the sale of the business could, of itself, help you improve how you run your business.

Retail advice: tips on setting up and running a pop-up shop

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A consequence of Covid is short-term retail space opportunities. Ion our work with retailers and through our iPad / tabled based Retailer Roam product we have experience helping retailers with pop-up shops. Here is advice we have to share:

Definition: a pop-up shop is a temporary shop, one that is open for a limited period of time, usually around a month, rarely more than three months.

We have assembled our pop-up shop advice and tips into key topic areas.

WHY?!

Like any business decision, a decision to open a pop-up retail location needs to be based on good research and the business itself needs to have a purpose. So, before you begin, think about why.

Here are some reasons to do a pop-up shop:

  1. To test new product categories.
  2. To supplement your income.
  3. To help quit slow moving stock.
  4. To enhance your retail experience.
  5. To experiment with a plan b where you might land if you close your main shop.
  6. To engage in targeted, temporary, competition.
  7. To compete with yourself.

LOCATION.

With a pop-up shop you don’t have time to find your customers. The location needs to already have good traffic passing daily, traffic you can easily leverage. Even more so than in fixed-location retail, location is critical.

The best locations are shops that have good passing traffic that is of interest to you and that have been vacant for a while where a landlord might be happy with something rather than nothing.

OCCUPANCY COST.

Negotiate the lowest rent cost possible. Some landlords see pop-up offers as a reason to charge a premium. Only sign up for a price you are 100% happy with. If it is expensive and does not work financially, don’t sign hoping it works out, because in retail it rarely does work out better. In a pop-up business you have less time to see if it works out. Also, preferably, no contingency deposit.

LABOUR COST.

Staff the business with a lean roster. This shop is about selling. that means, products placed for a price proposition rather than beautiful displays that take time to maintain. Every staff member is there to sell and maximise revenue from every shopper visit. There is no room in the roster for fat.

FIXTURES AND FITTINGS.

Don’t spend a cent on fixtures and fittings. That needs to be your starting position. It’s a pop-up shop. People expect it to be  efficient, cost-effective. Using tables and boxes adds to the feel of the shop feeling low-cost and that can help drive sales. Suppliers can be a good source for loaned fixtures.

INVENTORY.

Ask suppliers to offer consignment stock or special clearance deals they’d like to move fast. Go for items that can be sold out of a box, to make display and ranging easier. In-box displays of particularly cheap items can work very well.

PRICING MODEL.

Price to sell. This means being below usual retail. Price to understandable price points. For example, you might have a $10 table, a $20 table and so on. Consider bundling items into packs, which make price comparison difficult.

PROMOTION.

Don’t spend money on sign writing or marketing. Use social media and bargain websites and anywhere similar where you can list the store and its products.

Host an opening party. List this as a local event on Facebook.

MANAGEMENT MINDSET.

Your mindset in managing the pop-up shop needs to be different to a fixed-location retail situation. Pop-up shops are about low cost, low overheads, low prices. Be ready to do deals. Whoever manages  the pop-up shop needs to be different to how they would be in the fixed-location retail business.

SPEED.

You need to move fast. From the moment you sign a lease or agreement, the clock is ticking. Ideally, you’d open within 24 hours and when you are done, closing and clearing out the shop is done in 24 hours or less. This is all about maximising the time for income-production.

TRACK PERFORMANCE.

Cultivate good data that can guide business decisions for your next moves.

 

Is a pop-up shop worth doing? Only you can determine that. We have seen plenty of pop-up shops work well for the retailers, contribute good GP, help move slow stock and help open to the owners category opportunities not previously considered.

Do the planning and you should expect to benefit.

10 ways the Tower Systems POS software is helping gift shops deal with pandemic challenges

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Gift shop retailers using the Tower Systems POS software have at their disposal a proven suite of tools and facilities with which to combat the blues which seem to surround so many retailers at the moment.

By engaging with the marketing and management tools in the Point of sale software, retailers can expect to cut costs, increase sales and drive bottom-lime profit.

These claims are more than a sales pitch.   For no additional cost, local small business retailers can drive more profitable and more valuable business outcomes … and turnaround what may be a tough retail situation.

Using the Point of Sale software from Tower Systems, retailers can expect to:

  1. Cut costs.  Thanks to electronic invoicing, the cost of processing new stock is lower than with manual processes.  This can help cut your labour bill.
  2. Increase sales #1: reward customers.  A good loyalty program works.  Not like FlyBys which is of dubious financial value to customers.  No, a serious loyalty program which guides your customers to spend more money with you.  I have see stores grow sales by 10% on the back of a well constructed loyalty program,  a good POS software package will run this for you, points and all.
  3. Increase sales #2: easy lay-by.  Lay-by run properly and using technology can be highly profitable.  The software can manage the rules and ensure that your shop operates as professionally as a national retailer.  You set your own rules and the software manages the paperwork.
  4. Increase sales: market to your customers.  A coupon on your receipts, an email newsletter, a printed newsletter or up-sell script at the sales counter for staff – these are all ways you can use your point of sale system to help guide your existing customers to spend more money with you.
  5. Increase sales #5.  Connect with a local charity.  Use your gift shop software to make it easy for a local charity to promote your retail business shop and raise money for themselves at the same time.  Each sale earned for you by the charity can be tracked so that you are able to reward them with an accurate donation at the end of the campaign.
  6. Make better business decisions.  Bu buying only stock which works for you or seeing exactly what customers buy with what you are able to make business decisions which are more likely to drive better business results.
  7. Sell your own gift cards.  If a customer cannot find what they want in your shop you could sell them a professional looking gift card with a unique barcode allocated to that card.  This way they money they put on the card is used in your business.
  8. Cut mistakes.  Mistakes in retail can be expensive.  By using smart retail management software, you can and should expect to cut mistakes.  This is because it takes fewer keystrokes per sale.  This reduces the opportunity for mistakes.  The saving could add as much as a full percentage point to your bottom line.
  9. Cut theft.  Theft in retail in Australia was running at between 3% and 5% of turnover.  Thanks to tight controls around employees and better tracking of stock theft, you can expect to cut the cost of theft.  Every $1 cut in theft is a $1 on your bottom line.
  10. Handle special orders.  Using software you can place orders for specific customers.  The software can even sent a text message to the customer’s mobile phone when their special order comes if.  Talk about customer service!

The most important way you can grow your business in a tough marketplace is doing what you probably do best – providing cheerful and knowledgeable customer service.  You can do this and your employees can do this if you hand over some of your administrative tasks to your software.

It is easy to get drawn to the doom and gloom of the times and through this to lose focus on your business.  This trap must be avoided at all costs … for the sake of the business and all who rely on the business from customers to employees to owners.

By using tools freely available in your Point of Sale software you can find sales, find time and find margin which may have eluded you to this point.

Small business retail advice: make your shop more valuable

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Too often small business retailers focus on the sale of their business as their pay day without actually acting, every day, to ensure that day delivers the best value for them.

Every day in any local small retail business there are decisions that can be made, steps that can be taken that nurture more value from the business. These steps, most of which cost little or nothing to implement, can have long-term gains for the profit and loss of a retail business.

We see this in our work with more than 3,000 local small business retailers. We see the value of good moves. We see the costs of inaction.

Thinking about this, what we see, here is a list of 10 things any local small business retailer could do in their business to drive value today and, more importantly, value tomorrow when they choose to sell their business.

This list is in order of the value we see being achieved in local small retail businesses that act on these things.

  1. Deal with old stock. Old stock is worthless to you and anyone being the business. Keeping it is a waste of space, time and cash. This work starts with you knowing what is old stock – our POS software helps with this.
  2. Trim the roster. Labour costs around 11% of revenue. Every dollar saved is a dollar that benefits the P&L. Yes, this likely means more hours for owners … but you have to ask yourself about your focus as to when you want your pay day.
  3. Review opening hours. Often in business data we see opening hours opportunities – either for longer hours or shorter hours. be guided by your business data.
  4. Clean up online. Be easily found. Review your Facebook, Google and other listings. Make sure they are current for if they are not it reflects poorly on the business.
  5. Declutter. An appealing looking business is easier to sell. On the shop floor, at the counter, in the back room – declutter and make the business more appealing to you, prospective buyers and customers.
  6. Review unprofitable activity. Look carefully at each category of product or service you offer. Get to an accurate understanding of the value of each. Consider quitting those that are under performing.
  7. Price for margin. While plenty of retailers pressure suppliers for lower prices, too few actively consider what they could sell some items for, missing the opportunity for a better margin. Where you can, price for a better margin.
  8. Document. Write up your processes, systems you follow and more. Document this and make the business easier to run and appear easier to run. The documenting process itself is likely to lead to efficiency opportunities uncovered. The resulting documentation will make the business more appealing.
  9. Reduce debt. We see too many retail businesses where debt is used with an expectation that it will be dealt with when the business is sold. Clean it up now as much as you are able. The less interest you pay the more money the business makes.
  10. Balance sheet clean up. While selling a retail business will often not include selling the company structure, the tidiness of your balance sheet may not be ideal for that time you do come to sell. It’s better you discover this and work on it prior to needing to.

This advice is part of the regular advice Tower Systems provides its customers.

Small business retail advice: how to deal with a cashflow crisis

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A cashflow crisis is when you can’t pay your bills on time or a sustained period of dissatisfaction with the cash reserves in the business. Too often, small business retailers ignore a cashflow crisis, leaving action until it is too late. We have put together some basic advice for dealing with a cashflow crisis in local small business retail and share it here with you today:

  1. Own the problem. Fixing this is on you.
  2. Bring in outside help. This could be a friend, a financial counsellor. The best person will be someone who understands your type of business who can help you see what you don’t see and support you in tough decisions to be made, someone prepared to tell you the truth.
  3. Understand the problem. Know if it is short term or long term. Be certain about the role you have played.
  4. If you run customer accounts, collect with urgency.
  5. Ask the landlord for immediate rent relief. The more transparent you are with them the better. Document your case. Be prepared to show your P&L in support of your request.
  6. Cut your roster to bare bones. Yes, this can mean more work for you to cover the needs of the business. However, in a cashflow crisis, your labour cost is the lowest in the business.
  7. If you have stock on sale or return and it is not selling, return for credit.
  8. Immediately start a sale.
    1. Give it a cool, non scary, name.
    2. Price items to sell, especially items for which you have already paid. Even selling below cost frees cash to the business.
    3. Get everything on the shop floor.
    4. Display to clear. i.e. not pretty displays for sale items.
  9. For inventory that you cannot sell, consider eBay.
  10. Consider selling assets. If you have equipment in the business that you no longer use, sell it.
  11. Talk to all your creditors, apologise, outline your plan, ask for their support and help.
  12. When making progress payments on creditors, respect all with payments. NOTE: small regular payments could be key to you not facing debt collection action.
  13. Act. Every decision, every action you take must work to addressing the cashflow challenge. If you have created a plan act on it immediately. This is not a time to overthink things.
  14. Invest. If your cashflow challenge is because of a decline in traffic, not spending money chasing traffic will only make the problem worse. Spend carefully.
  15. Plan for the end point. This will be either coming out on top or closing the business.

The cashflow achieved by a business is a product of decisions in the business. Be thoughtful in each decision and single-minded in your focus on a better cashflow outcome.

Small business retail advice: if you think closing and walking away is the only option

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A few years ago, a local retail business we knew well closed, and the owner walked away. They said they could not handle the changes going on around them.

The thing is, the changes had been happening, slowly, for years.

The biggest challenge faced by the retailers is faced by many in local small business retail: how to nurture relevance for your shop in a constantly changing world.

It takes guts to embrace and chase change. The sooner you engage with this the better. This is what we say chase change, because that is what we need to do – go find change rather than waiting for it to come to you. Advice on change and help with it will most likely come from new sources, sources not rooted in your past.

The more you reach outside your usual lane for insights and encouragement the more likely you are to find fresh ideas. the alternatives are to do nothing or complain and do nothing.

Complaining is not a management activity.

Here is some practical advice for any retailer feeling overwhelmed by challenges and, maybe, contemplating closing.

  1. Dig deep into your business data and look for green shoots of good news onto which you can attach growth. It will be there, for sure.
  2. Stop doing what you have been doing, unless you want the results you have been getting.
  3. Rely on retailers for advice as they know more about retail than accountants.
  4. Find products that will generate net new traffic in your location.
  5. Refuse to be restricted by the shingle under which you trade
  6. Change, change and change your business.
  7. Listen to your shop floor team members. They often have the best advice.

Change is challenging. It is also essential. Too often we see local small business retailers resist change out of fear, ignorance or an expectation that things will naturally improve. The reality of retail today is that change is everywhere, including where we cannot see. And, this is what makes it difficult for us in that if we can’t see something we may not worry about it.

One of our jobs in our POS software company is to encourage local small business retailers to be the best they can be. Through good use of our software we can do this. But, it starts with desuire, desire for change and the benefits that flow from change.

Small business retail advice: create your own Covid support package

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How people shop, when people shop and where people shop has changed fundamentally. Online has grown and continues to grow. People shop more with purpose now. There is less browsing. More people work from home permanently. What interests people has changed. People think more about the future now. People are less physically connected now, and more connected as a result. Australian made is more interesting to shoppers now. Shopping local counts for more than it used to. Tech barriers from before have been overcome: think QR codes, click and collect and the number of people shopping online for the first time.

These are some of the changes Covid has brought our way and in each of these is opportunity. While some business owners ask governments for cash to deal with today, it’s tomorrow that will really challenge as what Covid has kicked off and pushed forward will not u-turn.

We need to make our own Covid support package as it is this package that will be more useful to us in the future.

  • Expand sources of revenue. Carry products and services that attract people who have not shopped with you before. Expanding your shopper reach insulates your business.
  • Smooth the peaks. Look at your key business data points: sales by product category, sales by supplier, sales by staff member. Look at the peaks in these and if they are considerably higher than average, lift others so you are less reliant on the peaks.
  • Expand your sales points. Having only the in-store sales counter as a sale point is a risk. Make sure you are online through your own website, on eBay and on social media so people can purchase where they want. Selling to people you will never see is key.
  • Nurture loyalty. Run an easily understood loyalty program that differentiates your business.
  • Chase efficiency. Efficient shopper visits have more items in the basket. Develop a strategy for driving this. It starts with understanding your current position.
  • Entrench in the community. Supporting the community groups that support you is good for business. Doing this in a consistent and mutually understood way delivers benefits that can insulate the business when rocky roads present.
  • Be frugal. Covid has taught us the value of having money in the bank. The trimmed roster, reduced inventory in the back room, lower overheads, early settlement discount taken … they all free cash that can be banked for when you will need it.
  • Reduce debt. Every additional dollar you pay off business debt is a saving greater than the dollar itself.
  • Look for the pivot. Keep asking yourself what if this or what if that. Think about pivot opportunities in those situations. Always have a pivot move or two and, if it makes sense, pivot early, ahead of the need.
  • And, have your shop reflect how people shop now: make it easier, safer, serving quick shopping, packaging bundles, offer browsing without touching.

By being actively engaged in these and allied areas in your business you can create your own insulation against the challenges of Covid or similar. These suggestions and others they trigger make up  your own made Covid support package.

Advice on dealing with anti-maskers in small business retail

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The latest lockdowns in New South Wales and Queensland have seen small business retailers confronted by anti-maskers out to make a point for their nutty views. Vocal anti-maskers in-store make for a possibly unsafe workplace.

While we are not legal experts, we offer the following advice to retail business owners:

  1. Provide your staff with appropriate personal and business equipment for their protection: screens at the counter, masks, hand sanitiser … all backed by appropriate Covid protection protocols. Keep this updated. For example, have an endless supply of masks available.
  2. Ensure customers know, from front of store signage and social media posts, that masks are required in-store. Use clear signage.
  3. Have masks available at the entrance to the shop for customers, for free.
  4. Demonstrate active understanding of situations where someone may not be able to wear a mask, for health reasons for example.
  5. Have a protocol for dealing with a vocal and / or threatening anti-masker and ensure that all staff know the protocol. This protocol should include a means by which a situation can be easily reported – a specific bell ring, for example.
  6. As the business owner, be engaged in dealing with anti-maskers.
  7. Meet with employees regularly to talk about the situation, to decompress. Make sure they understand and see that you support them.
  8. If the business is being targeted at all, position yourself at the front of the shop to run defence.
  9. The goal has to be to not directly engage with an anti-masker, to avoid making the situation worse, but to get them out of the shop as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  10. Ensure your CCTV is working, so you have evidence or any portable offence.
  11. Engage the police for any unsafe or threatening behaviour.
  12. Appreciate good customers in-store and on social media – celebrate their actions for making the shop safe.
  13. Put the health and safety of employees ahead of what a customer may think is their right to free speech. 

Dealing with anti-maskers in a retail business is all about leadership. The solution has to be set and led by business owners. leaving it to front line retail staff to deal with would be, in my view, an abrogation of responsibility. Show your employees how much you care about them by actively engaging on this issue.

A Covid lockdown To-Do list for local small business retailers

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Here in Melbourne we are in our fifth Covid lockdown. As well as owning our POS software company and working with local small business retailers every day, I also own three retail businesses and several online businesses.

This Covid lockdown To-Do list for local small business retailers is practical advice you can action without cost, to make the most of the lockdown opportunity.

Whether your shop is closed or open but with less traffic, now is an ideal time to work on your business.

  1. List what’s not sold. Run a report listing all inventory in the business that has not sold at all this year. This list gives you a starting point for action. We did this last week for one customer and identified $15,000 worth of dead stock, stock the owner to that point was not focussed on.
  2. Act on what’s not sold. Dead stock is dead weight. If you have long since paid for it, cents in the dollar for it is better than nothing.
  3. Look at what’s been selling with what. Often the items in the same basket are not seen by retailers as items you can put together. This list, which you should be able to get from your POS software, can guide shop floor placement changes.
  4. Front to back clean. Literally, start at the front of the shop and work your want to the back. Clean every single product. We often find that the act of holding every product leads to decisions about some products, decisions we might otherwise not have made. We have just done this at one of our own Westfield shops and the decisions we made along the way have been liberating.
  5. Work on your roster. Look at what usually sells by day of week and by time. Your POS software should be able to help with this. Take time to review your roster to ensure it is set appropriately. Labour is usually the top or second highest cost in a retail business outside of inventory.
  6. Reset the front third of the store. Look carefully at that front third of your store. Make bold changes simply by moving things, so that when shoppers return they see things they’ve not noticed before.
  7. Prepare social media content that leverages you. Using your phone, film short videos of you or a team member talking about products. Prepare these to load over time on Facebook, Instagram and more. Have fun.
  8. If you have a website for the business, write blog posts as they are absolutely the single best thing you can do to attract traffic to the website. A blog post should be single topic, pitch a consistent keyword at least five times and be over 350 words. We have a lot of experience with this and note, again, this is the single most effective online marketing for a website. The only investment is your time – don’t outsource this.
  9. Learn something new. Ask your POS software company for the best report in the software to reveal what you are unlikely to know about your business. Run that report. Read it. Make a list of things you could do. Act on it.
  10. Be a shopfitter. Shopfitters are expensive. Look at an area of your shop that you want to change that you would usually hire a shoplifter to handle. Think through how you can do it yourself. I know many retailers who have done this and vowed to not use shopfitters for such changes in the future.
  11. If you are online, undertake a data driven review of your website. Look at your traffic and the traffic of your competitors. Review your site and theirs. Look for opportunities to attract more shoppers to your site based on the data. Whoever developed your website should be able to collate this data for you.
  12. Personally: refresh. If you can take a break from business, even for an hour a day, read fiction, listen to music you love, go for a walk outside. These nourishing things can help reset mood and that could help you discover new opportunities for your business.

We are a local Aussie POS software company serving 3,500+ local small business retailers with POS software and beautiful Shopify websites. Beyond this, we also offer retail business management advice and help to our customers every day.

Thanks for reading. have an awesome rest of your weekend …

Mark Fletcher | mark@towersystems.com.au.

Valuable advice from small business retailers: make every day your pay day

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This advice is something we have shared before. But, it’s been updated for today. We have found, over many years, this to be the most useful, beneficial and appreciated advice for small business retailers.

Make every day tour pay day.

There was a time when small business retailers could rely on selling their business for a handsome increase on the price they paid thereby providing a good pay day, when businesses sold for a good multiple of net earnings.

Today, the best way to extract financial value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business.

If you do this, if you focus on making money every day, you get ahead, in small steps and increments for sure, but you do get ahead, and long before you actually sell your business.

Our advice is that you look at your business differently. This starts with the mindset of every day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Make sure the shop feels happy. People will spend more in a happy business.
  2. Buy as best you can. If you better than usual, keep the additional margin for yourself.
  3. Take every discount opportunity. Paying COD or taking settlement discounts. If you have the capacity to do this, the extra margin adds to your pay day.
  4. Run with the leanest roster possible. Note, however, there is a fine balance between too few and too many.
  5. Always have successful impulse offers at high traffic locations. If something is not working, try something else.
  6. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  7. Make sure the shop looks appealing from outside.
  8. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  9. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  10. Leverage adjacency. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower Systems POS software helps with this. It is easy.

POS software helps small business retailers with Christmas in July

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Christmas in July is a terrific retail tradition in Australia. It is an excellent opportunity to clear stock, boost foot traffic and reset the shop floor of any retail situation.

Using our POS software retailers can easily manage the Christmas in July. In particular, our POS software can help with:

  • Identifying what inventory you can pitch in Christmas in July to quit stock.
  • What sold at this time last year, and the year before.
  • Bundling items to given them a fresh look.
  • Managing the pricing offer between nominated date and time periods.
  • At the register pitching up-sell opportunities from the Christmas in July campaign.
  • Tracking the success of the campaign.

Christmas in July is a wonderful opportunity in almost any retail setting. We say this based on our experience working with a broad variety of specialty retailers. The key is to have a strong offer, well situated, pitched well, understood of all team members and targeted to sell what you need to sell. That’s the key here – the commercial outcome for your retail business.

Here at our POS software company we can help you make the most of the Christmas in July opportunity.

Here is a refreshed list of tips for making Christmas in July a success.

  1. Run the Christmas in July campaign over no more than two weeks in July. One week could be enough.
  2. Choose dates which are away from any other promotion – it works best with little competition.
  3. Get all team members engaged.
  4. Set aside spoke front of store, in their face.
  5. Dress the team and the store to suit the Christmas theme.
  6. Display any spare Christmas stock from last year.
  7. Play Christmas music.
  8. Choose a day for an extra special celebration and make this an all-out focus.
  9. Have a competition for the kids around the theme.
  10. Create a giant Christmas stocking which one lucky customer can win.
  11. Use the event to discount any slow moving items. It its a perfect opportunity to quit stock.
  12. Promote on social media.

Christmas in July is an excellent opportunity to get suppliers on board.  Maybe they could provide products for you to give away as gifts – I.E. every shopper gets spending over $10 a ‘Christmas’ gift.  Suppliers could use your promotion as an ideal time for trialling products and getting your customers engaged.

Small business retail advice for the new financial year

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It’s a new financial year and with that we have new opportunities to consider. Today, we share our advice for small business retailers, local independent retailers, for the 2021/22 financial year. This advice leverages years of experience serving local small business retailers and, in particular, the experience of the last eight months in which the coronavirus pandemic has played a big role.

  • Less is more. Many retail businesses can make more money carrying less stock. Yes, we know that sounds odd. But, it’s true. Too many retail businesses are full of stock, often too much stock, to make a shop look full. For some, this is a stack em high watch em fly approach. The evidence in data from hundreds of local retail businesses is that quitting dead stock, freeing space and re-casting the shop floor story can drive sales growth. We know of a shop that early this year cut inventory by 20% and increased revenue by 35%.
  • Mine your data. Your business data is your best business guide. Mine it for advice as to steps you can take. We are certain that in every retail business there is data on which they can act for the benefit of the business. The best place to start is dead stock, stock long ago paid for you that has not sold in months.
  • New traffic. New shopper traffic is your future. While current traffic is important, it will most likely deliver the success that you are used to. New traffic is net bottom line beneficial. Chasing new traffic depends on the products you offer and how you pitch them outside your business. This is where social media and an online web store play a key role in helping you to reach new shoppers who don’t know about your business today.
  • Trim waste. Trim dead stock, trim roster overload, trim expensive suppliers, suppliers who are not cost effective for your operation. Think of this as a whole of business declutter for a leaner and healthier future.
  • Listen. There are likely to be people in your business who are not in decision making roles yet who may have opinions worth listening to. Ask them for their ideas. Consider the ideas. be open to changes that could help the business.

This is some of our small business retail new financial year advice. we are grateful to help our customers, through our POS software, in a variety of ways.

Small business retail advice on handling community group donation requests

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Requests from schools, charities and other community for donations can be a challenge for any size business. If you do not take a structured approach to this you will find yourself giving away plenty for little or no return.

Requests are often loaded with guilt.  People can be passive aggressive in their approach. Often, people requesting help leverage pester power. It can be hard to say no. There are too many stories of retailers giving a gift as a prize, receiving the Thank You poster and achieving no benefit for the business.

having heard many stories from our POS software customers and experience ourselves in running retail businesses, we have put together advice for small business retailers on this challenge of the constant stream of community groups asking for donations.

Our advice is to manage your philanthropy as you would any business activity.

THE PRIZE / GIFT

Decide the amount in cash or product value or both that you are prepared to donate in a full year, calendar year or financial year.

Our recommendation is you give away cash, but in the form of a voucher to spend in your business. This ensures that value of the gift or prize is greater than the cost of it to your business.

The best mechanism for giving away cash or an amount to spend in-store is to do it  by way of a gift voucher. Use your software to manage this as any manual approach is dangerous and time-consuming.

YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS

Get on the front foot and write to local community groups outlining that you budget a year in advance. Seek their submissions. With this advice sheet we have included the text of a suggested letter. Please read the letter as it outlines the approach we suggest and why. It is important you communicate this with all community groups.

On the page after the letter is a suggested notice for use in-store when you are asked for donations.

HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT

Focus on community groups that support you. That is, groups with members who support you. The more they support you the better you are able to support the community.

Be prepared to ask where people shop for the items you sell in your business. Ask if they will change in return for your support.

Asking these questions underscores to you the importance of approaching the decision as a business decision.

Be thoughtful and deliberate. Support the groups that support you. This is important as it helps you stay within a budget.

LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE

If you run discount vouchers and if customers say they don’t want the voucher, invite them to contribute the voucher to a local group – one of three you setup for in the business. Every month, two months or three months, tote up the vouchers and give the group a parentage of the total voucher value ‘voted’ for them.

This idea could be in addition to any giving program you run in the business. It offers a daily reminder of your commitment to local giving.

Grill’d burgers run a program kind of like this where each shopper is given a bottle cap, which they place in a tub to vote on a group to receive a cash donation for the month. The process of groups submitting to be considered is onerous. You can find out more about that program with this link – it is a good place to research what others do: https://www.grilld.com.au/localmatters/

REWARD ENGAGEMENT

In addition to any direct gift, consider an offer whereby anyone who is a member of the group who shops with you accrues an amount you donate to the group. You could manage this through your software. It could be you offer a discount to the shopper as well as accruing a value for the group.

This type of program could also be in addition to your core giving program as the value here is driven by sales – hopefully, incremental sales.

EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT

Here are things groups you support can do to help your business. You should ask them to do these things:

  1. Tell members to buy from you.
  2. Write about your business on their Facebook page.
  3. Distribute flyers of your offers.
  4. Have you speak at a meeting.

WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT

Once you have a decision on which groups you will support, write about this in your newsletter and on Facebook. Not just once but multiple times. Invite them to provide you with content to publish too. Talk about their good works.

Ask them to write about you too.

Your giving must serve your heart and serve your business. Going about it in a structured way will ensure you meet your objectives.

Here is suggested text for a letter:

 

[date]

 

 

 

Good morning

I write to invite your community group to submit a proposal to be considered one of the groups we support this coming year. We are taking this more formal approach rather than considering donation requests when they are pitched trough the year.

We are a small family business with limited resources. We seek to be engaged with community groups that support us as the more successful we are the more we can help the community.

The approach we are taking here is to allow us to plan our giving, to be deliberate in the support we provide.

We will not take on donations through the year from groups who call or visit. While this may seem unfair, we think it will result in more valuable support for the groups we engage with.

In addition to a financial donation, we will support the groups we select through promotion on our business Facebook page and in other practical ways. We want an involvement that is more than just financial, we want to help the groups we partner with to reach further into the community.

To help us consider your business please provide a one page written submission that briefly outlines:

  1. The goal of the group.
  2. Number of members.
  3. What you stand for.
  4. The work you do.
  5. Why it matters to the community.
  6. How a relationship with you could help the community.

We will consider all submissions at the same time and advise the outcome of our deliberations.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Here is suggested text for a notice:

 

OUR POLICY ON HANDLING COMMUNITY GROUP DONATIONS.

We receive requests to support local community groups and charities regularly. As a small family business with loans, rent, wages and other costs, we cannot say yes to everyone. We wish we could but we cannot.

To help us better connect with and serve the groups we do support, we now decide at the start of the financial year the groups we will support over the next year. The selection process is based on written submissions from groups.

Our decision to select the groups we support at the start of the year means we cannot take on additional donation requests through the year.

We hope you understand and respect this.

Please consider applying in advance of the start of the next financial year.

But all is not lost…

If your group can bring in new customers to our business to purchase items they want we may have another way we can help. Ask us for details.

Thank you and we wish you all the best in your community group.

Practical retail management advice from our POS software company

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Beyond our POS software and the advice we provide to our customers on its use is the general retail advice we provide. Often, this is advice that has nothing to do with our POS software. here is an example from a couple of weeks ago. It’s advice on visual noise.

How to reduce visual noise in your shop.

If you give your customers too many things to look at inside or outside your business, they will notice less.  Your choices show them what you want them to look at

Less is more. Have less visual noise, less visual pollution, and more will be noticed.

Show your customers what you want them to notice by giving that product, range or display fresh air (visually) around it.

Stand at the door of your business and scan around counting the signs you can read and displays you can see. How many are there? More messages, more signs = less noticing them. yes, less is more.

Here is advice for less visual noise in your business:

  1. Edit. Every few days stand at the front of the shop and review your signage and edit the mix.
  2. Posters. Do not put up magazine or newspaper posters. There is no evidence doing so increases sales.
  3. Housekeeping notices. Have all customer notices, such as your exchange policy, discount voucher policy, minimum eftpos charge etc, all in the one unobtrusive place.
  4. Call to action signs. If you have items on sale or discounted, place them all in the one location, a designated sale location in your business, with simple and professional signage.
  5. Product signs. For product signage in-store, be consistent in style and look. Smaller signs next to products will work better than big signs from the ceiling – how often do your shoppers walk in looking up anyway?
  6. Colour block. Colour blocked product is more appealing to the eye, it looks less messy, less noisy.
  7. The counter.  Again, edit for clarity, edit for focus on the messages that really matter.

Reducing visual noise will improve the experience for your shoppers and for those who work in the business. It will focus everyone on what you decide matters the most right now.

This is part of an extensive package of business management advice newsXpress provides its members.

…..

Thanks to our retail experience, we are able to provide suggestions b beyond the POS software. This is another differentiating factor for us, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Casual employee arrangements have changed in retail …

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Changes to casual employment in Australia are now in effect. Click here to see the details as pblished by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Employers have to give every new casual employee a Casual Employment Information Statement (the CEIS) before, or as soon as possible after, they start their new job.

Small business employers need to give their existing casual employees a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 March 2021. Other employers have to give their existing casual employees a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 September 2021.

Also, the Fair Work Commission has issued a decision that impacts the award under which employees in newsagencies are paid. This from the Fair Work Ombudsman website:

Modern Award Review – Junior rates under the Retail Award

The Fair Work Commission has issued a decision that changes the way juniors are paid under the Retail Award. From the first full pay period on or after 1 May 2021, junior rates will only apply for classification levels 1, 2 and 3.

Use our Pay guides or Pay Calculator to find the new rates and allowances.

A junior is an employee under 21 years of age. Use our Pay Calculator to calculate junior pay rates.

Juniors get paid a percentage of the relevant adult pay rate unless the award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement doesn’t have junior rates.

The percentages that apply are usually based on the employee’s age and increase on their next birthday.

These are important changes newsagents need to be across.

Advice for small business retailers: helping employees understand where the money goes

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It is easy for employees in a local retail business to think the owners are rich if all they have to go off is the money paid by customers to the business. In this article, we share an an approach on how a local retail business can better inform employees. Here is an information sheet we have seen work well in the back room of a shop as it explains each dollar.

WHERE THE MONEY GOES

Where every dollar we get from our customers goes.

Every dollar paid to us by our customers and put in the til or through the credit card terminals gores somewhere and quickly. Some of it goes right away, some of it in a few days and most of the rest by the end of the month.

Some of the money we are paid goes before we get it – like for stock we pay for before it arrives in the shop.

This graph shows where every cent of every dollar we earn goes.  The stock cost is the average cost of items we purchase. Some items cost us 90% of what we sell them for while others cost us 20% of what we sell them for. This is why we are using the overall business average for this illustration.

Based on our current numbers our profit is 4%. But we don’t get to keep that: we have borrowings to service, we don’t receive a salary for our time and any profit is taxed by the government.

We buy stock for the best price possible but with the price of many products we sell controlled we need to work elsewhere to improve things. This is why we look carefully at the roster. Even one hour saved can be like selling $100 in stock.

The best way to help the business achieve better results is for us to sell more of our stock to existing customers and for us to attract new customers.

We’d love your help in encouraging customers to buy more. You can do this with excellent displays, helping customers on the shop floor and giving customers awesome customer service.

We’d also love your ideas on attracting more shoppers.

Please don’t think we’re putting this notice up to cry poor. We share the information to give you a better understanding of what happens to each dollar we get from our customers because we believe that the more information anyone has the more informed their actions can be.

Helping retailers navigate the buy now pay later POS software integration opportunities

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The Australian Finance Industry Association, AFIA, the organisation engaged in self regulation of buy now pay later platforms has a code of practice for its providers. This, from their release:

AFIA and its BNPL members have come together and propose to release a Code of Practice for the BNPL sector. The final Code will be released and come into effect on 1 March 2021.

The BNPL providers, who under AFIA’s guidance have drafted the Code, represent over 95 percent of the BNPL market including Afterpay, Brighte, Humm Group, Klarna, Latitude, Openpay, Payright and Zip Co.

A world-first for the BNPL sector, the draft Code is in direct response to ASIC’s review of the BNPL sector (ASIC Report 600) and an inquiry conducted by the Senate Economics Reference Committee, which recommended the development of a BNPL Code of Practice.

AFIA conducted six-week public consultation which was formally extended until 6 May 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the consultation process, it was important to give additional time to key stakeholders to provide feedback.

The Code of Practice will be governed by a Code Compliance Committee (CCC). The CCC is chaired by Dr Michael Schaper. Jillian Brewer has been nominated by the Consumers’ Federation of Australia as the consumer advocate representative. Craig Pudig is the CCC’s industry representative.

Part C of the code relates to retailers:

PART C – MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR OUR MERCHANT AND RETAIL PARTNERS

Each Code Compliant Member will require its merchant and retail partners to meet minimum standards. These standards are to:

  • Act lawfully, fairly and ethically in their dealings with consumers;
  • Communicate clearly when dealing with consumers and in marketing and advertising materialthat relates to Buy Now Pay Later Products or Services;
  • Safeguard customer confidentiality;
  • Respond to customer complaints on a timely basis; and
  • Require that their employees or agents understand the standards and are trained to meet them.

Each Code Compliant Member will continue to monitor their merchant and retail partners to ensure they meet these minimum standards.

With many retailers using buy now pay later for payment in-store an online, being across the code is important.

We are across this because our POS software integrates with buy now pay later platforms such as Humm and the Zip suite of products and because several other card related players are entering this space.

Working closely with so many retailers, we are often asked about matters regulatory. Being across the BNPL changes since they were first mooted more than a year ago helps us to provide informed comments that can help local retailers determine the approach best for their business needs.

Retail marketing tips for Easter 2021

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Easter is what each store makes of it in retail. Each retailer decides through their engagement whether this is a big or not so big season.

Our advice, based on working with retailers across a diversity of business settings, is don’t get caught up in tradition, think about easter 2021 as one of connection. This can broaden your focus and provide a more useful pathway to sales success.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking what easter 2021 could be in your retail business…

  1. Have fun. No matter what you do, make sure it involves fun, active fun.
  2. Promote connection. Easter is a good this for people to connect with people nearby and far away. help them do that.
  3. Do good. Collect for something during the season. Given the animal theme of so much Easter product, maybe a local animal shelter.
  4. Have fun give rabbits a discount on a set day or days. Give a doubt to everyone who presents as a rabbit. Promote it widely – get the local paper in for a photo. Make the discount worth it for them dressing up.
  5. Invite a wall of stories. If you have a wall available, cover it with paper and invite your customers to write or draw what Easter means to them. this makes the season more interactive.
  6. Make a giant papier-mâché egg with things you sell (old newspapers, coloured paper, paint). Go big, I mean really big. Taller than a person. Let the kids paint it. Make it a local thing for people to come see.
  7. Have an Easter Egg hunt for over 70s. Egg hunts are usually for kids but those over 70 will have a different recollection of the season from when they were kids. Cater to them with a hunt in your shop for tasty eggs.
  8. Respect the season. Easter means different things to different people. Respect this outside of the fun you may have. Be sure about your greeting and that it is appropriate. Maybe include a nice message on your receipts.

Easter is considered by many in retail to be a small season. I see it as full of opportunity and primed for fun in the newsagency. Chase year on year growth.

easter 2021 is an opportunity to guide connection. Our advice is be part of that opportunity.

Small business retail advice: finding your own margin story

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Here at Tower Systems, we help small business retailers get more from our specialty retail POS software. One way we do this is through sharing business insights and opportunities, like this about product margin setting.

What you charge for what you sell, what margin you set needs to be carefully considered.  Price is all about customer perception of value.  Value is based in a range of criteria including:

  • Convenience.
  • Added value – from purchasing from this business.
  • Perceived value – how you package a product compared to how others package the same product can lead to a different price.

See, margin is about more than margin from each item, it is equally about margin dollars, gross profits from each sale, eased basket.

To create the best margin narrative for your business, we suggest you …

  1. Manage labour to focus on products with the best return to the business. This is a balance between overall gross profit dollars and margin percentage.
  2. Look at items with a customer service component, where your expertise is required to make the sale or make good use of the products or where there is a reasonable after sales service component. These can usually carry a higher margin.
  3. Look at the items which are unique to your business in your location or nearby. If you are the only store serving the local community then you do have a pricing opportunity. These items can usually carry a higher margin.
  4. Assess why people shop at your shop. If they are shopping because of convenience then you have the capacity to charge more for this. This is why convenience stores charge more for items which you can buy elsewhere for considerably less.
  5. Involve others in setting sale price. Ask your team what you can charge for an item. Assess what they think you can “get away with”.  By polling team members, you may find that your perception on price is lower than what others expect.

You can build a stronger business by taking small steps each day which focus on new traffic, better margin and improved sales efficiency. No grand plan, no expert strategy – just small steps which leverage opportunities which exist in your retail business.

By paying closer attention to the margin you can achieve, you strengthen the financial foundation of the business and ensure that your return on inventory investment is more helpful to the bigger business plan.

What you do in your business is 100% up to you. Our advice here is for your information, your consideration. By sharing it here our goal is too give you more information to consider, so you can determine the path most appropriate to your own needs.

Cash register versus POS software, what’s best for small business retail

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We are a POS software company so, naturally, our advice will be choose POS software over a cash register … here’s why:

A cash register offers little security against employee theft. This alone should knock out using a cash register in any situation. With employee theft accounting for around 75% of all theft in retail businesses, the more you can do to track, understand and mitigate against it the better.  POS software offers excellent security / control over employee theft. The key is to use POS software well, properly.

Using a cash register denies the business an opportunity to truly understand what is happening in the business whereas POS software provides that data and averages those insights.

It is as simple as this:

  • Cash register: you sold something for this amount of money.
  • POS software: you sold these items for this much. It can even show the customer details, what was sold with it, how they paid and more.

Sure a cash register can feel like lower cost and easier to run. However, with employee theft, data loss and insight denial a cash register is a far more expensive solution for a retail business than POS software.

Good POS software for a specialty retail business can cost $3.00 to $5.00 a day. This is a small cost when you consider the data and insights value to a business compared to the ignorant cash register alternative.

Compared to a cash register, good POS software will help a retail business:

  1. Cut labour costs.
  2. Reduce customer theft.
  3. Reduce employee theft.
  4. Reduce the overhead of dead stock.
  5. Increase sales.
  6. Better manage supplier relationships.
  7. Better manage employee resources.
  8. More successfully lay out the shop.
  9. More easily and quickly sell online.
  10. be more appealing to a prospective purchaser.

Sure, a cash register can seem like the easy to use and easy to understand way to take payment at the sales counter. The reality is different. If you want to maximise the opportunity of your retail business, POS software is a better and far more complete solution for the business. It nurtures the data and insights that enable you to be a business person rather than a button pusher.

The future of retail management in POS software driven. cash registers are old school, from the past, not useful to retail today.

These are some fo the reasons we recommend POS software far ahead of a cash register for small business retail.

Small business retail advice: Unique Selling Proposition

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We work with more than 3,500 small business retailers in our POS software retail community. We are retailers ourselves.

One thing we know to be true – being unique matters. It gives people a reason to consider your business, to shop with you.

Today, we share updated advice on the importance of being unique in any retail business, but especially in local small business retail.

In his 1960 book, Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves, a respected US advertising executive, introduced the world to the concept of the Unique Selling Proposition, USP for short.

Reeves defined USP in an advertising context:

  1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer: buy this product and you will get this benefit.
  2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not offer.
  3. The proposition must be so strong that it changes consumer behaviour.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the concept of a unique selling proposition evolved from being essential to advertising to being essential in business. Finding your business USP was considered mission critical to businesses, retailers especially. Businesses drifted however and forgot about the importance of a USP.

Jack Trout told us just a few years ago that it was as relevant today. In 2000, he said that a Unique Selling Proposition was mission critical in business in his aptly titled book Differentiate or Die.

Differentiate of Die. There is no doubt about the call to action in the title, no doubt about the consequences of inaction.

You reflect the uniqueness of your business in 2020 through your inventory mix, shop floor storytelling, your online presence, your social media presence, and, how you reflect your own intellectual property, your own knowledge with and through what you sell. Indeed, you are the key, in many retail businesses, you are the USP.

A good USP will not require an advertising campaign to communicate. It will become obvious through the decisions you make and the actions that follow.

By living the USP in every facet of the business you soon become seen as unique by shoppers and this can drive excellent word of mouth and success for the business.

So, what us your USP and how is it reflected in your business in-store, online, on socials and elsewhere?

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