Helping retailers leverage value from POS sales data

Through our online training workshops, benchmark studies and business coaching service we proactively help retailers leverage better value from their point of sale data.  Our view is that there is no point in using a point of sale system if you do not make the most of the data it gathers for your business.

Good POS data is useful because it provides an emotion-free view of the health of the business.

We have seen some successful turnarounds over the last year from businesses which have followed the data and not the emotion.  We are pleased to have been part of this.

Our role in such consultations is to analyse the business through a variety of views available through our point of sale software.  We seek out the stock items which are not performing.  If they are not paying their way through revenue or traffic generation then they serve little purpose for the business.

When we sit with a customer and step them through what we see, the response is often one of surprise that the data shows this or that.  We like that because the surprise is often leveraged into seeking out more training and implementing an action plan to become more data driven.

We take this role we play in bringing data to the fore in business decision making seriously.  We have seen the value play out many times.  When this happens we benefit by creating a new evangelist for what we do.

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Touching stock for better retail management

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There is no better way to address challenges in a retail business than to touch stock. Too often we encounter business owners and managers who are not hands on with stock. This reduces their understanding and often leads to bad business decisions.

We are often called in to help business turn around or at the very least understand what is wrong. Too often, management is out of touch and the first step we recommend is that they get in touch by touching stock. Seriously. By “touching stock” I mean, selecting a department and working it: putting new stock out; taking old stock off; cleaning the shelves; moving stock.

Every time people we’re working with follow this advice they come back to us with stories of what they have found. One of our clients yesterday told me that after toughing some of his stock for the first time in almost a year he realised that he was buying badly and that it really was time he started to use the technology we provided him to buy rather than his gut feel. His stock was aging dragging the business down.

We have found that business owners who touch their stock and work their businesses in a practical way, are more likely to use our technology better to understand the business’ strengths and weaknesses. Hence our focus on this interactivity as an important step.

I bought a newsagency in February 1996 for this reason. I wanted to touch my business more deeply by walking in the shoes of my clients. The impact has been exceptional. In two weeks time we open a new retail store in a different retail category to further deepen our customer experience.

While there is a place for professional education for business owners and managers, I have found that a good dose of floor walking and stock interaction can break the spell which has caused the business to slump.

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Woolworths farmer profit promise needs explaining

Woolworths has announced that the entire day’s profits from their Woolworths and Safeway stores from January 23 will be given to Australian farming families in need. You can read the Woolworths announcement here. I would like Woolworths to announce exactly what constitutes profit. Such transparency is crucial. I would also like them to explain why they are not including profit from the Beer Wine and Spirits, Dan Murphy, Dick Smith and other stores.

While the Woolworths gesture is better than them not doing anything, I would prefer to see them make a long term commitment to more equitable dealings with farmers as well as a commitment to Australian produce and products over imported produce and products. I would also like to see them make a commitment to small business. Only last year Woolworths set up shop in Maleny to much criticism from those concerned for small businesses.

Woolworths and Coles dominate retail in this country. As a result of the power of their supermarkets they dominate farming and food processing. This is where Woolworths can help Australian farmers the most – more than contributing the profit from one day.

We need to ask questions of Woolworths in an effort to get behind the PR spin. We need to challenge them to do more than stage a stunt and make a real and lasting difference to our farmers and the wider community.

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Vacancies in IT: especially seeking a Jedi

We have three new full time IT positions we are looking to fill:

Help Desk. Melbourne. You’ll need exceptional phone communication skills, patience, a desire to help small business and good IT skills.

System installation and training. Brisbane. You’ll need exceptional personal communication skills, patience, a desire to help small business preparedness to travel and good IT skills.

Software developer. Melbourne. This is a great position for a Jedi. Oh, and Delphi 8 or above experience too please. Graduates okay – the Jedi thing is most important if you’re to fit in.

Tower Systems is a good place to work – of course I would say that – we’re easy to get along with, are committed to being carbon neutral, help you develop your skills and provide a friendly environment where you can make friends.

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New software for jewellers

Here is the front cover of our new brochure for jewellers. (Click on the image to download a copy of the full brochure.) We’re often asked if there is synergy between jewellers, our second biggest client base, and newsagents, our biggest. Our newsagency software is better for having jewellers making suggestions to us and vice versa. For example, jewellers are concerned about changes in stock movement patterns. We have built some reporting and alert tools to address this and they apply, unexpectedly, in a retail newsagency. Working with jewellers is one reason our newsagency software continues to deliver outside the field.

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Fast 3 Awards – rewarding small business

fast3.JPGWe have announced our 2006 Fast 3 Awards where our customers compete with themselves to be recognised as one of the three fastest growing users of our software. To enter they print a report which compared sales over a ten month period in 2006 with the same period in 2005. We measure on unit sales and the three with the most growth win.

The Fast 3 Awards get our users interacting with their software, underscores the importance of competing with yourself and rewards growth regardless of the size of the business.

Entrants are vying for prestige more than a financially rewarding prize as this is more about the process than anything else.

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Small businesses keeping local traditions alive

blog_kaffe.JPGThis is how coffee is served in Vienna coffee houses. It’s a tradition the independent businesses uphold. Small businesses are good like that, upholding traditions. Sure a coffee in a take-away cup is hand if you are on the go but sometimes sitting and taking time to reflect over a coffee can be more useful than forever being on the move.

While I was sitting at café Mozart looking at my second coffee the tradition of their service led my mind to wander about the difference between this experience and that of a less traditional coffee house like Starbucks, or Cafe Nero in London or Hudson’s back in Melbourne. While those corporate coffee houses clearly provide a worthwhile service – you only have to see how busy they are – it’s more about the community aspect, providing a comfortable place for conversation and identifying with the aspirations represented by the brands.

Café Mozart, Café Schwarzenberg and the many other similar cafes here in Vienna seem to me to be more about respecting their heritage of good coffee, good food (cakes) and good service. They have not, from what I can see, moved with the times. They don’t need to. They are proud keepers of tradition.

Many small businesses are equally proud keepers of tradition, in the face of competitor, media and peer pressure to move with the times and adopt the next big thing in their channel. We need to find ways to make it cool to preserve traditions, good traditions of course. We need to understand and uphold that change is not always necessary. We need to show our small businesses as being important for keeping our part of the world like we like it.

I’d hate to come back to Vienna and find fewer places serving coffee in this way. It’s part of the charm of the city for me. If the global brands win more business and close more independent coffee shops down then I’d have less of a reason to travel here. That may sound extreme but local experiences, like coffee served this way, is one reason I enjoy travel.

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Global giant Starbucks unwittingly helps a small retailer in Vienna

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I was shocked, when I rounded the corner just outside the Hofburg Palace in Vienna today, to find a Starbucks store next to Halder, the place I had come to visit. Halder is quintessentially Vienna, offering fine crafted products backed by perfect Viennese service. The quiet back-street has been disrupted by the coffee giant. Starbucks is the star and Halder the chorus. In this city of excellent coffee I could see no value in a Starbucks presence let along here next to the Halder store. I walked past the Starbucks and muttered something critical of globalisation.

The owner of the Halder store soon set me straight. I asked her what she thought about Starbucks, expecting some venting. She almost whispered how happy she was they were there. Even though they have only been open in this location for four months, business was up. Starbucks was proving to be an oasis for weary tourists – Vienna is a city where you walk most of the day to get around the key spots – and enough stopped in the Halder store to make Starbucks a welcome neighbor.

While business was steady before Starbucks, it was not showing great growth. Since Starbucks there has been good growth. New customers are finding Halder and as my own experience illustrates (three trips to Vienna and three trips to Halder) it’s a store you go back to. Their range is unique.

So, what does this mean for my views on globalisation? I cannot begrudge the owners of Halder the growth they have thanks to Starbucks. I also acknowledge that the coffee giant has created a store with some effort to fit in. Those points made, I have serious problems with globalisation: the bigger companies get, the more smaller competitors close; the more local customs are lost; the more service is a KPI and not something from within; and, the more a shrinking few control a growing bucket of global wealth.

It’s not all bad, as I found out in Vienna today.

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Globalisation has London in its paw

starbucks.JPGMy take-away from the last two days in London is that globalisation has London in its paw. Major high street real-estate is controlled by global brands. Even side streets are populated with global brands. Local, quintessentially English businesses, are fading fast. From the coffee chains to fast food to fashion, London is less London today than it was a year ago and less then than a year before that. Soon, we won’t need to travel because the local experience we used to travel for will be gone and everything else, if one can make money from it, will be on tour.

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Leveraging the cash register

We have developed three new partnerships which bring new non inventory product to newsagents using our point of sale software. Newsagents can access to new products to sell without capital outlay. We connect, real-time, connects to the suppliers and download non inventory product for sale. The customer pays on the spot. The newsagent pays overnight. Everyone’s happy. It’s a pleasure to be able to bring new products to our clients without the need for capital outlay. Newsagents benefit from greater efficiency since they can access the new product from any register. Suppliers like the links because overnight they can access a network of 1,300 stores. Customers are happy because there are less queues in newsagencies selling through our Point of sale links.

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Why independent retailers matter and do they ever think about it

In this post a while back I listed 10 reasons why independent retailers matter. I was reminded of this yesterday when working on a business plan for a start up we are developing. It is one thing to look from the outside and say this is why a particular channel or a business exists, it is entirely another for the founder of the business to have such views. If the owner does not have a view as to why the business exists and why the community needs such a business then surely it will drift and ultimately close. Just existing as a business gives you no rights at all. You’ve got to deliver genuine social as well as economic value.

I got drawn into a deep canyon of thought about this while considering the business plan for this start up. I want to ensure that we have a solid and purposeful foundation for existing and that these ‘principles’ are part of our day to day operation.

Back to my earlier post on independent retailers. If they don’t understand and believe in why they matter then their future will be limited. It’s one thing to berate consumers into buying local and another entirely to have independent and local retailers to operate their businesses delivering and delivering on their value to the community.

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