Why more small business retailers are switching to Xero for their POS software integrated solution

More small business retailers are switching to Xero for their business accounting solution and choosing the Tower Systems Xero integrated POS software for the retail front end.

Delivering a seamlessly integrated solution offering a whole of business approach backed by two respected IT companies with excellent customer service as the core focus.

We use Xero here at Tower Systems and there is no doubt that it offers an excellent accounting solution. Our experience with the integration helps us help our customers with proper setup as we can speak from experience.

With the POS software / xero integration retailers…

  1. Save time.
  2. Reduce mistakes.
  3. Reduce accounting fees.
  4. Have faster access to business data.
  5. Cut duplication.
  6. Have more time for parts of their business where they can make a more measurable difference.

While we integrate with MYOB and Quick Books, it is the elegant Xero integration we love because of the product itself. We are proud to be showing it off in a couple of weeks at the Xerocon conference in Brisbane.

We have a competition bagging Xero but we think that is because they did not get approved for integration.

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Helping indie pet shop owners compete with tough big business competitors

Pet lovers know that it is at the small indie pet shops that you get professional personal care for the pets in your home. The businesses are usually run by pet lovers, people you get to know over time because of a shared passion for pets.

These local pet shops, neighbourhood pet shops, are important in local communities because of their local knowledge, community connection and their personal and friendly service.

Whereas at a big pet shop, a national chain or one of those massive warehouse businesses you are a number, at a local or neighbourhood pet shop you are a person with a name and a name for your pet. The service you receive is authentic.

This is the small indie pet shop difference.

Tower Systems is proud to support small indie pet shops. We love helping these retailers better serve their customers by helping them to deliver better customer care. In our Pet Shop Software we have a range of facilities that help pet shop owners enhance the customer experience in the shop, online and from home.

Our software absolutely helps indie small pet shops compete with big competitors. We empower them with valuable business data, remind them of customer dates and pet dates, we help them move their business online and, most important, we help them run more successful businesses.

Once you know what is important to your customers you are able to better serve these needs. Our software helps reveal what is important to your customers and thereby guide better business outcomes for the pet shop business.

On the shop floor, too, using our software enables you to demonstrate a competitive strength with best-practice loyalty program options, multi-buy options, repeat business loyalty rewards and supplier connected reporting and marketing. These tools are part of the package that helps indie pet retailers be more confidence and from this confidence flows commercial success.

Bet of all about indie pet shops for Tower Systems is the help they provide us in developing better pet shop software, more useful software for our customers and this is key to us expanding our business, attracting more indie and small pet shops as customers.

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Sunday retail management advice: how small business retailers can compete with a big national retailer

Small and independent retailers often feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.

The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. This is often enough for them to give up and close the business.

Giving up and running is the easy way out. There is no lesson learned, just an escape from the fear.

The alternative is to find out how to deal with the national retailer.

Here are five tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:

  1. Don’t compete. By not talking about the competitor, pricing against them or pitching your business in any way, you separate yourself. While they may have similar products, it is unlikely that they are targeting your specific business so why target them? Focus instead on your own business. Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them. We were working with an independent retailer recently who decided to offer a product they sold which is also available in a nearby national retailer for 10% less than the sale price in the national retailer. This move gave the independent retailer a margin of 15%. In discussion I discovered that most of the customers who visited the independent retailer were unlikely to shop in the national retailer. So why compete on price? If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.
  2. Run a better business. From the moment you hear about a new national retailer coming to town, look at every aspect of your business for opportunities for improvement. From the back room to the font counter fine tune your processes, employee training, stock buying and the look of the business. Dramatically improve your business from the inside out. This will improve your business health and help you weather challenges which may lie ahead. Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.
  3. Be unique. Look for ways to make your business unique. It could be on product range, operating hours, add-on services or something else. Embrace any opportunity to make your business unique. Even a unique niche range of products can give you traffic a big competitor will not chase. Try and focus on products which require a level of retail skill and knowledge to sell – national retailers have challenges hiring and retaining retail employees with specialist knowledge and skills.
  4. Engage the community. Connect with the community at every possible opportunity. Support local groups, speak at functions, get known as someone and a business who care deeply about the local community. Subtly make the connection that you are fortunate to be able to help because of your local business. Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.
  5. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it. Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.

By acting early and in advance of a national retailer opening, you better position your business to weather their advertising and PR onslaught. Get in early, build a stronger business and understand that through this the new business in town will not be your competitor.

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Helping small business retailers compete with our Xero / POS software integrated solution

The most effective ways small business retailers can compete with big businesses and online is through efficient operation, accurate data and customer service touch-points that add appreciated value.

Tower Systems only sells its POS software to small business retailers.

We believe in small businesses, their importance to local communities and their broader economic value.

Through our software, our personal in-store training, 24/7 human and locally based help desk service, regional user meetings, weekly online workshops and other touch-points we help small business retailers beyond what is usual for POS software companies.

Our company motto is we’re here to help. We take this seriously. Everyday, out motto challenges us to help our customers in ways they do not expect, ways beyond the software itself.

Founded in 1981, Tower Systems has evolved as technology has evolved. The software we sell today is generations away from where we started. We are proud to have served some of our customers for decades.

More than 3,500 specialty small business retailers in Australia and New Zealand use our specialty POS software.

To us, a specialty retailer is one that offers services unique to the channel, services that define the business. We embed in our software for each retail channel facilities that serve needs unique to that channel. We take pride in doing this and enhancing these channel-specific facilities as the needs evolve.

We appreciate software cannot stand still. Every year we release significant enhancements, serving the needs of our customers. One such enhancement a couple of years ago was our Xero integration, approved by Xero and listed on their website as a partner.

The Xero integration delivers to retailers a seamless and deep connection between our POS software and Xero. This saves time and reduces bookkeeping costs for any small retail business.

The Tower Systems POS software / Xero link is another Tower AdvantageTM.

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Beautiful software leverages POS software data

Retailers are reacting to the beautiful interactive business intelligence reports available through the cloud-based platform released by Tower Systems.

Small business retailers are loving the elegant reporting, that they can access the reports from anywhere, that they can easily compare trading periods and that vitally important business data points are so accessible.

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This software is creating a buzz among retailers hungry for a fresh view of business performance and keen to see how they are competing with their most important competitor – themselves.

Tower Systems is grateful to the encouragement of its small business retail customers and their guidance in developing this and other exciting new software.

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Sunday small business retail advice: everyday marketing for small business retailers

We get to see many different retail businesses in in our work and along the way we pick up ideas that work particularly well. Here is a selection of everyday marketing tips we see working in almost any business.

  1. Always have a value-proposition offer just inside the entrance to the business. This should be a double-sided offer, one they see as they enter and as they leave.
  2. Always have an appealing impulse purchase offer at the counter. Change this weekly. Use the opportunity to learn more about what your customers will purchase on impulse.
  3. Always know your top selling item in the store and always place products next to the top selling item thoughtfully, to leverage the eyeballs looking for and at the top selling product.
  4. Run a generous loyalty program where the value is understood. This probably means not using points.
  5. Create stunning window displays people would not expect to see in your type of business.
  6. Offer multi-buy opportunities unlocking savings for people purchasing more than would be usual in a single visit.
  7. Be brief in talking to customers about your products on social media: a single product per post. Two sentences. Short sentences. Make the post appealing beyond you trying to promote your business. Entertain them.
  8. Send customers a card for special occasions, a personal card to reinforce the personal relationship you have with them.
  9. Change the front two metres of your shop weekly, keep it fresh for your customers and your staff.
  10. Unpack and price products on the shop floor and not in the back room or outside of shopper view.

Our goal with this list is to give you ideas you can use right away as well as ideas that will get you thinking of your own ideas.

Go for it. Remember, if you do next week what you did this week you cannot expect any growth. Growth only comes from change.

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Small business retailers value personal and accessible POS software customer service

We are winning good business for our POS software this year from retailers switching from other POS software. While the software is a factor in their decision to switch, customer service is top of mind.

Customers switching love:

  1. Personal service. When they call they talk to a human. And, yes, they can call any of our offices even toll free from NZ. We hear many stories of poor service from other POS software companies where personal contact is discouraged.
  2. Names.  Names matter. Were humanise our contact and support by people on our teams using their names, real names.
  3. Access to leadership. Our leadership team is directly accessible to our customers should they wish to escalate any issue. Too often we hear of other POS software companies sidestepping issues or completely ignoring requests to speak too senior management. We take personal service seriously.
  4. Free training weekly. People love our free and easily accessible live online training workshops.
  5. Free one-on-one training. People love that they can schedule top-up training long after the installation is done.
  6. Transparency on updates. People love that they can suggest changes and watch as other customers vote on their change suggestions.
  7. Extensive help desk coverage. People love our long hours and our weekend coverage.
  8. Response time. People love how quickly we respond to their queries.

These are points of difference we have invested in with infrastructure, people and management focus. We are thrilled to win business from other POS software companies because of these services we provide.

This whole package is part of our Tower AdvantageTM.

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Practical facilities in the Tower Systems POS software for small business retailers

We were asked this week for a list of the practical facilities in our POS software by a group putting together a report for retailers to consider us. Here is part of the list we shared with them. It provides a good starter insight into the everyday facilities on which small business retailers can rely:

  1. POS sale scanning.
  2. POS sales using user configures touch buttons.
  3. Tracking sales by employee.
  4. Control over the look and feel of the sale screen.
  5. Control over the look and feel of receipts.
  6. Smart receipts that add value to the customer experience with local knowledge, care instructions and more.
  7. Customer receipts that contain a $$ discount off the next purchase if loyalty engagement is achieved.
  8. Structured end of shift process to reduce mistakes and more easily track fraud.
  9. Employee theft mitigation controls.
  10. Inventory control.
  11. Multiple price levels for products.
  12. Multiple customer types with varying levels of support and assistance.
  13. Community group co-loyalty engagement.
  14. Anniversary and birthday marketing and recognition.
  15. Customer marketing facilities to enable targeted marketing.
  16. Importing supplier stock files.
  17. Importing supplier invoices.
  18. Generating orders based on sales.
  19. Four different and valuable types of loyalty facilities.
  20. Comprehensive business performance reporting.
  21. Customer age controls.
  22. Serial number tracking.
  23. Repairs management.
  24. Hamper/package support.
  25. Product manufacturing management.
  26. Multiple POS terminals in a store.
  27. Multiple stores connected.
  28. More than 100 reports with extraordinary options to facilitate insights into the business performance.

This is not the full list we provided. It is intended to provide a glimpse of the comprehensiveness of our software and to show our software is not your usual offer the sheep POS solution.

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Everyday marketing tips for small business retailers

Here at Tower Systems, through our work with our specialsist retail POS software, we get to see many different retail businesses in in our work and along the way we pick up ideas that work particularly well.

Here is a selection of everyday marketing tips we see working in almost any business. This list was first shared with our customers on the weekend, as part of our weekly email of advice, support and encouragement.

  1. Always have a value-proposition offer just inside the entrance to the business. This should be a double-sided offer, one they see as they enter and as they leave.
  2. Always have an appealing impulse purchase offer at the counter. Change this weekly. Use the opportunity to learn more about what your customers will purchase on impulse.
  3. Always know your top selling item in the store and always place products next to the top selling item thoughtfully, to leverage the eyeballs looking for and at the top selling product.
  4. Run a generous loyalty program where the value is understood. This probably means not using points.
  5. Create stunning window displays people would not expect to see in your type of business.
  6. Offer multi-buy opportunities unlocking savings for people purchasing more than would be usual in a single visit.
  7. Be brief in talking to customers about your products on social media: a single product per post. Two sentences. Short sentences. Make the post appealing beyond you trying to promote your business. Entertain them.
  8. Send customers a card for special occasions, a personal card to reinforce the personal relationship you have with them.
  9. Change the front two metres of your shop weekly, keep it fresh for your customers and your staff.
  10. Unpack and price products on the shop floor and not in the back room or outside of shopper view.

Our goal with this list is to give you ideas you can use right away as well as ideas that will get you thinking of your own ideas.

Go for it. Remember, if you do next week what you did this week you cannot expect any growth. Growth only comes from change.

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Sunday retail management advice: interviewing prospective employees for your retail business

Interviewing prospective employees is a personal thing in that it is all about you and your business. Get this one thing right and you get plenty of benefits for your business.

The type of people you want for your business can only be determined by you. This is why we say it is personal and why we do not advice a consistent corporate approach across all businesses.

That said, based on our many years working with and helping small business and independent retailers there are some basics to get right before or at the interview:

  1. Make sure prospective candidates are who they say they are. Check photo ID.
  2. Have them bring a Tax File Number – to show they are known to the government.
  3. Have them bring two written references.
  4. Advise them before the interview you may do a police check.
  5. Stalk them on social media to look for possible issues.
  6. Interview two or three candidates. Not too many though as it can take up time when if you vet them right prior to the interview you can have a good short list.

Now, on to the interview. The goal is to encourage conversation as it is from conversation that you can determine if you like the candidate and liking them is key to their future with the business.

Start by asking them what they think of the business and what they would change. The purpose of this is to test to see if they know much about the business and have any interest in it beyond a paycheque.

Ask them why your business. The reality is this question often elicits the answer they think you want rather than the truth. Press them on it.

Ask them about any experience they have that could help them in your business. This is designed to be open ended, encouraging conversation.

Usually, three or four topics in and you should have an idea if they are right for you. If the feeling at this point is they are not right for you, pull the pin on further discussion and than them for their time.

Other topics worth discussing are: how they relax, their dreams for the future, whether they collect anything, what they are passionate about and whether they read magazines. Each of these topics can be open ended – encouraging further conversation.

If you have a candidate you think is right, consider a paid trial of three hours. This is usually useful if you are not sure between two candidates.

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Enjoying small business retail

It is a thrill to see so many independent small retail businesses thriving through the winter of 2016. We are seeing businesses transforming from what has been traditional for their type of operation into fresh offerings that drive the appeal of the business beyond what has been traditional for them.

We love seeing this not only because of the pleasure of observing success but also because of a role we can play in helping to uncover and leverage good news for small business retailers.

Our commitment is to help our customers beyond the software to help them reach beyond the dreams they have for their businesses.

We are grateful every day for the opportunities that come our way.

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Small business retail advice: be generous with your loyalty program

Too often small and independent retail businesses create and run shopper loyalty programs that mimic their big business competitors. They ignore that the big business loyalty programs do not have rewarding shopper loyalty as a core focus.

Big business loyalty programs are primarily about the needs and profitability of big business.

Our advice for small business retailers is to be generous with your loyalty program. Offer generous rewards for loyalty. Run a loyalty program shoppers love, a program that brings shoppers back again and again.

Being stingy will cause frustration and anger among customers, it could have them talking negatively about the business. This is not good for business.

When we look at loyalty programs that have failed to deliver good results in a small or independent retail business, the most common cause we find is that the loyalty reward is not sufficiently a reward.

This is why we encourage retailers to be generous in loyalty reward settings.

The best way to reflect generosity is through transparency of value. By this we mean making it clear what a reward is worth. This is why a dollar amount is more valuable than points. People understand dollars. It is unlikely the will easily understand the ‘value’ of points.

For more advice and assistance on the best-practice approach to shopper loyalty, please talk with the team at Tower Systems.

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Small business retail advice: never let a stock item celebrate a birthday

Inventory in retail is worthless unless it sells. The longer it sits on the shelf of a retail business the greater the cost of the inventory to the business.

A good basic inventory management principle is: never let a stock item celebrate a birthday. That is, never have an item in the business for more than a year. In fact, we would suggest six months is too long for most items.

Using good POS software you can easily track how long a stock item has been in the business. Stay on top of the age of an item. Work the item to ensure it does not celebrate that birthday. Focus on placement, promotion, adjacency and more to ensure the item is turned within the time necessary for you to achieve a good return for the business.

Ensuring all team members working in the business understand your commitment to never let a stock item celebrate a birthday will help make this happen.

You could take the commitment a step further. Put a sign up in the back room. Make it a discussion point at staff meetings. Encourage anyone to run a report at any time on the age of inventory in the business. Make everyone accountable for the mission.

Tower Systems regularly offers advice to retailers beyond what is usual for a POS software company. The advice demonstrates our commitment to helping beyond the software, to add value to the relationship to benefit the whole of the business.

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Sunday retail management advice: managing spinners for success

Retailers have a love-hate relationship with spinners. While some have a rule of no spinners, in many situations they are necessary.

Here is advice designed to help any retailer make the most of the spinner opportunity.

  1. Keep them tidy. Duh! This is very basic advice. But it needs to be said. Daily you should have your spinners checked and tidies. Move products to the front, keep products clean, pose products to show them off, if appropriate to the products.
  2. Keep them full. A half empty spinner will not work as well as a full spinner. This is retail 101.
    1. If you plan to keep a spinner for the long term, order stock regularly to keep it full. We know that a full spinner usually achieves around 20% more sales than a half empty spinner.
    2. If a spinner is a one-shot – get it in, sell it down, take it off the floor – once it starts to look empty, consider taking all stock off and placing it elsewhere in-store. Leaving it on the floor and half empty will hinder sales.
  3. Move your spinners. One a week tweak spinner locations to keep your shop floor story fresh. Have a plan. Don’t move them just to move them. Move them to drive sales – to get the products considered by people who may have missed them so far.
  4. Respect the brand. Never put product on a branded spinner that is not from the brand. Not only would such a move disrespect the brand it makes you look like an unprofessional retailer.
  5. Use thoughtful adjacencies. When placing spinners next to each other, think about the shopper and what they are looking for. This will encourage a shopper attracted to a spinner to consider the products on the spinner next to it.
  6. Avoid orphans. There is nothing sadder than a lonely spinner at the back of a shop. It’s usually half empty and looking tired and sad. It does nothing for the products or the business. Find it some friends or remove the stock and throw the spinner out.
  7. Spinners have a limited life. While a spinner for which you no longer have the original product can be useful for displaying other products, don’t work the poor thing beyond its useful life. Hideously bent wire, cracked and broken pockets, no signage, seriously chipped paint, broken casters … these are all indications that the poor old spinner ought to be tossed out.
  8. Leverage traffic hotspots. This only works with certain products on spinners – locate the spinner next to high traffic generating products such as weekly magazines, newspapers, lotteries etc. The products need to be products shoppers of the destination items will purchase.
  9. Leverage seasons. Around your cluster of cards for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc place spinners with products appropriate to the season.
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Tower Systems e-commerce strategy helps small business retailers with omni-channel solution

The Tower Systems POS software e-commerce strategy is delivering online sales to small business retailers.

Representing a group of small business retailers under a common international brand platform the Tower Systems developed and managed website provides live stock availability to more than 200 retail businesses. This enables shoppers of the sought after brand to find local shops with stock.

Linked live to the independently owned retail businesses, the website provides a national view of stock availability for online purchase as well as in-store purchase.

Online purchases can be shipped or collected in-store.

Transactions are secure, without credit cards being accessed by the website nor are they stores in and POS system in the store.

The small business retailers that are part of the e-commerce strategy love that they are winning retail revenue from online sales without having to develop or maintain and online presence. The solution for their businesses is considerable and low-cost.

This is a best practice approach to online for small retail businesses today as it is fast, easy, accurate and national in its presence.

The Tower Systems desktop and web teams have worked together to deliver a series of websites, the first of which launched in 2015 and more have been added since.

Using the latest web development tools, the solution from Tower Systems helps small business retailers embrace online in a genuinely unique and valuable way.

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Sunday retail management advice: basket analysis helps retailers sell more

Basket analysis is the analysis of products purchased by transaction – shopping basket. Such analysis typically compares two trading periods overall and by day of week. It also includes this analysis by supplier comparing trading periods and day of week.

Using the Tower Systems POS software, retailers are able to dig deep into basket data in recent times and into the past, to gain insights into the performance of the business for the benefit of the business and those it serves.

Basket analysis shows the efficiency of product categories (departments). For example, see how many baskets include one category of item and nothing else. You can also see the numbers of times sales are single item sales.

Basket analysis underscores the value to the business of newer categories such as gifts and toys.

Basket analysis at a supplier level is equally insightful, allowing you to compare the basket efficiency and value of suppliers between two tradition periods as well as across each day of the week between two trading periods.

It is at the basket analysis level that you can determine product efficiency. A product is more efficient for you if it is purchased with other items in our view. You can drive this by careful placement on the shop floor, promotion at the sales counter and working with customers on the shop floor to guide their purchases.

It’s an example of how you can use comprehensive business data to drive your in-store actions. For example, knowing what we know about pop vinyls, Saturday is the day we really focus on them with secondary locations to do even better from the Saturday opportunity.

Basket analysis can also help you with rostering. With some category sales requiring more staff time that others, you can consider the product mix sold by day and adjust your roster accordingly. Trimming wages is an important cost saving focus in business.

The goal has to be deeper baskets (more items per transaction) and a greater spread across product categories – but with a focus on higher margin items so that also lift the overall GP performance of the business.

In the Tower Systems software the report to use for this analysis is the Basket Analysis Report. It provides an extraordinary insight into baskets.

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Tower Systems helps small business retailers achieve balance in inventory

We often see in data from retailers an imbalance in inventory performance – 20% or fewer items in-store generate 80% of the revenue.

This imbalance can often be missed if the overall business performance is good. It could be that such an imbalance is only discovered if the business falls on hard times and more thorough analysis of business performance is undertaken.

Using the Ranked Sales Report in the Tower Systems POS software you can quickly and easily see the top performing inventory items based on revenue or unit sales. Either metric could be useful in different situation.

Our advice is to run the Ranked Sales Report for a three, six or twelve month period. Look at the items in, say, the top 100 and determine the value of those items to your business compared to the rest of the business.

Usually, such analysis highlights inventory challenges business owners want to address by achieving greater balance of sales across more inventory items. This does not mean holding back the top performing lines. Rather, it means working on those outside the top performers, working on their success through work on placement, promotion, staff engagement and other factors over which you have control.

The Ranked Sales Report provides excellent insights into comparative performance of inventory items. The goal is to guide you to achieve greater balance so your business relies less on the star performers.

The danger of relying on star performers is the impact on the business should one or two stars fall. The more broadly based your business the better positioned it is to weather competition, challenges or a decline in one or two items. Broadening the base of your business from an inventory perspective strengthens the business.

We are happy to assess your Ranked Sales Report for you. Contact support and ask the settings we’d like, run the report, save it as a PDF and send it to us. We will share our feedback.

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