A mental health plan is important for small business retailers and their colleagues

As employers, as retailers and as small business owners, mental health issues are often not far away from any small business retailer. The challenges confronting our newsagency businesses add to the challenges already there.

Sometimes, we don’t know we are experiencing a mental health challenge while other times it’s obvious and on show for all to see.

How we confront mental health challenges is important for us, our business and those presenting with issues.

While we are not trained professionals in the area, our years of working with small business owners confronted by challenges to their mental health have helped us develop some guiding principles.

  1. Mental health is not easily measured or understood. One’s health is not outwardly obvious.
  2. Judgment cannot be part of how mental health is viewed or dealt with.
  3. Action is essential to improve your situation for doing nothing will achieve nothing.
  4. While taking the first step to confront mental health challenges can be difficult, it is relieving and rewarding.

Your GP is an excellent person to speak with. Explain to them how you feel and how this impacts on your life. Ask them to prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan. This is a government recognised plan. It can usually be prepared in a single double visit to the GP. This plan is the trigger to you gaining Medicare supported access to a psychologist for an initial number of visits, which can be extended depending on your situation.

Some people can feel a visit to a GP or psychologist is not warranted in their situation. While the medical professionals are the best to determine this, there are other resources you could explore:

Beyond Blue has published Business In Mind, a useful resource for small businesses on issues relating to mental health in the workplace. This is a good starting point for learning more. In the resource there are links to other resources that can help.

Finding mental health resources for small business owners dealing with mental health issues is not as easy as it is finding resources for managing the workplace for better mental health. It’s tough running any business and sometimes things can feel overwhelming. This is where networking can help as a first step, talking with others.

Small business retailers feeling challenges within themselves need to treat themselves as employees and use the resources available such as:

  • beyondbluesupport line – 1300 22 4636
  • SANE Australia Helpline – 1800 187 263
  • Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978

We at Tower Systems will help in any way possible.

Small business POS software user meetings start today, in Brisbane

Tower Systems has announced details of its first series of face to face user meetings for 2017. This is the company putting itself in front of customers in key locations.

We have scheduled sessions for Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, starting March 27, 2017.

Our first meeting starts today, in Brisbane.

We will demonstrate the new look and feel of our Retailer POS software, our Shopify / Magento and Woo Commerce integrations, our Xero integration and much more. Plus there will be time for your questions. Free training. An opportunity to pitch your suggestions.

This is an excellent chance to leverage more from your relationship with us. Click here to book and see venue details. Yes, we will announce more dates soon.

This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the software, discuss change requests and provide feedback on our services.

It is rare today that POS software companies offer sessions like this, except from Tower Systems – we do it regularly as a core customer service offering.

We ae grateful to our customers for their support.

Five free to implement marketing tips that will work for any small business retailer

Each of these five small business marketing tips has worked in a variety of retail businesses. They are fast to implement, easy to implement and are cost free based on the success they generate for small business retailers.

We have developed these five ideas through our many years only serving small and independent retail businesses. They are the best, easiest and fastest to engage:

  1. Immediate rewards. On your receipts. $$$. This gets shoppers spending more per visit. With the right settings, over the counter pitch and policies you can expect double digit growth for little effort. This loyalty program is a game changer for independent small retail businesses in that big businesses will not follow you, they will not be able to match what you pitch. This sets you apart. It excites shoppers and that is what drives the value you get from the program. We have it running in many hundreds of small retail businesses.
  2. Email marketing. Capture email addresses and email shoppers to pitch offers tuned to their interests. With an average response of 30% to the right pitch you can drive repeat visits.
  3. Product knowledge. Share this in receipts, automatically served based on products in a purchase. Shoppers will appreciate your help and extra-mile assistance. This is a perfect way to pitch one of your points of difference.
  4. Change the price narrative. If you have a nearby competitor, make price comparison difficult through multi-buy or BOGO pricing. Both are supported in our software. Make price comparison hard and increase sales as a result, of a perception of value.
  5. Smart placement. Your existing data can indicate what is best placed with what in your business. Leverage this data, make better placement decisions and increase sales. The deep dive basket analysis data insights can change your approach to product placement and increase shopper efficiency as a result.

Tower systems serves only independent small retail businesses in selected product niches. This is our mission and we are grateful every day for the opportunity.

Another way our POS software co. helps retailers beyond the software

Inner weekly customer service email we include advice and insights beyond what is usual for POS software companies. Here is one example from a recent email where we shared visual merchandising insights seen recently bye a Tower team members in Europe:

Adding value to the various touchpoints we have with our customers is important to us as it helps our customers to benefit beyond the software.

We are not your average POS software company.

Small business retail marketing tip: turn your shop into a classroom

Theatre is important in retail if you want to separate your store from an online shopping experience. Retailers need to exploit ways to demonstrate the added value of the physical store shopping experience.

Having products on the shelves or racks is not enough. You have to bring these to life.

Beyond being able to touch and smell and item live, every retail store has opportunities to make the shopping experience more personal and physical.

Supermarkets do this all the time with food sampling and demonstrations. They have someone cooking product nearby where the product can be purchased. These in-store demonstrations are done because they work, the drive sales. The smell and the taste guide the senses to encourage the purchase.

You do not need to be selling food for an in-store demonstration to work. Here are some suggestions from us for other retailers on how they could use in-store demonstrations and other techniques to bring products alive:

  1. Books: book readings, book clubs, author visits, performances from children’s books.
  2. Fashion: Fashion show, a talk by a designer, a talk by a stylist, a dress making demonstration by an expert, a makeup demonstration to go with the clothing you sell, a hairdresser to show the importance of hair to go with what you sell.
  3. Camping: A tent setup competition, tips from a local ranger for safe camping, stories from camping trips – a group discussion sharing ideas, a supplier presentation on new equipment.
  4. Homewares: A dinner party in store showing how a range of dining homewares products look when you have guests over, a stylist speaking about how to style your home, a manufacturer presentation on a new line.
  5. Card shop: A calligrapher to write beautifully on cards purchased in-store, a local writer to help customers with the right words for each card purchased, a card stylist to help shoppers find the perfect card for the occasion, a card maker presenting a talk on what goes into making a card.
  6. Stationery business: Supplier presentations on the latest items for sale, a competition for customers based around clever use of a particular line of items you sell, a recycle class from an environmental expert on how to recycle used stationery items, a presentation on the different brands of printers you sell and how each suits a particular need.
  7. Cosmetics shop: Host a fashion parade showing off how your cosmetics look with the right fashion, run cosmetics classes for different occasions – make up for work, evening wear and weekend fun times, have a manufacturer speak about what makes their products special.

Each of these ideas is about bringing interactivity to your store, going beyond static products on the shelves and bringing them alive. This separates your business from the mass merchants who will have fewer in-store displays and from online retailers as well.

Schedule interactive sessions. Plan them carefully, promote them and make sure that they are covering topics of interest to your shoppers. Ask your shoppers too if they have a presentation idea as they could be a welcome source of new in-store content.

Small business retail marketing advice: protect your business data against disaster

Data is as valuable as cash to any retail business yet many do not treat data with respect. Our advice to small business retailers is to get real about data, to get serious about protecting this important asses.

In terms of protecting your business data against disaster, here is our most important advice:

  1. Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail.
    1. Better still: use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to backup.
  2. Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week.
  3. Remove the backup from the business property.
  4. Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
  5. Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
  6. Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
  7. Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
  8. Change your passwords regularly.
  9. Use hard to crack passwords.
  10. Do not share passwords widely.

Small business retail marketing advice on helping customers

The single most important point of difference any local retail business has over a big business or online competitor is local knowledge and context.

Leveraging local knowledge and context as they relate to products in the business is easy through POS software. For example, using our software, retailers can include on receipts details of care for and use of products sold.

This knowledge can add significant value to a purchase as it can be specific to the area.

We see retailers doing this all the time, in ways that make customers happy as they can get more out of the products purchased than might be the case had they not been given the useful information.

  1. A garden centre can add care information tuned to local conditions.
  2. A bike shop can share local bike track information.
  3. A toy shop can share information about family play groups.
  4. A pet shop can share information on local dog walking groups.
  5. A fishing store can share information about sports only the locals know.

These are just some examples of personalised local information can be shared on receipts.

Retailers can take it even further and include information that is absolutely product specific.

This is an excellent way to promote the personal focus of the business.

40 Christmas marketing ideas for any independent retail business anywhere

Tower Systems works with more than 3,500+ small business retailers in speciality retail niches including jewellers, garden centres, bike shops, toy shops, gift shops, newsagents, pet shops, adult shops and more. We offer these ideas as our Christmas gift to you.

  1. Make it easy. People often talk about how hard Christmas is. Be the local business that makes it easy. The ways to do this are with easy Lay-By, free wrapping, better shop floor help, guide buying advice or tips on perfect gifts no one else will think of. Consider making Christmas easy as being a key part of your messaging.
  2. Be thrilled people are in your shop. Your personal smile or greeting is something they may not see in a big business where employees are less invested in each shopper and where the owner is usually thousands of kilometers away.
  3. Make the giving easy. If people purchase items from you to send somewhere else. Offer a one-stop shop. Save them the trip to the post office.
  4. Make the shop less about Christmas. Consider pulling back on the Christmas visual noise. Go for something simple, muted, respecting the season but making a calm statement. Consider declaring the shop a Christmas carol free zone – not because you hate carols but because you want to help customers take a break.
  5. Help people rest and recharge. Create a Christmas shopping rest and recovery zone. Offer free tea, coffee, water and something to eat. Encourage people to take a break in your shop – without any obligation for them to spend money with you.
  6. Let your customers help each other. Setup a whiteboard or sheets of butcher’s paper, yes keep it simple. Get customers to write gift suggestions under different age/gender groups. For example: Girls 18 – 25, Boys 55+. Encourage your customers to help each other through their suggestions.
  7. Make price comparison difficult. If you sell items people are likely to price compare with other businesses, package them so price comparison is not easy. Put items into a hamper as a perfect Boy 8 to 12 bundle for example. Or offer the item with pre packages services if appropriate for an item.
  8. Less is more.  The stack em high watch em fly mantra can be wrong. Indeed, it is often wrong in retail. Shoppers can be store blind because a shop is too full or a display is too busy. Consider creating simpler less cluttered displays and window promotions. Draw attention to what you want people to see by promoting that one thing. Every time someone asks if you have something that you think through should be able to find easily – take it as a challenge for you to address rather than a commentary on a facility of the customer.
  9. Change. Christmas season in your shop should evolve. Major change weekly is vital for people to see what you have that they could buy.
  10. Be socially engaged. On Facebook, Instagram, twitter and elsewhere, be the calm voice, the person people enjoy reading or seeing photos from. Provide entertainment this Christmas rather than the usual retailer shrill of come and shop here!
  11. Be community minded. Choose a local charity or community group to support through Christmas. Consider: a change collection tin at the counter; a themed Christmas window display; promotion on your social media pages; a donation to their work; a collection point for donations from customers.
  12. Facilitate sharing stories. Find space in your shop for customers to share their Christmas stories. It could be a story wall inside or in front of the shop. This initiative encourages storytelling by locals and better connects the business with the community.
  13. Award a prize at a local school. Fund a year-end prize at a local school. Attend a school assembly to award the prize. Work with the school leadership on a prize appropriate to your business.
  14. VIP preview. Host a VIP shopper preview night when you show off your Christmas ranges ahead of being available to the general shoppers. Respect and reward your local shoppers with deals and the opportunity to preview ahead of others.
  15. Leverage Christmas traffic. Encourage the Christmas shopper traffic surge in after Christmas. Give them a reason to come back. A coupon promotion or a discount voucher on receipts could be the enticement to get shoppers back in-store. Note: the Tower POS software produces discount vouchers to rules you establish.
  16. Become a gallery. Work with a school, kindergarten, community group or retirement village to bring in local art for people to come and see through Christmas. A small space commitment can drive traffic from family and friends of those with art on show.
  17. Dress the shop. Fully embrace Christmas. Create a Christmas experience such that shoppers know they have stepped into somewhere special this Christmas. Go for more than some tinsel and a tree. Fully embrace the opportunity.
  18. Make your shop smell like Christmas.
  19. Send cards. Send Christmas cards early in the season to suppliers, key customers and local community groups. This connects you with Christmas. Invite all team members to sign each card.
  20. Host a Christmas party. For shops nearby. You are all in the season together – let your hear down before things get crazy.
  21. Ensure you have gifts targeted at occasions. For example: Kris Kringle, by price point and by recipient. Make it easy for people to know what they could give.
  22. Stocking stuffers. At your counter always have one or two stocking stuffers for impulse purchase.
  23. Offer gift vouchers – for someone to give when they are not sure what to give.
  24. Be local. Ensure you have a selection of locally sourced products available for purchase. Make it clear in-store that these products are sourced locally.
  25. Tell stories. On your Facebook page, talk about what is important to you at Christmas. Personalise the season and deepen the connection with those who could shop with you.
  26. Offer a free gift. Bulk purchase an item to offer those who spend above a set amount. For example, spend $65 and receive XX where XX may have cost $5.00 but could have a perceived value of $20.00.
  27. Keep it fresh. Every week make significant change to your Christmas displays and promotions to keep your offer fresh.
  28. Share Christmas recipes. Each week for, say, four weeks, give customers a family Christmas recipe. This personalises Christmas in your business, creates a talking point and makes shopping with you different to your bigger competitors.
  29. Free wrapping. Sure, many retailers offer this. Make your offer better, more creative and more appreciated.
  30. This is essential in any business. Manage it through your computer system with strict rules.
  31. Work the floor. Increase time on the shop floor. Be present to manage shopper flow and to facilitate purchases.
  32. Christmas is crazy busy I most retail situations. Give yourself and your team members sufficient time to recharge so the smile greeting shoppers is heartfelt.
  33. Keep a secret. If yours is a business selling gifts a partner may purchase for their loved-one, create some mystery with a closed off display for the shopper to see the products.
  34. Free assembly. If you sell items that require assembly. Offer to do this for free.
  35. Free delivery. Offer free Christmas Eve delivery for items purchased for kids for Christmas.
  36. Sell training. Leverage the specialist knowledge you have in your business by selling as gifts places at classes you run sharing your expertise.
  37. Hold back. Don’t go out with everything you have for Christmas all at once. Plan the season to show off what you have as the season unfolds. This allows you multiple launches.
  38. Share a taste. Regardless if your type of business, bake a family recipe of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or Christmas biscuits and offer tastings to shoppers on select days. This personalises the experience in your shop.
  39. Offer hampers. Package several items together and offer them as a hamper. Time-poor shoppers could appreciate you doing this work for them. We have seen this work in many different retail situations.
  40. Buy X get Y. Encourage people to spend more with a volume based deal. Pitched right, this could get customers purchasing items for several family members in order to get the price offer you have. Use your technology to manage this.

Christmas is the perfect time to plan for next year. It is the time to do everything possible to leverage bonus Christmas traffic to benefit your business through next year.

Tower Systems offers Point of sale / retail management software tailored for your specific type of retail business. Our software can help you leverage Christmas traffic for year-long benefits.

We provide you with loyalty facilities that are fresh and small-business focussed, loyalty facilities through which you can pitch a point of difference compared to big business competitors.

One of our retail experts can help:

  • VIC/TAS – Mike Hill .. 0423 848 482;
  • NSW/ACT – Nathan Morrison .. 0417 568 148;
  • SA/WA – Tim Batt .. 0401 833 917;
  • QLD – Justin Randall .. 0434 365 789.

Christmas marketing tips for local small business retailers

Christmas is a noisy time for shoppers. Every retailer is pitching to them on TV, radio, in print, on social media and in-store.

Christmas marketing tends to be the same: jolly, celebratory and, often, price based.

It is a challenge for small business retailers to cut through all of this noise.

Here are some tips for cutting through. Sure we are a POS software company, but we are retailers too and have been for decades. We have experience in several retail channels. This helps us create better small business software and provide advice beyond the software itself.

We hope this Christmas advice is directly helpful or unlocks ideas of your own.

  1. Make it easy. People often talk about how hard Christmas is. Be the business that makes it easy. The ways to do this are with easy Lay-By, free wrapping, better shop floor help, guide buying advice or tips on perfect gifts no one else will think of. Consider making Christmas easy as being a key part of your messaging.
  2. Be thrilled people are in your shop. Your personal smile or greeting is something they may not see in a big business where employees are less invested in each shopper and where the owner is usually thousands of kilometers away.
  3. Make the giving easy. If people purchase form you to send somewhere else. Offer a one-stop shop. Save them the trip to the post office.
  4. Make the shop less about Christmas. Consider pulling back on the Christmas visual noise. Go for something simple, muted, respecting the season but making a calm statement. Consider declaring the shop a Christmas carol free zone – not because you hate carols but because you want to help customers take a break.
  5. Help people rest and recharge. Create a Christmas shopping rest and recovery zone. Offer free tea, coffee, water and something to eat. Encourage people to take a break in your shop – without any obligation for them to spend money with you.
  6. Let your customers help each other. Setup a whiteboard or sheets of butcher’s paper, yes keep it simple. Get customers to write gift suggestions under different age/gender groups. For example: Girls 18 – 25, Boys 55+. Encourage your customers to help each other.
  7. Make price comparison difficult. If you sell items people are likely to price compare with other businesses, package them so price comparison is not easy. Put items into a hamper as a perfect Boy 8 to 12 bundle for example. Or offer the item with pre packages services if appropriate for an item.
  8. Less is The stack em high watch em fly mantra can be wrong. Indeed, it is often wrong in retail. Shoppers can be store blind because a shop is too full or a display is too busy. Consider creating simpler less cluttered displays and window promotions. Draw attention to what you want people to see by promoting that one thing. Every time someone asks if you have something that you think through should be able to find easily – take it as a challenge for you to address rather than a commentary on a facility of the customer.
  9. Christmas season in your shop should evolve. Major change weekly is vital for people to see what you have that they could buy.
  10. Be socially engaged. On Facebook, Instagram, twitter and elsewhere, be the calm voice, the person people enjoy reading or seeing photos from. Provide entertainment this Christmas rather than the usual retailer shrill of come and shop here!

We think the key to a more successful Christmas is to be different to what people expect from your business.

Advice for small business retailers on how to promote Halloween

Halloween is a fun season in retail. It is an opportunity to ramp up traffic and sales leading up to Christmas. It is also an opportunity for the business to play outside its comfort zone. This is great news for any small business retailer.

Here is our advice from seeing Halloween in many retail businesses, advice on ways to promote Halloween to drive the opportunity further:

  1. Run a series of Facebook posts early in the season. Through these demonstrate your engagement as unique, different.
  2. make your front window scary amazing.
  3. Have customers step into Halloween when they step into your store.
  4. Have a fancy dress competition on the weekend before.
  5. Mock yourselves in social media and elsewhere about being big kids, scary pants or more. Change how people look at your business.
  6. Run sales connected with people dressing up to access a sale price.
  7. A colouring competition for kids with a prize for the best.
  8. Have candy to give away.
  9. If you’re in a small town organise a Halloween trick or treat party for safe kid fun.
  10. Print a recipe sheet and give this away. Online you can find recipes for eyeball soup, eyeball appetisers, bloody desserts and the like.

Here at Tower systems we are all about small business retail. Anything we can do to help we will do, including providing practical business management advice for retailers on seasons such as Halloween.

Helping small business retailers cut employee theft in any type of business

Employee theft is a challenge for any small business retailer. The cost of theft depends on how the business manages the theft situation. To minimise the cost of theft, retailers are advised to follow these simple to implement strategies. They have been developed by our small business retail support team here at Tower Systems over many years of helping small business retailers through our POS software.

  1. Pay above award wages. The quality of your employees is up to you. If you’re doing your job you have good employees. Value them. Pay above award. HR and business psychology experts say this will reduce theft.
  2. Talk to them. Ask for their honest comments about the business.       The more they feel, genuinely feel, valued, the less likely they are to steal from you.
  3. No employee bags at the counter.
  4. Clear refund policy. Type the policy up and put it on the wall for customers and employees to see.       Cover, for example, age of transaction, management approval, that you need their name, address, phone number and signature – such requirements will stop abuse.
  5. Offer good discounts to employees. Let employees buy products from you at your cost or just above it. This respects them as part of your team and it reduces the chances of them being tempted to steal what they want from you.
  6. Don’t take cash out of the til yourself. If employees see you take money out for items like a coffee or your lunch they will feel invited to do the same.
  7. Roster mix up. Change your roster regularly. It is common that a roster change will show you a theft problem you never thought was there.
  8. Roster rules. Don’t have friends working with friends if they are the only ones rostered on.
  9. Speed humps. Have a day where you turn on receipts for ALL customers. Then a day where you require that everything is scanned (as opposed to using hot keys and the like). These changes will keep employees and customers off guard and make it easier for you to spot problems. It will also keep you on your guard and that’s good for the business.
  10. Spend more time at the counter. The further you are from the action in your business the greater the opportunity for you to be ripped off. Spend time where the action is – unexpectedly.
  11. Balance the register during the day. Do this every so often. Again to keep people on their toes. It is also good practice.
  12. Don’t let employees ring their own purchases up.
  13. Don’t let employees sell to family and friends.
  14. Your local council. Many local councils offer theft prevention training and help as do some local police.       (Local U.S. police stations are considerably more active in this area.)
  15. Beware of popularity. There is anecdotal evidence that the more popular the employee the more likely they are the one stealing from you.

Helping newsagents navigate change for a brighter future

In his downtime from Tower Systems, CEO Mark Fletcher writes the Australian Newsagency Blog to encourage newsagents to embrace change and transform their businesses into retail relevant to today and beyond. Heroes a new video where mark explains some of what the book is about.

This work also helps inform Tower on retail trends as all retail businesses are transforming as a result of many factors agitating for change.

Sunday retail management advice: how to sell your retail business when no one is interested

Small and independent retail businesses can be a challenge to sell even in a strong economy. This is because they are often not understood and not presented well for sale.

One way to make a business more appealing is to be more open about it being for sale.

Put a sign in the window. Yes, this will tell your employees, customers and suppliers that you want to sell up and move on. Own that decision, embrace it. Stop worrying what people will think. Explain your good reason for putting the business on the market and then run the business with more energy and focus than ever before.  Your actions will demonstrate that people need not worry.

The sign in the window works on a couple of levels.

First, small businesses are more likely to appeal to people who live locally, people who may not be in the market to buy a business until they see your sign.  I know of one small business that had not sold in over a year and then sold in a week following a sign being put in the window. It could be that an employee is interested in buying the business.

Second, the sign is your reminder that the business has to be sale ready every day. Shoppers walking through your door are coming to an open house to see the business for sale. That’s how you should approach it – working your heart out presenting the business perfectly and appealingly every day.

Businesses can take time to sell. Sometimes it takes the right people seeing the ad at the right time for you to find a buyer.  The stars aligning aside, the most important barrier to selling any business is that it does not look or feel appealing, manageable and or capable of delivering the level of return a prospective purchaser would want. This is why you have to work hard and relentlessly to make your business look valuable, appealing and enjoyable.

Too often small business retailers think that the economy, retail channel issues or other external factors are slowing or halting the sale of the business. Even if this is the case, reject these thoughts, bring it back to you and your actions. If you want to sell your business then run it as if you want to sell it – every day.

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.

ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS ON HOW TO SEE THEIR BUSINESS DIFFERENTLY

This is not the usual advice you would expect from your POS software company. But Tower Systems is not your usual POS software company.

In our work with small business specially retailers in Australia and New Zealand we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again.

We hear of retailers who are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business, to exhausted to think about the future let alone today or tomorrow.

We get it that retail is tough, full of challenges. Our job is to help retailers see things differently.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.
  4. Sit out the front of the shop for a day. Yes a whole day. Sit and watch, take notes and think about what you see, what you could change and ask people, as they come out, what they would change too.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL ADVICE: CHOOSE THE LOYALTY OPTION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU

The Tower Systems POS software has every possible shopper loyalty requirement covered from points to integrations to instant gratification loyalty to collectible loyalty to multi buy loyalty to supplier driven and funded loyalty.

No matter what loyalty option you could conceive, Tower has, in its community of 3,500+ small business retailers, most likely encountered the need and served it.

Our experience with loyalty is different businesses have different needs. This is why one of our loyalty experts works with you to determine which of the options is right for your business needs.

We help you discover the options in the software that serve your needs.

Our retail management advice today is think about the needs of your business carefully. The most obvious loyalty option, the one most others use, might not be right for you.

Our retail management tip today is: choose the loyalty option that is right for your small business.

  1. Points based loyalty.
  2. Loyalty rewards where the rewards are a voucher.
  3. A cash discount off your next purchase.
  4. Integration with a banner group loyalty program.
  5. FlyBys integration.
  6. A partner program where the shopper gets a reward and their community group gets a reward.
  7. A local community support loyalty offer.
  8. VIP pricing.
  9. VIP pricing coupled with a loyalty rewards offer.

There are plenty more options than these – catered for and serves within the smart Tower Systems POS software.

SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CHALLENGE EXPECTATIONS

Every week we get to see many different retail situations through our work with small business retailers. The most exciting shops we visit are those that challenge our perception of that type of retail business. This happens when we go into a shop expecting to see a certain range of products or a certain type of display because of the type of business it is and we actually find something quite different, far more exciting, something that challenges the perception of the business.

Through our work with retailers we share the insights we see, this ideas we pick up and the excitement we feel when we see something unexpected.

So, beyond the POS software and the technical work we do we share good retail, retail we like, to encourage change elsewhere.

We try things ourselves in our own shops, like the greening of the magazine department in our own pop culture newsagency as shown below. Introducing plants to the magazine department has resulted in excellent shopper interaction.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO MARKET YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS TO RETIREES

The retiree (or seniors) marketplace can be lucrative for a retail store. They tend to be loyal and engaged in word of mouth marketing about good retail experiences. They can also be flexible about when they shop and this is where a retail business can really leverage the opportunity.

Before you can market any retiree service or benefit you need to develop a plan for handling the opportunity. What products will be offered and at what special prices? The most common approach is to offer a flat discount to retirees, or seniors as they are called in some marketplaces. This discount is usually between 5% and 10%.

Price is important to the seniors marketplace since they either have a fixed income or are living off finite savings. They like businesses which help them save money.

You will also need to decide when the discount or other offer is available. Some businesses make the offer available only on certain days, usually the quietest days of the week. Others offer access to the benefits all the time. Think carefully about the needs of the business before deciding when you will provide access to the benefits – focus on the business outcome you want to achieve.

In terms of accessing the benefit, it is common and fair to ask for some form of proof of eligibility. This could be in the form of a drivers license or a seniors card as is available in some locations. This is a card usually issues by local government. Sometimes, it is issued by residences.

An alternative is to create your own retiree / seniors card for use in promoting the business. These should be professionally designed and produced. Ensure that such a card is respectful and something these customers would proudly carry. Design the card so that it promotes the benefits you offer – so that it is an extension of your marketing program.

Whatever method you use to identify your retiree customers, it has to be simple to use at the counter for processing the appropriate discount.

To market a business to retirees consider these options:

  1. Train employees to offer the discount or other benefits to someone who looks eligible. While this could cause embarrassment, it could also extend the word of mouth around the offer.
  2. Promote to retirement villages in the local area.
  3. Advise local government authorities that you offer a benefit to retirees.
  4. Contact local clubs and organisations likely to connect with retirees.
  5. Promote the benefits in-store and in your business newsletter. You want to spread your offer as far and wide as possible, so that retirees beat a path to your door.
  6. Visit local retirement residences and offer assistance.
  7. Advertise in trailer parks.
  8. Look up clubs the Internet – there are plenty of groups, clubs and forums for older folks travelling around. They share tips about places they like.

The value of the retiree market to your retail store will depend on the value of the offer available to them and how widely you promote this. While some retailers see retirees as a chore others see a business opportunity.

HOW ONE SMALL BUSINESS RETAILER HAS USED OUR POS SOFTWARE TO INCREASE REVENUE BY 114%

Retailers want, need, year on year revenue growth. Here is a story of how one small business independent retailer followed our advice, used the smart loyalty facilities in our software and for one product category increased revenue by 114%. Elsewhere in the business benefits flowed too, rich benefits, bottom line benefits.

For within our POS software is a suite of smart loyalty tools that ensure you get shoppers spending more each visit. That is what this retailer has achieved. In this one department of plush items, they achieved $9,459.14 (ex GST) in revenue in April. That is up 114% on April 2015. Here is one line from the management report comparing April 2016 with April 2015. But beyond this one line, across four pages, this business is reporting excellent year on year growth – on good GP items, not low margin agency lines … and it is doing it on the back of smart loyalty facilities that are unique to the Tower Systems software.

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This is what matters in a small and independent retail business, good year on year growth for high margin product. This unit sales and revenue year on year comparison is vital as it is the truth of this retail business, raw data on which they can rely to measure success and guide next steps.

Our role, beyond providing excellent POS software, is to provide training and support for small business retailers to help them get the best possible value from the software and to understand the data on which we report.

FREE POS SOFTWARE TRAINING: HOW TO CUT THEFT IN YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.53.10 pmNext week, we run another of our popular Howe to cut theft in your retail business workshops. Run many times over many years, these free live workshops help engaged retailers to protect against theft, especially employee theft. Retailers using our POS software who encounter employee theft, especially expensive employee theft, have not undertaken this free and easily accessed training.

Our commitment to our small business retail customers is that we provide regular access to free live training workshops. This session is another of these free weekly opportunities.

SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

Business birthdays are important – for you and for your customers, especially in a locally owned small retail business.

Embrace the opportunity of your business birthday for a celebration. But be sure to not make it all about making more money. Take time to embrace the achievement and love it.

Here are practical tips for celebrating the birthday of your business:

  1. Setup a photo board and invite customer engagement. Let’s say your business is six years old: ask customers to bring a photo showing them at six years of age. Their stories become part of your story.
  2. Setup a noticeboard. Let’s say your business is twenty years old. Headline the board with: To celebrate our twenty years in business, join us and list twenty things you love about this town.
  3. Recognise local heroes. Host an after drinks night in your shop and take a moment to acknowledge and thank local heroes. The number you acknowledge should be the number of years you have been in business.
  4. Thank previous owners. Create a history board of previous owners. Where they are now. Their stories. Show the rich long history of your business from before you owned it.
  5. Hand out a flyer listing X hidden gems of your region (where X is the number of hears you have been in business). The flyer is your birthday gift to your customers.
  6. Have cake. Everyone loves cake. If for no other reason than to get to eat cake have a birthday cake. Make it special. Have a big cake or lots of cup cakes. Set and date and time for the celebration.
  7. Party favor bags. Give every customer shopping on your birthday a bag of treats and favors you have chosen to celebrate your big day.
  8. The Happy Birthday discount. Offer a big discount to any customer who comes in on the day (or through the week if you wish) and sings, at full voice, Happy Birthday.
  9. Say thank you. In your front window, create a stunning and personal display saying thank you to the town. Do it visually, creatively and with a full heart.
  10. Half price birthdays. On the day itself, offer birthday cards at half price. While you are giving away margin and will bring forward what might otherwise have been full margin sales, you could get people buying cards from you who have not done so in a while.
  11. Be thankful. On Facebook leading up to your birthday share what you are thankful for from and through your business. Be sure to write with a voice of gratefulness and celebration.
  12. Dress the shop for a party. For at least the week of the birthday dress the shop as a themed party, maybe a kids party. Get everyone involved. Have fun and bring your customers in on the fun.
  13. Maybe a birthday party celebration sale. One night, after the shop has closed, put on some wine, cheese and nibbles inviting people to join you for some party games, prizes and deals.

A key aspect of these ideas is to remind people that your business is stable, can be trusted, is locally connected and knows how to have fun.