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.

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REINVENTING THE POS SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS

Change is the order of the day for retail as it has been since the first shops opened. What is different in 2016 is that the pace of change has picked up. Indeed, the pace of change today is greater than at any time in the past. Technology is playing a key role in that: online and offline technology is facilitating, pushing and even forcing change.

Staying up to date is a challenge, especially in small and independent retailer businesses where having the time and resources to stay open can be difficult.

Tower Systems tries to insulate its customers from some of the challenges of change by leveraging changes in the software without needing to change hardware infrastructure.

In software updates we bring to the businesses of our customers tools and resources they can use to be more competitive. Tools and facilities through which they can enhance the relevance of their businesses in a changing retail landscape.

We think and work strategically on such technical changes, always thinking about what we can do to help our customers drive their relevance for we know if you customers feel more relevant and are more successful as a result of our software then a need of our business plan is satisfied.

What we do is more than about the software though. Enhancing our POS software is only part of what we do. The even more important aspect of helping our small business retailers compete is how we communicate with them about the enhancements. Our live training workshops, regional user meetings, training videos, advice sheets, personal training and other touch points help our customers learn about and embrace opportunities for change in their retail businesses through what we deliver in our POS software.

In our latest work we have helped retailers redefine the over the counter sales experience, leveraging important touch points, driving value from shopper engagement. For retailers, changes like these are money in the bank.

Our work directly linking with Magento, Shopify, Xero and other respected and widely used platforms is an example of us delivering on our commitment to help our small business retail community to embrace change and leverage change for their commercial success.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS MORE SECURE

Security is important in any business but especially in a small independent retail business. Here is a list of actions we recommend you consider to ensure your business is secure.

  1. Know how many keys there are to your premises and who has them.
  2. Keep a spare key in a safe place away from the business.
  3. Keep a current data backup off site. Regularly check that you can restore the data from your backup and that the data is current.
  4. Regularly check the use of your business software for the deletion or alternation of sales as this could indicate employee fraud.
  5. Have current reputable virus protection on all your computers.
  6. Have current reputable firewall installed on your network.
  7. Never open a zip file sent by email.
  8. Never open an email from a bank, the ATO or the police.
  9. Change the most powerful / valuable password for your computer software monthly and share it sparingly. Passwords should be complex. Check the strength of your password here: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  10. Be discrete when talking about the business and its performance.
  11. Do not do the banking at the same time every day or every few days. Do not follow the same route. Do not carry the same bag.
  12. Have a camera system installed to get a good shot of the faces of everyone entering and leaving the business.
  13. Consider registering your CCTV with the local police – this is an option in some jurisdictions.
  14. Ensure customers can see they are being filmed.
  15. Train employees to make eye contact with customers.
  16. Train employees on emergency procedures for handling: theft, aggressive people, shoplifters.
  17. Use the full stock control facilities of your software to understand the financial cost of shoplifting.
  18. When doing magazine returns, check discrepancies weekly to understand magazine theft.
  19. Ensure your windows are not cluttered. The police advise cluttered windows are a security risk because of what they can hide.
  20. Ensure there is good lighting outside if the store is locked up when it is dark.
  21. Ensure you have the best possible sight lines of the shop from the counter.
  22. Have a no personal items at the counter policy.
  23. If you catch someone in the act of shoplifting ask them to wait in the store, and call the Police. Also (advice from NSW govt. Crime prevention):
    1. Tell them who you are.
    2. Tell them why they have been asked to stay in the store. o Advise them that Police have been called
    3. Ask the person to surrender any property that doesn’t belong to them. Remember, retailers and other citizens have no legal right to search a person.
    4. Most importantly, do not put yourself at risk.
  24. Have a clear refund processing policy and ensure all employees are trained on this.
  25. Track all sales by employee code.
  26. When hiring: ask if applicants agree to a police check, check their references, do not hire friends of employees, explain your commitment to zero tolerance re employee theft.
  27. Have an employee theft policy in full view.
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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: MAYBE IT IS TIME TO CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS

Who do you talk to about your retail business? Are they sympathetic, pandering almost? Or, do they challenge your perception of your business?

Do they agree with everything you say? Do they offer pity as a response for you explaining your situation?

Good friends will challenge what you say. They will ask tough questions to test what you say about business performance. They will not put up with a victim mentality. They will want to know what you are doing to improve your situation and that your actions are rooted in your business data.

If your friends don’t challenge you when you talk about your business consider seeking out others you can talk to who do challenge you. 

Owning a business of any size can be tough and lonely. In the business it is rare you will be challenged. In your immediately family, too often, you will not be challenged. This is why you need to seek out those who could and will challenge you. You need to be challenged. Your plans need to be tested through tough questioning.  While some good friend will do this for you many will not.

So, do you need to change your friends?

Seek out people who will give you truthful assessment of what you say, people who will have an opinion and be unafraid to share it. You want people who will actively listen to you and give you their insights.

Seek out people who will want the same from you.  The ideal friendship is one that is equal, open and honest in conversation.  This is what retail business owners need – people who can help them see what they may not be seeing for themselves.

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TAGS CHANGE THE WAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS TRACK INVENTORY

The introduction of tags in the Tower Systems POS software last year added to an already powerful reporting suite for our retail customers.

Using tags our retailers can take a horizontal slice through their business data across departments, categories and suppliers, linking items based on a licence or sole other connection relevant to the business.

Tagging is smart easy and powerful, providing small business retailers a fresh view of their businesses, one unique to Tower Systems.

We have been demonstrating the value of tags in our user meetings, [providing our customers with ah ha moments when they see it, get it and realise the power for their businesses through the unique view of business performance available to them.

Tagging inventory items is another point of difference we have been able to leverage for growth among our small business retail user community.

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Sunday retail management advice: use a museum piece to drive traffic

IMG_4574A trend in specialty retail overseas is to have a locked and secure cabinet housing a product people may not purchase but will come in to look at and photograph and salivate over.

The photo shows a runner designed by some famous guy. The pair sells for US$9,000. The manager of the store told us they have at least 50 people a day come in a look at the boot and take photos and that enough purchase other items to make the investment in the stock worth it.

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TOWER SYSTEMS AT ATLANTA GIFT FAIR IN THE US

A team from Tower Systems further benefited from participating in the Atlanta Gift Fair last week, networking with small business gift and homewares retailers as well as their suppliers – including suppliers from Australia. Thanks to contact since the show, the benefits are being realised quickly.

This large gift fair – representing 7,300 brands – is attended by thousands of retailers. It is the gift and homewares retailers the industry’s largest event featuring the most comprehensive collection of home décor, furniture and gifts. The venue spans multiple buildings and multiple floors in each building – it is many times larger than the largest gift fairs in Australia. This is what makes it an exciting event for us – a real eye-opener.

The range of products on show is more diverse and the types of businesses attending is equally diverse. This is why attending has been beneficial for the Tower Systems team as they have been able to expand their horizons as to how our POS software can better serves the needs of growing gift and homewares businesses.

We are not detailing takeaways here for obvious reasons.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS NEED GOOD GIFT CARD SOFTWARE IN WAKE OF DICK SMITH COLLAPSE

IMG_3465The woes of retailer Dick Smith and the swift announcement of the status of gift vouchers by the Administrator last week has made shoppers suspicious of gift vouchers. This is what happened following the collapse of the Red retail group – Angus and Robertson – some years ago. It took months for trust to rebuild.

Unfortunately, we can see a similar situation follow what is happening at Dick Smith at the moment.

Thanks to the comprehensive gift voucher / gift card management facilities in our software, our small business retail partners have a good story to tell about managing the cards / vouchers and the cash collected.

Our software is well established and tested in this area, across multiple retail channels. we manage the vouchers in a way a CPA would expect and the way a shopper can trust.

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POS software customer love helping us sell POS software

We invited several customers last year to have their photo taken in-store as part of a promotional series showing happy small business customers in their shops where they use our smart POS software. We were thrilled every customer we approached agreed.

Here is one photo from the wonderful LollyBomb business in Adelaide. Some of the specialist facilities in our software help this business in smart and engaging ways.

We are grateful for their help in promoting our software.

LollyBomb_Page_1

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Sunday retail business management advice: get your web strategy right

A tech company recently sent out a survey on 2015 activity to their customers with an out of date logo, a design from the 1990s and a follow up thank you note referencing 2014. These three missteps made the business look unprofessional in its approach. They made it an easy target for anyone wanting to show weaknesses in the business. Their communication also provided some fun for competitors.

Since online is so vital to business today it is important that your online and electronic communications are on point: professional, using your current logo and art, referencing current activity and followed up with relevant material.

Software companies and all businesses need to be professional in every contact as the last contact could be the one on which we are judged.

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Helping small business retailers manage labour cost

Labour is the second highest cost in small business retail yet it is often among the least managed. Tower Systems helps small business retailers manage labour costs. By manage, we mean keep efficient to ensure they are appropriate to the needs of the business. We have helped small business retailers cut labour costs by 25% without any downward impact on sales revenue. We do this through our smart POS software in a range of ways including:

  • Tracking sales by time.
  • Tracking sales by employee.
  • Employee rostering.
  • Tracking labour cost by hour.
  • Mapping costs against seasons and other important activities within the business.
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Sunday small business retail management advice: give people waiting something to buy

candylaneSupermarkets, fuel outlets and convenience retailers nail the candy lane, the floor space in front of the counter where people line and wait to be served. It’s called the candy lane because it’s where candy is often sold. It is a space strategy appropriate to any retailer.

What is it you present to shoppers who approach the counter, any counter in your business? Are impulse purchases by your shoppers growing?

Products need to be easily understood and relevant to your business. They need to be products on which customers can make a split-second decision.

Manage your candy lane for success.

Success is shoppers purchasing items on impulse from display units placed in your candy lane.

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Helping small business retailers transact without a POS software computer system

Tower Systems has published updated advice to help retailers transact in the unlikely event of their computer system not being available. This advice proved to be popular with our customers – we can tell from the considerable download count.

Small business retailers learn to rely on their POS software. If it becomes unavailable for some time and for reasons outside anyone’s immediate control it can challenge the business operations. This is why having a plan for survival is vital to the business.

Planning for contingencies such as a blackout, massive hardware failure or some other contingency is important in retail and we take our role in guiding retailers on best practice business management seriously here at Tower Systems.

This latest business management advice is part of a long-term commitment to publish advice that is useful, accessible and freely available for our small business retail customers.

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Xero, the accounting our POS software links directly to lauded

We love Xero. While we link to multiple small business accounting solutions, Xero is the one receiving most praise by experts and good press on a number of fronts at the moment.

Tower Systems is proud to be an approved authorised Xero POS software partner, listed on their website.

We are not surprised to see a POS software competition ignoring Xero when rating accounting software. Their ignorance is not unexpected.

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The Tower Systems small business POS software handles a change to GST easily

With all the talk of a change to GST arrangement in Australia, it is appropriate we note that any change to GST in terms of quantum and the products and / or services on which it applies would be easy for Tower Systems to manage.

The Tower Systems  POS software today has all the facilities necessary for our customer to handle such changes without the need for a software update.

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POS software helps retailers sell more hampers at Christmas time

Christmas is hamper season for many retailers and Tower Systems helps retailers easily and confidently make, manage, sell and deconstruct hampers.

We track all the components of a hamper, special package pricing, sales history, customer engagement and, if necessary, the breaking down of hampers to single items should a hamper not sell.

Making it easy to manage hampers helps the Tower software be selected by gift shops, bike shops, pet shops, garden centres and other retailers where hampers are an important part of the Christmas trade.

Our work in the hamper space started years ago when we sold our software to a hamper specialist. They guided us to develop smarter tools and these sit in the core POS software we offer to retailers today.

Hampers are a terrific way for local small retailers to pitch a point of difference. Our software makes hampers easy to manage and sell. More important, our software makes it easy to leverage for next season.

This is another POS software Tower AdvantageTM.

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Sunday small business retail business management advice: how to compete with a big business competitor

Here are some tips from us on how to more effectively compete with a big business competitor located near your small business:

  1. Know what you can and can’t do. Some big retailers spend tens of millions of dollars saying they are the cheapest. A small business cannot match that spend. So, price should not be your focus as it is a harder road. If you do choose to pitch on price, you need to do it comparatively and consistently. List their price and your price. However, the risk is they will chase you down that hole and their pockets are deeper than yours. I recommend against competing on price.
  2. Understand the new competition locating near you. Research them, visit their store, look carefully at what they do. Understand, from a rational perspective, why they are a successful national company. Visit several times. Try and talk to customers. Knowledge gained from such field trips will empower your planning and decision making.
  3. Focus on your point of difference. If you do not have on, get one, develop one. Own it. Ensure your business owns it. If it is service, make it better, if it is range, make it better., If it is that you are local, shout this from your rooftop. Your point of difference needs to be seen, heard and understood by your customers and those who would be your customers. If you do not think you have an obvious point of difference, work hard to build one and embed this deep within your business.
  4. Promote your business. Professionally. Be smart. Big businesses are usually big advertisers. You need to advertise too. To the level you are able within your business. This could be in the local newspaper, on local radio, in flyers to homes or even with a terrific display in your front window. Promote your business and in particular your point of difference. Small businesses can win in social media with locally-focussed pitches which demonstrate your local connections.
  5. Network locally. Connect with community groups, charities, sports groups, schools, clubs and friends. A small local business can do this better than a big business. Find a way to connect and help. This will be appreciated and, hopefully, rewarded with business. Strong networking can help you get more people on your side and supporting your business through strong word of mouth.
  6. Have a consistent loyalty offer. This needs to be different to what major retailers do. It needs to be whole of business. It has to offer genuine rewards which get people shopping your shop rather than staying within a category. This is where discount vouchers work.
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Five management tips small business retailers most often ignore – Sunday retail management advice

Based ion our many years experience and our personal work with more than 3,000 retailers, here are the five most common bits of advice small business retailers ignore. Do these five things and your business will improve.

  1. Track everything you sell from the moment it arrives to when it sells.
  2. Reorder stock using your software and not your gut.
  3. Track all employee transactions.
  4. Do not purchase from suppliers who do not provide electronic invoices.
  5. Run a dollar based loyalty program that encourages shopper engagement more often.

These tips are offered as part of a series from Tower Systems, a POS software company serving more than 3,500 small business retailers with specialist POS software for a range of retail niches.

Every day through our software, advice, support and training we provide help beyond the software, help to make a genuine difference to the small retail businesses we serve.

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Five ways small business retailers can compete with big retail businesses using smart POS software

This is easy. Small business retailers can beat big businesses by consistently delivering a better service:

  1. Offer a real loyalty program and not some over-promoted program that promises a lot but does not deliver.
  2. Include helpful product use and care instructions on your customer receipts.
  3. Offer LayBy with a professional management approach. Many bigger retailers find LayBy too hard now.
  4. Show savings. On receipts. If your prices are lower than suggested retail, tell people.
  5. Keep in contact. Send a text message or email when a special order comes in – this reminds shoppers their sought-after items are now available for collection.

These tips are offered as part of a series from Tower Systems, a POS software company serving more than 3,500 small business retailers with specialist POS software for a range of retail niches.

Every day through our software, advice, support and training we provide help beyond the software, help to make a genuine difference to the small retail businesses we serve.

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Helping small business retailers manage the departure of an employee

As an engaged POS software company we find ourselves providing a variety of advice to small business retailers, even outside the usual remit for a POS software company.

Here is some advice we provided recently to retailers on our suggested best-practice approach to managing the departure of an employee. This advice was created for a specific situation but we think it is valuable for any small business retailer.

Here are some simple steps to consider taking when an employee stops working for you. These steps are designed to protect your business and the former employee.

  1. Change your locks. If you’re in a high-street situation and if the employee had keys, changing the locks is important, especially if the employee has left under a cloud.
  2. Change all your computer passwords – regardless of whether they had access to these or not. Contact support for assistance with changing passwords within Retailer.
  3. Change your supplier website access passwords.
  4. If your employee did any buying, advise your suppliers of their departure.
  5. Ensure superannuation is up to date.
  6. Have business-supplied uniforms and name badges returned.

Too often business owners don’t consider steps like these until after an incident has occurred.

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Sunday retail management advice: how to create a buzz for your small business retail shop between major seasons

The major retail seasons of Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and others work a treat at bringing shoppers out, depending on the type of retail store you have.

It is not enough in today’s retail climate to expect these major seasons to lure the traffic you need in your business. You have to do more by being bold, engaged and relevant.

Local small business retailers create their own buzz through a range of activities to bring shoppers in during quiet times. They can do this locally and from far afield – reaching beyond the usual catchment area for their businesses.

Small and independent specialty retail businesses have an opportunity to play outside the major seasons as the larger retailers tend to ignore these times.

The keys to creating your own buzz for your retail business and for this to pay off financially for the business are to:

  • Engage with your local community. Seriously and genuinely and in ways big businesses cannot.
  • Have a relevant offer, an offer with context between the major seasons.
  • Being smart beyond offering a traditional sale or some other price based offer.
  • Have a marketing strategy for promoting your event and creating local buzz without the cost of a major campaign.

Here are some simple ideas for creating a buzz between major seasons.

  1. Engage your suppliers. Suppliers often have product they want to move. You can be the place for achieving this. They should provide stock at a huge discount. Pass this on. Consider reconfiguring your store into a warehouse for the event – bring the outlet to the town or something along those lines. Connecting with a temporary outlet idea enables you to play in the price space without calling what you are doing a SALE.
  2. Have a competition. Get your suppliers to throw in some prizes. Run a competition for those visiting your retail store. This could be a great traffic driver. Half the battle with retail is getting people through your front door. A good competition with great prizes can achieve this.
  3. Connect with the community. Find a way through the offer of raising funds for a local charity. By supporting a local charity you engage the members and supporters of the charity to support your efforts of raising funds for them.
  4. Change the look of your shop. From the front window and throughout, create a different look so that those walking and driving past notice the difference.
  5. Be different. Look for opportunities to genuinely innovate. The bigger the difference between what you do and how you do it and a usual sale or the efforts of your competitors the more you will be talked about and, hopefully, the more traffic you will generate.
  6. Kick off with an event. Host and event outside your usual trading hours. Make sure that the event itself has some buzz. Get local identities to attend. Connect back to the local community group you are supporting. Invite the local media outlets. Make the event a fun night.

These ideas are designed to get you thinking of different ways you can creatively promote your business outside major seasons. Too often, retailers do what is expected and then wonder why their sales performance is just average.

Go all out and create a between season buzz which you own and off of which you reap wonderful rewards.

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Sunday #smallbusiness #retail advice: leverage green shoots

Small business retailers feeling glum or downtrodden about their businesses can always find green shoots in their business data – green shoots of optimism off of which they can build positive steps toward greater success.

Here at Tower Systems we look at business data for all sorts of businesses, looking for green shoots so we can share good news and use this as a pathway for exploring success opportunities.

Every business we look at has opportunities. Large and small. City and country. Every business has some good news in their business performance data that can be a structure off of which to build more success.

We are grateful for the opportunities we have to help small retail businesses to grow.

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