A 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tracking labour cost by hour.
Mapping costs against seasons and other important activities within the business.
Supermarkets, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some tips from us on how to more effectively compete with a big business competitor located near your small business:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Track everything you sell from the moment it arrives to when it sells.
Reorder stock using your software and not your gut.
Track all employee transactions.
Do not purchase from suppliers who do not provide electronic invoices.
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.
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.
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.
Change all your computer passwords – regardless of whether they had access to these or not. Contact support for assistance with changing passwords within Retailer.
Change your supplier website access passwords.
If your employee did any buying, advise your suppliers of their departure.
Ensure superannuation is up to date.
Have business-supplied uniforms and name badges returned.
Too often business owners don’t consider steps like these until after an incident has occurred.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Employees can steal from retail businesses in a variety of ways. Often, such theft goes undetected because of poor or unmonitored business processes.
The best way to cut employee theft or fraud is to commit to a consistent approach to theft management:
Ask prospective employees if they object to a police check. Those with something to hide will let you know they have found a job elsewhere.
Implement zero tolerance for abuse of systems. For example, ensure that every item sold is scanned.
Implement zero tolerance for an end of shift discrepancy of, say, $5.00 or more. Once employees know you will be fierce about this sales will be more accurate.
Reduce manual eftpos transactions – connect your eftpos terminal to your point of sale.
Change responsibilities – sometimes changing who handles money can uncover fraudulent behavior.
Change your timing. Habits are what allow people to think they can get away with theft.
Modify your counter policies:
No credits without management approval.
No employee bags at the counter.
No jackets or cardigans with pockets.
No calculators with memories – I have seen these used to record how much cash in the register is theirs.
Track every sale by employees – using a card with an employee barcode and making it harder for an employee to use the system as someone else.
Track all cash movements from the sale through to your bank account. Many retailers do not do this and open themselves to blatant and regular theft. Employees do it because they know they can get away with it.
Cutting employee theft can be achieved with vigilance. A small time investment in developing and following processes will find you with more money in your bank account.
Packaging a range of goods together in a hamper can change how people look at products in your business. Take the candy in the photo: these items sold singly sell at the counter as impulse purchases whereas packaged together they sell as a gift for a special occasion.
A hamper can be priced higher than the sum of the parts, making it more valuable for a business.
Using our smart POS software, retailers are able to create and deconstruct hampers such that inventory levels are accurate and total hamper sales are also tracked.
We have businesses in a range of niche retail channels using our hamper ; manufactured goods facilities including jewellers, bike retailers, pet shops, gift shops, homewares shops and garden centres. In addition to excellent software managing the creation and sale of hampers, we offer terrific training, support and other business engagement help – to help small business retailers get the most out of the opportunity.
Our retail management advice for today: look at what you sell and consider putting multiple items together as a hamper to change how people see products in your shop.
We have launched another training video for retailers using our POS software. This new video is not your usual training – no, it highlights a new feature of the software, something fresh for all users. It provides a high level introduction from one of the architects of the new facility. All customers have been provided free access to the video and plenty have viewed it already. We are thrilled for such terrific engagement.
When was the last time you assessed sales by time and particularly at sales revenue at the start of the day and at the end of the day?
It could be that you are opening your small business retail shop too early or too late or that you are closing too early or too late.
What does your data show?
Use your POS software to assess sales at the fringe of the day for, say, the last six months. Look overall and then for each day of the week. Good software should allow you to do this level of reporting. Work out the slew revenue per hour, apply your overall gross profit percentage and then deduct the hourly cost of being open.
If, for example, your average revenue is $30 for an hour at the start of the day and you have staff working this time and they don’t have much else to do those days and you have, say, GP of 32%, your GP is $9.60. Once you pay wages for the hour you are losing money. If the customers are not regulars it could be that you are better off closing.
If, on the other hand, your sales are $100 or more in the first hour, it could be that opening earlier could win even more business.
Only you can make the assessment of what is right for your business.
Our advice today is look at your data and make sure you are open the right hours for the best possible financial outcome for your retail business.