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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sunday #smallbusiness retail management advice

Employees are your front line of any independent retail business. They can make or break your business. You hire them, train them, motivate them and fire them. Their performance is on you.

Here are eight tips to encourage their engagement:

  1. Train them.
  2. Communicate your expectations.
  3. Congratulate them.
  4. Be open with them.
  5. Ensure they know the goal of the business.
  6. Give them responsibility.
  7. Listen to their ideas, seek their counsel.
  8. Thank them.

Small businesses are unique in many ways. Employees play a vital role in reflecting and leveraging that uniqueness.

Tower Systems helps small business employers to encourage and manage employee engagement in a range of ways in our specialty retail software.


Sunday retail management advice: five tips to save any retailer time

  1. Tell suppliers who do not provide you with an electronic invoice that you will cut them off – they are costing you time.
  2. Put barcode and price labels on fewer products. If they have a barcode, use it.
  3. Stop ordering replenishment stock manually.
  4. Stop entering sales data into a spreadsheet for analysis.
  5. Run your business with processes as well as checks and balances that enable it to open and close without you.

Sunday retail management advice: how to cut employee theft in retail

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 refunds.
    • 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.


Sunday retail management advice: hampers can pitch products differently

IMG_8600Packaging 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.


Another POS software training video from Tower Systems

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.59.19 amWe 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.


Sunday small business retail management advice: are you open the right hours?

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.


Smart POS software helps small business retailers sell Spiderman

IMG_7982Spiderman is a superhero loved by generations. He is more popular today than decades ago thanks to a reinvigorating of the franchise by Marvel.

Retailers using our POS software can track the success of superheroes in their retail businesses. They can do this through a range of views, providing insights beyond what is common in POS software.

The insights can help retailers undertake more finely tuned marketing.

Spiderman, for example, can appeal to a young kid discovering their first superhero as much as he can appeal to a baby-boomer reliving memories of their first Spiderman comic back in the day.

These different customers engage with their fan driven interests in different ways. Thanks to a clever approach to viewing data, retailers are able to treat both interests differently and the same as may be needed from time to time.

This is another smart approach to inventory management from the smart software development team at Tower Systems.


Sunday retail management advice: cut keystrokes & cut mistakes

Keystrokes = mistake opportunities in small business retail.

Our best practice advice to small business retailers is to do everything possible to cut keystrokes.

This is easy with good POS software.

  1. Scan what you sell as doing it any other increases opportunities for mistakes and or employee fraud.
  2. Integrate your Eftpos terminal as double entry increases opportunities for mistakes, employee fraud and customer fraud.
  3. Receive new stock electronically as entering new stock manually opens more opportunities for supplier and or employee fraud.

These three simple keystroke cutting steps alone will improve your situation. They will cut keystrokes, reduce mistakes and reduce fraud opportunities.


Best practice stocktake advice for small business POS software users

This advice is about the best business approach to undertaking a stocktake. Please refer to other Knowledge base articles on how to actually use the software. All retailers using our POS software have access to our knowledge base.

Please ensure you have the latest version of the Tower Systems Retailer POS software installed prior to undertaking a stocktake.

For the process to be as easy as possible you will need a wireless network – vital for OH&S reasons.

The best way to do a stocktake in your business is by using a laptop (or laptops) or tablet computer with a scanner attached. This enables you to do the stocktake live with no impact on sales and absolute integrity of your stock on hand data.

While using a laptop (or laptops) or tablet computer may seem cumbersome, it is our best practice advice for speed, data integrity and the ability to address data issues you may encounter on the shop floor. It enables you to do management work to ensure completely accurate data.

The alternative is to use a PDE. The challenges with this are the many different PDEs and it is challenging to be expert in all plus the PDE counts at that time and you load the data at a later time – meaning a gap in time in which sales could have been done. While PDE software is available for live to data updates, we have seen this be problematic and so we do not use it.

Given the advances in technology, our best practice recommendation is either a laptop of tablet computer as either offers a better solution than a PDE.

We suggest you setup a Laptop or tablet and use Team Viewer or the like to connect in and count this way. This approach means you do not need to purchase an additional software licence for the laptop. Team Viewer is easy to setup.

For the physical stocktake, we suggest you approach the business aisle by aisle, counting and rearranging stock as you go.

Once you have completed your first full stocktake, our advice is you engage in a rolling stocktake, doing parts of the business, through the year. The Tax Office does not require businesses with full sock control implemented to do a stocktake at the end of the financial year. They will accept data from your system if you manage stock through the year.


Sunday retail management advice: keep your loyalty pitch simple for success

A loyalty program is only as good as the over the counter pitch through which you seek to engage shoppers. Check out this brief video we created to train retail employees on what has to be the easiest to use over the counter shopper loyalty offer.

Tower Systems leads with professional employee training videos which help retail employees leverage more value for the business from our software.


Sunday retail management advice: helping small business retailers love their businesses

I hate going into work. These words from a friend reflected a long-held feeling, a feeling held with some shame.

Here was a retail business owner who hated going into his own business.  He had fallen out of love with what he had created. The bitterness he felt towards his business had soured to hatred.

Why do some retailers hate going to work? It is an interesting question which needs exploration before we look at strategies for countering this.

There is usually a trigger – supplier fatigue, tough economic conditions, personal challenges away from the business, a partner dispute, tiredness… there could be any combination of reasons.

If you have reached the point where you hate going into work each day it is important to take time away from the business for an honest assessment as to why you hate the business. Until you can answer the question – why do you hate going into work? – you cannot begin to work on resolution.

Once you know the reasons, think about a series of small and achievable steps you could take to turn the situation around. No matter how challenging the situation, there are always steps you could take. Focus on these, start work on them and in some instances that alone will be enough to move you through the fog of anger and ill-feeling toward the business.

If finding small steps to take does not work, get together with a trusted friend and tell them how you feel toward the business. Ask them to talk with you about the business. Reminisce about why you started or purchased the newsagency. Remember your dreams and hopes. Use the conversation to explore your emotion at the moment you decided to open or purchase the retail business.

The best advice to to get professional help from a psychologist or professionally qualified counsellor to explore your feelings for the business. Your doctor could help you access a government funded mental health plan.

Understanding your hatred for your retail business is the first step. This will usually, of itself, reveal the first steps you can take to turn the hatred around. Be open to that. Take small steps and see where they lead. The change in feeling toward the business may not be immediate so do not expect too much too soon.

If you do nothing, the hatred will be more and more reflected in the business and in your own person. Neither benefits from this.


Sunday retail management tip: small business retail success starts with good measurement

Measurement is key to the success of any retail business. This is especially true for small retail businesses.

Measuring sales, stock, employees and suppliers is mission critical.

Without accurate and consistent measurement, you are not able to make good business decisions or to hold others to account for their actions.

By measuring you can make better decisions.

Here are some simple rules for accurate measurement in retail:

  1. Only sell what you can track – by scanning a barcode or pressing a PLU (stock code) to track the item.
  2. Do not use department keys to sell items as this denies you the opportunity of tracking individual items you sell.
  3. Enter into your computer system everything you sell. Record stock you receive by supplier so that you can track supplier performance.
  4. Enter into your computer system everything you return to suppliers – consignment stock, returns or damaged goods.
  5. Record all sales and other activity at the sales register by employees.
  6. Reorder replenishment stock using your software to create orders for you.

If you are not tracking it you cannot manage it.

By making your business data driven you are better equipped to take the emotion and gut feel out of business decisions. This will improve decision quality and accountability and, hopefully, the return you achieve from these decisions.

Businesses which do not measure stock, suppliers, employees and sales accurately often find themselves faltering without knowing why – because they have no accurate data on which to base research.


POS software helps small business retailers sell more gifts

exchreceiptPeople purchasing gifts want to ensure that the recipient can exchange the gift if it is not quite right.

Retailers using the Tower Systems specialist gift shop POS software have the ability to print a gift exchange receipt detailing the items purchased but not the price paid.

This facility has been in our software for years. It was developed with retailers offering gift exchange services. The receipt printed was recently enhanced to connect with quality gift purchases.

This gift / exchange receipt facility is another point of difference for Tower in several of our retail channels it is am important pert of the Tower AdvantageTM.


Sunday retail management advice: how to cut employee theft in retail

Theft is something to be managed in your business. You will be stolen from. Good management is about reducing the opportunity for and instances of theft.

Follow this advice and the opportunity for theft will be lower and the certainty of detecting it higher.

Unfortunately, many retailers read up to here and think this will to happen to them.  Too many of these business owners are the ones who do experience the hurt of employee theft.

If you are still reading, well done. Here are simple steps you can take to catch and manage employee theft:

  1. Use stock control for a high volume high interest category (if not all stock). Enter new stock as it comes in, scan all sales and only reorder based on what you software says. Every month do a stock take. Stock discrepancies of the right item are an indicator of theft. Had one retailer we know of been doing this they would have caught their $250 a day employee theft months earlier.
  2. Scan everything you sell. Do not use department keys as this makes it easier for employees to steal since they know there is no trackback to stock on hand. Using department keys is an invitation to steal.
  3. Do your end of shift through your software and have a zero-tolerance policy on being over or under. Reconcile banking to your computer software end of shift. One retail business where this was not done was being skimmed regularly for $200 a day.
  4. Do spot cash balancing. Unexpected checks can uncover surprises. One retailer needing to do a banking during the day uncovered a $350 discrepancy that lead to discovery of systematic theft.
  5. Change your roster. Sometimes people work together to steal. One retailer found a family friend senior and their teenage daughter stealing consistently.
  6. Check your Audit Log. Look at cancelled sales, deleted sales and items deleted from a sale. Leaving a cash drawer open from the previous sale, scanning items, taking the cash and cancelling the sale is the most common process used by employees to accrue cash they then take from you. Good software tracks cancelled sales and what was in them. This can be matched with video footage.
  7. Check GP by department. If GP is falling outside what you expect, research it further.
  8. Setup a theft policy. Put this on a noticeboard in the back room. Get staff to read it and sign up to it. See the last page of this advice.
  9. Keep the counter clean. A better organised counter reduces the opportunity for theft as it makes detection easier.
  10. Have a no employee bags at the counter policy. This makes it harder for them to hide your cash.
  11. Beware employees who carry folded paper or small notepads. These can be used for them to keep track of how much cash is in the register that is theirs – i.e. not rung up in the software.
  12. Beware of calculators with memories at the counter. One employee used the memory function to track how much cash had to be stolen prior to balancing for the day – cash from sales not rung up.
  13. Do not let employees sell to themselves. If they want to purchase something make them purchase it from the other side of the counter.
  14. Be professional in your management of the business. The more professional your approach they less likely your employees will steal as they will see the risk of being caught as high.
  15. Advise all job applicants that you will require their permission for a police check. From the outset this indicates that you take your business seriously. In many situations applicants who have been asked for permission to do a police check advise they have found a job elsewhere.
  16. Do not take cash out for your own use in front of employees. If they see you take cash for a coffee or lunch some will see this as an invitation.

These steps work – based on decades of helping newsagents to reduce and manage employee theft.

Theft, employee and customer, costs a typical retail between 3% and 5% of sales revenue. Management attention can cut this dramatically. It does not take much time. No, it is more about having professional processes in place which everyone in the business follows.


POS software helps gift shops, small business retailers handle special orders

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.14.08 amThe POS software from Tower Systems has excellent facilities for handling special orders, pre-orders and other forms of orders for customers that are unique to the customer and a point of difference for the business to offer.

Special orders and customer pre-orders are a point of difference for small independent retailers over big businesses. Being bale to do this with consistency and certainty can help these businesses more successfully compete.

Thanks to years of refinement and working with retailers in a wide variety of retail situations, Tower Systems offers a competitive advantage from the recording of customer details, tracking an order,k advising its arrival and handling a range of payment options including time payment.

We have retailers today transacting valuable business in pre-orders of highly valuable product as a result of these tools in the software. They are financially better off today and over the long term as special order customers tend to return for more orders.


Learning from US retail experiences to provide enhanced POS software

usretailWe are fortunate to have been part of a retail study tour of innovative retail situations in the US over the last ten days across three states.

We have looked at large, small, city, regional, specialty, mass, experimental and traditional businesses.

The insights gained are feeding into plans for our software beyond the wonderful advice and feedback from our existing customers.

The insights gained range from the retail management practical through to next-gen opportunities.Being on-trend is an important to retail focussed POS software companies as it is to retailers themselves.

Competition in our various specialist retail channels being what it is, we will not be sharing any insights here. Rather, our customers will have more private briefing opportunities and our software will deliver insights through change.


Sunday retail management advice: adopt a zero tolerance of data laziness

Retailers need to get serious when it comes to business data.

They need to demand everyone entering data into their systems to live by strict rules.

They need to police and enforce the rules.

They need to use data to drive business decisions.

Too often we see businesses suffering because there is no care for data and where there is no care there is no tangible benefit to the business from access to accurate business data.

Our retail management advice today is: get serious about data. Import accurate invoices. Track all sales. Reorder based on what your software indicates. You will make more money as a result.


Sunday retail management advice: cut keystrokes, cut mistakes

Every keystroke using POS software at the counter is a possible mistake. Eliminating keystrokes at the retail counter ought to be mission critical for retailers.

The fastest way to sell is to scan a barcode. If that is not appropriate for a product, you need alternatives appropriate to the product, the frequency of sale and the traffic flow of the business.

Our retail management software offers options via which you can sell for the fewest number of keystrokes possible. Whether the items are high end jewellery selling for tens of thousands of dollars, a collectible piece, a magazine or pet food, we have rapid and accurate sales recording options to suit.

In one case recently we showed a retailer how they could eliminate close to 1,000 keystrokes. That is 1,000 possible mistakes eliminated, time sale and business performance and efficiency approved.

Look at your keystrokes on any given day and consider whether you could benefit your business by eliminating keystrokes.