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.

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What are reasonable small business retail benchmark goals?

Benchmarks are vital in every retail business. They provide the business performance goals to aim for, target of aspiration.

In our work with small business retailers beyond our smart POS software we often help with benchmark suggestions. We offer the as a starting point, to guide.

While the data points are common, the numbers can vary by retail channel.

Here are benchmark data points and the values we have suggested to transforming newsagency business owners – these are hybrid businesses that are part newsagency, part toy shop, part gift shop. See what you think:

BENCHMARK GOALS

I am often asked for benchmark goals newsagents ought to aim for. Here are some benchmarks I have developed in my work with newsXpress and through Tower Systems:

  1. Gross profit: this is the goal gross profit for all product sales not taking into account any revenue or costs related to any agency business. The traditional newsagency average sits at 28% to 32%. For a newsagency focused on the future, the goal has to be at least 45%.
  2. Ratio of Gift revenue to Card revenue: 50% minimum. The goal ought to be 100% or more. If you do $100K a year in cards, target to do $100K in gifts, or more.
  3. Revenue per employee – $250 an hour minimum not including agency revenue.
  4. Revenue PSQM $4,500 – $8,500 depending on country vs. city / high street to shopping centre and depending of product mix. Higher GP lower revenue required.
  5. Overall revenue mix percentage targets: Cards: 25%; Gifts/toys/plush: 25%; Stat: 10%; magazines/newspapers: 20%; other: 15%.
  6. FLOORSPACE ALLOCATION: Cards: 25%; Gifts/toys/plush: 25%; Stat: 8%; magazines/newspapers: 15%; other products: 15%; office/back room / counter: 12%. It’s rare you make money from an office or store room.
  7. Mark-up goals: Stationery: 125%; Gifts 110%; plush: 110%.
  8. Occupancy cost: between 9% and 11% of revenue where revenue is product revenue plus commission from agency lines. Location and situation are a big factor in this benchmark. For example, a large shopping centre business will have a higher cost than a high street situation.
  9. Labour cost: between 9% and 11% of revenue where revenue is product revenue plus commission from agency lines. Labour cost should include fair market costs for all who work in the business. (See above).

We are sharing these benchmark goals here as a guide for other retailers to contemplate appropriate numbers for the measurement points for their businesses.

Tower Systems is not your average POS software company. We engage beyond the software, to help our small business retail partners to run more successful and enjoyable businesses.

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Small business retail management advice: be David to the big business Goliath – how small business retailers can compete against big business

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.

I was 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it.

Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.

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

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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.
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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.

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A checklist for anyone considering buying a retail business

A common question we are asked by people contemplating purchasing a retail business is what should I ask for when looking at buying a retail business?

The question itself, when asked, indicates how green a prospective purchaser is when it comes to purchasing a business.

Here is a list of data we suggest retail business purchasers access from the vendor or their representative:

  1. P&L from the accountant for the last two years. i.e. not a spreadsheet created for the purpose.
  2. A good explanation of any add-backs.
  3. Sales data reports, for the last two years, from the POS software in use – to verify the income claim.
  4. Sales data reports from the lottery terminal to verify the income claim.
  5. BAS forms to confirm data in the P&L.
  6. A list of all inventory to include purchase price and date last sold for each item.
  7. A copy of the shop lease.
  8. A copy of any leases the vendor expects you to take on board.
  9. A list of all employees: name, hourly rate, nature of employment, start date, accrued leave.

This is good basic information that will enable any purchaser to undertake reasonable assessment of a business.

A good business will shine through the numbers just as a business with upside achievable by new owners will shine through.

Our advice to newsagents looking to sell who are concerned about this list is: think about it now and focus on your business so the data I have listed looks good.

Every day you make decisions in your business that impact many of the data points listed.

This is why we say every day is your pay day. Run a smart, lean and profit focused business and you will have a good pay day today and a good one when you come to sell.

The most appealing businesses are those that are easier to run and are making money.

Sure a purchaser can turn a business around. They should get the rewards if they are expected to do that for your business.

The price you can sell your business for will be based on what it is making now.

Getting the data ready for the sale of the business could, of itself, help you improve how you run your business.

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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.

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Small business retail management advice: how to run a Facebook competition

Our small business POS software company helps retailers in many different ways every day. Often, advice is sought on business management needs outside of POS software needs. In one case recently we were asked to provide advice on running Facebook competitions. Here is the advice we provided:

Running a competition on your business Facebook page is a terrific way to drive engagement and attract likes (followers).

Here is our advice on how to do this based on running many competitions on our various pages.

  1. Here is an example of competition text we would use in a store: Win this adorable Herbie Willow Bear. Share and comment on this post to enter. Like our Facebook page for more Willow news. Comp. ends Sept. 21 @ 5pm. Winner drawn at random and announced here. Prize to be collected from the shop.
  2. Run competitions for a short time of between a day and five days. Any longer and it gets lost.
  3. Be clear in your call to action.
  4. Be clear with any rules.
  5. Include either one photo or four with one being rectangular and three being square.
  6. Boost the post for the first day or two days but not for the whole time. Select the audience based on the product you are promoting.
  7. Watch entries and comment where appropriate.
  8. Choose the winner by getting all the entries on the screen and scroll up and down and where it ends is your winner. The choice must be random.
  9. Announce the winner on the post as a comment.
  10. Message the winner. If they don’t respond in a day, message them again and say they have x days to collect.
  11. If they do not collect in, say, seven days, redraw.

Here the most important advice: every competition must have a commercial imperative, a goal for the business in terms of likes, store visits, purchases. Know your goal and measure your achievement once the competition is over.

Competitions are an excellent way to drive engagement on Facebook for any business. Get it right though – otherwise you could do more damage to your brand than you would like. The old adage of measure twice and cut once works here when setting up competitions.

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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.
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Small business retail advice: what to do if your year on year sales are down

If your year-on-year sales are down, something has to change if you want to turn the situation around, please read on.

If you keep doing what you have been doing, the sales results in your business will be what they have been.

It would be a mistake to think that external factors are the sole reason your sales are down.

So, change is necessary – change in what you sell, how you merchandise and how you promote.

It is only from change that the sales decline could be arrested and reversed.

Our advice is to look for u-turn or right turn opportunities, changes you can implement to divert you from your current path.

Suggesting such changes is something Tower Systems can help with through our free Business Check service. Ask us to challenge you. We will first ask to see your year on year data at a detailed level as this will reveal the truth of the situation and from there we can develop change suggestions for your consideration.

We don’t have all the answers, we will even suggest ideas we later discover are mistakes. However, doing what you have been doing in a situation of declining sales is a bigger mistake.

If your year-on-year sales are down, are you open to suggestions for change?

We have seen resistance to a u-turn or right turn in the business result in the year on year sales decline continue. Don’t let this be you.

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Helping small business retailers understand the importance of accurate business data

Tower Systems has been running an intensive engagement program for small business retailers keen to clean up their business data. This service is part of our POS software help desk service yet it goes beyond the traditional help desk work.

The service is focused on how the software us used. But not your usual how.  This is about decisions that are made in a business that can affect the quality of the data cultivated by the software. Like any tool, software can be used poorly.

The engagement from Tower Systems guides better use of the software with an outcome of better data. Here is one of the communication items we have shared with customers to help drive a better outcome:

This advice has been written for use in businesses where the business data has been found to be useless, faulty and / or of little value.

There is no doubt: poor business data = poor business decisions.

If you ever hope to sell your retail business, accurate business data is vital, it will determine the price you achieve for your business.

Don’t be one of those business owners who only cares about accurate business data when you decide to sell as that could be too late.

Here is all you need to do to ensure you have accurate business data.

  1. Ensure you have a good department and category structure. This helps ensure the reports are useful. By good we suggest no more than fifteen departments and no more than fifteen categories within each department.
  2. Arrive all stock into your POS software. The best way to do this is to receive and import into your software electronic invoices from suppliers. This is done in Invoice Arrivals.

The slower way is to manually enter invoices into your software item by item. This is done in Invoice Arrivals.

If you created an order using the software and this order subsequently arrives, you can receive the order – to save time.

  1. Scan all stock you sell at the point of sale. Resist excuses like items are too small or too big or it takes too long or it is impractical. All these excuses can be countered.
  2. Scan all stock you return to suppliers. Use the Returns facility.
  3. Scan all stock you write off. Use the Write-off Stock facility.

Very simple, right?

Accurate business data is up to you. Not your software company, not your suppliers.

Accurate business data is 100% up to you.

Once you have accurate data, track business performance. Use the accurate data to see trends in your business, to guide better quality business decisions.

It is easy to create accurate business data. The operational and financial benefits are extraordinary.

How Tower Systems can help. We have articles in our knowledge base on everything discussed here. We also have training videos that show you what to do. We host weekly online training workshops, accessible from anywhere, where you can ask questions on any topic. Plus, supported customers have access to free one on one training.

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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.

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Sunday retail management advice: managing spinners for success

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

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

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

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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.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT TIP: HOW TO CHOOSE LOCAL COMMUNITY GROUPS AND CHARITIES TO SUPPORT

Local small business retailers are asked to support local schools, community groups and charities on an almost daily basis. While community groups and charitable organisations beat a path to the doors of local businesses, so do individuals engaged on personal fundraising of their own for a cause or for an other individual.

It is tough making the call about which organisation to support or not for there is a real fear that declining will hurt the business. Often, small business retailers do not look for an uptick in business from a charity support decision but they do worry about a decline.

So how do you choose which local business you support?

Requests from schools, charities and other community for donations can be a challenge for any size business. If you do not take a structured approach to this you will find yourself giving away plenty for little or no return.

Requests are often loaded with guilt. People can be passive aggressive in their approach. Often, people requesting help leverage pester power. It can be hard to say no. There are too many stories of retailers giving a gift as a prize, receiving the Thank You poster and achieving no benefit for the business.

Our advice is to manage your philanthropy as you would any business activity.

THE PRIZE / GIFT

Decide the amount in cash or product value or both that you are prepared to donate in a full year, calendar year or financial year.

Our recommendation is you give away cash, but in the form of a voucher to spend in your business. This ensures that value of the gift or prize is greater than the cost of it to your business.

The best mechanism for giving away cash or an amount to spend in-store is to do it by way of a gift voucher. Use your software to manage this as any manual approach is dangerous and time-consuming.

YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS

Get on the front foot and write to local community groups outlining that you budget a year in advance. Seek their submissions. With this advice sheet we have included the text of a suggested letter. Please read the letter as it outlines the approach we suggest and why. It is important you communicate this with all community groups.

On the page after the letter is a suggested notice for use in-store when you are asked for donations.

HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT

Focus on community groups that support you. That is, groups with members who support you. The more they support you the better you are able to support the community.

Be prepared to ask where people shop for the items you sell in your business. Ask if they will change in return for your support.

Asking these questions underscores to you the importance of approaching the decision as a business decision.

Be thoughtful and deliberate. Support the groups that support you. This is important as it helps you stay within a budget.

LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE

If you run discount vouchers and if customers say they don’t want the voucher, invite them to contribute the voucher to a local group – one of three you setup for in the business. Every month, two months or three months, tote up the vouchers and give the group a parentage of the total voucher value ‘voted’ for them.

This idea could be in addition to any giving program you run in the business. It offers a daily reminder of your commitment to local giving.

Grill’d burgers run a program kind of like this where each shopper is given a bottle cap, which they place in a tub to vote on a group to receive a cash donation for the month. The process of groups submitting to be considered is onerous. You can find out more about that program with this link – it is a good place to research what others do: https://www.grilld.com.au/localmatters/

REWARD ENGAGEMENT

In addition to any direct gift, consider an offer whereby anyone who is a member of the group who shops with you accrues an amount you donate to the group. You could manage this through your software. It could be you offer a discount to the shopper as well as accruing a value for the group.

This type of program could also be in addition to your core giving program as the value here is driven by sales – hopefully, incremental sales.

EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT

Here are things groups you support can do to help your business. You should ask them to do these things:

  1. Tell members to buy from you.
  2. Write about your business on their Facebook page.
  3. Distribute flyers of your offers.
  4. Have you speak at a meeting.

WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT

Once you have a decision on which groups you will support, write about this in your newsletter and on Facebook. Not just once but multiple times. Invite them to provide you with content to publish too. Talk about their good works.

Ask them to write about you too.

Your giving has to serve your heart and serve your business. Going about it in a structured way will ensure you meet your objectives.

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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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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT ADVICE: BE MEMORABLE

Memorable customer service is the most important point of difference a retail business can have, especially a business which does not make what it sells and therefore could have its products being sold by any other business apple to reach the same pool of shoppers.

We call it memorable customer service because it truly has to be that … memorable. So memorable that it is praised by your customers to others.

Good customer service should be the norm, the lowest hurdle any retail business can jump. Memorable customer service, the level of customer service that makes a shopper talk about the experience to their friends, must be the goal and it is the word of mouth from these customers that is a factor in driving traffic growth.

Memorable customer service is just as vital to Point of Sale software companies as it is for retail businesses. Since we own retail businesses as well as our POS software company we see it, live it and reach for it from both sides.

This is why we work hard to encode the ability to focus on customer service in our Point of Sale software.  That’s right, retailers using our software have touch points they can leverage using software which help deliver the kind of memorable customer service we are talking about here.

Memorable customer service in retail, just as in a software company, is experiences which exceed expectations, it delivers benefits outside of what you expect even from a good business.  In our IT company we compete with big IT companies and small, like us, IT companies. While we want our software to be the point of difference customers notice and talk about positively, it is our customer service which is loved and mentioned to colleagues more.  Realising this was an epiphany for us.

We focus on building stronger, better and more valuable software. But we also surround this, completely, with customer service experiences which are the very best of the best. This gives us, and our customers, the best of both worlds. And we love it ourselves.

Given that most retailers do not have products unique to their businesses, delivering memorable customer service is critical to the business plan.  Small and independent retailers can do this more easily and effectively than big retailers. From the genuine smile to shoppers to product knowledge to that extra information which helps a shopper get more out of the product purchased than they would have had the purchased the product elsewhere. This added value is the key and it can be delivered in almost any situation and with any product from a stapler through to a high-end road bike.

So, beyond our software and as part of our customer service focus, we seek out opportunities to help our customers deliver memorable customer service.  Indeed, this was one topic we covered in the recent face-to-face user meetings we ran in capital cities and major regional centres around Australia.

As a Point of Sale software company, our mission is to deliver constantly improving retail management software backed with memorable customer service and going beyond this with business insights and assistance which helps our retailers themselves deliver exceptional and memorable experiences to their customers.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CHOOSE MUSIC THOUGHTFULLY

Is the music you play in your retail store right for the retail store? While major chains broadcast in-store radio with ads for what they sell, you can create an oasis in your business that suits your customers and the retail space you create for them.

Rather than turning on commercial radio or playing CDs, our suggestion is to sign up for a premium service like Pandora, ideally the ad-free version. Pandora [provides an excellent selection of stations, allowing you to set the mood based on the season or other aspects of what is going on in your business at the time.

Using a service like Pandora brings flexibility to the business, it ensures change and helps provide an environment that is more enjoyable and flexible.

No music is not good. Commercial radio may be okay in some situations but the ads promote outside your business. CDs need changing and you need a vast library to have a different sound. Pandora, or a similar service, is ideal for i-store small business retail use. This is what we see in plenty of retail businesses now.

There is a free version of Pandora, and other services, that you can try before you spend any money on ad-free facilities.

The sound of your business can help drive excellent sales for little or no cost.

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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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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: 6 WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE THIS WINTER

Winter can be tough for some people. It can be tough for retail too as traffic is often down. Independent retailers have an opportunity to leverage the season, to make it more enjoyable for you and your customers.

Here are six suggestions to get you thinking abut winter differently:

  1. Reach out to retirement villages and nursing homes. Pack up key items from your shop and tele it on the road – go to those customers who can’t come to you because of the cold.
  2. Offer free delivery. If option one does not work for you promote a delivery service so people shut in can still get their  fix. Be the retailer who goes the extra mile.
  3. Add to your customer service. have somewhere people can place their umbrellas and raincoats when they enter.
  4. Keep your shop warm. Offer hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Maybe have a slow cooker with some delicious home cooked vegetable soup using a recipe from a magazine you have in-store.
  5. Have a summer sale. In the middle of winter, at the coldest, have a blow-out sale and call it something like a SIZZLING SALE. Get people warm with great prices.
  6. Change your music playlist. If you’re using an online music service, select brighter, warmer music.

If your shop is in a really cold area consider an outer door to keep the warmth in. They do this a lot in Europe and the US in Winter.

Winter is a seasoning which you can show off your point of difference and get people seeing your retail business differently.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO CUT EMPLOYEE THEFT

Okay so we have shared advice on cutting employee theft before, many times in fact. The things is – employee theft continues in small business retail, too often. It can be reduced in any retail business if you follow this simple advice:

  1. Use stock control. 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. Popular item stock discrepancies are an indicator of theft.
  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.
  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.
  4. Do spot cash balancing. Unexpected checks can uncover surprises.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
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Sunday retail management advice: use your window

The front window of any retail business is one of the most important marketing statement you can make. It can attract people in who might otherwise not have shopped the shop. It can get your business talked about. It can show off the pride you have in your business.

Here is one window we saw last month in New York. It is of a tea shop – yet that retail nice is not evident on first glance at the window. The window display is a wonderful Alice in Wonderland homage. It stops people and once they stop they soon realise what is being pitched.

This window is a perfect example of small business marketing through the window.

IMG_4711

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