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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We at Tower Systems will help in any way possible.

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Small business retail management advice – how to prepare your retail business for sale

Selling a an independent retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers.

The process of preparing a business for sale can take time, depending on the state of the business. It needs to start early and based on comprehensive planning.

Here is an overview of our advice and to what a small business retailer needs to do.

  1. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on the profitability of the business. While you should be on this every day, if it is a new project for you, start six months prior to putting the business on the market.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. It looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you. The easier it looks to run the more interesting to people who don’t understand the business.
  4. Make the business look appealing. Ensure displays are stunning, the shelves full and every pitch the very best you can make. You want them to want your business because they like it.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. If you are complainer, keep it to yourself or in the family.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook and other social media presences.
  7. Choose your broker carefully.
  8. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together and check:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease documents.
    3. Franchise document.
    4. Supplier agreements.
    5. Details of any forward orders.
    6. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.

Success at selling your business depends in part on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Extra focus now can help you get timely price satisfaction.

This is another way Tower Systems helps small business retailers.

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Promoting Tyro broadband EFTPOS to small business retailers

We have been promoting this special offer from our friends at Tyro for the last week or so:

Hi there,
For a limited time, if you switch to our partner Tyro from one of the Big 4, they will guarantee you a savings of $1000.
5 other reasons to switch
  1. Save time – Fully integrated with Tower for faster transactions with no more time wasted keying or fixing up errors
  2. No lock-ins – Tyro has no lock-in contracts which means if a solution isn’t working for you, you can cancel at any time
  3. 24/7 customer support – Australian-based business specialists on hand at all times
  4. 99.99% up-time – Tyro has the most amount of up-time compared to any other provider
  5. Lightning fast transactions – At just 1.6 secs per transaction, Tyro are the fastest provider on the market
If you’re an existing EFTPOS customer with one of the Big Four and are transacting between $1million and $3million every year, you’re eligible for this offer.
It’s valid until the end of March and is only available for the first 500 applicants – so get in fast!
 

 

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Retail management advice: How to prepare your independent retail business for sale

Selling an independent retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers.

The process of preparing a retail business for sale can take time, depending on the state of the business. The earlier you start the better.

The keys are too leave yourself plenty of time and have a plan. The advice we provide here is based on years of service to small business retailers across many different retail channels.

Here is our overview advice of what you need to do to prepare your independent retail business for sale.

  1. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on the profitability of the business. While you should be on this every day, if it is a new project for you, start six months prior to putting the business on the market.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. It looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you. The easier it looks to run the more interesting to people who don’t understand the business.
  4. Make the business look appealing. Ensure displays are stunning, the shelves full and every pitch the very best you can make. You want them to want your business because they like it.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. If you are complainer, keep it to yourself or in the family.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook and other
  7. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together and check:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease documents.
    3. Franchise document.
    4. Supplier agreements.
    5. Details of any forward orders.
    6. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.
  8. Choose your broker carefully.

Success at selling your business depends in part on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Extra focus now can help you get timely price satisfaction.

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Here is a key Tower Systems difference, in one video

One of the things that separates Tower Systems aside from other retailers is that we are retailers too, and have been for many years. We walk in the shoes of our customers in a way that other POS software companies don;t and can;t This video is an example of the value of on show as we speak about sales growth at one of our retail stores:

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

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

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

We are not your average POS software company.

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Back to School marketing ideas for small business retailers who serve school students and their families

Back to School time is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with existing customers and to attract new customers to your store.

Here are some free marketing suggestions (some mainstream and some left field) designed to help you attract customers and get them shopping your Back to School range. Most of these marketing tips can be tried without spending too much money:

  1. Tell a visual story in-store. Get an old school desk and create a display showing your back to School supplies being used.
  2. Support a local school. Invite current and past students to tell their school stories through a display in your window or in store on a large noticeboard. The stories could be in the form of text on a page, a collage or photos.
  3. School stories. Invite customers, young and old to share their school stories in 50 words or less. Create an entry form. Stick the stories up on a wall for all to read. Offer a small prize for the best story.
  4. Old School Photos. Get customers 25 and over to bring in their favourite old school photo. Offer a small price for the best. Maybe group the photos: 25 to 40; 40 to 60; 60+. This could be an educational display as well as a beacon for nostalgia buffs.
  5. Run a sale for teachers. Consider giving teachers a special discount of anything (within reason) in store. Getting teachers in could help bring the students in.
  6. Discount by value. Offer a discount to customers who spend over a certain amount – respecting their loyalty to your business.
  7. Dress in uniforms. Have a day or two when all shop floor employees dress in school uniform.
  8. Be an information hub. Create a bulletin board of local school events – reminding parents of engagement opportunities. This should be maintained through the school year and done in association with the school.
  9. Host a shopping event. While you still have back to school stock on the shop floor host an event with games and prizes where you have all back to School stock on special. This should be a Back to School themed event and promoted well in advance.
  10. Host a bake sale. Invite a fund raising group connected with a local school to host a bake sale or a sausage sizzle out the front of your store on a couple of days through the Back to School sale season.
  11. Holiday fun. Run a competition for kinder and primary students inviting art entries showing their favourite part of the school holidays. Put the art on show. Offer a small prize. Parents will love the activity opportunity and the entrants will love seeing their work on show.
  12. Teacher gifts. If you have teacher gifts left over from your Christmas sales, put these out as some students may want to get the year off to a good start.
  13. Student gifts. Family and friends may want to give students a nice gift to acknowledge the start of the new year – maybe they are starting at a new school. Create a display of gifts especially for students.

No matter how big or small Back to School is in your store, it is an opportunity to have some fun and strengthen your connection with the local community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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