Practical advice for new small business retailers

If you are new to owning or running a retail business it is likely that you have been too busy opening the business and settling in to have time to pay attention to basic advice about running the business.

Business consultants and others who advise business owners, too, often get caught up in big picture strategies and themes to deal with the basics.

In the interests of helping new retailers and retail shop mangers, here is a checklist of basic retail business advice, headlines mainly – not too much detail, just enough to remind you of key areas which need attention to build a stronger and more profitable retail business.

This checklist has been developed over the years of us supporting plenty of start-up small business retailers. The list is based on things we often see them neglect or forget.

We have grouped the advice into business areas.

Hiring, training and managing employees

  1. Create an employee manual with all employee terms and conditions.
  2. Hire the best employees available.
  3. Train your employees well. Do this by working with them, taking them into your confidence about the business, what it stands for and what you expect of them.
  4. Pay employees in a way which respects your faith in them.
  5. Share the rewards you make from the business.
  6. Remember, you are more responsible for employee performance than anyone since it is usually you who hire, train, manage and fire them.

Cash

  1. Cash is king in retail. An unprofitable business with a good cash flow can weather a storm.  A profitable business with poor cash flow can fail.
  2. Have a strong cash management policy.
  3. Bank regularly.
  4. Keep little cash on the premises.
  5. Never let one single employee control the cash. Have checks and balances.
  6. Keep expenses to an absolute minimum.
  7. Watch your product margins, make the most from each product you sell that you can without hurting sales.

Inventory

  1. Buy what sells.
  2. Use your software to determine replenishment stock.
  3. Never sell anything without tracking it.

Marketing

  1. Use all the free touchpoints: receipts, customer display and more in your software.
  2. Use social media, daily.

Operating costs

  1. Be frugal.
  2. Know dead stock as this is too often a big overhead.

Your time

  1. Automate as much as you can.
  2. Know how to get data to guide decisions.
  3. Delegate, with rules.

Too often new retailers and retail store managers look for advice to react to situations.  Consider the headline advice in this article early on and revisit it regularly to ensure that you have a strong and healthy business.

Retail marketing advice on how to increase items per transaction

Driving shopper efficiency is key for retailers. It is easier to get a shopper in the store to purchase more than to get a new shopper into the store from outside.

In looking at shopper basket efficiency for many different retail businesses we have developed an understanding of basic steps different small business retailers can take to drive shipper efficiency. Here is our advice.

ENGAGE.

Smile, make conversation, treasure your customers.  The more they enjoy shopping in your shop the more they will shop in your shop.  Smile.  Get good eye contact.  Say hello rather than can I help you.  The more personal the experience the more they will remember you.  This is your point of difference. Personal service is the single most valuable way to drive shopper visit efficiency.

WORK THE SHOP.

Standing behind the counter means you’ll serve people who come to you.  The more you are in the body of the shop and engaging with customers the more they will buy.  In busy times work the shop – engage, offer up sells.  Customer service increases revenue in every situation we have seen. Our advice is you locate a workstation on the shop floor.

DEMONSTRATE.

Show how products are used.

THE COUNTER AS A SALES TOOL.

Go to your shop counter and look at it from a customer perspective.  What’s the message?  Is it inviting?  Are you using the counter to drive sales?  Anyone can put product at their counter.  It takes a clever retailer to use the counter to entice customers to buy a product.  Use your counter wisely.

COUPONS.

It’s difficult to offer every customer an up sell.  Instead, use your receipts. Include a $$ off on next purchase.  Point it out. Keep it simple, have an expiry date on the coupon. This is an easy win that will bring back shoppers for sure.

TRAINING SALES EMPLOYEES.

Get your employees on side – explain your focus on growth.  If they don’t support you, replace them.  Respect your employees and ask for their ideas.  Use their ideas!  Train them.  Guide them in providing exceptional service.  They are your front line and need to be your most skilled team members.

TARGET, MEASURE, REASSESS.

Keep track of your success and failures.  Be realistic in your assessment.  Change what is not working and celebrate what is working – keeping your employees informed all the way through the process.

HOT SPOT TARGETS.

Focus on your top, say, 5 items.  Watch where people buying these items go in your shop.  Watch carefully.  Consider what you can do to get them elsewhere in your shop.  This is the key – getting people to shop outside their usual category, breaking their habits.

IN STORE SPRUIKER.

In your busiest time in the week bring in a spruiker for use INSIDE your shop.  Create some buzz and excitement to draw people away from their usual shopping areas.

CHANGE.

A key reason people will stop visiting your shop is that they know what it will be like.  A changing shop can be exciting.  Good changes will make people want to come in and check out new products and other changes you’ve made.

While much of this advice reads like common sense. Too often we see retailers who have missed the opportunity.

Helping retailers take better photos for their POS connected online stores

Photos are very important to retailers who sell online. The better the photos of a product the easier it is for an online shopper to purchase.

This is tough small business retailers as they often need to photograph products themselves if they want photos that look different from the stock photos provided by suppliers.

Photography for online sales is different to personal photography.

We get involved in this as it is in our POS software where small business retailers store photos and other content for each product they wish to sell online. Having the one repository for inventory information and images is important. It assists management and provided ease of change should the need arise.

To take better photos, retailers need to have the right tools:

  1. The right place for photography that is setup for easy access.
  2. Props for posing photos as the more you can show how a product might be used the better in some circumstances.
  3. A lightbox for taking shadowless photos. This should take different background colours and bet of the right size for the types of products you are likely to need to photograph.
  4. A good camera. A current model smart phone is usually okay given the quality of the cameras they offer today.
  5. Basic editing software for correcting any imperfections than cannot be easily fixed by taking another photo.
  6. Photo guidelines for all product photos taken by the business, so there is a consistent aesthetic for photos used by the business.

Once photos are taken and the actual ones to be used have been selected, these are loaded into the POS software for use there and for feeding to any ecommerce site used by the business.

If there are bulk photos to be uploaded to an ecommerce site, there are easy ways to do this without having to go through the POS software if that is a preference.

While none of this is related directly to help desk support using our POS software, we happily get involved, sharing the expertise of our team gained from our own retail businesses and the various ecommerce sites with which they connect.

How our POS software helps small business retailers reduce the cost of dead stock

Dead stock is dead money for small business retailers. Too often we see businesses where buying mistakes have been made and action has not been taken to correct the situation.

Using our POS software, small business retailers can make better buying decisions. They can buy based on evidence, hard data showing what works, hard data showing exactly what they need to satisfy demand, based on past performance data.

Small business retailers who buy by the numbers, who buy based on data, are less likely to have dead stock challenges in their businesses.

Here at Tower Systems we provide the software with tools to reduce the incidence of dead stock. We back the software with practical advice and help for our small business customers on how to actually use the tools.

It is one thing to sell someone a hammer and another thing entirely to show how to best use the hammer for safety and efficiency. That is what we do but here the hammer is our smart POS software.

Our goal is to stop the dead stock problem before it is a problem, before the business purchases stock. This can be done as we can show in many businesses with which we engage regularly today. We can show it in our own shops where we use our advised principles to reduce the incidence of dead stock and thereby save the businesses significant costs compared to others.

We work with retailers, retail business employees and suppliers on a range of tech and business solutions to ensure that dead stock is minimised, to provide commercially sound outcomes for small business retailers such that the cost of dead stock reduces in businesses with which we engage.

Our POS software is part of the solution. Training is another. Business management processes are another. Together we combine these and offer our partner small business retailers a solution on which they can rely to achieve better outcomes for themselves and their businesses.

The how, the real nuts and bolts of how are a discussion for a more private place as it is part of our IP, something that separates us in how we have the retailers who use our POS software and who rely on our support and business assistance services.

Helping small business retailers relax when feeling overwhelmed

Through its help for small business retailers, POS software company Tower Systems helps beyond the software, beyond what is usual for a POS software company.

The most recent help has been through practical advice on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed…

If you feel overwhelmed and can’t work out what to do, reach for this list and try one of the practical and safe ideas. They cost nothing.

The goal is to help you see small steps you can take to walk through whatever it is that makes you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Go for a 5k or longer walk outside, alone. Not a stroll, but a walk, at pace if possible. Unplugged, no phone, no music.
  2. Establish rituals for your day. How you start your day, how you end your day, lunchtime, bed time. For example, starting with breakfast, and a nice tea or coffee could be the calm start to the day you need.
  3. Have apps on your phone that are fun and you enjoy. Play one of these for a while to take your mind off things. It is amazing how our mind helps us resolve things when we turn away from those things.
  4. Learn meditation. From simple controlled breathing to yoga, meditation can be a perfect reset from a busy and overwhelming day.
  5. Play Scrabble through Facebook on your computer. You can play anytime with someone you have never met and will never speak to.
  6. Draw, even if you think you can’t. If you are not sure what to draw, draw why you feel overwhelmed.
  7. Write. Anything but you could try writing on the page about what it is that you think makes you feel overwhelmed.
  8. Talk. We are good listeners.
  9. Three-count breathing. Inhale for three counts. Hold for three counts. Exhale for three counts. Do this for, say, ten rounds. Then increase the count. The rhythmic nature of this and concentration can help you see ahead.
  10. Earth. Go to the beach, a park, your backyard and take your shoes and socks off and put your feet on the ground.
  11. Watch. Go to a playground and watch kids play. If there is a local sports game on near you, go watch that.
  12. Start a journal. Write in it every day.
  13. Be clear to yourself when the day is done. While it is tough in small business to turn off, have a threshold so that once you cross it, you have turned off and the time is yours.
  14. Find a quiet place, put on headphones connected to a music source and listen to your favorite album of all time, with the volume turned up and a do not disturb sign on the door.
  15. Get away to a safe place and write a note to your overwhelmed self. Give yourself honest advice you’d give your best friend if they came to you with the feelings you have.

If you are struggling beyond what these suggestions can help with, consider speaking with your GP about a mental health plan. This provides access to medical professionals who can help you more effectively deal with what it is that leads you to feel overwhelmed.

Tower Systems develops and supports small business POS software. Our advice and help often reaches beyond what is usual for a POS software company. www.towersystems.com.au

Advice for small business retailers on leveraging the teacher gift opportunity

This is another in our series of practice advice for small business retailers.

How to make the most of the teacher gift opportunity.

Gifts for teachers can be lucrative not only at the end of the year but also through the year by establishing your business as a destination for gifts for teachers. As with much in retail, it takes a commitment of time, space and capital.

While you can make money sourcing a teacher pack from a supplier, you will make more by taking a broader approach.

Our advice is that you offer a selection of gifts for teachers including the traditional plaques, mugs, apple-themed, frames and pens but this you expand the offer to include other suggested gifts such as scarves, Charlie Bears, soap, fudge, plush, jigsaw puzzles and other premium gifts.

Don’t be restricted by the traditional teacher gifts. Also, don’t be restricted by a price point. We suggest you show how two or more students could pool funds to buy a bigger gift such as a jigsaw puzzle. Show your customers how they can do this. For example: $19.99 or $10 each if two of you share giving this gift.  Maybe even consider a whole of class gift.

Promote the broader range of gifts with an appropriate sign such as: GIVE SOMETHING THAT WILL ACTUALLY BE USED.

Have your suggested gifts represented together in a location branded as gifts for teachers.

Be sure to include cards in your range – Thank You cards and blank cards. Consider packaging selected gifts and cards together to make buying easy.

Also consider a discount if customers purchase above a threshold for multiple teachers. For example, you could offer 10% off for purchases of $25.00 or more. Choose a spend hurdle that suits your area.

Marketing and promotion tips:

  1. Offer a $50 shopping voucher for one lucky teacher. To get an enter customers should purchase a card and gift from you.
  2. Include a flyer with all purchases announcing your teacher gift range.
  3. Leverage the local parents association to have them help you promote the offer. Consider having them hand out a coupon offering 5% off for purchases a 5% to them for each coupon redeemed.
  4. Setup a THANK YOU TEACHER WALL where anyone can write a note thanking their teacher – from any generation or year.
  5. Maybe run a Teacher of the Year competition where students vote. This could work well in a smaller location. However be careful as it could be seen as divisive if not done well.

Branding is everything in independent retail

Tower Systems understands the importance of branding in its business serving small business retailers with POS software. We also understand the importance in shops.

We enable beautiful branding opportunities for retailers using our POS software with professional branding of receipts and other customer touch points produced and managed through our software.

It is easy to do this.

Providing retailers with opportunities for concisely pitching branding helps locally run independent retail businesses to be consistent in their messaging.

We know from expert marketing research that multiple touch points for a brand is vital to brand awareness and trust. This is one of several key reasons why independent retailers need to embrace branding opportunities on everyday contact points, such as receipts, customer displays, shelf talkers, barcode labels, outdoor product tags and more.

By enabling beautiful customised customer touch points, Tower Systems helps small business retailers shine a light on their brand. We are proud to do this.

The photo is of a box of receipt rolls. We provide theses with fresh hardware installations by our team and sell them to our customers. Even at this level of our business, professional branding matters.

Advice for small business retailers on managing shopper theft

The importance of accurate stock on hand data is  critical, especially for retailers with online sales.

We recommend regular custom stock takes for the categories where you transact online.

A consequence of more regular stock takes is greater understanding of theft from the business. Rather than getting angry about discovering the extent of theft, which a lot of retailers do, act to manage theft. This is the best reaction you can have to theft of stock.

  1. Know the problem. Regular custom stock takes will help you achieve this.
  2. Own the problem. Based on evidence, take the problem on board as yours to fix.

Too often, retailers sit in the office or the back room. Problems like this are not fixed from the back room – they are fixed from the shop floor.

Too often work is done in the back room or away from customer sight that could be done on the shop floor and thereby reduce shopper theft. The more work you do on the shop floor the greater deterrent to those who would steal.

  1. Ensure all staff know about the problem. The more they understand the problem the better the opportunity for them to become engaged. Understanding must include knowing the cost to the business and the impact this has on the business and on them.
  2. Encourage staff to greet shoppers, explain this is a starting point to reducing theft.
  3. Spot (custom) stock take weekly or at least fortnightly. Record the number stolen from a category somewhere for staff to see. This sets a target for all.
  4. Move the product you are concerned about, try different locations.
  5. Place a portable work table near the often stolen products and move most there such as product pricing, invoice checking or other tasks that could be easily done on the shop floor.
  6. Ensure you have camera coverage of the location.
  7. Place the stock so there are no blind spots that make theft easy.
  8. Watch the location or stand from outside your business to see how shoppers interact with it.
  9. Bring in a retail security expert for their advice on your specific situation.
  10. Keep your staff informed about progress on resolving the problem.

The only way to reduce theft is to change things. If what you change does not work, change more. Keep changing until you find the answer.

Note: those often stealing the most are not those you suspect.

Inspiring retail businesses we have seen

In our weekly email to retailers using our POS software we including images of retail businesses we have recently seen that inspire us. Here is one of a suite of images we shared recently of a very different gallery / store we visited. It is inspiring as the other photos shared with our customers show.

What small business retailers need to know about Amazon setting up shop in Australia and how to best respond

There have been many reports about Amazon opening distribution centres in Australia, with the first, in Dandenong Victoria, well advanced in preparation.

Little advice has been provided to small business retailers on what is needed to compete in this ever evolving online-focussed world.

At this workshop we will share insights from the various retail store connected websites that were run. We will show when, hope and why people shop. We will take you under the hood, back to what they search Google for.

We will explain steps you can take in your business to win business that Amazon sellers m might otherwise try and win from you.

We will show how you can get online in any type of business, without breaking the bank and without needing your own tech employee.

Plus, we will answer every question you have.  Without obligation.

Book now. These workshops are free. All welcome.

  • August 24, 8am. Figtree Conference Centre: Mission Room, 5 Figtree Drive, Sydney Olympic Park NSW.
  • August 24, 11am. Figtree Conference Centre: Mission Room, 5 Figtree Drive, Sydney Olympic Park NSW.

We will demonstrate live websites that are connected to our small business POS software in local businesses. we will also show how to transfer stock to a website and how to manage images. We will answer all your website related questions. Bookings are essential.

We develop software and websites for: gift shopsjewellers,  bike shopstoy shopsfishing/outdoors businessesgarden centres/nurseriespet shopsproduce storesfirearms businesses and newsagents.

If you have questions, please call our Sydney Account Manager, Nathan Morrison on 0417 568 148.

Helping small business retailers understand the best trading hours

Our advice to small business retailers when it comes to the best training hours too open is to consider carefully the evidence available, for your specific business.

When was the last time you assessed sales by time and particularly at sales revenue at the start of the day and at the end of the day?

It could be that you are opening your small business retail shop too early or too late or that you are closing too early or too late.

What does your data show?

Use your POS software to assess sales at the fringe of the day for, say, the last six months. Look overall and then for each day of the week. Good software should allow you to do this level of reporting. Work out the slew revenue per hour, apply your overall gross profit percentage and then deduct the hourly cost of being open.

If, for example, your average revenue is $30 for an hour at the start of the day and you have staff working this time and they don’t have much else to do those days and you have, say, GP of 32%, your GP is $9.60. Once you pay wages for the hour you are losing money. If the customers are not regulars it could be that you are better off closing.

If, on the other hand, your sales are $100 or more in the first hour, it could be that opening earlier could win even more business.

Only you can make the assessment of what is right for your business.

Our advice today is look at your data and make sure you are open the right hours for the best possible financial outcome for your retail business.

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.

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.

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!
 

 

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.