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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Small business retail management advice: adjust the seat for a more comfortable drive

Using POS software is like driving a car. You have many options you can select and tweak to personalise the experience.

When you get in a car for the first time you make all the necessary adjustments to personalise the experience for you, to ensure your experience is safe and appropriate to your needs.

Do the same with your software. Never use it out of the box. Take time to ensure the settings are what you want, that they are appropriate to your needs.

Every so often, check the settings, ensure they continue to serve your needs.

Over time, new settings can give you greater personalisation. Embrace these and enjoy more flexibility in how the software serves you and your business.

Tower Systems offers a settings review service where our help desk will work with small business retailers to review settings and ensure the personalisation in the settings is appropriate for what you explain as your needs.

Even the smallest change can enhance your experience with POS software.  Try it.

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Sunday retail management advice: how to sell your retail business when no one is interested

Small and independent retail businesses can be a challenge to sell even in a strong economy. This is because they are often not understood and not presented well for sale.

One way to make a business more appealing is to be more open about it being for sale.

Put a sign in the window. Yes, this will tell your employees, customers and suppliers that you want to sell up and move on. Own that decision, embrace it. Stop worrying what people will think. Explain your good reason for putting the business on the market and then run the business with more energy and focus than ever before.  Your actions will demonstrate that people need not worry.

The sign in the window works on a couple of levels.

First, small businesses are more likely to appeal to people who live locally, people who may not be in the market to buy a business until they see your sign.  I know of one small business that had not sold in over a year and then sold in a week following a sign being put in the window. It could be that an employee is interested in buying the business.

Second, the sign is your reminder that the business has to be sale ready every day. Shoppers walking through your door are coming to an open house to see the business for sale. That’s how you should approach it – working your heart out presenting the business perfectly and appealingly every day.

Businesses can take time to sell. Sometimes it takes the right people seeing the ad at the right time for you to find a buyer.  The stars aligning aside, the most important barrier to selling any business is that it does not look or feel appealing, manageable and or capable of delivering the level of return a prospective purchaser would want. This is why you have to work hard and relentlessly to make your business look valuable, appealing and enjoyable.

Too often small business retailers think that the economy, retail channel issues or other external factors are slowing or halting the sale of the business. Even if this is the case, reject these thoughts, bring it back to you and your actions. If you want to sell your business then run it as if you want to sell it – every day.

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Sunday retail management advice: how small business retailers can compete with a big national retailer

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. We were 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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Sunday small business retail advice: everyday marketing for small business retailers

We get to see many different retail businesses in in our work and along the way we pick up ideas that work particularly well. Here is a selection of everyday marketing tips we see working in almost any business.

  1. Always have a value-proposition offer just inside the entrance to the business. This should be a double-sided offer, one they see as they enter and as they leave.
  2. Always have an appealing impulse purchase offer at the counter. Change this weekly. Use the opportunity to learn more about what your customers will purchase on impulse.
  3. Always know your top selling item in the store and always place products next to the top selling item thoughtfully, to leverage the eyeballs looking for and at the top selling product.
  4. Run a generous loyalty program where the value is understood. This probably means not using points.
  5. Create stunning window displays people would not expect to see in your type of business.
  6. Offer multi-buy opportunities unlocking savings for people purchasing more than would be usual in a single visit.
  7. Be brief in talking to customers about your products on social media: a single product per post. Two sentences. Short sentences. Make the post appealing beyond you trying to promote your business. Entertain them.
  8. Send customers a card for special occasions, a personal card to reinforce the personal relationship you have with them.
  9. Change the front two metres of your shop weekly, keep it fresh for your customers and your staff.
  10. Unpack and price products on the shop floor and not in the back room or outside of shopper view.

Our goal with this list is to give you ideas you can use right away as well as ideas that will get you thinking of your own ideas.

Go for it. Remember, if you do next week what you did this week you cannot expect any growth. Growth only comes from change.

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Disaster planning: advice to help small business retailers trade manually

While we never want it to happen and know it is extremely rare, we regularly remind our POS software customers they ought to be prepared to trade manually should they not have access to their POS software for some reason. Here is our advice, which has not changed in many years.

If you lose power, have a major hardware failure or have some other unexpected problem, your computer system on which you rely to record sales may not be available for some time. Here is our advice on how to handle such a situation:

  1. Track all sales. Write down the barcode of every item you sell and the price. When you are back up and running, enter these in. This maintains an accurate stock on hand count. When you are back online, enter the barcodes, ring up the sales.

Yes, that is it. Very simple. Also, very easy to not do and thereby compromise your business data.

To prepare you for this, do the following:

  1. Create a ruled sheet to use. Two columns: barcode, price.
  2. Copy the sheet a few times and setup on a clipboard. With a clipboard made up for each register you have.
  3. Tie a pen to each clipboard.
  4. Place the clipboards in an easily accessible space.
  5. Take out the clipboards and place next to each register in the event of your system being down and you needing to transact.
  6. You are good to go.

Recording sales on scraps of paper is not good business management. It invites error and fraud.

While no one wants your computer system to be down, being prepared for this is important business planning.

Footnote: knowing a competitor as we do, they are likely to point to this post as us identifying a weakness in our software. This would be untrue. This advice is an example of our POS software company providing whole of business advice for any contingency. It is what we do and for which we are appreciated.

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Small business advice: A checklist for those buying a retail shop

A common question we are asked at our POS software company has nothing to do with software. It is from people considering purchasing a retail business. The question is:  what should I ask for when looking at buying a retail shop?

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 points 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.

My advice to vendors looking to sell who are concerned about this list is: think about it now and focus on your business so the data 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.

The time to focus on that is now.

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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HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS ON BEST PRACTICE LAY-BY

Lay-By is vital to small business retailers, especially gift shops, jewellers, garden centres, toy shops and homewares shops. Tower systems offers structure support for managing Lay-Bys in its POS software. We help small business retailers meet their regulatory obligations, serving the needs of customers and their businesses with a best practice approach.

We offer written advice, video training, one on one training and more to help small business retailers run professional Lay-By services.

Here is a glimpse into some of the professional Lay-By advice provided to our small business retailer community:

Meeting regulatory requirements is vital. For example, if someone cancels a LayBy you must refund their payments less a termination fee. You can set this fee and advise as part of your terms and conditions.

Our advice guides you through key rules and steps to success with Lay-bys.

  1. WHAT TO LAY-BY. Set a minimum item and or purchase value. We’d suggest $80.00.
  2. DATA REQUIRED. Always ensure you are satisfied you know who your customer is. Require proof of ID from a driver’s licence or similar legal ID document.
  3. DEPOSIT. 20% of the total GST inclusive purchase price.
  4. AGE. Only Lay-by to people 18 and over.
  5. DURATION. Lay-bys should run for between eight and twelve weeks. You could run for longer pre Christmas to get early toy sales.
  6. PAYMENT CYCLE. Require payments to be made weekly or fortnightly.
  7. PAYMENT METHOD. Accept any payment form you choose.
  8. Do not allow someone to take home a single item from a group of items on Lay-by together in one purchase. It’s all or nothing.
  9. Have a LayBy termination policy you are comfortable with. We suggest a 20% termination fee. Alternatively, set a dollar amount to reflect the work. Also, consider setting the LayBy to auto terminate if it extends beyond a period of time you nominate. Note that you could equally choose to have no cancellation given that Lay-by product may not be able to easily re-sold.
  10. Decide what you would consider a breach. This has to be something you stand by. We suggest two missed payments without reasonable excuse or rectification. On breach, cancel and charge the cancellation fee.
  11. We suggest a no-exchange policy.
  12. When a customer Lay-bys, print two dockets – one for them to take immediately and one to be placed with the goods. Have your customer sign both copies, accepting your terms and conditions.
  13. Set aside a clean and secure storage location for Lay-bys in your business where locations are coded for easy finding. Place Lay-by goods into a single clear plastic bag per transaction for clean and safekeeping. Staple to this a copy of the Lay-by docket. Let your customers see you do this so there is no doubt when it comes time to collect the products.
  14. Have one person responsible for Lay-bys to ensure product care, track payments and contact customers.
  15. TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Enter these into your software so they are included on every Lay-by docket. Points 2 through 11 above are a good example of what to include in your terms and conditions.
  16. COMPLETE PAPERWORK. To not over complicate things, rely on your software’s Lay-by docket as your complete paperwork / contract. Get that right and Lay-by management will be easier.

These rules and steps may feel complex. They are necessary for the small number of times something goes wrong and you need to rely on them to help you deal with a situation.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL ADVICE: CHOOSE THE LOYALTY OPTION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU

The Tower Systems POS software has every possible shopper loyalty requirement covered from points to integrations to instant gratification loyalty to collectible loyalty to multi buy loyalty to supplier driven and funded loyalty.

No matter what loyalty option you could conceive, Tower has, in its community of 3,500+ small business retailers, most likely encountered the need and served it.

Our experience with loyalty is different businesses have different needs. This is why one of our loyalty experts works with you to determine which of the options is right for your business needs.

We help you discover the options in the software that serve your needs.

Our retail management advice today is think about the needs of your business carefully. The most obvious loyalty option, the one most others use, might not be right for you.

Our retail management tip today is: choose the loyalty option that is right for your small business.

  1. Points based loyalty.
  2. Loyalty rewards where the rewards are a voucher.
  3. A cash discount off your next purchase.
  4. Integration with a banner group loyalty program.
  5. FlyBys integration.
  6. A partner program where the shopper gets a reward and their community group gets a reward.
  7. A local community support loyalty offer.
  8. VIP pricing.
  9. VIP pricing coupled with a loyalty rewards offer.

There are plenty more options than these – catered for and serves within the smart Tower Systems POS software.

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

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

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

So how do you choose which local business you support?

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

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

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

THE PRIZE / GIFT

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

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

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

YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS

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

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

HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT

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

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

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

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

LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE

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

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

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

REWARD ENGAGEMENT

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

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

EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT

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

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

WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT

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

Ask them to write about you too.

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

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POS SOFTWARE SUPPORT FOR MULTI-BUY HELPS RETAILERS DRIVE SALES

13346543_10156929025490142_4340173502081084002_nOne of the most valuable ways a retailer can differentiate from a competitor is to change how items are sold. Through the Tower Systems POS software, retailers have multiple ways of doing this. One successful way is the transactional multi-buy, where a customer can save money by purchasing more of an item in one transaction.

We see the transactional multi-buy approach working well in toy shops, pet shops, newsagencies and gift shops. Retailers in each channel use it differently and with different products. This is a beauty of the facility – it is easy for a local retailer to setup such a campaign and then flip to another. It enables the small business independent retailer to be flexible and constantly change their approach.

Changing your pitch in store around what the shopper purchases is important. It differentiates you from others with the same product. It speaks to your local offer and enables you to own your value proposition.

This is smart for small business retailers. we are proud our software makes it easy to setup and simple to manage and insightful in the post activity reporting.

Any business selling items shoppers will collect or purchase for collectors would benefit significantly from the transactional multi by facilities in the Tower Systems POS software.

We back the facilities with training, in-store management advice and even post event analysis – helming retailers to understand the full value of the campaign they have run.

Making it very easy, all the retail employee need do is scan items. The software applies any appropriate multi-buy discount. You do not even have to scan all the items after each other. yes, the software is smart enough to detect items at any point in the sale and to grow them together. This is vital to streamlined throughput of shoppers at a busy sales counter.

Beyond the software, Tower Systems is grateful for the support of many retailers in the continual enhancement of the software, to enable us to bring valuable in-store marking tools to retailers with whom we partner.

Transactional multi-buy is an important tool for small business and independent retailers. We have excellent case studies we can share to illustrate the value.

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HELPING SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS CUT EMPLOYEE THEFT

The theft reduction training video we produced in-house – How To Steal From A Retail Business – is being used by business groups to train their members on measures to take in retail shops to reduce the opportunity for employee theft.

In addition to the YouTube views, this video has been packaged and provided outside that platform for people to embed in conference presentations, one-on-one training and elsewhere.

Using your POS software small business retailers have excellent tools with which to reduce the opportunity for theft. These have existed for years. In addition to our software work, we act as expert witnesses in investigations and proceedings that successfully prosecute employee theft cases.

What matters is that theft can be reduced and even eliminated with good management oversight in any retail business using our POS software.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

Business birthdays are important – for you and for your customers, especially in a locally owned small retail business.

Embrace the opportunity of your business birthday for a celebration. But be sure to not make it all about making more money. Take time to embrace the achievement and love it.

Here are practical tips for celebrating the birthday of your business:

  1. Setup a photo board and invite customer engagement. Let’s say your business is six years old: ask customers to bring a photo showing them at six years of age. Their stories become part of your story.
  2. Setup a noticeboard. Let’s say your business is twenty years old. Headline the board with: To celebrate our twenty years in business, join us and list twenty things you love about this town.
  3. Recognise local heroes. Host an after drinks night in your shop and take a moment to acknowledge and thank local heroes. The number you acknowledge should be the number of years you have been in business.
  4. Thank previous owners. Create a history board of previous owners. Where they are now. Their stories. Show the rich long history of your business from before you owned it.
  5. Hand out a flyer listing X hidden gems of your region (where X is the number of hears you have been in business). The flyer is your birthday gift to your customers.
  6. Have cake. Everyone loves cake. If for no other reason than to get to eat cake have a birthday cake. Make it special. Have a big cake or lots of cup cakes. Set and date and time for the celebration.
  7. Party favor bags. Give every customer shopping on your birthday a bag of treats and favors you have chosen to celebrate your big day.
  8. The Happy Birthday discount. Offer a big discount to any customer who comes in on the day (or through the week if you wish) and sings, at full voice, Happy Birthday.
  9. Say thank you. In your front window, create a stunning and personal display saying thank you to the town. Do it visually, creatively and with a full heart.
  10. Half price birthdays. On the day itself, offer birthday cards at half price. While you are giving away margin and will bring forward what might otherwise have been full margin sales, you could get people buying cards from you who have not done so in a while.
  11. Be thankful. On Facebook leading up to your birthday share what you are thankful for from and through your business. Be sure to write with a voice of gratefulness and celebration.
  12. Dress the shop for a party. For at least the week of the birthday dress the shop as a themed party, maybe a kids party. Get everyone involved. Have fun and bring your customers in on the fun.
  13. Maybe a birthday party celebration sale. One night, after the shop has closed, put on some wine, cheese and nibbles inviting people to join you for some party games, prizes and deals.

A key aspect of these ideas is to remind people that your business is stable, can be trusted, is locally connected and knows how to have fun.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT ADVICE: BE MEMORABLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CHOOSE MUSIC THOUGHTFULLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: MAYBE IT IS TIME TO CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS

Who do you talk to about your retail business? Are they sympathetic, pandering almost? Or, do they challenge your perception of your business?

Do they agree with everything you say? Do they offer pity as a response for you explaining your situation?

Good friends will challenge what you say. They will ask tough questions to test what you say about business performance. They will not put up with a victim mentality. They will want to know what you are doing to improve your situation and that your actions are rooted in your business data.

If your friends don’t challenge you when you talk about your business consider seeking out others you can talk to who do challenge you. 

Owning a business of any size can be tough and lonely. In the business it is rare you will be challenged. In your immediately family, too often, you will not be challenged. This is why you need to seek out those who could and will challenge you. You need to be challenged. Your plans need to be tested through tough questioning.  While some good friend will do this for you many will not.

So, do you need to change your friends?

Seek out people who will give you truthful assessment of what you say, people who will have an opinion and be unafraid to share it. You want people who will actively listen to you and give you their insights.

Seek out people who will want the same from you.  The ideal friendship is one that is equal, open and honest in conversation.  This is what retail business owners need – people who can help them see what they may not be seeing for themselves.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: MAKE EVERY DAY YOUR PAY DAY

There was a time when small business retailers could rely on selling their business for a handsome increase on the price they paid thereby providing a good pay day, when businesses sold for a good multiple of net earnings.

No more. Today, the best way to extract value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business.

The challenge is how do you do this?

Retailers need to look at their businesses differently. This starts with the mindset of every day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Run with the leanest roster possibl Just about every retail business we review has capacity to lower labour costs.
  2. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  3. Have stunning displays that attract people from outside the shop.
  4. Have compelling displays in-store that encourage people to browse beyond their destination purchase.
  5. Always have impulse offers at high traffic locations.
  6. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  7. Buy as best you can.
  8. Grab settlement discounts every time you are able.
  9. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  10. Leverage adjacency information. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower software helps with this. It is easy.

This advice is an example of the small business management advice POS software company tower Systems offers its customers in its weekly business builder email.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT TIP: 5 WAYS TO MANAGE EMPLOYEES USING YOUR POS SOFTWARE

Good POS software gives you a range of options for managing, tracking and engaging employees using the software itself. In the Tower Systems POS software, there are plenty of employee touch points. Here are five we want to call out today as part of our Sunday tip series.

  1. Track sales by employee code or barcode. This will cut mistakes and improve accountability.
  2. Include employee name on the receipt – to personalise the contact.
  3. Report sales by employee to compare performance.
  4. Manage your roster through your POS software, manage to a budget.
  5. Set security settings in your software to ensure people only have access to parts of the software appropriate to their level of responsibility in the business.
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HELPING SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS LEVERAGE TYRO BROADBAND EFTPOS

Small business POS software company helps small and independent retailers leverage the opportunity of the Tyro broadband EFTPOS  solutions. We do this through a direct integration with our smart POS software as well as through the friendly small business focussed help desk service.

Serving retailers across a range of retail niches, we have experience from many channels and situations from which to draw when helping retailers save time, cut mistakes and benefit from a best-practice EFTPOS integration. This is an integration supported by tower for many years.

While the Tower Systems POS software works with a range of platforms, Tyro is featured by the company thanks to the relationship with the folks at Tyro, a relationship that benefits the Tower Systems small business retailer user community.

We use Tyro ourselves in our own retail businesses. This enables us to support from a basis of personal experience. It sets us apart.

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TOWER SYSTEMS AT ATLANTA GIFT FAIR IN THE US

A team from Tower Systems further benefited from participating in the Atlanta Gift Fair last week, networking with small business gift and homewares retailers as well as their suppliers – including suppliers from Australia. Thanks to contact since the show, the benefits are being realised quickly.

This large gift fair – representing 7,300 brands – is attended by thousands of retailers. It is the gift and homewares retailers the industry’s largest event featuring the most comprehensive collection of home décor, furniture and gifts. The venue spans multiple buildings and multiple floors in each building – it is many times larger than the largest gift fairs in Australia. This is what makes it an exciting event for us – a real eye-opener.

The range of products on show is more diverse and the types of businesses attending is equally diverse. This is why attending has been beneficial for the Tower Systems team as they have been able to expand their horizons as to how our POS software can better serves the needs of growing gift and homewares businesses.

We are not detailing takeaways here for obvious reasons.

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