Small business retail 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 possible. 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.

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VM inspiration for small business retail – the impact of colour

Colour blocking in retail makes a difference in almost any type of business. Shoppers are drawn to colour-blocked displays as they stand out in-store.

Here is a colour blocked display we saw on our travels recently, in a stationery related business.

Plenty of small business specialty retail businesses have opportunities to colour block. The result can be a valuable increase in shopper engagement.

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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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Small business management advice: the best way to integrate your retail business website with your POS software

Tower Systems takes a best practice approach to helping small business retailers to integrate their POS software with their websites. The company offers multiple opportunities:

  1. Magento integration.
  2. Shopify integration.
  3. Woo Commerce integration.
  4. Webstore link for other sites.
  5. A Tower developed website deeply integrated with the Tower POS software.

Each of these is a beautiful and seamless solution from Tower Systems, cost effectively serving small business retailers.

Our in-house web development team makes it easy for small business retailers to establish a beautiful,s successful and professional website, directly and live linked to the Tower Systems POS software. We have plenty of small business retailers for whom we have done this, plenty of reference sites.

All done in-house by us.

We are thrilled to have two local development teams in our business that can deliver: web solutions and desktop in-store solutions.

Our business management advice today is to get the best tech solution for your business. the rewards will be more online and offline sales.

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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 advice: protect your business data against disaster

Data is as valuable as cash to any retail business yet many do not treat data with respect. Our advice to small business retailers is to get real about data, to get serious about protecting this important asses.

In terms of protecting your business data against disaster, here is our most important advice:

  1. Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail.
    1. Better still: use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to backup.
  2. Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week.
  3. Remove the backup from the business property.
  4. Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
  5. Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
  6. Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
  7. Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
  8. Change your passwords regularly.
  9. Use hard to crack passwords.
  10. Do not share passwords widely.
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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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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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Small business retail management advice: de-clutter and let people see your shop differently

We get to see many different retail stores in our work serving small business retailers.

To us, the best looking stores are those that are not cluttered, that do not have too many posters, notices and displays competing for eyeball time.

Retailers tell us they like this simple advice from us:

Stand at the entrance to the business and note how many posters, signs, offers and displays are vying for attention? Next, try and cut the number by half.

Often we find in retail that less can be more. Fewer posters, signs and displays can result in those who you have generating a better return for the business.

While this advice has nothing to do with small business POS software, we are fortunate to be able to build other skills as we work with our customers. We are also grateful to have our own retail shops where we can play with these ideas for ourselves.

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How Australian politicians fail small businesses

Here we are 100 days from the last federal election and not much has changed for small business.

The words from the campaign about the importance of small business to the Australian economy appear to have been forgotten as politicians prefer to fight each other over issues of little relevance to everyday Australians and small business owners.

Take the issue of Australian banks. Small business owners are treated appallingly by by the big four banks. There are countless stories of shocking service and unfair practices yet the government refuses to establish the mechanism most Australians want for these issues to be considered – a Royal Commission.

Take the issue of red tape. We recently wrote to federal and state ministers responsible for an area related to one o our specialty software packages. In our letter we noted each state and territory has different requirements for what should be a national matter. We received responses from all the minister offices and not one letter progresses the matter – leaving small business owners navigating arcane and time –consuming red tape for the sake of red tape.

We could go on.

What we want is politicians who are true to their word, politicians who deliver opportunities for improved efficiency to small business, politicians who demonstrate through legislation that they actually believe small businesses are the backbone of Australia.

Right now, it seems to this small business that politicians are all talk and no action.

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More accountants keen to join the POS software Xero list

The list we publish to retailers using our POS software showing Accountants who are Xero experts is gaining popularity with our customers and with accountants – with more joining the list. We are thrilled to share details of Accountants who are skilled in using Xero as it helps spread the use of this terrific cloud based accounting solution.

The list of Xero qualified accountants is part of our POS software customer weekly communication.

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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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Free POS software integrated Shopify and Magento workshops start next week

Join Tower Systems for a one of our free seminars in Australia and New Zealand (in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch)  where we will show our latest Australian developed POS software for specialty independent small business retail.

  1. Discover how to connect your retail business with Magento or Shopify direct from POS software.
  2. Learn how to be found through Google.
  3. Learn about creating beautiful websites for a fraction of the costs some charge.
  4. See the POS software to Magento and Shopify links LIVE with working websites.

This will be a truly interactive learning opportunity for small business retailers, an opportunity to see under the hood of website development, to discover is this is something any retailer could do for their business.

We will show you how to setup up a Shopify store that can be live in hours. Plus, there will be a Q&A opportunity so you can explore your specific needs. Book now by clicking on the city location you prefer.

  1. Adelaide. October 10. 10am. Rydges South Park.
  2. Sydney. October 11. 10am. Kogarah Golf Club.
  3. Brisbane. October 12. 10am. River View Hotel.
  4. Perth. October 13. 9am. Country Comfort Inter City Hotel.
  5. Melbourne. October 14. 10am. Hawthorn Arts Centre.
  6. Canberra. October 18. 10am. Vibe Hotel, Canberra Airport.
  7. Hobart. October 19. 11am. Rydges Hobart.
  8. Darwin. October 26. 2pm Mantra on the Esplanade.
  9. Auckland. Nov. 2. 3pm. Novotel, Auckland Airport.
  10. Wellington. Nov. 3. 10am. Intercontinental Hotel.
  11. Christchurch. Nov. 4. 10am. Novotel Christchurch.

We will share our experiences in the small business POS and e-commerce areas and outline what we learned when creating sites for our own retail businesses. This seminar could save you thousands in web developer fees. Book online.

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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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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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