Australian newsagency sales performance benchmark study results

For fifteen years, Tower Systems has published quarterly sales performance benchmark results based on accurate data from a broad cross-section of retail newsagency businesses.

This study is the most comprehensive even for the newsagency channel. Here is the latest report, for the April – June quarter of 2017 compares to 2016 on a same store basis.

The April – June quarter was tough for core products sold through the newsagency channel. In addition to the continuing decline in print media sales, this quarter’s benchmark results reveal a troubling downturn in lottery revenue as well as card revenue.

Here are the headline numbers by key product category:

  1. Magazine unit sales declined 11%.
  2. Greeting card revenue declined 4%.
  3. Lottery revenue declines 4%.
  4. Newspaper unit sales declined 12%.
  5. Gift revenue increased by 11%.
  6. Toy revenue increased by 16%.
  7. Stationery revenue declined 8%.

These are not good headline numbers. The bottom is falling out of the historic core of the newsagency channel. This will not be news to many as it continues a trend we have seen in this benchmark study for several years.

The above percentages reflect the overall performance of the 181 newsagency businesses in this benchmark study. It includes stores from a range of banner groups as well as independents. There are large businesses and small. Some are in shopping centres while others are on then high street. The cross-section is broad.

What is concerning is the pace of decline, especially with magazines as the decline had slowed recently. Looking more closely at the data, the decline is in the volume categories. Fringe categories such as special interest titles are doing well. Indeed, some segments show terrific growth.

Newsagents need to manage the overhead cost of newspapers and magazines. Labour, space and capital investment needs to be kept in line with the gross profit contribution of these categories. Busy work relating to newspapers and magazines should be eliminated.

The decline in greeting card revenue is a surprise. The reported percentage of decline, 4%, does not read well. However, like all the above data points, it is an average from the entire data pool. There are stores experiencing decline above 20% with others reporting growth above 20%. There is a clear correlation between stores with strong gift sales and card performance – in this case card revenue is stronger.

GOOD NEWS.

The good news is the performance of businesses playing outside the traditional space. For example, the newsagency with $25,000 in toy revenue in the quarter, reflecting growth of 18% or the newsagency with $45,000 in gift revenue and year on year growth of 22% of the newsagency with card revenue of $47,000 and year on year growth of 22%.

There are many good news stories in the latest study results. However, the good news will be overshadowed by the performance of the majority. It is challenging, some days, to know what to do or say to cut through with newsagents who are not engaged.

Too many newsagents think growth will come from categories close to what they have done historically. For example, too many get into cheap social stationery thinking that is competitive with Kikki.K or Typo.

My experience is the best growth comes from turning away from traditional lines and traditional suppliers and going with products and price points you would never have considered for a newsagency business. I see this approach working well in the benchmark results in businesses of different sizes and in different situations.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE DATA.

  1. Customer traffic. 78% of newsagents report average decline of 5%.
  2. Overall sales. 53% reported an average revenue decline of 3%.
  3. Basket depth. 61% report a 2% decrease in basket size.
  4. Basket dollar value. 63% report a decrease in basket value of 3%.

It is in the overall business gross profit numbers where the differences in businesses can be seen. 62% sit in the traditional newsagency GP performance band of 28% – 30%. 7% sit below 28%. 20% sit in the GP band of 30% and 35%. 7% sit between 35% and 40%. The rest, 4%, have a GP of more than 40%.

GP is a function of what you stock and the type of shoppers you attract to the business. Buying is where it starts.

WHAT IS DRIVING THE DECLINES?

Close to 80% of the businesses in the benchmark reported a decline in traffic with the average decline set at 5%. However, just over half reported a decline in revenue. This is because plenty are selling higher priced items, usually gifts. This softens the blow of the decline in legacy products.

I think the traffic decline is being driven by a decline in interest in legacy products on which traditional newsagency businesses have relied. I have said for years it is crucial newsagents have a strategy to drive net new traffic. Relying on legacy product to sell new products is not a plan. You need to source new products and to use these to attract people to your business who would otherwise not have shopped with you.

HOW TO RESPOND TO TRAFFIC DECLINES?

Any newsagency business can be successful, regardless of location and situation. This is truer today than at any time in the past thanks to what we can see being achieved online – not only in newsagency businesses but through other retail channels.

The key to success is to not run the business as a newsagency. That’s is, to not obsess about legacy products. Focus on new traffic products. Focus on price points you would usually say would never work in your business. Buy products you think will never work. Be radical and through discover what is possible in your business.

I urge you to ask yourself daily, what have I done today to reach a new shopper, someone who does not know we exist? This is what successful businesses in the benchmark study are doing and doing well.

DOES THE NEWSAGENCY CHANNEL HAVE A FUTURE?

I ask this every quarter. My answer remains – Yes! Absolutely. If you are prepared to shrug off what has been traditional for a newsagency business, stop hoarding, embrace change and embrace social media – you can have a bright future. The transformation from traditional to the new world must be urgent and dramatic.

AGENCY IS OVER.

My opinion remains – there is no upside in any agency parts of the business. People saying they are proud to be called a newsagent are entitled to their view. History will show that era is behind us.

OPTIMISTIC.

I am optimistic for my own newsagency businesses and for the businesses of many newsagents. Indeed, I have opened a new outlet the last few months. It does not look or feel like a newsagency. The numbers are terrific.

WHY I DO THIS STUDY

My interest in the study is as a newsagent and as a supplier to the channel through Tower Systems and through newsXpress. I want the channel to grow for selfish reasons and because it has been my life since 1981. I am invested.

BENCHMARK GOALS.

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

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

Mark Fletcher.
Email: mark@towersystems.com.au  Website: www.towersystems.com.au  Blog: www.newsagencyblog.com.au
M | 0418 321 338

Footnote: I founded Tower Systems in 1981. That company now serves in excess of 1,750 newsagents as customers with its newsagency software. In 2005, I joined newsXpress. That newsagency marketing group now serves 243 retail businesses with a traffic and revenue growth strategy.

Helping small business retailers quit dead stock with best-practice advice

In our weekly customer support email to our small business POS software users we include everyday business management advice.

We are grateful for customer feedback on the practical tips we provide and for suggestions on new topics se can cover.

Here is recent advice we shared with our customers on quitting dead stock.

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. We think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

The easiest way to quit stock is for your shoppers to understand the deal. Understanding the deal starts with how you brand the sale.

A sign with SALE on it could mean anything. We suggest you NOT use this.

A sign with, say, 50% off could be confusing as they don’t know the starting price and some may not understand percentages.

A Sign with HALF PRICE is more easily understood but they still do not know the starting price.

If you really want to quit stock, we suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

We have tested this. We have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our recommendation on quickly quitting stock: get the price messaging right.

If your price messaging is hard to understand or if there are too many different price messages you could be creating a barrier and this could stop you achieving the sales outcome you want.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

This advice in another example of how Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our POS software and the support you may expect from a company like us.

We love helping small business retailers save time, make money and enjoy their businesses more. These are core goals of our Australian POS software business. They reflect what we call the Tower AdvantageTM.

Free marketing resources for small business retailers

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 8.10.20 amTower Systems has added to free marketing resources for small business retailers. New digital art is being loaded to our website for small business retailers to download and print and to load into digital marketing platforms.

This latest collateral from our in-house creative team is themed to provide retailers more options for pitching their businesses.

We are grateful to the encouraging feedback from small business retailers – customers and not – who are using the facilities we have created and made available through our website. This feedback is what has encouraged us to do even more.

Tower Systems provides access to these free marketing resources without asking for any details – making the resources genuinely free.

Small business retailers love the new look and feel of our website

As part of the continuous evolution of our online presence, we released enhancements to our website several weeks ago including new inspirational images.

Too often we see POS software4 companies focussing on technology ahead of people. Our view here at Tower Systems is that people come first as they are the focus of all we do through our software and the services we provide support in the software.

Th feedback from our customers following the latest evolution has been terrific. Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is another way Tower Systems helps small business retailers.

Why my software company is not embracing the new lower Sunday penalty rates in our own retail business

Tower Systems owns and operates retail businesses in part to provide us with practical experience on which we can draw to provide better software support experiences for our small business retail customers.

Here are my reasons, as owner of the company, for deciding to not embrace the Sunday penalty rates decision in my retail businesses:

  1. I value my employees. To pay them less as a result of the decision could suggest to them they are worth less. I have hated it when suppliers reduced margin or commission and argued then that they value me and my business less.
  2. I want to be competitive for good labour. Paying a competitive rate is key to this.
  3. The business reward. It is open to employees who are now told their pay will not be cut to return the favour to the business.
  4. Competition. A range of competitor business have made a similar announcement.
  5. While of economy fairness. While I agree with the decision, it should only be taken as a whole of economy review that fairly adjusts economic touch-points for all and not only salaried workers.
  6. Weighing everything up it is the right thing to do.

This is not a permanent decision. It is possible I will modify my position as the marketplace situation evolves. If I did and thereby embraced a saving in labour costs, I anticipate through would be invested in more hours.

All business owners need to reach their own conclusions on this matter. Unfortunately, as a country we are bereft of leadership on broader issues that should be confronted in any economic setting adjustment as has been done with Sunday penalty rates.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director.

Five free to implement marketing tips that will work for any small business retailer

Each of these five small business marketing tips has worked in a variety of retail businesses. They are fast to implement, easy to implement and are cost free based on the success they generate for small business retailers.

We have developed these five ideas through our many years only serving small and independent retail businesses. They are the best, easiest and fastest to engage:

  1. Immediate rewards. On your receipts. $$$. This gets shoppers spending more per visit. With the right settings, over the counter pitch and policies you can expect double digit growth for little effort. This loyalty program is a game changer for independent small retail businesses in that big businesses will not follow you, they will not be able to match what you pitch. This sets you apart. It excites shoppers and that is what drives the value you get from the program. We have it running in many hundreds of small retail businesses.
  2. Email marketing. Capture email addresses and email shoppers to pitch offers tuned to their interests. With an average response of 30% to the right pitch you can drive repeat visits.
  3. Product knowledge. Share this in receipts, automatically served based on products in a purchase. Shoppers will appreciate your help and extra-mile assistance. This is a perfect way to pitch one of your points of difference.
  4. Change the price narrative. If you have a nearby competitor, make price comparison difficult through multi-buy or BOGO pricing. Both are supported in our software. Make price comparison hard and increase sales as a result, of a perception of value.
  5. Smart placement. Your existing data can indicate what is best placed with what in your business. Leverage this data, make better placement decisions and increase sales. The deep dive basket analysis data insights can change your approach to product placement and increase shopper efficiency as a result.

Tower systems serves only independent small retail businesses in selected product niches. This is our mission and we are grateful every day for the opportunity.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Small business retail marketing 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.