Practical advice for new small business retailers

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

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

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

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

We have grouped the advice into business areas.

Hiring, training and managing employees

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

Cash

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

Inventory

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

Marketing

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

Operating costs

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

Your time

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

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

How the Tower Systems POS software helps small business retailers compete with big retailers

Tower Systems has the back of small business retailers.

We believe in their value economically and socially to Australia and Australian families.

Small businesses matter.

They give people their start in work.

They are an excellent training ground.

They often pay more tax as a percentage of income than big business.

They serve local communities.

They provide a level of personal service you rarely see in big business.

Here at Tower Systems we only sell our POS software to small business retailers. For the reasons we outline here. This has always been the case with us. We don’t chase big business customers.

Being small business focussed means our customers can trust that we have their backs in our services and in our software. This gives them confidence that the software they purchase from us is for their size and type of business. It means they are not using software that a big competitor also uses. This plays to their point of difference.

Here is what is different for our customers, by purchasing software from our small business focussed POS software company:

  1. Tower customers have a terrific say in the evolution of our software thanks to a unique transparent process accessible to all customers.
  2. Tower customers know the names of each person they speak with.
  3. Our phones are answered by humans.
  4. Tower customers can speak with anyone on our leadership team, directly.
  5. Easy access to unlimited training opportunities.
  6. Accessible user meetings.
  7. Small business marketing advice.
  8. Small business management advice.
  9. Small business support.
  10. Employee theft assistance.

Tower Systems is a small business focussed POS software company. As our motto says, we’re here to help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Why local POS software matters to local retail businesses

Tower Systems is a proudly Australian POS software company. We develop software in Australia for small and independent Australian retail businesses.

  1. Our software focus is local.
  2. Our customer service team is local.
  3. Our installation team is local.
  4. Our business planning is focussed on local.
  5. We offer locally focussed facilities and services in our software.

Retailers wanting software to support their local focus ought to look at local POS software companies.

We have built a good strong business by being locally focussed. Yes, today we serve more than 3,500 retail businesses.

We are proud that in many of our specialty retail channels, we are the only locally developed and supported software. This makes us more fit for purpose for those businesses that care about living and supporting local.

As a famous song once goes so beautifully: we’re all in this together.

HOW TO FIND OPTIMISM IN SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL

Every day can be tough in small business. You can feel like the big competitors are winning and that you can’t climb the mountain to compete. You may not know where to start.

There are green shoots of good news and opportunities in every small and independent retail business. The key is to find these and to leverage them for more success.

A green shoot is a product or a category of products or a supplier performing above average in the business. Often, these successes have gone unnoticed.

We were working with a retailer recently who said business was down by 20% and they did not know what to do. It turned out that the best performing product category in their business was ‘failing’ for six months because they had not replenished stock.

They invested, instead, on new lines that had not gone as well as the successful product.

They, in part, created their own downward spiral and had not looked at their business data to understand that contributed to the problems they were confronting.

Once they realised the situation, they re-stocked the successful range of products and numbers started to improve. More important, their confidence level grew and with this their business decisions improved.

There are opportunities for optimism in every business.

Finding optimism is like mining, you have to look for it, sometimes for a long time. It is there, though, in every retail business.

As soon as you hear yourself talking your business down, STOP. Look at your data, look for the good news. That is what you need to think and talk about.

By looking at your data, we mean looking at year on year, quarter on quarter or month on month comparison data for departments, categories, suppliers or even individual products. Look for growth and once you see growth, think about what you can do with and around the products achieving growth so that you can achieve other growth.

Any product achieving year on year increases in unit sales is a product to be appreciated, nurtured and used to help grow other products that can sell to the same customer.

This is how you grow optimism. Find those small green shoots, leverage them with some small steps and, over time, build more success for your business.

While overall revenue, traffic count and profitability may be down, growth even at the smallest data point, such as for one or two products, could be enough to get you looking at your business differently.

In the Tower Systems POS software, the best initial reports for good news are: Monthly Sales Comparison (department level, category level and / or supplier level), the 10×10 Report, Ranked Sales Report (by units) for one period and then for the comparative period.

We’re here to help you find the good news in your business. Your business data is the key.

Five proven ways any small business retailer can reduce dead stock – Sunday small business retail management advice

Based on our work with 3,500 retail businesses across a range of specialty retail channels, here are our five top ways any small business retail store can reduce dead stock in their business. These top ideas are all about ensuring the problem does not occur in the first place.

  1. Track everything that comes in and that you sell. Good data drives good business decisions.
  2. Order what sells. Use a re-order report from your POS software to order replenishment stock. And, yes, good POS software allows you to add to this for new items or extra stock you are certain you need.
  3. Set a budget. Use your software to control stock weight so you do not over order without thought.
  4. Track stock turn. Stock turn is the best indicator of efficiency of stock. Focus more on your best performers.
  5. Centralise buying. Ensure buying for the business is done by limited people who do use business data and who operate to a strict budget.

There are more ideas and tips on reducing dead stock. These suggestions are the best-practice starting point.

Retailers love the shop local campaign from our POS software company

We are thrilled at the number of small business retailers engaging with the free marketing advice and collateral at our POS software company website. Any retailer can download the free posters and other materials and use them how they want to promote these marketing pitches for and through their businesses. Here are some of the free poster artwork Tower Systems has made available.

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Small business retail advice: Navigating to the New Paradigm in Retail guided by your POS software

Everywhere retailers look today they are confronted with a new paradigm, a new approach to doing business, regardless of their area of specialisation.

Over recent years the fundamentals of retail have changed and some retailers are yet to notice and embrace the change.

The new paradigm, while impacting all retailers, is not universal. There are nuances by channel and there is where specialist Point of Sale software can help a retailer navigate to the change in circumstances.

The customer is at the heart of retail today, more so than ever before. Thanks to universal access to pricing, product and other information, the customer is more informed and powerful than ever before.

Whereas in the past a retailer knew of their key competitors based on their geographic location and could therefore research and understand them, today’s competitors could be anywhere in the world. Indeed, many shoppers are spending time with a competitor of a retail business while actually in the business… such is the power for the customer thanks to smartphones and easy access to the online world.

Many retailers have made them mistake of thinking that the new paradigm is merely about bricks and mortar retail versus online. That is barely the beginning of the new paradigm. Indeed, it goes way beyond such a basic comparison.

The only way to compete in this new world of retail is to genuinely and wholeheartedly place the customer at the centre of everything you do. From the moment they step near, physically or virtually, your business you need to embrace them with an embrace unlike ever before. No, not a hug, nothing physical.

The customer embrace in this new world of retail is about value, from as soon as a customer is nearby. Value in service, advice as well as price. This is where bricks and mortar businesses can win against online… if they understand how to demonstrate value through a range of touch points in their business.

Central to delivering value is the core efficiency of the business itself. Retail businesses need to operate at a level of efficiency which enables them to compete on price. At the same time they need to ensure that all sales associates are able to transact with shoppers wherever they are in the store. They need to be able to be the most knowledgeable people in the store without necessarily having the most experience.

This is where good Point of Sale software, ideal software for the type of retail business, can provide a retailer with a point of difference and a structure through which to embrace the new customer-centric paradigm.

It is not enough to operate a basic cash register type system as that will deliver only basic results and basic will not cut it today with competitors around the globe. Retail businesses which specialize need specialist software. The result is a stronger, smarter and more nimble retail business.

Good specialist Point of Sale software will, if used well, enable a bricks and mortar business to not only compete but grow in this world. This is an opportunity for retailers, an opportunity to embrace change and to thrive against what may seem to some like insurmountable odds.

Drive your relevance, use your software, chase change.

Sunday retail management advice: leverage shop local

IMG_9093The shop local movement has a good profile. Locals do tend to prefer to shop local. Retailers need to actively and consistently leverage this through a regular reminder but such a reminder is hollow unless you offer local benefits such as community engagement, hiring locally and sourcing locally made products. Actively engaging in the business through locally focussed decisions helps any retailer bring power and strength to their calls for people to shop local.

This is our advice today – if you pitch shop local, live in in your shop every day and show you yourselves believe in it.

Tower Systems helps retailers actively pitch and live the shop local mantra through its POS software and through the business support the company provides in its training and on its website.

New free marketing resources for small business retailers

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 8.10.20 amTower Systems is adding to the 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.