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

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

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

So how do you choose which local business you support?

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

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

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

THE PRIZE / GIFT

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

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

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

YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS

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

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

HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT

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

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

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

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

LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE

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

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

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

REWARD ENGAGEMENT

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

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

EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT

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

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

WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT

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

Ask them to write about you too.

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

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HOW OUR POS SOFTWARE COMPANY HAS BEEN HANDLING THE WINDOWS 10 CUSTOMER SERVICE SURGE

With more than 3,500 small business retail customers using our POS software we have had to be on top of the push program engaged by Microsoft in the roll out of their Windows 10 upgrade.

The moment we saw the inevitability of the Microsoft roll out, we adjusted our customer service resource allocation to ensure the needs of our customers were well met.

Here is what we did to confront the Windows 10 challenge:

  1. We developed peer-reviewed consistent advice for the most common questions, to ensure that our customers had access to this advice in addition to personal one-on-one advice.
  2. We added to our help desk staffing resources.
  3. We re-allocated help desk time to ensure we had people at the emerging peak times of the day for Windows 10 specific calls.
  4. We doubled our Saturday office-based help desk staffing.
  5. We provided information to our customers via email and snail mail.
  6. We ensured we had Windows 10 knowledgeable escalation points for those with concerns outside those typical and that require management level insight.
  7. As a group we gathered to review progress regularly to take on bard any feedback and leverage any learning opportunities.

Even though many Windows 10 issues are outside providing support for our POS software, we have taken the calls and provided the advice, at no cost.

Indeed, we have processed close to 2,000 Windows 10 calls. That we have done this at no cost to our customers has collectively saved them a considerable sum.

We are proud of how we have handled this and are grateful to our customers for the opportunity to serve them in this Microsoft caused action.

Now if only Microsoft approached their own update roll out with the level of customer care we have shown through our actions.

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WINDOWS 10 MALWARE REINFORCES IMPORTANCE OF POS SOFTWARE USER CONTOL

The part about the Windows 10 update (malware) that has angered people the most is that they have had little or no control over the timing.

Tower Systems does not use automatic updates nor will we do this. Indeed, this commitment to our users is a valuable selling feature for us.

We believe small business retailers need to be able to decide for themselves when to update based on the facts relevant to them.

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TOWER SYSTEMS LAUNCHES HP RP9 SLIM POS TERMINAL

As an authorised partner of respected hardware company, we are thrilled to have been able to show off the HP RP9 all in one POS terminal to prospects at several events recently.

While we have an RP9 exclusively for an event last week, we filmed this short clip showing it in all its glory.

HP RP9 from mark fletcher on Vimeo.

Not all POS software companies selling HP branded hardware are authorised resellers, not all sell new equipment backed by the respected HP warranty. At Tower Systems you ave access to the real thing.

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RETAILER SUPPLIER RELATIONSHIPS VITAL TO POS SOFTWARE SUCCESS

With the growing number of retailer supplier relationships passing through our POS software, we can see the value of these increasing in the businesses run by our customers.

Whereas for years the electronic data flow was about invoices, now it is about much more. We are grateful to suppliers for working with us to deliver more value to retailers.

From small wholesalers to large, suppliers are keen to help independent small business retailers improve productivity, data accuracy and other commercial outcomes as they know from these achievements will flow more commercially valuable relationships.

We bring a better understanding that other POS software companies to these discussions as we are retailers too on many years standing. We are able to bring a practical element to the consideration, to help suppliers better understand the value to their businesses of engaging beyond electronic invoices and stock files.

In the last two weeks we have been able to participate in several meetings with key suppliers that will take relationships a step further and thereby help drive more value for our customers.

The strategic work we are doing with suppliers is differentiating for us in several retail channels. We are excited for the enhancements coming.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS: BEWARE CHEAP POS HARDWARE

Cheap POS hardware pitched to small business retailers rarely turns out to be cheap. While the initial purchase price may be lower, the breakdowns, slow speed and other issues along the way can make clean no-name brand computer hardware more expensive.

Our advice is to choose a brand name that backs its hardware with an on-site manufacturer’s warranty. This offers peace of mind. It demonstrates the brand itself standing behind what it sells.

In one business recently, we discovered computer hardware that was sold a new to a small business owner was, in fact, second hand, three years old. The unsuspecting retailer was ripped off by a POS software company through unethical representations. The quote and invoice indicated the computer was new when it was not.

We urge any retailer to do their homework, trust brands, get a second opinion from a professional. The risk to the business from cheap hardware is too great.

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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.

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A socially responsible and community-serving workplace

We recently invested in a quality defibrillator for our office and registered this so emergency services know its location should it be needed to assist in a health crisis.

While we purchased the defib unit for our busy head office, we welcomed the opportunity to be on a register of publicly available defib units.

Coupled with the installation of the unit was training for team members and our first aid officers.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday November 26, 2015 is Thanksgiving in the US and while this is part of the cultural heritage of the US, it is an opportunity for us to reflect and be thankful.

We are thankful for our customers who use our software for this not only benefits us commercially, it fulfils us as we enjoy seeing our creative efforts being of use to others.

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Free marketing resources for small business retailers

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 8.17.28 pmTower Systems is thrilled with the use small business retailers are making of the free small business marketing resources we have made available in our website.

These free resources are another practical way Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our terrific POS software

Our development and free access to these resources demonstrates are acre for and commitment to the small business retail channels in which we serve. It is easy for a business to say they support their customers in a variety of ways. This investment by us is us being true to our words – walking the walk if you will.

We have happy for these and other free downloads we place on the site to be used widely.

Note we have not included our branding as we don;t want to get in the way of the businesses using the materials.

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We need to talk about mental health in small business

The importance of talking about mental health in small business newsagencies is an article by me, Mark Fletcher owner of Tower Systems, at my Newsagency Blog – a place where he write about small business retail. This is an important article dealing with personal and often unspoken off challenges dot small business owners and their employees.

Owning and running a small business can be tough – on families, relationships, finances and your mental health. The ABC published a terrific report about mental illness and small business. I urge you to read this and share it. At the bottom of the ABC article is an excellent list of resources including:

  • Lifeline – 13 1114
  • Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800 – Provides counselling and support for young people aged 5-25.
  • Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78 – Provides counselling and support services for men – especially those involved in the breakdown of relationships.
  • Suicide Call Back service – 1300 659 467 – Provides free nationwide professional telephone or online counseling.

Other national information and support services contacts available during business hours:

  • beyondblue information line – 1300 22 4636
  • SANE Helpline – 1800 18 SANE (1800 18 7263)
  • Telstra directory assistance – 1223 Call this number for contact details to the nearest public hospital, which can provide information on local services.

 

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Sunday retail management advice: helping small business retailers love their businesses

I hate going into work. These words from a friend reflected a long-held feeling, a feeling held with some shame.

Here was a retail business owner who hated going into his own business.  He had fallen out of love with what he had created. The bitterness he felt towards his business had soured to hatred.

Why do some retailers hate going to work? It is an interesting question which needs exploration before we look at strategies for countering this.

There is usually a trigger – supplier fatigue, tough economic conditions, personal challenges away from the business, a partner dispute, tiredness… there could be any combination of reasons.

If you have reached the point where you hate going into work each day it is important to take time away from the business for an honest assessment as to why you hate the business. Until you can answer the question – why do you hate going into work? – you cannot begin to work on resolution.

Once you know the reasons, think about a series of small and achievable steps you could take to turn the situation around. No matter how challenging the situation, there are always steps you could take. Focus on these, start work on them and in some instances that alone will be enough to move you through the fog of anger and ill-feeling toward the business.

If finding small steps to take does not work, get together with a trusted friend and tell them how you feel toward the business. Ask them to talk with you about the business. Reminisce about why you started or purchased the newsagency. Remember your dreams and hopes. Use the conversation to explore your emotion at the moment you decided to open or purchase the retail business.

The best advice to to get professional help from a psychologist or professionally qualified counsellor to explore your feelings for the business. Your doctor could help you access a government funded mental health plan.

Understanding your hatred for your retail business is the first step. This will usually, of itself, reveal the first steps you can take to turn the hatred around. Be open to that. Take small steps and see where they lead. The change in feeling toward the business may not be immediate so do not expect too much too soon.

If you do nothing, the hatred will be more and more reflected in the business and in your own person. Neither benefits from this.

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Aussie POS software helps small business retailers grow

Small business retailers want to grow, who doesn’t? With rent and labour costs increasing each year, growth is mission critical. POS software company Tower Systems helps its customers grow by providing advice on how to use the software to grow.

As retailers ourselves we can provide practical advice on how to use the software to more than transact sales, we can help retailers use the software to grow their businesses. We do this every day on our help desk, through our consulting services, through our knowledge base and through our business mentoring assistance.

We encourage, guide, educate and support our small business retailer customers in their desire to grow their businesses. it’s something we take serviceably.

Even on the weekend. Take today, Saturday … we have been helping one business owner understand opportunities in their slow selling inventory pool to unlock cash and space for more productive use.

We are serious in our commitment to small business retailers from our software through to the practical advice and support we provide.

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Small business retailers appreciate support in making the locally made pitch

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 3.57.45 amThe free marketing collateral we released for small business retailers is being appreciated. Retailers love that the collateral is available without strings, is free and is unbranded.

We are thrilled with the feedback and are working on adding to the suite of free collateral available from our website.

We are grateful to be in a position to give back to small business retailers.

Covering a range of themes, the example included with this post is most popular as it promoted LOCALLY MADE – a very strong message in any retail situation.

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POS Solutions publishes inaccurate information on discount vouchers

POS Solutions has again written about the Tower Systems Discount Voucher facilities on their company blog.

While we will not go through all points in their blog post, we will address some in the interests of accurate representation of discount vouchers. The first point published by POS Solutions to address is:

Let first start off with the obvious, I would be delighted if Discount Vouchers worked. It would be a good for my clients, and I am in business to make my clients better. Furthermore, I do not appreciate name calling or rudeness. I am not trying to divert anything, and I have done a significant amount of research on this question.

This infers that Discount Vouchers do not work. That is not true. The Tower Discount Vouchers do work. In our own businesses we have the voucher and supporting financial data to prove this. Many retailers using Discount Vouchers say they have similar successful results. Despite this evidence, POS continues to spin that they do not work. The distinction is, the Tower Systems Discount Vouchers work.

The writer on the POS blog says they have done Wikipedia research and research on their own blog. That research is about a voucher from their own software. While that voucher may be called a discount voucher, it is not a Tower Discount Voucher, it has not been created with the same sophisticated and successful Tower software.

POS then states:

At the time I released this report, I noted that their users felt that the results I got were consistent with their results. You can read yourself the comments. Not one person said, “hey my results using Discount Vouchers are different to these figures.”

This statement is not supported by the facts – which users? Where did they say this? They publish no details supporting their claim.

Then there is what we would label as spin:

Additionally, at the time, this critic offered to release more data and then withdrew that offer immediately. See here for the formal withdrawal.

This statement not supported by the facts – there was no formal withdrawal. They engaged in a game which looked like an attempt for us to help them understand how our software worked.

Then they publish a breathtaking assumption:

That I feel that this loyalty program is expensive, well most reward programs in retail run at about 1% of sales see here. The Discount Vouchers scheme as you see from the above image run at $4,475.89/$98,299.79 = 4.6%. It is expensive!

This statement demonstrates an ignorance of how you measure the success of Discount Vouchers as the benefits are not only those directly achieved from voucher redemption purchases. No, the benefits flow deep within the business. This is a newsagency achieving 19% year on year revenue growth – many times more than the newsagency industry average. Take out the natural growth being achieved in the business and focus only on growth from the time Discount Vouchers kicked in and the benefits are more than the flawed POS Solutions assumption.

The author of the POS Solutions blog post makes another assumption about our approach to Discount Vouchers:

this scheme has minimal measurements

This is false and misleading. They do not know what reporting tools are available. The measurements available are not minimal.

Then they make another assumption:

Finally a Discount Voucher scheme, gives a voucher for every sale

This is not true of the Tower Discount Vouchers and even basic research could have helped POS Solutions avoid making such a damaging and false statement. For sales there are tight controls on the release of the vouchers. It is a considered process with excellent business rules. Also, there is the opportunity to produce vouchers for non customers. We will not go into that as it would divulge too much information the the folks at POS Solutions who appear obsessed with us.

POS finishes their post with an example:

I remember one client of mine that ran for a while a Discount Voucher system, told me that a customer came in and took two magazines. He then purchased one and promptly used the discount voucher to buy the other one. What he felt was that Discount Vouchers produced no incremental sales lift but caused a cannibalisation of his existing revenue by selling at a discount, product that would have been bought anyway. This was the first sign, I had that something was not right.

Our Discount Vouchers setup following our rules would not have issued a voucher in this situation.

We are curious as to why POS Solutions is so interested in our discount vouchers facilities. When we launched them they said they had the same facility. While they may (or may not) have something called discount vouchers, only Tower Systems has the Tower Discount Voucher facilities.

We note that our discount vouchers are in wide use in pet shops, garden centres, bike retailers, newsagents, gift shops and other retailers.

This post is about us being on the public record abut the matters POS has raised.

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POS software company supports local retailers and local communities

TOWERShopLocal_Page_6-1POS software company Tower Systems is releasing a range of promotional collateral for use by any small local retail business in promoting the shop local message. This collateral has been created for any type of retail situation where local connection with the local community is important to the business and the community.

This artwork is available at no cost to any retailer. The company has not included it’s logo on the artwork so as to not pull focus.

What does this have to do with POS software? Plenty. Tower Systems believes in helping in any way it can to encourage, guide and facilitate stronger and more valuable locally owned retail businesses.

While Tower Systems invests in enhancing its POS software for its customers and in its support team to provide timely and professional advice, it also invests outside the squall to help its customers in a more whole of business way.

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Supporting World’s Greatest Shave

wgs-logoWhen an employee supports a respected and independent charity we sponsor them as measure of support of their commitment as well as support for the charity itself. This is why we are supporting the World’s Greatest Shave fundraising drive. We have a team member here at Tower Systems who we are hoping to see with a shaved head real soon.

We are proud to support the Leukaemia Foundation.

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Helping newsagent suppliers help newsagents

newssessTower Systems is funding an opportunity for newsagent suppliers to meet in three states to discuss and work on the health of the newsagency channel and explore how they can help newsagents grow their businesses.

The Newsagent Supplier Forum has been in development for some months and is open to all suppliers to participate. Our hospitality extends to our software company competitors – we want the sessions to as broadly based as possible.

Newsagents think they are doing it tough and while some are for others it is a mindset thing. We hope the focus can help navigate a path ahead which benefits newsagents, their employees and newsagent suppliers.

Click here to book.

Funding these sessions is another way we can give back to our customers.

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Preparing POS software users for a confidential trial

Tower Systems has started contacting customers to invite them to be part of a trial group to play with something completely different. In return for confidentiality, early adoption and detailed feedback, participating retailers will be given free access to software that breaks with tradition.

Two years in the making, this project is another example of Tower Systems investing in software for small businesses. Leadership in action will be clear when the software steps into the public eye, soon.

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Raising money for the Pancare Foundation

lunchWe took a break in the office today to enjoy a pot-luck lunch to raise funds for the Pancare Foundation. Everyone in the office brought in a dish to share from soup to salad to sushi to delicious cakes.

Once we were full of delicious food we shared some happy stories that reflected on the importance of family and the value friendship from work colleagues.

This was a very special lunch.

The Pancare Foundation raises awareness of and funds for research into pancreatic cancer.

We are grateful to the patience of our clients as the took a break for today’s lunch.

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Small retailer POS software users love transparency on software enhancement suggestions

software-ideasMany small business retailers using the POS software from Tower Systems actively engage in suggesting enhancements for the software and many of these suggestions make their way into the software.

Retailers regularly thank Tower for the opportunity to publicly make suggestions and for the transparency of voting by and feedback from others about the suggested enhancements. Indeed, the level of transparency Tower Systems has offered in this area for years now is rare. Some claim user engagement but it is hard to find another software company living the transparency claim like Tower.

The real test of the exclusive Software Ideas facility from tower Systems is the enhancements that make their way into the software. Hundreds of enhancements including new facilities, large and small, exist in the software today thanks to user engagement in making suggestions and voting on these suggestions. It is proving to be a valuable process for tower Systems and its retail business customers.

It is a measure of the company’s confidence that the facility is promoted on its website home page and that the list can be accessed by anyone including competitors.

Software Ideas is managed by a senior member of the software development management team within the company and the overall Tower leadership team makes final decisions about ideas it embraces. All ideas receive feedback from the company.

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Ways small business retailers can refresh their view of their business

WARNING: This blog post has some crazy ideas you’d not expect from a POS software company.

In our work with small business retailers we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again. They are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

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