Newsagents caught out on compliance

Now more than ever newsagents need to be careful about the software they choose. With new IT standards announced and tougher requirements on software companies to produce software to these standards, a wrong decision by newsagents could leave them with software which blocks them from complying with supplier requirements.

Non compliance could cost thousands of dollars in a year – as some newsagents are finding right now.

Tower Systems is committed to maintaining its position as the first software company to comply with new industry standards. We have a track record for bringing our newsagent community along without penalty costs and without surcharges.

In the last week alone we have helped three newsagents navigate the frustration of discovering that software they purchased elsewhere was not compliant. They first became aware of issues when credits for returns were not processed as expected.

Compliance is worth it for newsagents. The starting point is to select the right software partner.

Success with prepaid Visa

canvas_visacard.jpgThe prepaid Visa products available exclusively through Tower Systems – from our eziPass and point of sale software solutions.  The prepaid Visa products are driving some good success stories, especially in lower socio-economic areas. Customers can get a working Visa card without the need for bank approval. This allows them to shop in most stores which take Visa – the only exception right now being Coles and Woolworths from what we understand.  The Canvas card is the most popular prepaid Visa product we have.

Thanks to clever work by our software development team, the prepaid Visa is accessible directly from our software. There is no sign up or stock cost and marketing collateral is provided free of charge.

There are several types of customers purchasing these prepaid Visa cards: businesses for employee use, families for their children and as gift cards without the need to direct the purchase to a particular store.

In our won stores these prepaid Visa cards are working well, extending the basket – customers purchase other items with them.

Gift shop supplier presentation

We are hosting a presentation of the facilities in our gift shop software to gift shop suppliers keen to engage with their retail partners electronically. In our presentation we will demonstrate the latest EDI facilities through which the suppliers can transact with retailers and gain access to sales data in return. Gift shop retailers will love that more of their suppliers are embracing EDI.

This gift shop supplier presentation extends our connection with the gift shop channel and opens opportunities for further innovation for gift shop owners.
Any gift shop supplier wishing to participate or receive a personal briefing should make contact with us through our website.

Free face to face training for newsagents starts next week

Our Autumn national user meeting tour kicks off next Wednesday in Geelong. We will deliver the most comprehensive training and assistance for newsagents about the new XchangeIT standards available. Our most experienced XchangeIT experts will be attending to answer every question and ensure the highest quality advice.   This is crucial given the new pricing regime for XchangeIT which places value of quality data.

We welcome newsagents using other software or without a system to attend and see the Tower Systems Advantage TM first hand.

Free business help for retailers

I and some of my senior colleagues at Tower Systems provide business performance feedback and advice to retailers in our user community.  This free service is available to anyone regardless of whether they pay a software support fee to us.

We thoroughly analyse business performance data and compare this with our own benchmark dataset.  We also, where appropriate, drawn on our own retail experience.  We usually come out of the analysis with a list of suggestions for improving the business.  At the very least, we usually provide options which the business may not have considered previously.

A by-product of the business performance analysis service is a compliance check we run for the business.  We can let the owner know how well they are using the software, common mistakes being made and risks faced with any questionable behaviour we see.  In one case recently we uncovered a theft situation of which the owner was unaware.

It is rare that we come back without suggestions or issues which need addressing.

We know that by helping our customers improve the performance of their businesses we benefit.

Easier lay-by for retailers

dsc05794.JPGManaging lay-by transactions in retail is getting easier thanks to considerable work by our skilled software development team. With generous and open guidance from our retail user community we have built more streamlined, outcome focused, lay-by facilities which are sure to suit just about any retailer.

The new lay-by facilities will be released next month and delivered free of charge to users under our Tower Advantage TM program.  They replace the lay-by facilities we have offered for years.

The key focus of our work on lay-bys is to introduce new managament facilities which make it easier for retail staff to handle customer queries about lay-by accounts and to manage the overall lay-by portfolio.

Our retail customers are telling us that lay-by sales are increasing significantly this year.  The new facilities we are releasing are arriving at the right time to help our customers efficiently manage the lay-by opportunity for their businesses and for their customers.

Return on shelf space in a newsagency

shelf_space.jpgAn Australian newsagency is a diverse and demanding business.  Exceptional business management tools are essential if you are to make the most of the opportunity.  Smart business management reporting is crucial to success.  Reporting such as floor space performance.  Understanding your return by allocated floor space is crucial if you are in a centre where the rent is $1,500 a square metre annually, or more.  Our newsagency management software provides this.  You can easily report on return on floor space.  You can also report on return on investment, return on shelf space, stock turn, return by supplier, return by department … many reports from many views.

But back to return on floor space and return on shelf space.  This is rare among systems, unfortunately for some newsagents.

Flexible thorough reporting is crucial to extracting the most from a newsagency is crucial.  I know because I own three newsagencies.  Even before I bought my first newsagency I ensured that our business management reporting was exceptional.

To help our newsagent user community get the most from their reports we run free training and provide a free consultation service.

Jewellers growing their businesses in tough times

We are seeing some excellent business building initiatives from our jeweller user community in what we keep hearing is a tough marketplace.  These smart jewellers are using our jeweller management software to get closer to their customers and drive excellent business outcomes.  I wish the politicians who appear hell-bent on talking the economy down would get out more and see the success some business owners are creating for themselves.

What we are learning from these smart jewellers about how our software is being used will help us better serve them, other jewellers and, indeed, other retailers in our user community.

Helping local computer businesses

Our core business is software.  While we offer hardware and software packages, we are equally happy to sell just our software along with appropriate training and support services.

Our one request when we do not sell the hardware is that the right hardware is supplied.  That is, hardware which is appropriate to the needs of the retailer installing our POS software.

To ensure that the right hardware is supplied we provide written specifications including model numbers for certain devices as required.  We also provide access to our hardware experts to answer any questions.  All of this is free for the local hardware provider.

If problems do arise and they are due to not following our advice we expect the hardware supplier to carry the cost.  This is where things can get messy because they are friends or neighbours with reputations to protect. We deal with these rare situations in a consistent way: tell the truth, present the evidence and agree on a solution.

We understand the importance of supporting other businesses in one’s community.  Hence our attention to making it easier for our customers to source hardware locally and with certainty.

Recognition for sales based replenishment work

The April/May issue of Convenience World magazine reports on the Sales Based Replenishment program introduced for newsagents by ACP magazines last month.  I was interviewed by the magazine for the article given Tower Systems’ involvement in this project from the outset.

Owning newsagencies and a software company often places us exclusively at the forefront of technology advances for newsagents.  Having more than 50% of newsagents with a computer system with our software helps.

We respect our market position by investing a considerable amount each year in experimental projects which we hope will benefit newsagents.

We usually have two or three exclusive supplier / newsagent projects under way with a newsagency supplier at any one time.

The SBR project is an excellent example of our representation of all newsagents.  For years, we participated in the early trials without cost to suppliers or newsagents.  The result is experience which we have happily shared with the smaller software companies so they may help their newsagent customers reap the rewards of SBR.

Training helps create better retailers and retail staff

Tower Systems offers four free online training workshops for retailers and their employees to undertake this week.  These workshops can be accessed from anywhere in Australia, including a home location.  The ease of access is one benefit which is making the Tower training very popular.

  • Retail Stock Management – Reordering 28/04/2009 11am
  • Business Reporting 28/04/2009 2pm
  • Point Of Sale Training 30/04/2009 11am
  • Mastering Subagents 30/04/2009 2pm

To book your free place, please go to our website, and click on online training.

Tyro broadband eftpos continues to grow

The CEO of Tyro, the bank with which we link directly from within our software for secure broadband eftpos processing, sent through an update yesterday which I reproduce below to demonstrate the growth they are achieving:

Launch of Medicare Easyclaim – finally
After an extensive beta phase, we have launched Medicare Easyclaim for Australia’s leading practice management software, HCN PracSoft. The solution allows fully automated and seamless payment, claiming, reimbursement and reconciliation.

Integration with Microsoft and MYOB
We have integrated our new generation broadband EFTPOS solution with many software providers, including Microsoft Dynamics RMS, MYOB Retail Manager, QQQ Systems, POS Solutions, Tower Systems, DRS-POS, CDC, Aloha, OsiPOS, Unilink and others.

Deployment at Nuance Group
For the Nuance Group, Australia’s largest operator of duty free stores, we have launched an integrated broadband EFTPOS solution with the ability for a foreign cardholder to pay in his home currency (DCC). Transaction times have declined to 3 seconds.

Pay@Table, EMV, Pen or PIN and DCC
We are launching a new generation of mobile “pay at table” terminals for the hospitality industry that provide EMV (chip card), PIN on credit and Dynamic Currency Conversion functionality.

Still small, but we are getting there
Tyro won significant accounts with, among others, Collins Booksellers, Harrison and Cincotta pharmacy groups and an electronics retail store chain. At year-end in December, we reached 1,000 merchants, 2,000 terminals and processed $50,000,000. By June, we expect to more than double that.

We want to bring the Woolworths/Coles advantages in the payment space to the broader Australian merchant community. Especially in recession times, the savings and innovations we bring to market can help them survive. The challenge for us is to spread the word, so that merchants include us when they review their acquiring arrangement.

We like Tyro because the fast and accurate processing we cen deliver thanks to a seamless integration with our software. Please email us on sales@towersystems… or support@towersystems… for more details on the Tyro interation.

Free POS training for retail staff

pos_screen.jpgWe have scheduled a point of sale training workshop for retail staff for next week. This online workshop is available free to staff working in businesses using our Tower Systems retail management software. It can be done at work or at home. Since no travel is required, there is a considerable time saving on top of the workshop itself being free.  Bookings can be made online at our website.

This workshop will outline how to make the most of our point of sale facilities – beyond traditional selling. People doing this workshop can expect to make fewer mistakes, complete transactions more quickly and feel more confident.

We will repeat this workshop regularly as it is proving to be popular with retail staff.

We run retail staff training in addition to management and business owner training because we believe in the need for those at the front line using the software to fully understand how to use our software properly and efficiently. The pay off for the business is considerable: fewer mistakes, more streamlined customer service and greater enjoyment for employees.

Comparing point of sale software

We welcome opportunities to compare our software with that of a competitor function by function, especially when both systems are operated by actual users and we get to stand back and watch.

We won a sale to a newsagent two weeks ago when we have an opportunity to participate in such a comparison.  They had experience with the other software and ran that.  We ran the same functions in our software – they jumped in and used it themselves too.

If you are considering point of sale software, we welcome such a comparison.  It is an excellent way to compare software.  The challenge is getting other software companies to agree.  There is a reason they refuse.

The comparison a couple of weeks ago was organised without the involvement of the other software company.

Anzac Day support

Our usual Saturday help desk is closed today for Anzac day.  All of our after hours numbers and our emergency backup numbers are available for urgent calls.  This coverage is important since our 1,600 newsagent customers are trading today as reqired by newspaper publishers.

Tax break submission from Tower Systems acknowledged

Our submission to Treasury on the small business tax break has been acknowledged by the publication at the Treasury website of a list of submissions received.

This publication by Treasury is evidence of the difference between software companies which make noise and those which act. We are pleased to have this evidence on the public record as it makes a difference to small business retailers when evaluating software.

No, not all software companies are the same.

Selling more gifts at one time

basket_mday.jpgTower Systems’ software makes it easy for gift shops and other retailers to sell more gifts in a single sale – especially at important retail seasons like Mother’s Day.

The manufactured goods facilities make it easy to make up gift hampers and gift boxes with multiple items.  These can be sold as one yet tracked at the individual item level.

If, at the end of the season, boxes or hampers remain, they can be broken-down to single items and sold that way – very easily.

We have an advice sheet which guides our customers on how to create these hampers and gift packs using our software. We take the opportunity at Mother’s Day to remind our customers about these facilities and show how smart use of the software can heklp them get more value from each sale.

Poster to help retailers connect with stimulus package

stimulate_newsagency.jpgClick here to download a print ready copy of the poster the Tower Systems creating team has developed for our retail partners to use to promote consideration of spending the federal government’s stimulus package locally.  Click on the image for a larger copy on your screen.

If there is other material our creative team can develop to help connect your business connection with the stimulus package please let us know.

We are grateful to have the resources and creative capacity to help our customer community in this way.  As retailers ourselves, we understand and appreciate the value some suppliers bring to a relationship by going the extra mile.

Feel free to share the poster around. 

Business reporting training for retailers

Next week we host a free online training workshop around Business Reporting.  We will take participating jewellers, bike shop retailers, newsagents and gift shop owners through the best reporting tools in our software and the business outcomes each of these reports serves.

This online training is free for users of our software who subscribe to our software update and support service, the Tower Advantage TM.  It is another way we are helping to educate our customers to get more from the Tower software and to network with each other on how they use the software.

Our next Business Reporting Workshop will be held on April 28 at 2pm.  Bookings can be made at our website – support: Online Training.

If you do not use our software and would like to observe the meeting as part of your evaluation of Tower Systems please let us know and we would be glAd to organise this for you.

Managing magazines is getting easier for newsagents

newsagency_magazines.jpgNewsagents are returning fewer unsold magazines thanks to smart technology developed by Tower Systems and implemented in newsagencies. Each month, more evidence gathers to demonstrate the value of this innovation.

The Tower newsagency management software takes a whole of department view and makes this available to magazine distributors for more accurate sales-based allocation of new stock.  Magazine distributors who partner with the new technology supply titles at quantities closer to achievable sales and new titles based on need in each newsagency rather than pushing out everything received.

Having tested the software in our own newsagencies, we have proof of the commercial value for newsagents of this new and exciting technology.

To make the most of this new technology, all newsagents need to is receive invoices electronically, scan sales and scan returns – all processes good newsagents follow today.

Tower Systems already serves 1,600 newsagents.  It is the largest software supplier to the Australian newsagency channel.

Newsagent benchmark study helps suppliers

We are working with two newsagency suppliers in response to our recent sales benchmark study.  In each case they are seeking deeper data on newsagency business performance so they can more appropriately target business development involvement.  We provide access to deeper benchmark data without revealing any business specific data or anything else which identifies a region such a local newspaper name.

It is good to see our rolling benchmark studies and the resulting dataset be of use to other suppliers.

We have a supplier presentation for others who may be interested.

Engaging users on our website

We have made some changes to our website to reflect user feedback on how they engage with various facilities we offer on the site. We have increased prominence of the Software Ideas feed on the right side of the home page, ahead of feeds from our two key blogs. With many of our users directly accessing the blogs, feedback was that the ideas list was more important to them.

We will continue to evolve our website based on customer feedback.

Easy to read newsagency magazine labels

magazine_label.jpgWe won a sale last week on the strength of our magazine labels.  A newsagent was visiting a colleague and asked why his labels looked better – with more obvious and useful information.  After a brief pitch about the Tower newsagency software the visiting newsagent was on the phone to us.

As newsagents ourselves, we understand the importance of easy to read labels for magazines and other stock.  A good label makes it easy for you to make management decisions on the shop floor without having to get back to a computer terminal.

The label in the photo shows the name of the magazine, quantity received, sell price, type of return, supply date, return date, where to locate the title in store, the name of the business and the barcode to this specific issue.  While printing labels is not mandatory, having thisinformation on the product in the shop helps newsagents make better shop-floor decisions.

We print labels on sheets of 65.  The label stock cost is .2 of a cent each – making them economical. They are secure too – if you peel a laser label off and put it on a more expensive magazine it is unlikely to scan.

For POS Solutions users switching to us and who prefer to stick with the blaster printer, we happily support that technology for any newsagent as well – we have done for many years.

UPDATE (28/04): Congratulations to POS Solutions for announcing today that they will support laser printed labels.