Advantages from serving multiple marketplaces

The synergy between the key marketplaces using our Point of Sale software – newsagents, jewellers, bike shops, gifts shops and homewares businesses – has been on show in several ways recently. The most valuable is the bulk price change facility for handling the tobacco changes last night and this morning.
This facility was developed for one channel and has now been of significant use in another channel.

Smart management of new facilities and opportunities across multiple channel helps helps us produce better software with unexpected benefits.

Our large customer base positions us well for leveraging these opportunities.

Handling tobacco price changes the easy way

Thanks to our easy-to-use bulk price change facility, our customers have a useful way of handling the tobacco price changes announced yesterday by the federal government.  Our advice sheet G38 explains how to use the Bulk Price Changes facility.

While there are other options for handling such a comprehensive price change, so far the bulk price changes facility is what our users are using the most.

Late yesterday, we published advice reminding our customers about the bulk price change facility.  We are already receiving feedback at how easy this makes the change for our customers.

Support for newsagents pays off

Our three online training workshops, written advice and on the phone advice over the last few weeks for the handling of new statement fees allowed for newsagents by News Limited in some states has paid off.

Our approach to the statement fee change is an example of the benefits of our size as we have been able to throw appropriate resources at this change to ensure that our customers are prepared well in advance.

Compliance testing for new EDI partner

We have moved to the early stages of testing for a new EDI partner for our newsagency and convenience store customers.  While the new partner will be of interest to plenty of our customers, the broadening focus on our EDI links is what interests us as it is through these that we can enhance the practical help we can deliver … thereby making our software more valuable without the need to invest more in the software.

Adding EDI links attracts more suppliers and that’s good news for everyone.

In more sophisticated marketplaces this is not big news as EDI is pervasive.  In the independent retail channels such as newsagents and convenience stores EDI is still considered by many to be innovative.

Helping with Fairfax newspaper subscription changes

Newsagents using our software are able to easily handle the change to take effect from next Monday which will see subscriptions roll on – i.e. no end date.  Our advice sheet, N34, covers how to handle this change.  We have communicated advice on this in advance to our 1,600+ strong newsagent user community to help them be ready in advance.

Newsagent sales benchmark results published

We published the results of the January – March 2010 vs 2009 Newsagent Sales benchmark study this morning.  The results have been sent to all newsagents who participated. Here is part of the report we have published:

Retail sales were down in newsagencies in January through March 2010 compared with the same period last year on a same-store basis according to the latest Tower Systems sales benchmark study.

The sales benchmark study, another in a series of sales performance studies in newsagencies for many years by Tower Systems, relies on data from a pool of 135 newsagencies using the Tower Systems Point of Sale software.

The process is time-consuming, accurate yet simple. We collect data for all sales for the periods being compared and analyse these in terms of unit sales (magazines, cards and newspapers) and revenue (stationery and ink & toner). Only data from trusted stores is used.

The key newsagent departments of magazines and newspapers are reporting concerning declines – especially on the back of declines in 2009 over 2008.

What differentiates this study over those from late 2009 and January 2010 is that green shoots are more evident – more newsagencies are showing growth, the difference between those performing well and those performing poorly is greater. For example, there were plenty of participating newsagencies reporting sales growth with magazines. These were pulled down by stores reporting double-digit declines.

Thinking about magazines for a moment, what is it that differentiates those stores showing growth or even 0% change and those showing double-digit decline. Once you take out stores growing or declining for one-off local factors such as construction or severe weather as well as stores more heavily affected by changes in magazine sales patterns (the decline in partworks for example) the difference can be put down to engagement.

Looking at magazine categories, weeklies have had a challenging quarter – leading the decline in stores reporting a decline and showing only modest growth in the stores reporting growth. The categories showing the most significant growth are food, cars and special interest.

Newsagencies showing growth are more likely to have the owner or the most senior manager personally involved in magazines, making strategic and opportunistic decisions. These stores are also more likely to be engaged in external marketing which is designed to drive traffic.

The benchmark study is used by newsagents and suppliers to ass ess business performance and look for change opportunities.

New website facilities coming

We are set to launch new website facilities this week, extending the e-commerce facilities which we have offered for some time.  The new facilities will enable our customers to extend software support online and thereby better manage access to our extensive range of added-value Tower Advantage TM services like software updates, advice sheets and advisory services.

Four free online training workshops this week

Tower Systems is pleased to be offering four free online training workshops for retailers using its Point of sale software this week.

Each of the workshops has been run before and received excellent feedback from participants.  We are running them again due to demand.  The four sessions available are:

  • Help for former POS Solutions users – April 27, 11am.  With so many former users of the POS Solutions software using our software, we will continue to offer transition training opportunities.
  • Getting the most from Gift Vouchers – April 27, 2pm.  This is terrific training for any retailer.  We will take you through all aspects of gift voucher trading.
  • Importing stock files – April 29, 11am.  Also terrific training for any retailer importing stock files.  We’ll cover settings and common questions.
  • Magazine Management – April 29, 2pm.  This is the most popular magazine training ever offered newsagents.  We cover all aspects of managing magazines using our software.

Access to our online training workshops is free.  Click here to book online.

Expanding the eziPass electronic voucher platform

We are working with a new supplier to bring several new products to the eziPass platform. We developed eziPass several years ago to provide newsagents and convenience stores with a platform through which they can dispense electronic products, make payments and handle other types of electronic transactions back direct to the suppliers in real time.

With more than 1,000 retailers transacting through eziPass, it is a platform of significant interest and proven capability.

We have a structured process for bringing new suppliers onto the platform and signing with our retail network for processing payment.

We already use eziPass to vend around 300 products and services – from prepaid Visa to tourist tickets to phonecards. It’s track record of dealing directly with financial institutions, online betting and other equally demanding businesses shows off its capacity.

We offer access to eziPass direct from within our Point of Sale software as well as in a stand alone mode for retailers using other Point of Sale software.

Software update released

Yesterday, we released a Point of Sale software update with 36 enhancements.  This update is now available on our website for download by Tower Advantage TM customers.  We detailed the enhgancements in an email to our customers yesterday afternoon along with details on how to load the update.

Newsagents continue the shift to Tower Systems

While the newsagency software marketplace is quite mature, we continue to attract plenty of new customers. Some of these are churning from another software package while the remainder are new locations. We are strong in attracting greenfiled location business – new newsagencies in new shopping centres.

The churn business is something we watch carefully as there is no point in churning newsagents from one system to us while we are losing people out the back door. Thankfully, our customer base is loyal and we are not seeing a significant churn away from us. To quantify that further, for every one customer we lose, we gain at least fifteen, often more.

As the newsagency IT space has matured, newsagents have developed a better understanding of the value of a strong national supplier. This is where we play in a field of our own. More than 55% of all newsagents with a computer system use Tower Systems software. This percentage is growing.

While size turns some off, most understand the value when they see the back end support, training facilities and other services we provide newsagents. The value-add is significant and another reason word of mouth is so strong around our offer.

Software supporting wholesalers

The latest enhancements delivered in our retail management software make it more useful to wholesalers.  Through a series of tactical software enhancements, we have delivered facilities which wholesalers to newsagents gift shops, jewellers and homewares retailers will find most useful.

Developed in consultation with several wholesalers, the latest enhancements will help save time in retailers using our software and serviced by the wholesalers who partner with us.

One of the most significant enhancements relates to managing inventory supplied to retailers as one item with a common barcode across designs while internally managing each design as a separate item.

Introducing flexibility such as this broadens the appeal of the software and its usefullness to existing customers.

Meeting 21 users in Dubbo

Twenty one users of our Point of Sale software have booked to participate in our Dubbo user meeting today.  It’s being held at the Quality Inn Dubbo International.  The meeting starts at 10am if you have time to make it.  Some are travelling several hours to participate.  We are touched by such commitment.  Jonathan Tay, our Software development Manager will be running the meeting – delivering high quality content on whuch our customers can rely.

Like many regions around NSW, Dubbo is very strong for us.  It’s a mix of long term users as well as some who have recentlyjoined our user community.

These face ot face user meetings are a vital connection between Tower Systems and our customers.  We get plenty out of them as do our customers – by all accounts.

Helping jewellers change the Pandora stock code

We have completed, tested and published advice on handing changes to the Pandora stock codes for jewellers.  The changes made by Pandora could have thrown systems into chaos.  We have made it easier for our customers by completing a change and making this available along with useful advice.  Advice sheet G21.1 at our website covers how to complete the Pandora supplier stock code renumber.

Managing backups the safe and easy way

backup-sticks.JPGI was in Mackay briefly yesterday and noticed how they organise their backup USB sticks for the week. Very smart. Hanging them this way and near the exit from the office means that they are less likely to be forgotten and that the USB sticks are less likely to be lost. I was very impressed and recommend this approach to all of our customers. The key holder can be sourced through any hardware store.

Newspaper distribution run list enhancements

In a software update yesterday, Tower Systems delivered enhanced newspaper distribution facilities to newsagents using its newspaper home delivery software.

Thanks to the new software, newsagents have even greater flexibility with run list format for printing as well as greater flexibility for run lists displayed on electronic products such as the Apple iPhone.

Some of the run list enhancements are the result of suggestions from users through our Software Ideas facility and others are from internal work here.

Electronic invoices from Pandora for jewellers

We have published advice which helps jewellers load electronic invoices from Pandora directly into their jewellery software from Tower Systems.  Thanks to recent changes by Pandora, it is now easier than ever for jewellers to receive electronic invoices.  Our jeweller POS software makes it easy to load these and thereby save time and improve accuracy when it comes to brining new Pandora stock into the business.

The popularity of Pandora products means that the new facility will help many jewellers.  Less time spent arriving stock means more time is available for customer service and other value-based facilities.

Advice sheet S03 on our website explains how to import invoices from Pandora.

NDD magazine returns update released

We released an update to our newsagency management software this morning to enable newsagents to easily handle the shift by NDD to weekly (from monthly) magazine returns.

The update is available free at our website.  We have taken the opportunity to include several other changes in the update as a bonus for our customers – we announced the details of these in an email this morning.

Retail security, laybys, business reporting and POS software training this week

We have four online training workshops scheduled for this week covering key aspects of our Point of sale software.

  • Retailer Security. Apr. 20, 11am.  This is for retail business owners and will cover all of the security opportunities within our Point of Sale software from fraud barriers to detection facilities.
  • LayBys.  Apr. 20, 2pm.  From the sale to refunds to final payment, this LayBy training will demonstrate, live, how to use our LayBy facilities in any retail situation.
  • Business reporting.  Apr. 22, 11am.  POS software really shines in the reporting area.  This workshop will cover how to produce reports which are genuinely useful to your business.
  • New retail staff training.  Apr. 22, 2pm.  This training is for people new to the business and new to using our POS software.

Access to these live and interactive online training workshops is free to our Tower Advantage TM customers.  the training can be accessed from any computer with broadband and a phone for a free call for the audio content.

Local number POS software support important to retailers

For years now Tower Systems has offered Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane based users of its Point of Sale software local call support Monday to Friday – this is in addition to our after hours support based around six mobile phone numbers.

We installed a communications infrastructure which connects our offices in the three states where we have the most customers. This is what allows our customers to call from their home state and we place the call in the office best resourced to handle the call.

Our infrastructure enables us to have our help desk team working from various offices as their schedules permit.

Offering local number support call access and promoting this in our weekly emails, printed newsletters, on our help cards, in our software and on other communication helps keep the cost of support calls down. This is important to independent small retailers.

We are the only national Point of Sale software company in our marketplaces to offer such an extensive service.

To help other users reduce contact costs, we offer a call back service plus email, web, Skype and other help desk entry points.

Improving the gift and homewares supply chain

Yesterday we released a white paper for gift and homewares suppliers outlining how our software can help improve the supply chain from importers and manufacturers through to gift and homewares retailers.

Our white paper outlines efficiency and other economic benefits to suppliers and to retailers from not only our gift and homewares retail management software but also channel-wide practices which can strengthen business performance for all stakeholders.

This work in bringing greater value to supplier / retailer relationships is a key goal of our new partnership with the national industry association, the Gift and Homewares Association.

Newsagent software update for magazine change

We are publishing a software update on Monday which will help newsagents make better use of the magazine returns frequency change announced two days ago by magazine distributor NDD.  This update is being made available free of charge to all Tower Advantage TM customers.

Our software easily handles different returns cycle week numbers for eash supplier.