Helping customers deal with the water

Water has been a problem for some of our Victorian customers this weekend, too much of it. As a result of computer damage from flooding, our help has been sought to get them up and running on backup equipment.

Being the end of the month we are already busy with calls regarding statement runs and other end of month tasks.

This is what after hours support delivered through thenTower AdvantageTM is all about.

Farewell Amy Fussell…

amyf.jpgAmy Fussell finished her reception / admin role with us yesterday, leaving to prepare for the birth of her first child in a couple of months.  Amy has served for four years in one of two admin / reception roles we have in the company.  Every day, Amy brought a welcome and cheerful front to our business on the phone and in person.  She kept is organised and got us places – managing our $350,000 a year travel arrangements, taking care of flights, hotels and rental cars.  Amy also handled our direct mail campaigns and was the happy voice on the phone.  She was the perfect person for welcoming people to Tower Systems.

We will certainly miss Amy’s cheerfulness and chattiness. We wish her and Damien all the best in starting their family.

Free POS software is not a smart move

We have a competitor in the newsagency space offering their POS software for free.  This says that neither their software nor customer service can get them over the line and that they will rely solely on price, or lack thereof, to win sales.

We have won good business recently against this competitor because we sell based on our software and our customer service.  We are taken seriously and win because of our serious approach to sales and pricing.

Businesses have costs.  It is natural and reasonable to cover these costs and shareholder margin in your pricing. This is what we do.  It is key to our excellent and growing market share.

Offering your software for free says you consider to have no value.  If you think it has no value how can your customers be expected to consider it has value?

While we are happy for the competitor to continue to offer free software, we are concerned for their customer base because any customer coming on board for nothing will eventually have to pay. The health of the overall channel is important to our future.

Software company Open Day a hit

Our first ever Open Day yesterday went well with a good mix of customers, suppliers and sales prospects through over the course of the day. It was all very relaxed – as we hoped it would be. It proved to be a very different way to pitch our software company.

Each of our meeting rooms were busy with people taking the opportunity for a more relaxed discussion about what we do.

We plan to do more and are thinking of maybe one every six months.

Newsagent sales benchmark study announced

Tower Systems is inviting newsagents using our newsagency software to provide data for our next sales benchmark study.

Newsagents keen to participate should run their Monthly Sales Comparison report for July 1 2010 through September 30, 2010 on the left and July 1, 2009 through September 30, 3009 on the right. Tick the category box.  Save the report as a PDF and email it to me. 

Our sales benchmark studies are used by newsagents and suppliers to drive business planning.

Open Day in full swing

Our Open Day is in full swing with plenty of people visiting our new Head Office.  It is interesting to see the mixture of engagement.  We have a client from Tasmania enjoying some one-on-one training, a couple of others looking at some new hardware, a live online training workshop being enjoyed, some suppliers networking and plenty of food and good cheer being consumed.

While the day is only half over it’s going well. We like this different approach to presenting a software company.  Others should try it.

Melbourne Cup Day heads up

This morning we reviewed Help Desk traffic from past Melbourne Cup days and as a result have decided to close our national help desk on this day.  All after hours and emergency numbers will be up and running throughout the day.

Use of the iPad in retail increasing

We are finding more of our Point of Sale customers using the Apple iPad, both in-store and away from the store, as a business tool. Its portability, ease of access and flexibility make it a valuable productivity tool for retailers who are on the go.

We have two iPads within Tower Systems which we use for similar purposes in our own business, for connecting back to the company as well as for connecting to our own retail stores.  It is our personal experience which helps us offer more practical assistance to our customers.

We also have retail partners using the iPad to drive sales and improve shopper engagement -inside the retail store, at the sales counter and at other secure high traffic areas, the Apple iPad can be used to draw attention to products or offers.

Disruption is an essential element of visual merchandising in retail and the iPad is appropriately disruptive. The iPad could work as a terrific disruptive influence in any retail environment – because it offers visual movement as well as sound. You could quite easily knock a display together for the iPad to promote an in-store special offer and see for yourself if it works for your type of business.

So, whether it is as a merchandising or productivity tool, the iPad is helping retailers in a range of ways.

Electronic invoice assistance for jewellers

Jewellers are set to benefit from further developments in connecting their businesses with suppliers for the processing of electronic invoices. Jewellers using our jeweller software are well placed to leverage these latest developments.

We are working on this at both ends – with retail jewellers and with their suppliers. Our supplier work started when we installed our software with a couple of businesses supplying jewellers.

The latest innovation, due for release with our next major update, will further enhance our position among jewellers.

Greeting card department innovation for newsagents

knnox-christmascards.JPGThanks to successful trials, we are about to release for commercial use major innovation in the area of greeting card management for newsagents.

The international project has been two years in the making, drawing together various stakeholders with the common goal of empowering newsagents through better store-level data.

Tower AdvantageTM Newsagents using our newsagency software will have access to this extraordinary innovation in our next update, due out early next month.

Using the new facilities, newsagents will have access to leading edge tools with which they can better operationally and strategically control their greeting card department.  This new power for newsagents will improve the return newsagents achieve from greeting cards without needing to invest more capital.

The new greeting card facilities will help newsagents make better quality, fact based, business decisions.

With greeting cards in the top three gross margin generating departments in newsagencies, careful, fact based, management is essential. Stores trialling these facilities are delivering excellent growth as a result of the innovation.

Just as greeting card companies are finding that innovation is a key driver of growth, newsagents will generate more profit this year from being equally innovative.

Helping bike shop suppliers embrace electronic invoices

We are working with between twenty and thirty suppliers to bike retailers to help them deliver electronic invoices to their retail partners.

Bike retailers using our bike shop software are being held back by old invoicing techniques.  Eliminating manual processes for receiving goods and placing orders will benefit bike retailers and their suppliers as we have see in other retail channels where we have played a key role in such developments.

We are talking directly with many bike shop suppliers, offering practical technical advice, to help them take the step to automating the invoicing and ordering functions.

As the largest supplier of software to the bike retail channel, we are pleased to be taking a lead on this initiative.

Three training videos to help newsagents

We have published three videos to help the 1,700+ newsagents using our newsagency software as well as other newsagents plan for their future and manage core categories of their businesses today.

How to Better Manage Magazines in Your Newsagency looks at how to use a Non Performing Titles Report and a Magazine Sell Through Rates Report to better manage the quantity of magazines in your store.

How to Drive Basket Efficiency in Your Newsagency looks at simple, newsagency specific, upsell opportunities.

How Disruption of Print Media Will Affect Newsagents looks at the impact devices such as the iPad may have on the newsagency channel.

These videos further demonstrate the commitment of Tower Systems to helping newsagents build a strong and viable commercial future. If you have suggestions on other video content we could produce, please make contact.

Further delays on POS Solutions legal action

The legal action commenced by POS Solutions Australia Pty Ltd against us in August last year has been delayed once again.  Mediation was set to take place this week, on the 27th. All parties had agreed on the date and the mediator.  For some reason POS want to push this out to the middle of November.  Once again, we have agreed to the POS request.

This case is about a claim by POS Solutions that we have switched many of newsagenct from POS Solutions to Tower Systems.  I am told they will be seeking two million dollars in damages.

The sooner the matter gets to court the better as this is when newsagents can tell why they made the switch from POS to Tower.

We are running another free training session this week to help former POS Solutions users settle in with our newsagency software.

POS software company open day Thursday Oct. 28

pos-software.jpgWe are hosting an Open Day at our new Head Office in Hawthorn on Thursday October 28.

Running between 10am and 4pm we are planning for a fun and innovative behind the scenes look at our Point of Sale software company.

People visiting will get a chance to meet our customer service, sales and marketing, development, administration and management teams.

We have two online training sessions booked for the day and visitors will be welcome to sit in on these from the other side of the camera.

We will also have a couple of rooms setup where we can answer technical questions for existing customers or show off our software to sales prospects.

Attendees will also be welcome to sit in on the Help Desk.

We are hosting the Open Day for a few reasons:

  • To show off our new offices.
  • To show that we are not your average software company.
  • To provide a different engagement experience.
  • To demonstrate our openness.
  • To give sales prospects an opportunity to see what is really behind our company.

In planning for the event we decided to add some fun with a sausage sizzle, wine tasting and door prizes.

Anyone is welcome to attend any time between 10am and 4pm. No bookings necessary.

Come and see the Tower Advantage TM in action.

Helping retailers make the most of Christmas 2010

Christmas is vitally important to retailers, especially Christmas when times are tough like many retailers are finding today.  In gift shops and homewares stores, Christmas can account for between 30% and 50% of annual sales – if leveraged well.

Our Point of Sale software help our gift and homewares customers through a range of facilities which work for their respective marketplaces:

  • LayBys. You can set the terms. It’s easy to manage.
  • Gift cards. Create your own and get the sale if they customer can’t find what they are looking for.
  • Customer loyalty management. Accrue points and offer rewards for loyalty.
  • Targeted customer marketing. Based on what they have purchased from your store.
  • Better buying.  By buying stock based on accurate business data, retailers have less wastage.
  • Faster selling. By being able to cope with the Christmas rush without the need to add to staff, the business can improve profitability per dollar through the season.

Now is the time we are working with our retail customers to prepare for Christmas.  Fine tuning their operation of our software and ensuring that they are properly setup to make the most from the major retail season of the year. This is part of the Tower Systems commitment, to help retailers leverage their IT investment – long after the system is installed.

Smartbox range popular with retailers

smartbox.jpgThe Smartbox range of gift experiences which we released to our customers last week has generated considerable interest. Supported by good merchandising options and excellent marketing, we feel that the Smartbox range will generate good business.  Tower retailers can access the Smartbox range for no cost.

These gift experiences are a nice add-on to any sale, a diverse range of products without financial risk.

Smartbox is a well respected international company in this valuable space,

Help for retailers in tough economic times

We were recently approached to help some retailers address their concerns about the tough retail trading conditions being experienced by many. Here is a brief summary of the key points we covered. We share it today in the interests of helping retailers more widely improve their trading situation.

Every retail business needs:

  1. Timely access to accurate business performance data.
  2. A commitment to efficient use of all resources.
  3. A focus on quality fact-based business decisions.

Too often, retail stores in decline or closed have ignored these three key factors.

Good Point of Sale software, used well, can address these and other key goals of any retail operation. Good is the key word. Generic off the shelf POS software is probably not good. If your retail store has specialist needs, or needs which are particular to your channel then you will need software designed for these needs.

Having the right POS software is only part of the battle to save the business though. You need to use the software well otherwise it will store garbage and garbage data will guide you to making the wrong decisions. To use POS software well:

  1. Get suppliers to provide invoices and stock files electronically. Load these into your software without re-typing the information.
  2. Track your sales by scanning everything you sell. This is a must! Retailers who record sales only by a department key are wasting their time.
  3. Track your sales by employees – yes, get them to enter their code for every sale … mistakes will fall as a result.
  4. Place orders for replenishment stock by using your software to do this for you. Stop ordering by a visual review of what is on the shelves or gut feel.
  5. Manage customer theft by doing spot stock takes. Once you know something is being stolen you can work to address this.
  6. Regularly check on employee theft by looking at audit logs and other reports in your software.
  7. Use the software to see what items are not selling as fast as they should. Quit this stock. Slow moving stock is death in retail.
  8. Choose the best two or three reports from the software and produce these weekly. These reports, if your data is good, should help you make better quality, fact based, business decisions. The best reports are those which track sales comparing trading periods by unit sales and revenue, list basket size and enable an easy comparison of supplier performance.
  9. Commit a set amount of time each week to analysing data ans makingbusiness performance data based decisions.

Using your Point of sale system well is the key. It takes discipline from the front counter to the back office, the support of suppliers and vigilance throughout the business. The result is a more efficient, profitable and enjoyable business for the owners, employees and suppliers. Seriously, good software used properly can deliver a genuine turnaround result for a retail business. A modest investment can create a retail business which is profitable for the long term.

If your retail business is doing it tough, look at your POS software in the context of the advice above.

iPad Helps Jewellers Drive Business Success

Jewellers using our Jeweller software are able to connect to their business from anywhere in the world using their Apple iPad.  This was on show at the recent Jewellery Fair where we were able to show the iPad as a connection point back to the store, checking stock, tracking sales, running reports and even setting a new employee roster.

Using the iPad, Jewellers are also able to operate with a mobile sales tool for inside the jewellery business, helping improve the customer experience away from the retail sales counter.

The iPad is a natural device for Jewellers because of its elegance and excellent screen quality.  Jewellers using the iPad are able to represent their business with elegant professionalism and through this set themselves apart from competitors.

Tower Systems helps Jewellers leverage the iPad and other technology to drive better sales and overall outcomes for the business.

New training video published

We have published a new training video at our website.  How to Better Manage Magazines in Your Newsagency shows newsagents how to use the Tower software to identify titles which can be early returned and how to get a bigger picture view of the magazine supply situation as it affects the newsagency.

Access to this video is free to all Tower Newsagents.  This is another example of the Tower AdvantageTM in action.