Two magazines, one barcode

The latest issues of Blitz magazine and Golf magazine came out today with the same barcode.  We were onto this immediately with advice for users of our newsagency software on how to handle the situation.  It has been frustrating that newsagent suppliers have not been as active on this as they could have.

New Advice Sheets Published to Help Retailers

Retailers using our Point of Sale software now have access to a new advice on entering stock thanks to the work of our team who wrote, tested, edited and peer reviewed the latest additions to our advice sheet portfolio.

This new advice sheet is designed for first time users of our software.  It is ideal for new employees responsible for entering stock for the first time.   As the advice sheet states, entering stock items correctly is essential:

Correctly adding stock items into Retailer is one of the most important tasks a user can perform within the system. Almost every function within Retailer is somehow related to stock, so the correct setup of an item in the beginning is ideal for the optimal operation of the software.

Too often we see software companies focus on experienced users, providing advice and training which is aimed at them.  While we cater to the needs of this group at Tower Systems, we also cater to the needs of the first time user … as evidenced by this new advice sheet.

Each advice sheet takes considerable time to prepare as it goes through a rigorous process prior to publication.  The result is advice on which our customers can rely.

Feedback from our customers on our advice sheets is wonderful.  They love the clear and concise step-by-step process which is documented in each advice sheet.  They also let us know new topics to cover.

The full suite of advice sheets is accessible from the Advice Sheets page on our website.  Advice sheet access is part of the Tower Advantage TM program.

Watch for more advice sheets to be released soon.

Magazine Management Training for Newsagents

Tomorrow, Tower Systems is hosting a one hour online training workshop on magazine management including meeting the XchangeIT EDI standards.  This newsagent specific training is vitally important to all newsagents.  While based around the Tower newsagent software, any newsagent is welcome to participate and see how the majority of newsagents with a computer system can more easily and effectively manage magazines to the industry standards.  Access to the workshop is free.

This training is important given that XchangeIT Pty Ltd has announced that they will introduce penalty charges for newsagents who do not meet their IT standards.  Tower Systems is helping the small percentage of Tower Newsagents (less than 2%) who currently do not meet the standards.  We are also helping non Tower newsagents where possible and requested.

Autumn Gift Fair in Auckland Next Week

Our Gift Shop Software will be on show at the Autumn Gift Fair in Auckland for three days starting Sunday March 6, 2011, a week from today.  On our stand, #3100, we will be showing the very latest version of our software which is being shipped to our customers (and made available online) starting this coming Thursday.

We selected the Autumn Gift Fair in Auckland after considering a number of trade show opportunities in New Zealand last year when planning our 22011 marketing calendar.  Like the recent Home and Giving Fair in Sydney, we felt that the Autumn Gift fair presented a broad mix of attendees.

In addition to attracting new customers of our POS software, the fair provides an excellent opportunity to meet with existing customers in New Zealand.

New Zealand gift and homewares retailers will see a range of software represented by several of our skilled team.

Point of Sale training this week

Tower Systems is offering free access to four training workshops next week covering different aspects of our Point of Sale software.  Each workshop will run for around an hour including plenty off time for questions.

  • Magazine management. Tuesday, March 1 @ 11am.
  • Point of Sale training.  Tuesday, March 1 @ 2pm.
  • Mastering Catalogues.  Thursday, March 3 @ 11am.
  • Retail Stock Management.  Thursday, March 3 @ 2pm.

Click here to access our online training portal for bookings.

XchangeIT Compliance Plan for Newsagents

The XchangeIT EDI standards are vitally important to newsagents and the magazine distributors.  Meeting the standards helps maintain operating costs, ensures credits are paid for unsold stock and provides a basis for a structured approach to a key part of the business.

Newsagents using our newsagency software are supported in meeting the XchangeIT standards through regular professional training, like our magazine Management workshop next week,a suite of professional advice sheets (available from our website), the most comprehensive compliance document published by a software company for newsagents and our summary 9 Point Action Plan for XchangeIT Compliance.

Together, these elements combine to help the 1,700+ newsagents in the Tower Newsagent community collectively and individually achieve and maintain commercially valuable compliance.

To demonstrate one of our points of difference, here is the 9 Point Action Plan for XchangeIT Compliance.  This plan is backed by more documentation and support.

  1. Always use the latest version of Tower Systems’ Software. Only the latest Version of the Tower Systems software is deemed to be compliant. The most recent major release of Retailer is 2.2.5C, if you are not running this version please contact Tower Systems for a version to be sent to you.
  2. Ensure XchangeIT is correctly configured. This is imperative as XchangeIT is the mechanism for the file transfers. If this is not configured correctly then you cannot be compliant, regardless of your data management techniques. To check that your system is configured correctly, see Advice Sheet N3.1 Setting Up XchangeIT.
  3. Receive your Magazine Stock through Invoice Arrivals. You must receive all stock you sell in your business. Use EDI invoices as this the only way to maintain data accuracy.
  4. Use issue Specific Barcodes. You MUST use a different barcode for each issue. It is recommended that you use the FULL magazine barcode including the addenda. The addenda is the 2 digit barcode that appears on the end normal magazine barcodes, this code identifies each issue. This should be used in conjunction with Code 128 Barcodes which will re-produce the magazines barcode on the label making scanning much more accurate. Please see Advice Sheet N3.3 EDI: Code-128 Barcodes.
  5. Implement MPA Categories. The MPA (Magazine Publishers Association of Australia) has created industry standard magazine categories and segments. This allows all magazines to be allocated the correct categories and segments making management easier. Please see advice sheet N9 MPA Categories for instruction. Once you have done this you don’t have to do it again.
  6. Labelling Stock Items. You should label about 95%-98% of your stock items. This makes the process of removing Magazines at return time easier. When labelling, place the labels in a consistent position so magazines are easy to find at returns time. We recommend you place the label in the top left hand corner of each magazine, just under the masthead. If your magazines are not labelled there is a significant chance the item will be returned too late and credits will be missed. The only exception to this is very high volume weeklies and monthlies.
  7. Scan everything you sell. Do not use department sales for any product sales. Department key sales stop the system being able to collate accurate sales files. Department key sales are ONLY acceptable for some service items like Lotteries. You should ALWAYS scan your label if it exists on the product rather than the product barcode. This is a good habit as the label is definitely linked to the correct arrival. Stock item Hot Keys are OK to be used as long as you are selling the correct issue. If not then you should scan the barcode.
  8. Complete an end of shift every day. Performing this process for all terminals ensures that the EDI sales files for that day are created.
  9. Process ALL your returns through the returns scanning screen. This maintains your stock levels and is much quicker than filling in manual forms. You should also scan all subagent returns in this screen Subagent returns scanned in this screen will be credited in the earliest open week (i.e. a week in which the subagent billing is yet to be performed). This also ensures correct issues are returned for your subagents and shop and returns data is created accurately.

Once you have the processes down it is easy to maintain a compliant system.

Tower Systems does not charge extra to help newsagents with XchangeIT.  The training, advice and support for XchangeIT is provided as part of the regular Tower support service.  Access to XchangeIT in our software continues regardless of whether a newsagent pays their annual software support fee.  We do not remove XchangeIT access in an effort to force a newsagent to maintain the Tower support … another Tower Systems difference.

Disaster Planning Advice for Retailers

disaster-planning.jpgTower Systems has published disaster planning advice for its 2,500 retail customers and other retailers.  The advice covers ensuring that you have proper insurance protection, data protection and a plan for safekeeping of business records.  While we have provided disaster planning advice previously, we have now encoded this into a more formal Advice Sheet format and ensured it is part of our overall customer service portfolio.

With many customers affected by disasters already this year, we felt that it was timely to share recent learnings, in particular in relation to insurance coverage.

This advice is part of a suite of general business advice we provide customers based on years of experience working with retailers in many situations.

Reminding Shoppers How Much They Save Can Drive Sales

One of the most common complaints by small and independent retailers is that they do compete on price with much bigger retailers yet that shoppers still think they are more expensive.

Retailers using our Point of Sale software are able to let shoppers know how much they save by including discounts provided on receipts of sales.  Our experience is that such information is tremendously powerful in educating shoppers about the value of a particular shopping experience.

A shopper leaving a store with the knowledge and proof that they saved, say, $5.00 off of a $25.00 sale will more likely remember the visit than if their was no such reinforcement.

Our Point of Sale software shows the saving achieved on the receipt, reinforcing the financial value to the customer of the shopping experience.  We have done this for many years.  This is a perfect way for an independent retailer to practically demonstrate the value the offer.  Turning on the listing of the saving is easy, this is done within the setup facilities of our software.  Users of our software have the option of showing dollars saved as well as percentage.

Independent and small business retailers who do compete with much bigger retailers on price can easily show this if they have good software and use it to the full.  Seizing every opportunity to reinforce the value of the retail experience builds loyalty and strong word of mouth.

Good Garden Centre Software Drives Sales

Using good Garden Centre Software, Garden Centre owners and managers can drive better sales results over manual or non specialist software solutions.

Based on our own experience implementing our Point of Sale software in a range of Garden Centres in Australia, the areas where Garden Centre software is driving good success this year include:

Customer Loyalty.  Rewarding customers for genuine loyalty will increase sales to them and good word of mouth as they talk to friends.  Our Garden Centre software offers a flexible and consistent approach to managing loyalty. It can help you harness your existing customers for greater success.

Hampers and manufactured goods.  From seasonal hampers made up of multiple items to something as simple as a plant in a pot, our Garden Centre software can track all of the items in a package, maintain inventory integrity and help you make better business decisions about these packaged items.

Seasonal deals. Garden Centres, like other retailers, offer seasonal deals whether it is a Spring Sale, a Summer Sale or a Christmas Sale, using our software you are able to easily manage special pricing for the duration of the sale. We make like at the sales counter easier and provide certainty for customers that the right price is being charged.

Inventory Management.  Knowing what stock is selling when and with what will help with buying, pricing and business decisions.  You can compare products by department, category and suppliers.  You can see what is moving quickly, what is moving slowly and what is not moving at all.

Business Reporting.  Access to quality business reports at the push of a button can help the business owners and managers make more informed business decisions.  The benefit of better business decisions is usually evident on the financial performance of the Garden Centre.

There are many benefits of good Garden Centre software, those listed above are just the beginning.

Tower Systems is thrilled to be helping Garden Centres in a variety of situations to grow stronger and healthier businesses.

Supporting ACP Magazines’ I Love Magazines Consumer Campaign

ilove-acp.jpgTower Systems is helping its 1,700+ newsagent customers actively support the I Love Magazines consumer campaign by ACP Magazines.  We created a coupon promoting the campaign, using the ACP developed campaign collateral and made this available to our customers for delivery on shopper receipts.  Our newsagency software can automatically serve the inclusion of coupons on receipts based on user selected criteria.

Using shopper receipts to deliver a promotion for the I Love Magazines campaign is important since the receipts are part of the process of entering the competition to win cash prizes.

The coupon we have provided will help drive sales and better connect our newsagent customers with the I Love Magazines campaign.

Once again, Tower Systems is showing why its is the leading software supplier to newsagents, serving around three times the number of newsagents served by any other newsagency software company.

Training the Help Desk Team

Our Point of Sale software Help Desk team has been undergoing training this week in several areas of our software.  The structured training is being delivered by Tower Systems team members who are expert in specialist areas.  Their field experience facilitates the provision of training which is customer focused and which will improve the quality of advice we provide through our Help Desk.

Too often, software companies get people with broad technical knowledge and put them on the end of the phone taking calls and providing them with canned scripts with which to answer queries.  At Tower Systems we treat each call as unique.  We want our advice to be specific to the need, accurate, understandable and business useful.  Hence the importance of training not only in the technology but also in the process of taking Help Desk calls.

The training this week is part of our on-going program of skills development of our Help Desk team members.  These experts can only retail expert status if their skills are appropriately nurtured.

Hallmark Cards Integration Project to Help Card Retailers

We have just published advice for our customers selling greeting cards from Hallmark Cards in their businesses on how they can make use of our new Hallmark integration tools and report to more effectively track and manage greeting card sales.

Developed as part of an international joint project with Hallmark, the enhanced functionality was released last year and is now widely available allows users of our Point of Sale software.  Our customers are able to import structured and considered categorisation and segmentation data for Hallmark stock. This facilitates significant insight into sales reporting. Better reporting leads to better decision making, improving your business’ overall performance and value.

Advice sheet N44, available from the Tower Advantage TM customer service portal on our website, fully documents setting your system up for integration and accessing the commercial benefits.

The integration and associated business management report are currently exclusive to Tower Systems. 

While others will inevitably follow, Tower Systems has once again demonstrated the value of being the innovator.  We are able to do this because of the size of our customer community.

Gift Shops Embracing Point of Sale Technology

2011 has started with a surge in gift shops embracing Point of Sale technology if our early sales for the year are anything to go by.  Sales of our Gift Shop Software have been excellent right across the country to small individual stores and in larger businesses.

The sales boost has been helped by excellent word of mouth from existing customers, significant software enhancements in 2010 and our obvious commitment to the gift retail channel through support for industry events.

Using our Point of Sale technology, gift shop owners and employees are able to bring greater control to their business as address the one component which has historically been the biggest challenge to manage – stock.  Using our Gift Shop Software, retailers can and do reduce their floor stock without any negative impact on sales.  In fact, the opposite often happens.  Our software is rich with reports which help feed better quality business decisions around buying and floor stock management.

The great start to 2011 has our sales and installation teams busy. Each new customer brings new insights and ideas … vital to the evolution of good software.

Newsagent Training Opportunities in March

newsagent-training.jpgWe have announced details of newsagent training opportunities in March 2011 for the 1,700+ Australian newsagents using our newsagency software.  This suite of free online training workshops is the most comprehensive package of training available for newsagents.  We are proud of our track record of providing such extensive learning opportunities for newsagents and their employees.

each session is live and genuinely interactive.   We love the feedback and questions as do the participants – they are a great way to learn.

Full details of the training opportunities are on our website, listed in our March 2011 newsletter, which will be mailed at the end of this week, and regularly promoted in our weekly email newsletters.

Serving in excess of 1,700 newsagents, Tower Systems has the customer base necessary to warrant such an investment in and commitment to on-going training.

Home & Giving Fair Ends of a High

The GHA Home & Giving Fair came to an end this afternoon.  This has been, without a doubt, the best trade show for us in at least five years.  We leave with sales appointments across the country and in four different marketplaces.

The reaction to our software has been wonderful and the kudos for our commitment to the gift and homewares channels and their suppliers has been uplifting.

It has been a tremendously busy four days and tomorrow we start the follow up … and the preparations for the New Zealand Gift Fair in Auckland starting in ten days at which we will have a strong presence.

New Advice Sheet For Hallmark Sales Data Project

Newsagents keen for a deeper and sales data based relationship with Hallmark Cards now have access to this thanks to a joint project between Tower Systems and Hallmark.  A new advice sheet has just been published at the Tower Systems website documenting how to leverage the new connection.  Advice sheet N43 provides peer-reviewed advice on this project undertaken with Hallmark.

By providing Hallmark with timely accurate sales data, newsagents can expect to see an impact in the supply model for their business. the data will drive a classic win win.

The latest sales data facilities are available in our newsagency software now.

Having the largest pool of newsagent customers in the newsagency channel, close to three times the next software company, we are well positioned to work with suppliers on strategic projects like this Hallmark Cards data project.  We can deliver access to an install base and support this with professional standards and communication, thereby driving necessary discipline for the outcomes today’s newsagent suppliers are looking for.

The Importance of Paced POS Software Training for Retailers

While some companies deliver all of their training on one block, we are happy to space the training in our POS Software out is a more customer friendly approach.

No busy retailer can learn for, say, five days straight while still working in their business and expect to absorb everything they have been told about their new Point of Sale software.  This type of block training is selfish by the software companies which do it.  It is not focused on achieving a good outcome for the retailer or their employees.

In planning for an installation, we work with our customer to determine the training schedule which works best for their specific situation.  If customers want a single block of training then this is what we deliver.  If they want the training delivered in two blocks then this is what we deliver.

We have seen considerable business value achieved when advanced training is delivered a week or two after the system is installed. The questions are more knowledgeable and the interest greater.  In short, training delivered once the system has been used even for a short while often proves to be far more valuable.

This is a Tower Systems difference, training delivered in a way which is attuned to the needs of our customers and those in the business who will use the software.

Three Tower Newsagents Win State Awards

We are thrilled that three of our customers took the major awards at the Victorian Newsagent of the Year Awards announced Saturday night in Melbourne.

  • Distribution Newsagent of the Year – Patterson Road News and Tatts
  • Retail Newsagent of the Year – Queenscliff Newsagency
  • Technology Newsagent of the Year – newsXpress Beechworth

They are operated by newsagents deserving of the kudos and recognition each award brings – good business operators who leverage every opportunity available to them.  They are great users of our technology too.

If you want to see businesses embracing change and making their own success then each of these three award winners is well worth the visit.

Well done and hearty congratulations to everyone involved from each business!

Day Two of Home & Giving Fair Busy

gftfair2.JPGOur second day at the Home & Giving Fair in Sydney yesterday was even busier than the first.  We received some excellent new sales leads as well as valuable time with existing customers.

Yesterday was also like Saturday in the positive outlook of attendees.  No doom and gloom anywhere, optimism abounded on the floor of the busy trade show.

The other benefit of participating in such a large and diverse trade show as the Home & Giving Fair is the time we get to spend with gift and homewares suppliers.  Given the work we are doing in the EDI area, improving the data connection between retailers and suppliers, we are able to use the trade show time to good advantage.

As a partner of the GHA, we are well positioned to with with all stakeholders in the gift and homewares channels as technology plays an even more important role in business efficiency and growth through 2011.

What a terrific start to the year!

Loving the Home & Giving Fair

giftfair1.JPGIf our first day, yesterday, at the huge Home & Giving Fair in Sydney yesterday was an indicator then we are in for a terrific four days.

We had a constant stream of guests stopping by, existing customers and new sales prospects. It was a terrific day!

Gift shop owners, homewares business owners, jewellers and newsagents stopped by.  A wonderful mix from the various retail channels in which we serve.  The attendee mix is a testament to the diverse retail customer base which we serve as a Point of Sale software company.

Some existing customers took the opportunity to take up our offer of free training while on a different part of the stand we were able to provide in-depth demonstrations of our software, providing context for the benefits available to retailers at trade shows like this through our inventory management and other facilities.

The business outlook of those we spoke with yesterday is positive.  Sales are strong, especially among those who are pursuing a real point of difference for their business.  Optimistic is the best word to describe the attitude of many we spoke with.  Their optimism is reflected in the orders they are placing and the business plans they are discussing.

Trade shows like the Home & Giving Fair are an excellent opportunity for us to show off.  Our new software and new marketing collateral are a feature of our stand.  We also have proactive and optimistic people representing Tower Systems – reflecting our overall business attitude.

From a competitive sense, the Home & Giving Fair shows how Tower Systems is situated compared to others.  We are making the most of the opportunity.  Competitors who should be here are not.

Great Mix of POS Software Training on Offer Next Week

Tower Systems is offering a good mix of training in the use of its popular POS Software next week.  There are four free online training workshops, each offering access to quality interactive training delivered by one of our experts.  The training is live with participants able to ask questions.

  • Putaways and special orders.Tuesday Feb. 22 @ 11am.
  • Importing stock files. Tuesday Feb. 22 @ 2pm.
  • New staff member training. Thursday Feb. 24 @11am.
  • LayBys. Thursday Feb. 24 @ 2pm.

Book now at the training portal at our website.

Smart Retailers Offer Genuine Rewards for Shopper Loyalty

As the A Current Affair TV program showed on Thursday night, the noise major retailers make about their loyalty rewards program is often not matched with genuine rewards.

The loyalty marketing facilities in our Point of Sale software help independent retailers offer genuine rewards in return for genuine shopper loyalty.

Retailers using our software can stand apart from the likes of Myer, Coles, Woolworths, Target, Big W and other major retailers by offering a loyalty program which is a loyalty program and not a tricked up program which is really about collecting shopper details.

Accruing and managing points is easy with our software.  We give our retail customers facilities which they can use to compete and even demonstrate a valuable point of difference over others.

In addition to excellent training for our customers in the area of loyalty, we provide access to advice sheets, help with sourcing loyalty cards and connecting customers so they can share their loyalty experiences.  We also back these services up with business advice based on years of working with retailers in implementing loyalty programs.

Small retailers have an excellent opportunity to compete with big retailers when it comes to loyalty.  Tower Systems is here to help you make the most from this opportunity.

The story on A Current Affair is an excellent reminder to retailers and shoppers of the differences between big retailers and smaller retailers.   Here at Tower Systems we are committed to helping smaller retailers more effectively compete … through facilities like those we offer in the loyalty area.

Free POS Software Training at Trade Shows

Tower Systems is proud to announce that we will offer professional and structured training opportunities at each of our Trade Show events in 2011 for users of our Point of Sale software. This is in addition to our long standing commitment to answering technical questions from existing customers at trade shows.

Our trade show structured training opportunities will present concise training on specific areas of the software.  Running between ten and fifteen minutes, each one on one training session will cover an area of our software of particular interest or need to the customer.

Our technical experts at each trade show this year will have the knowledge and toolkit necessary to deliver on this training opportunity.  We will have space on our standas for the training to be done away from the sales area.  We will have equipment which enables us to train using live data.

The first trade show training opportunity in 2011 will be at the Home & Giving Fair in Sydney commencing this coming Saturday.  Existing customers are welcome to stop by and discuss any training needs and we will either provide training there and then or organise a convenient time during the trade show for this training.

This trade show training opportunity is another free service from Tower Systems.

Working With Network Services on Enhancements

Tower Systems, along with other newsagency software companies, is working with Network Services on potential enhancements.  This on-going project moved forward last week through a joint workshop where representatives of Network, XchangeIT, Tower Systems and POS Solutions, along with two newsagents, discussed possible enhancements and options.

We welcome opportunities for round-table discussions like this for the good of the overall newsagency channel.  We respect the confidentiality of such discussions, as we have done for many years.

It can be challenging balancing the needs of various suppliers in the various marketplaces in which we serve, especially within the confines of an already busy software development schedule.  Major projects are scheduled six months out – to allow time for necessary planning, design and other work.  The days of dreaming up an idea, writing the code and making it available in a day or two are over.  With more than 2,000 independent retailers using our software, we need to take care to ensure that our software updates are genuinely valuable, thoroughly tested and fully integrated with channel suppliers.

Meetings like the one last week provide us with the opportunity to forward plan within the context of our busy development schedule.