Sharing retail trends insights with small business retailers

The one constant in retail is change. already in 2017 we see more evidence of that. Amazon opening in Australia, growth in online, the launch of several disruptor models targeting specialist retail channels … these are some of the challenges we have read about in the last few weeks.

It is easy to read of what big businesses are doing and feel demotivated for one’s small business. This can be as true for your business as it is for my small software company.

As small businesses the biggest advantage is our ability to move faster. While we made not have the budget or press attention, we can move faster, we can change faster.

Here at Tower Systems, change starts with understanding trends. Already this year we have had team members have attended five international trade shows – Atlanta Gift Fair, Paperworld in Frankfurt, Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Spring Fair in Birmingham and the National Retail Federation annual conference in New York. Each conference / trade show has provided insights we will leverage.

A couple of trends stand out.

  • The first is the greater blurring of lines in retail niches. The bike shop is not a bike shop only, the jeweller is not a jewellery business only, the garden centre is not a garden centre. Being flexible beyond your traditional shingle is important.
  • The second trend is about being local. Big businesses are structuring being local in a systemised way to capture shoppers who like local … even though the big businesses are not as local as locally owned small businesses. Now more than ever you need to leverage ways in your software to demonstrate you are local. Yes, Retailer helps you do this.

As we see it, goals for any small retail business this year have to include:

  1. Traffic. Finding new shoppers.
  2. Shopper value. Using every touch point possible to increase value of existing traffic.
  3. Efficiency. To eliminate out of date time wasting practices.
  4. Performance. To make decisions based on data facts and not gut .. cutting mistakes.
  5. Experimenting. The borders of specialty retail are gone. Play outside what’s been usual.

The biggest mistake we see made in small business retail is a lack of regard for accurate data. Customers of ours who respect data, reorder based on business, data, roster based on business data and plan based on business data usually have more successful businesses.

Online businesses, like of Amazon, are coming for high street retail. Being strong is crucial. Being smart is even more important … because Amazon and those in their league are smart.

In 2016 we released new facilities to help in some of these areas. In 2017 we have more coming. However, what you can achieve in your business in a marketplace driven by change depends on your business data.

If you want better data than you have today, we can help. We’d be glad to have the opportunity. It starts with you putting your hand up for help.

Retail management advice: How to prepare your independent retail business for sale

Selling an independent retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers.

The process of preparing a retail business for sale can take time, depending on the state of the business. The earlier you start the better.

The keys are too leave yourself plenty of time and have a plan. The advice we provide here is based on years of service to small business retailers across many different retail channels.

Here is our overview advice of what you need to do to prepare your independent retail business for sale.

  1. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on the profitability of the business. While you should be on this every day, if it is a new project for you, start six months prior to putting the business on the market.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. It looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you. The easier it looks to run the more interesting to people who don’t understand the business.
  4. Make the business look appealing. Ensure displays are stunning, the shelves full and every pitch the very best you can make. You want them to want your business because they like it.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. If you are complainer, keep it to yourself or in the family.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook and other
  7. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together and check:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease documents.
    3. Franchise document.
    4. Supplier agreements.
    5. Details of any forward orders.
    6. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.
  8. Choose your broker carefully.

Success at selling your business depends in part on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Extra focus now can help you get timely price satisfaction.

Reinventing the POS software experience for small business retailers

We have begun previewing new-look POS software for our specialty retail marketplaces. This new look represents more than a year of work in design, development and testing. It offers our customers a fresh look, it keeps our software current with design standards relevant to retail in 2017.

This latest new look for our POS software continues the Tower Systems commitment to maintaining fresh and relevant software for our retail partners. It is what helps our software stay ahead, be loved by existing customers and winning the hearts of new customers.

The first personal previews of the new software started a week ago at the Sydney Gift Fair. They continue in a week’s time at the Melbourne Toy Fair. Then we will show the software off at our face to face user meetings around the country.

The new software is a result of terrific collaboration across multiple divisions of Tower Systems. It is a great team effort.

We develop, sell and support software for: gift shopsjewellers,  bike shopstoy shopsfishing/outdoors businessesgarden centres/nurseriespet shopsproduce storesfirearms businesses and newsagents.

Six things to do before you choose a POS software company for your business

  1. Compare websites. Go deep. Look at ease of contact, support connections. Look for details of the real people being the business.
  2. Compare software. On your desktop, next to each other.
  3. Compare training. Sit in on a training session. Compare usefulness, professionalism.
  4. Look at online tools. get a login and see what real users see.
  5. Use it. In a shop,l behind the counter. See first hand the user experience.
  6. Learn the total cost of ownership. Get this in writing, for the first three years. See the real cost of owning each of the software packages you are comparing.

There is a huge difference between software products. These six points could help you avoid POS software that is not right for your business.

Advice from POS software co. Tower Systems on how and when to quit stock in your retail business

How do you identify product that is not working? When do you quit a product that is not working? Why should you quit stock? How do you quit the stock? How long should quitting stock take? What if the item does not sell no matter what you do?

These are all questions we will answer here for you in the form of suggestions. What you ultimately do is 100% up to you. Your choices need to reflect your own situation and circumstances.

Identifying product that is not working.

Product is not working if it is not paying its way – paying for the floor space it takes and the time you spend on it. Check your sales, rank all your stock based on sales – look at the bottom performing stock. Your software should have a ranked Sales Report that lets you list all your stock ranked by unit or $$ sales. Use this to create your list of items to consider.

The other way to identify stock that’s not working for you is to check your back room or other storage facility. Stock that is not generating cash regularly has to be considered dead in our view.

When do you quit a product?

You quit, exit, products when they are not paying their way, when a season is done or when you want to exit that category for some other reason.

Let’s say your rent is $1,250 per square metre per year. If your gross profit averages, say, 50%, you will need to sell $2,500 worth of product to pay for a metre of space. However, this is not the complete consideration as you have labour, power and other costs to cover. The suggested rule of thumb is that your retail sales need to be at least three times that necessary to cover the cost of the space. In the scenario covered here, you should be earning at least $7,500 from a square metre of space. If stock is not delivering this, quitting it could be necessary.

Why quit stock?

To keep your shop fresh, to not be weighed down by dead stock to make your shop look more relevant, to stop hoarding.

How to quit stock.

Here is how we quit stock in retail businesses we operate. These businesses are in shopping centres where retail space is limited and expensive. We are necessarily aggressive.

  1. Set a deadline. We’d suggest two weeks for quitting a product or range of products.
  2. Choose your timing. The best time to quit stock quickly is on your busiest trading days. For many this will be the weekend. Consider structuring your quitting program to run from Thursday through Sunday.
  3. Set your initial price. The discount must be compelling. We’d suggest 50% off. A smaller discount in this marketplace will not get noticed. Think about your discount words: in some areas, HALF PRICE works better than 50% OFF. Sometimes, 2 FOR 1 can be even more effective. A $$ price can work better – for example a dump bin with everything priced at $1. People then don’t have to work anything out.
  4. Move the product to a high traffic location. Display it as a line you are quitting – in a dump bin or in open boxes. This must be in a location away from where the product is usually located. Do not make an attractive display. Consider placing the stock somewhere that people almost stumble over it.
  5. Put up a sign that is either black on white or white on read. Nothing fancy. Even a hand written sign is good. Do not make a complex or attractive sign.
  6. Adjust your price. If sales are not strong enough, go harder with your discount. From 50% off we suggest a drop to a $$ price point. It can be challenging selling something you would have sold for $20.00 at $1 but that $1 is better than getting nothing for the product at all.
  7. Give it away. If the products are not selling, consider giving the stock away to a local charity. Getting it out of your shop for no compensation can be better than it taking space and giving off the wrong message about your business.
  8. Keep track of time. If you decide to be out of the stock within two weeks, stick to that and make it happen with your pricing and placement decisions.
  9. Use the bin. If you can’t sell the item and you can’t give it away, use the bin.
  10. An alternative: If you have a large amount of stock to quit, consider hiring a local hall and running an off site sale. Talk to your suppliers about getting extra stock in for this. You could even plan to do this as an annual event. Consider, too, linking with a local charity to drive interest and create a fund raising opportunity for them.

Quitting stock takes strength and commitment. We urge you to do it to keep your business fresh. Product not selling gives shoppers a bad impression of your business.

Take a look at your shop floor and in your back room. Look at what you can get rid of right away to reduce the anchor of dead stock on your business.

Too many retail businesses have old stock gathering dust. One of the best ways to separate your business is to regularly quit stock that is not performing as it should.

This advice is an example of how Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond POS software.

Retail business management advice: best practice approach to stock take

In years working with small and independent retail businesses, the team at Tower Systems has learnt plenty including the indicators of in which retail businesses theft is more likely to occur.

Our experience is that theft is more likely to occur in businesses where stock is not managed properly.

By not managed properly we mean where:

  1. All items sold are not tracked at the point of sale.
  2. Where new stock arriving in the business is not properly arrived through the software.
  3. Where spot stock-takes are not undertaken regularly to maintain an accurate stock on hand account.
  4. Where stock given away or thrown away is not written off.
  5. Where stock returned to a supplier is not scanned out.

Our advice on reducing the cost of employee theft and customer theft is simple – follow our advice, manage your stock and without a doubt the cost of theft in your retail business will be lower than it would have been.

If you think the cost of managing stock is too great, think about the cost of $25,000, $50,000 or even $250,000 in theft. Yes, we see this all too often in retail businesses – where stock is not managed.

Managing your stock = less theft and less theft = increases product and increased profit = you get more when you sell your business.

Disaster planning advice for small business retailers from POS software company Tower Systems

As a service to its 3,500+ small business retail customers, Tower Systems offers disaster planning advice. This advice is regularly revisited and revised to ensure its appropriateness.

Here is our current small business retailer initial steps disaster planning advice. We call this initial steps as there is more to be said, more help we provide, but were will keep that for a more confidential discussion with our customers.

DISASTER PLANNING FOR YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

How protected is your retail business in the event of disaster? Since we are a software company, our interest is more to do with data and technology.

Are you as protected as you can be?

This is an easy topic to ignore and most small business retailers do. Those most likely to plan for a disaster are those who have gone through it. Once bitten, twice shy as they say.

Insurance. Insurance coverage is vital to helping overcome any type of disaster. In addition to ensuring that your insurance policy covers all disaster situations of concern to you, including flood, theft, water inundation, fire, earthquake, riot—be sure to carefully read the policy, ensure that your insurance policy / policies cover payouts for the following:

  1. Business interruption. The amount should equal your anticipated gross profit for whatever period you choose to be covered.
  2. Data recovery. Including the hiring of experts to recover data from backup sources or the manual entry of data that cannot be automatically recovered. Ensure you are covered to the point of recovered data being useable.
  3. Lost stock. This is stock stolen, lost from the business.
  4. Damaged and unsaleable stock. This is stock which is water damaged, scuffed or dented and which will not attract full price.
  5. Dated stock. This is stock that you cannot sell by the due date.
  6. Glass. Many policies require explicit statement of glass coverage.
  7. Temporary trading premises. Business interruption may cover this.
  8. Key person injury and/or death. This will usually be a separate policy. Depending on the disaster, coverage may also be available through the overall business policy.

Ensure that the value of stock, fixtures and fittings covered by your policy is an accurate reflection of the real value of these items. Use your POS system to track all stock movements in and out. The stock on hand in your software should be your coverage.

Ensure that your insurance policy protects for the seasonal nature of your business Data Protection. Business data is a valuable asset. Follow these steps:

  1. Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail. Better still: use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to backup.Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week.
  2. Remove the backup from the business property.
  3. Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
  4. Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
  5. Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
  6. Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
  7. Change your passwords regularly.
  8. Do not share passwords widely.

Disaster Planning. Here are some general suggestions on planning for a disaster in your business property.

  1. Ensure your roof is secure and free of leak points.
  2. Do not place computers on the floor. Put them on a riser.
  3. Use a power filter.
  4. Ensure all electrical wiring is to code.
  5. Keep off-site copies of: Business contracts and agreements; employee contact details, business account and other passwords, insurance details, recent photographs of fixtures, fittings and stock.
  6. For records you cannot easily copy or that may change as the trading day unfurls, consider having a go bag ready for you to grab if there is a risk to the premises such as a bushfire.
  7. Maintain a register of all employees in the business premises at any time.
  8. Prepare and place in a prominent place an evacuation plan.
  9. Maintain a professional grade OH&S compliant first aid kit. Have this checked regularly.
  10. Regularly maintain all fire extinguishers – check with your local fire brigade about this.
  11. Ensure that the business premises is safe and maintained to the local building codes and OH&S regulations.
  12. Have a trained first aid officer in staff. Your local St Johns or similar will be able to provide training.
  13. Use government resources such as the emergency planning kit at the federal government website: http://www.business.gov.au/business-topics/templates-and- downloads/emergency-management-template-and-guide/Pages/default.aspx

The disaster planning help for small business retailers from Tower Systems reaches way beyond what we have shared here.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers cut paperwork

The Tower Systems installation and training team and the customer service post sales support team both help our small business retail customers to reduce paperwork with practical business focussed advice.

From more efficiently managing regulatory obligations to managing internal business management paperwork, Tower Systems through its software and its people can help.

Our advice is founded in our own experience running successful retail businesses for more than twenty years. There is no doubt that using our software in our own businesses makes a big difference to the practical value of the advice we provide. It separates us from POS software companies where the advice is more tech focussed.

Cutting paperwork for us is more than a marketing pitch, we offer practice help in achieving this so resources in the small retail business are freed for more valuable activity.

Our company motto is we’re here to help. Our focus on paperwork is one example of how we pursue this for our customers.

Revised computer use policy to help protect small business retailers

We have shared an updated COMPUTER USE POLICY with our customers to reduce the opportunity of attack own their systems:

  1. The computers in this business are business tools. Their security is vital to the safe running of the business.
  2. Do not use any computer for any form of personal use without permission. This means:
    1. No playing games.
    2. No looking at porn.
    3. No Facebook.
    4. No downloading movies, TV shows, music.
    5. No browsing websites unless they are websites used regularly by this business for running the business.
    6. No connecting your phone to the computer.
  3. Do not open emails including business emails unless you have permission.
  4. Do not click on any link in any email unless you are 100% certain the email is from a trusted source.
  5. Do not clear the browser cache.
  6. Never put a USB stick in a computer unless you are certain of the source.
  7. Never permit anyone to use a computer in the business unless you have permission.
  8. Never give anyone a computer password from the business.
  9. If someone you don’t know calls and tells you to do something with the computer, make sure they have authority.
  10. Never write down any business password you are entrusted with.
  11. Never connect a USB stick with the computer unless you have permission.
  12. If you do something wrong own up to it immediately.

How Tower Systems helped its customers save money on support fees

For the first time since 2014, Tower Systems is increasing its software support fees. The increase will be less than 7%. The 2014 increase was the first in four years.

Following the fee increase, Tower Sys6ems customers will be paying considerably less for software support in real terms than seven years ago.

This is an extraordinary saving for thousands of small business retailers.

We announced to our customers the plan to increase fees a month ago and provided them an opportunity to lock in the old fee prior to the increase taking effect at the end of this month.

This advance notice of a support fee increase is rare in the POS software marketplace. We did it out of respect and appreciation of our customers.

We are proud to be in a position to help our customers save money year on year on software support coverage.

Tower Systems launches free POS software training for February 2017

Yesterday, we announced to our small business POS software customers a suite of terrific free live training opportunities for February 2017. This training goes beyond what people expect from their POS software company as it draws together best practice retail business management and other retail strategy insights in the context of how the software can help.

Tower Systems is proud to offer access to free live group training and business management inspiration every week. It is a differentiator for us.

How Tower Systems helps small business retailers save time in connecting with their suppliers

Tower Systems has a structured approach to helping small business retailers and their suppliers more efficiently, effectively and accurate connect. Our approach is based on years of service including time as retailers ourselves, using our own software to work more closely with suppliers.

  1. Suppliers can provide electronic invoices.
  2. Retailers can provide a feed of sales.
  3. Suppliers can provide stock files.
  4. Retailers can provide orders.

These are just some of the ways we connect retailers and suppliers. It is structured, consistent and accurate. The benefits are time saved and mistakes eliminated. This is best practice when it comes to connecting independent small business retailers and their suppliers.

Everyone wins.

We are grateful to the suppliers with whom we partner and their retailers who help guide our work in this area. The value it adds is wonderful to see.

Small business paperwork campaign resonates with indie retailers

We are thrilled with the response to our paperwork campaign supporting operational efficiency in small and independent retail businesses. This is a campaign for existing Tower Systems customers as well as prospective customers.

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 2.15.30 PM

Launched by Tower Systems as part of a broader training, POS software enhancements and business support package, this focus for 2017 encourages small business retailers to better manage paperwork for the benefit of the business and those served by the business.

Eliminating paperwork is easy when your POS software directly links to the right tools such as web platforms, appointment facilities and accounting software.

Six reasons our Australian POS software is ideal for Australian small and independent retail businesses

We are proud of our POS software designed and developed in Australia for Australian retail conditions.

  1. Serving local needs. designed with Aussie retailers, based on their suggestions and using them as part of a comprehensive beta program.
  2. Local support. Based out of our head office in Hawthorn Victoria with Australian capital city based local offices. We are local and serving you in your time zone.
  3. Connected with Australian suppliers.  yes, our software helps you link to suppliers, cutting mistakes and saving time.
  4. Local training. In your shop and over the phone.
  5. Local user meetings. Well over 50 done in regional and rural Australia offer the last year.
  6. Deep channel support. For all the specialist retail channels that we serve, we have mature and sustained engagement enabling us to provide channel specific connections.

Tower Systems is proud to serve Australian retailers with Australia POS software.

The POS software help desk is winding down for Christmas

As is always the way with the last office day prior to Christmas, help desk calls have stopped as retailers focus on selling.

We are calling it a day and switching all support coverage from now until December 28 at 7am to our after hours numbers. Here are our contact points. This is a copy of the card, which we sent to all customers last month by mail and by email:

SupportCardOct16

Small business retail marketing advice: protect your business data against disaster

Data is as valuable as cash to any retail business yet many do not treat data with respect. Our advice to small business retailers is to get real about data, to get serious about protecting this important asses.

In terms of protecting your business data against disaster, here is our most important advice:

  1. Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail.
    1. Better still: use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to backup.
  2. Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week.
  3. Remove the backup from the business property.
  4. Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
  5. Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
  6. Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
  7. Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
  8. Change your passwords regularly.
  9. Use hard to crack passwords.
  10. Do not share passwords widely.

Is cloud based POS software right for your retail business?

Our Tower Systems small business POS software can be run on a local PC or in the cloud. You can choose the right approach for your business.

  1. Run local in PCS in your business.
  2. Run in the cloud on your server.
  3. Run in the cloud on a hosted server outside the business.
  4. Run in the cloud on a hosted server outside the business with no need to ever manage software updates.
  5. All these options and more are available to customers at any time.

With the cloud based option, you can choose to be hosted anywhere you prefer or you can go with our full-service hosted option.

We have plenty of customers in each scenario – running locally, self hosted for multiple locations or hosted by us in a full service model.

With our full service model we can shield you from any requirement to update software. All you worry about is the hardware you have running in your business.

Big It companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing the term cloud. They have done this because they know buzzwords sell. The reality is, your software has to run somewhere. It has to be maintained. Whether it is running on computers in your business or in the cloud, the costs are not that different. The key difference is one approach feels sexier than the other, because of the marketing.

Our retail skilled account managers can talk with you to determine your needs and propose a solution that best serves your needs.

We would be happy to share with you details of customer with businesses similar to yours so you can hear first-hand about their operation and how the Tower solution fits.

Our Tower Systems account managers can provide further advice and assistance to help customers make informed choices as to the best approach for their business. They are not incentivised in any way to guide customers to one decision over another.

Tower Systems offers software for the following niche small business retail channels: gift shopsjewellers,  bike shopstoy shopsfishing/outdoors businessesgarden centres/nurseriespet shopsproduce storesfirearms businesses and newsagents.

We are a full service and personal POS software company. To demonstrate this, direct access to our account management team is easy:

  • SA/WA/VIC – Tim Batt 0401 833 917;
  • NSW/TAS – Nathan Morrison 0417 568 148;
  • QLD – Justin Randall 0434 365 789.

Should small business retailers rent or buy POS software?

How small business retailers acquire the Tower Systems POS software is up to them. Our approach is flexible, leaving the decision entirely to our customers to choose what is absolutely best for their business.

You can purchase the Tower software for your business and own it forever without further cost.

You can also lease the Tower software through almost any finance company and pay it off over 3, 4 or 5 years.

You can also rent the Tower software on a 30 day cycle with the ability to quit the rental at any time.

Each option is different and each can be appropriate in certain circumstances. We share all the information so our customers can make an informed decision themselves or with their accountant or other business adviser.

The choice of how best to acquire the software is 100% yours. We can provide advice but are happy for you to make the decision that best serves your needs.

How you acquire the software, purchase or rental, training and installation services are billed separately as they are required regardless of how you acquire the software. Installation ensures the software is properly installed and setup. It shields you from technology. Training ensures you and your team know how to properly use the software for the business to get the best outcomes.

Regardless of how you acquire access to our software – rental, lease or purchase – our software is our software. No facilities are restricted via the mechanism of access. This makes the acquisition approach purely financial rather than operational or functional.

Our Tower Systems account managers can provide further advice and assistance to help customers make informed choices as to the best approach for their business. They are not incentivised in any way to guide customers to one decision over another.

Tower Systems offers software for the following niche small business retail channels: gift shopsjewellers,  bike shopstoy shopsfishing/outdoors businessesgarden centres/nurseriespet shopsproduce storesfirearms businesses and newsagents.

We are a full service and personal POS software company. To demonstrate this, direct access to our account management team is easy:

  • SA/WA/VIC – Tim Batt 0401 833 917;
  • NSW/TAS – Nathan Morrison 0417 568 148;
  • QLD – Justin Randall 0434 365 789.