Walking in the footsteps of customers

For those who have not seen my blog post elsewhere, we opened a new retail store on Friday last week: Sophie Randall Cards and Gifts. We have created this new retail concept from scratch in part to help us understand better the needs of our gift shop customers.


The year long journey in creating this new business has been educational and stimulating. Now that we are open we are getting the practical experience with our point of sale software which will lead to enhancements.

There is no substitute for walking in the footsteps of customers.

Getting closer to your customers

We’re about to get a whole lot closer to a group of our customers. For many months we have been working on a new card and gift shop and we finally have an opening date – it’s ten days away. This new retail business will allow us to gain practical experience in the high end specialist card and gift space. I am certain that this behind the counter experience will lead to enhancements in our Gift Shop software as well as other versions of our software.

What has been interesting is the experience of setting up the software from scratch without any guidelines from an existing business to go off. We are already planning an advice sheet on this for others we sell the system to who are creating a business from scratch. We’re also talking internally about the learnings from a training perspective.

There is nothing like the experience of walking in the shoes of your clients.

Gift shop software features

I have been asked to put together some thoughts on what separates our gift shop software from an off the shelf package such as MYOB or QuickPOS. This is what I’ve prepared so far.

Specialist gift shop point of sale software can do more than track sales. It can drive the business on many fronts – increasing sales, reducing costs and enhancing the sale value of the business.

Gift shop owners ought to consider specialist gift shop facilities when considering the best IT solution for their business. For example, the following tools will not be found in generic off the shelf POS software:

Fast Seller Tracking. It is challenging to watch every item in the shop. Fast Seller tools do this for you and alert the owner when an item is moving faster than in the past or faster than other items in the category. Knowing this allows the business to respond and use this traffic to build other sales.

Employee sales tracking. Knowing who sold what and when allows the business to pay incentives for success. Major retailers use commissions very effectively to get employees from behind the counter and into the body of the shop guiding customers to purchase.

Basket analysis. Knowing what customers are buying with what helps you analyse your business beyond raw sales success. For example, if you sell a range of glassware it may be that one item, not the top seller, is sold more often with other items and thereby is more ‘efficient’ for the business. While strong single sales are good, sales with multiple items are more valuable for a gift shop as it boosts the margin per sale.

Rewarding Customers. With the fuel and other loyalty programs around today it is important for a gift shop to have a loyalty offer. The best loyalty offers are those which bring people back to your shop to accrue rewards which can then be spent in store. Good gift shop software will track customer purchases and allow you to build a reward system which builds your business.

Analysing sales. Unlike other retailers, gift shops are individual businesses, often carrying items which are one off. Sales therefore need to be coded so that the owner can track the department, category and supplier equally with the individual items. This enables buying to be within the successful categories if not the exact same item. Armed with this information at trade shows helps nurture better buying.

Ratios. Good business starts with good measurement and good measurement is all about ratios – return on floor space, return on investment and stock turn. While a gift shop may look attractive and have friendly staff, if the stock is not turning the business will fail. Goof gift shop software will allow you to track departments, categories and items at the return on investment and return on floor space level – to determine if the items you like are really justifying their position in your store.

Too many gift shops run off a docket book and cash drawer. This denies the owner the opportunity to drive the business and achieve the best possible return.

Gift shop software hot in 2007

The year is just over two weeks old and already the phone is ringing hot with leads for our Gift Shop software. It’s surprising because IT is far from the mind of other small business owners. It seems January is housekeeping month in Gift Shops, when they get things ready for the year ahead. Hence calls to us.

Our Gift Shop software is designed to help independent gift shops compete with the major department stores and magazine stock. We report on age of stock, return on investment, return on floor space, return by supplier as well as deep analysis of shopping baskets to measure efficiency by category and product. While it all sounds like truckloads of reports, the reality in that our reporting is outcome focused. If you’re about to buy then our reporting focuses on that. If you are about to review an account with a supplier then we focus on your trading with them. This way, the small business operator can deal with facts and not fiction when it comes to buying and negotiating deals.

One good source of leads for us has been the Australian Gift Guide Magazine.

POS Software for Gift Shops

The launch of our new software for card and gift shops is going very well. While we have played in this space before and there are similarities with jewellers and newsagents, we are treating card and gift stores as unique businesses. We already have sales as a result of our new marketing. The facilities card and gift shop owners seem to like the most are our loyalty facilities, flexibility at the sales counter, employee tracking, reordering and overall business management.

It’s challenging entering a new marketplace but in card and gifts we have found a place very comfortable for our business and business owners we’re delighted to be dealing with.