Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Category: Retail Advice (page 1 of 9)

Retail solutions for small business retailers in Australia

Small business retailers appreciate retail solutions, they appreciate real help to real everyday challenges.

Here at Tower Systems we offer retail solutions. Often, the retail solutions go beyond our POS software, go beyond what is usual for a POS software company.

Our retail solutions, retail advice and retail business counselling comes from a place of experience, from being retailers ourselves for more than 25 years and from our 40 years of service of indie retailers.

Here is one example of retail advice, retail solutions for small business retailers.

This is practical advice, practical retail solutions, designed for helping retailers. We call this our Small steps strategy for growth in small business retail. This is a good example of retail solutions beyond POS software.

The small steps strategy is about taking regular small steps in your retail store which compound in a way to dramatically enhance the value of each of three key components to the business. The key is that the business makes progress on one or more of three business growth levers every day:

  • More traffic.
  • More revenue in each sale – greater sales efficiency.
  • Better margin.

There is no grand plan needed, no master document full of words and charts. The small steps strategy is about simple achievable steps which and retailer can take in any type of business every day to build a stronger business.

The small steps strategy is made up of the following work for the three levers:

  1. More traffic, new customers, existing customers revisiting
  2. Consistent traffic generator promotion. Regularly promote a popular consumer product or product category outside your business – to attract new traffic. The product category will depend on your business. Ideally it will be habit based product for which you have a strong value proposition. A good percentage of customers you win from regular promotion are more likely to visit again. These customers are often worth more than what they purchase.
  3. Regular participation in catalogue and flyer based offers. They could be catalogues covering a numbers of businesses or just for your business. These do not have to be expensive.  Even flyers you make yourself and copy in house can work – having compelling offers is key with catalogues and flyers.
  4. Regular local newspaper advertising. Local newspapers will usually do deals if you offer a long term commitment.
  5. Support for local sports clubs and community organisations. For a few dollars you can have your business name promoted at games, in newsletters and at events.
  6. Branding of at least one vehicle. A couple of hundred dollars can get your name out in the community – everywhere you drive.
  7. In-store newsletter. Delivered outside the store. This is best done on a simple stand near the entrance to the store.
  8. On your window and walls. Use your front window and side walls to promote your business. The right campaign ought to bring people passing by into your store.

Through a consistent program of chasing new traffic you ensure the health of the business and protect against the cost of the natural loss of customers.

 

  1. More revenue from each sale – greater sales efficiency

Here are some simple strategies for achieving more from each sale.

  1. Uncluttered counter. Make conscious decisions about what is placed at the counter. Ensure clear air around each offer so it can be seen. A cluttered counter can hide good deals and block sales.
  2. Counter offers. Choose good margin low price products which work for your demographic by tapping into interests, desires (chocolate to eat on the way home) or value – quick decision small gift lines.Remember, a counter must be easily understood and be able to purchased quickly.
  3. High traffic bargain offers. Between the entrance and the highest first stop for traffic into the business have at least two dump bins or displays with compelling and easily understood offers. Move these weekly.
  4. In-store newsletter. Create a simple newsletter promoting the business and place it out the front of the business, in bags, handed out and even slipped into local newspapers. Get your message in front of customers after they leave.
  5. Hotspot promotions. Identify locations where customers stop the most in your store. Place other products at these hotspots which appeal and are easy to purchase. Use the HOT products to sell other product – but the impulse products have to change a couple of times a week.
  6. Dance floor change. The dance floor, the space in front of the sales counter, needs to change weekly. More often for busier shops. A fresh dance floor will show more customers ‘new items’.
  7. Coupons / advertising on call to action offers on receipts. i.e. bring this coupon back within two days for XXX offer.
  8. End of sale offer. Once you complete each sale, give customers an offer to make another purchase within a limited timeframe for a discount. This is best done with a coupon.  Consider structuring the offer to drive business in a particular category.  Track redemption by keeping coupons redeemed with receipts for the purchases.
  9. Parasite displays. These are small space displays which hang next to other products, encroaching on the space. You can see supermarkets use parasite displays well offering products from elsewhere in space committed to popular and often unrelated product.

By focusing on sales efficiency and driving a bigger basket for each sale, you set yourself up to make more from every sale.

  1. Better margin – by selling for the best price

What you charge for what you sell needs to be carefully considered.  Price is all about customer perception of value.  Value is based in a range of criteria including:

  • Added value – from purchasing from this business.
  • Perceived value – how you package a product compared to how others package the same product can lead to a different price.
  1. Manage labour to focus on products with the best return to the business. This is a balance between overall gross profit dollars and margin percentage.
  2. Look at items with a customer service component, where your expertise is required to make the sale or make good use of the products or where there is a reasonable after sales service component. These can usually carry a higher margin.
  3. Look at the items which are unique to your business in your location or nearby. If you are the only store serving the local community then you do have a pricing opportunity. These items can usually carry a higher margin.
  4. Assess why people shop at your shop. If they are shopping because of convenience then you have the capacity to charge more for this. This is why convenience stores charge more for items which you can buy elsewhere for considerably less.
  5. Involve others in setting sale price. Ask your team what you can charge for an item. Assess what they think you can “get away with”.  By polling team members, you may find that your perception on price is lower than what others expect.

You can build a stronger business by taking small steps each day which focus on new traffic, better margin and improved sales efficiency. No grand plan, no expert strategy – just small steps which leverage opportunities which exist in your retail business.

By paying closer attention to the margin you can achieve, you strengthen the financial foundation of the business and ensure that your return on inventory investment is more helpful to the bigger business plan.

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ABC The Money looks at small business retail in this covid world

Tower CEO Mark Fletcher is  grateful to the team being The Money program on ABC radio for shining a light on the impact of Covid on retail. In the 30 minute program they look at retail through an economists’s lens and then through the eyes of several small business retailers. At about 22 minutes in Mark talks about shopping centre challenges and small business retail more broadly into the future.

If you’d like to hear the show, here is the link: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/themoney/retail/12370682

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What percentage of revenue should a retail business achieve from online in 2020?

How much of your retail business revenue should come from online?

This is a big question in 2020.

We have thoughts on this based on our work with over 3,000 small business retailers using our Point of Sale software, many of whom also connect to Shopify, Magento or WooCommerce websites for online sales.

Our advice is that small business retailers should have a goal of 10% of revenue coming from online. That is a starting point goal. Our advice is work hard and do everything possible in pursuit of this goal.

Once you reach the 10% goal, the goal should be 20%. With plenty of majors already at 20%, small businesses need to catch up.

This is urgent.

Yes, you need a good website. However, you need more than that. The site needs to sell what people want. It needs to be easily found. You need to actively and regularly pro mote the site. You need payment options and a sweet shipping offer. 

It’s hard work, but critical work if you want to reach the goal of online revenue for your business.

Here at our POS software and web development company we help small business retailers win more online business.  We do it though terrific software, which is backed by knowledgable training and support.

A big challenge faces by small business retailers pursuing online sales is that online is not high street. The two beasts are quite different. Whereas in a high street or physical store situation you know who is walking past or stepping inside, online you don’;t have the same insights. You have no idea who might be out there and looking. But, and it is a   b I g   but … you can find out. There are tools that can help you understand who is out there and what they are looking for.

Sometimes, the best online business is not one that is a copy of your physical shop. This is where research matters.

So, have a goal. We say start with 10% of revenue. Research it and once you have a plan, pursue it relentlessly, while at the same time remaining focussed on your physical shop.

Tower Systems helps in all of these areas.

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Using POS software to reduce dead stock in small business retail

Here’s a new video from us about using our small business POS software to drive efficient inventory purchases. That’s code for reducing dead stock by buying what you actually need.

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Small business retail advice: as we come out of lockdown

With several state and territory governments easing movement restrictions, people are talking more about life after lockdown, business owners are talking about this. If you have not done so already, we urge you to consider what your retail business looks like after lockdown or as lockdown provisions are eased.

Here is advice were provided to our POS software customers over a week ago.

While only you can know what is right for your own business, we offer this list of suggestions for your consideration:

  1. Change everything. This is the best opportunity to make major change. Move whole departments, change prices, change the counter focus, the counter process. Right now is a perfect opportunity for sweeping change in any business.
  2. Look at your pricing. Is it appropriate? Could adjustments be beneficial?
  3. Look at every supplier. Ask yourself, do they bring value (and joy) to the business.
  4. Make the shopping experience fresh, more appealing. Help your shoppers feel that they are in a new business.
  5. Quit hard and quick. Dump bins at the front of products you are exiting. This is the perfect time to make the move.
  6. Reconsider every business process. Is it beneficial to the business? If not, why continue with it? Be frugal with your time and capital investments.
  7. Share appreciation. From your front window to inside the shop, demonstrate shopper appreciation.
  8. Play uplifting music. Celebrate any step away from lockdown.
  9. Celebrate stories. Encourage people to share positive lockdown stories, somehow in-store on online through social media.
  10. The past is the past. It is tiresome hearing about how tough things have been, how troubling the times are, how difficult things are. People are living this. We are living this. Reminding people does not help in our view.

Now really is the opportunity for significant change in any business. Opportunities like this are rare. I urge all retailers to seize the opportunity.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond POS software. We provide business management advice in pursuit of more enjoyable and successful retail businesses. As retailers ourselves for many years across several retail formats we draw on personal experiences as well as the collective experiences of our broad user community.

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We support small business retailers in their push for 3 months rent free for their retail tenancies

We urge small business retailers and their suppliers to send the text below, or their own version of it, to politicians to drive maximum interest in a 3 months rent free campaign, to achieve for others what was achieved yesterday in WA. Here is the suggested text:

I am a small business retailer and retailers like me need your help. Thanks to strong leadership, federal and state / territory governments have flattened the COVID-19 curve. A consequence has been an extraordinary drop in retail foot traffic.

While we appreciate the 25% rent waiver we can negotiate with our landlord thanks to the mandatory code, it will not help. There are retailers like us who can’t cover wages let alone the 75% of usual rent. JobKeeper helps employees, not in paying rent.

We urge you to advocate for an immediate 3 month waiver of all rent, funded by government. Without this we think many independent local shops will close, families will lose their homes and demands on Centrelink dramatically increase.

This is urgent. Please help. Small businesses need you.


Here are email addresses you could use in addition to other state and federal politician email addresses you find – especially state leaders in your area.

senator.cormann@aph.gov.au
senator.cash@aph.gov.au
josh.frydenberg.mp@aph.gov.au
attorney@ag.gov.au
Christian.Porter.MP@aph.gov.au
department@treasury.gov.au
Peter.Dutton.MP@aph.gov.au
Karen.Andrews.MP@aph.gov.au
Chris.Bowen.MP@aph.gov.au
jim.chalmers.mp@aph.gov.au
mark.dreyfus.mp@aph.gov.au
senator.katy.gallagher@aph.gov.au
Brendan.O’Connor.MP@aph.gov.au

For the Prime Minister, use a feedback form on his website.

The more retailers and their suppliers engage with this campaign the better.

We emailed 1,700 newsagents about this yesterday morning. We have also engaged with our own customers about this and they have been engaging with politicians, sending the email far and wide.

This is an important lobbying campaign by our channel. Even if your business is not down in revenue, you have colleagues who are and they need your support. The email have been written with that in mind.

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Why the national cabinet position is not sufficient help for retailers – SME retailers need a 100% rent subsidy for 3 months

While the decision of the national cabinet over a week ago on a mandatory code for retail tenancies of small to medium enterprises is welcome, it gets nowhere near addressing the urgent and dire financial challenges facing many small business retailers.

Having talked with many retailers in a range of channels since the adoption of the code, the biggest challenges are being faced by those in larger centres. Whereas many, not all but many, high street and independent landlords are agreeing deals that are usually considerably better than forecast in the code, shopping centre landlords are slow to negotiate and demonstrating no willingness to go beyond the code.

The code allows for a rent reduction based on the quantum of reduction in revenue. In one business I know of with base rent at $16,000 a month, turnover is down 50%. The code suggests a rent reduction of 50% on the basis of the revenue decline, with half of the reduction being waiver and half being a deferral.

The retailer in our example could expect a waiver of $4,000 a month and a deferral, to be paid later, of $4,000 a month. That is if their landlord is fair in their approach.

The decline hit the retailer from early March. The landlord says the code will not apply until April.

Prior to COVID-19, the business had annual revenue of $1,130,000. It’s average GP% then was 35%. Out of the $395,500 GP it paid $192,000 in rent, $143,000 in wages and $42,000 in overheads, leaving $18,000 in profit – in broad terms.

Revenue is now down 50% and is likely to fall further. In addition to the decline in revenue has been a shift in what shoppers purchase. The average GP% has fallen to 29%.

Here is what an average month looks like. This example does not allow for retail peaks and troughs, like winter. Revenue: $47,500. GP: $13,775. Rent: $8,000. Wages: $5,000 with hours significantly cut. Overheads: $2,800 with all possible cuts made. The business is in the hole for $2,025 a month. However, in the rent number in this example, I have not factored that half of the reduction, $4,000 is deferred, not waived. This makes the hole worse.

The owners are at maximum borrowings. They have no fixed assets against which to borrow.

The question the owners have is – do we continue to trade and lose $2,025 a month plus the $4,000 a month deferral and in six months and be at least $36,150 worse off? … knowing that realistically, the loss will be closer to $80,000 based on the current trajectory.

Talking to the owners their position is the government regulations on social distancing are what have stopped people shopping. They created the situation where our business is now no longer viable. While we support what they have done, they have left us with a financial obligation that we are considering not accepting. We think going into administration now is the best option for us, to not extend our personal exposure.

This scenario is not uncommon. It demonstrates the inadequacy of the SME retail tenancy code of conduct.

We accept it is a complex issue to address. We think that state and federal governments need to immediately agree to themselves fund 100% of occupancy costs, rent, outgoings, marketing, for 3 months from April, with a goal of a better plan being developed prior to the end of June.

That move would keep landlords and retail businesses afloat. The downstream benefit would be cash in the economy, people in jobs, fewer businesses collapsing and, I suspect, lives saved.

Note: this example is not one of our retail  businesses and is not a newsXpress business.

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Small business retail advice: how to deal with the emotional impact of employee theft

Beyond the financial cost and regardless of the size of the theft, employee theft in a retail business can come at a huge cost to the business, those who work in it and the owners.

The impact can be felt for years after employee theft is discovered. We have seen this first hand inn businesses we have worked with and counselled through the process. To be honest, we have seen it ourselves in the early years of owning our own shops.

Often, the person caught stealing from a retail business is a trusted employees. This is where the high emotional cost kicks in. It is not uncommon for them to be a long term employee who has the trust and respect of the business owners. We have seen situations where it has been a relative of the owner or at least someone treated as a relative or a member of the family.

We have seen the impact of the theft flowing in waves:

  1. Typically, the retail business owners blame themselves for the theft or at the very least for not having discovered it sooner.
  2. What follows is the extraordinary feeling of a breach of trust and violation. This can lead to a feeling of overwhelming illness. In some cases, one or more of the business owners have withdrawn from the business – such is the personal hurt and betrayal they feel.
  3. Devastation often kicks in with the owners losing focus on the business, unable to deal with the issues of today.
  4. Depending on the extent of the theft, depression can follow which requires some form of intervention to resolve.

The personal impact on the outlook and confidence of the business owner can be devastating. Unless they are able to accept what has happened and genuinely move on, they could find themselves wallowing in anger, inaction or even depression for long after the crime has bene discovered.

The key, from our personal experience, is to accept what has happened, make a decision on how to deal with it and move on… never looking back.

Discovering an employee theft problem is an excellent first step. The alternative is that it continues unabated. Discovery stops the theft and that is a great first step. It is important to acknowledge the good news of the discovery regardless of the quantum of theft discovered.

Deciding an action plan is the ideal step two. Deciding whether to report the crime or agree on an immediate financial settlement with the employee who committed the crime is the best next step. Only the retail business owner can decide whether reporting the crime is worth it or not. Sometimes, being paid a reasonable sum by the employee is better for the business and moving on than a protracted police investigation.

Talk with the team. Listen. Console. This is a time for grieving about what happened. Either gather as a group or one on one. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to air their feelings. Business partners especially should take time to do this and explore how they feel. Do not let this process go on too long. Ensure that everyone understands that this is the time of grieving and that when it ends, it ends so that the business and those involved can move on.

Focusing on the business is the fourth important step. Once the employee theft is caught, the action plan re police versus reimbursement resolved, the next focus has to be the business. Difficult as this is, it is important to move forward rather than to stand still and wonder what might have been or worry about the betrayal one feels. Look at business practices and modify these so that theft is harder to perpetrate, implement processes which disrupt the business and make theft easier to detect.

There are excellent government and community resources which can help. Engage and use these resources and benefit from the insights of others.

How a retail business comes out of discovering employee theft is up to the leaders of the business themselves. They set the mood for the team. It is important to reach a point of moving on and not looking back as soon as possible – for the sake of the business, its employees and its customers.

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Small business retail advice: for school leavers joining the retail work force

We have some timely advice for school leavers joining the full-time workforce. It is offered here in the spirit of encouragement, that you grow professionally and serve the needs of the business employing you. This advice is especially aimed at those new to the workforce.

  1. Know the business is tough ands that retail, especially small business retail, is very tough.
  2. The business owners do not get to keep for themselves every cent that comes across the counter. Indeed, they will be lucky to keep even 5 cents in the dollar.
  3. If the business succeeds, you succeed.
  4. The business relies on customers. Every retail employee plays a role in setting how much each customer loves shopping in the shop.
  5. Learn as much about the business as you can in the businessman the job.
  6. Learn outside the business – there are many online learning / training opportunities in retail that can make you more valuable any employer.
  7. If you are not sure of something, ask. Don’t assume.
  8. Work out how to love your job, because if you don’t, working there will not be good for you or the business.
  9. Be as low maintenance as possible. Your employer is not an ATM you can tap every time you feel like sleeping in.
  10. How far you go in a business, and in your career, is up to you. You get out what you put it.
  11. Add value. If you do this a business will want to keep you and that gives you leverage in this job and your next.
  12. Every day, how it goes, what you get from it, the contribution you make … is up to you.
  13. Speak up. If you see a colleague making a mistake, stealing or misbehaving, speak up. You own it to the business to do this more than you owe your silence to a colleague or friend.
  14. Make suggestions. Even new employees have good ideas.Fresh eyes are sometimes the most valuable through which to see business.

If you are a business owner and hiring school leavers, step up to the responsibility seriously. You hire them, train them, manage them and determine their value to the business as as the value of the business to them. Oh, and being their friend is not an ideal step to good management.

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Small business retail advice: on competing with big business

Small business retailers often express frustration at big business competitors: they have more money for marketing, get better supplier deals and often have lower overheads per dollar of revenue. It is easy to get drawn into envy and get lost in a whirlpool of self pity for the small business situation.

In our experience in owning and running small retail businesses, there is little to be gained from worrying about these things, which we cannot change. There is more to gain from focussing on points of difference we can leverage.

This is important, that we look at the upside opportunities we have rather than the negative of envy about big business competitors. It’s tough to do, but well worth it.

For example, we can bundle items in our small retail businesses to make price comparison difficult or impossible, we can offer a loyalty pitch big businesses will not offer, we can be flexible in how and where we pitch producers while bug retail businesses are structured and, usually, inflexible.

Bundling is particularly useful as you can create a bundle unique to your business, which feels like it is a value proposition unlike anything they have seen to that point. While this is a product by product task, it is in these small steps that you can find success, by changing shopper perspective and winning business more direct competition may have denied.

Bundles can work in gift, stationery, cards, toys, plants, fishing and more. It is easy to use tech to manage and track this.

Big businesses do this. Its is a key reason for their price guarantees – because price comparison is harder and even not possible, ensuring they don’t pay out on the price guarantees.

Our key message today is that you can compete with big businesses in myriad ways, especially through using our small business focussed POS software that is rich in features for doing just this. We give you the tools and provide training and supporting their use, to help you compete as you may not have competed before.

Big business competitors are not going away, they are not fading in size, they are not spending less. This means we have to be smart and engaged to compete.

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Helping small business retailers leverage Boxing Day sales

Small business retailers using our POS software and following our retail management advice have had access to terrific tools with which to leverage the Boxing Day / Post Christmas sale opportunity. Our training, support and retail business advice platforms have aligned to help retailers make the most of the seasonal sale opportunity – well in advance of the big day.

Businesses in the city and country, mall and high street have terrific tools to leverage this traditional sale season in the retail year.

While Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other on line events have grown in intensity and popularity, in Australia the Boxing Day / post Christmas sales continue to be an important feature of the retail calendar. We help our retail community make the most of the opportunities.

Our focus has also included training and guiding new retailers and those who have never undertaken such sales. Owning our own retail businesses for years, we have been able to drawn on our own advice to to speak from personal experience, to help those new to the Post Christmas sale opportunity to help it work for them.

From discount facilities to inventory opportunity discovery to targeted marketing tools, our POS software is an ideal platform through which to drive additional revenue this time of the year.

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Advice for small business retailers on shop layout

The more a retail business looks like a traditional shop in any channel, the more it will be judged as a traditional shop, the more it will perform like a traditional shop. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is a conscious choice.

Through our work at Tower Systems we see awesome and successful retail businesses and less than awesome and not so successful retail businesses.

We encourage you to not run a traditional shop because there is no evidence in performance data or in retail history to indicate that a traditional retail model has any upside in the world today.

The best way to not be considered a traditional shop is to not look like one. Here is some of what this means based on our experience:

  1. Keep visual noise to a minimum. This means less posters and signs. Let your products be seen and be the heroes.
  2. No old-school posters out the front of the shop or hanging in the shop except in exceptional circumstances.
  3. No old-school products stand near the entrance.
  4. Make the front third of the shop open with non-permanent fixtures that are flexible and easily moved. These are best if they are everyday items: tables, a couch, boxes and more. The more colour, texture and style the less like a shop your shop will feel and the more relaxed shoppers will be.
  5. Floor rugs are effective too, under a table fixture especially.
  6. No candy or William old products at the counter. Use the counter for products that are easily purchased on impulse, that play against expectations.
  7. A feature wall behind the counter that can be changed easily.
  8. Different colours and textures rather than the usual shop-fit look.
  9. Different lighting to highlight different part of the business.
  10. Less shop-fit made fixtures and more personally made or found items.
  11. Product placement such that it encourages people to explore. Embrace treasure hunt retail… where people wander the shop hoping to find treasure.
  12. Move tasks, pricing, returns and more to the shop floor. This will reduce shopper theft and increase sales.
  13. Have the least amount of staff resources behind the counter as possible. On the shop floor the same people can guide purchases.

Change is critical in retail today. Change beyond what has been traditional, change that helps you attract new shoppers and through them new revenue opportunities.

While we are  an indie retail POS software co. we are retailers and retail experts. We’re here to help our customers through software, and beyond.

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Tips for small business retailers promoting Halloween

Halloween can be a good season for indie retailers.Success depends on active in-store and out of store engagement.

We do it in shops that we own and run and have evolved it from a low price point everyday halloween offer to a higher end specialty offer that is leveraged by fewer retailers.

Halloween is an excellent opportunity to ramp up traffic and sales leading up to Christmas. It is also an opportunity for the business to play outside its comfort zone. This is great news for any small business retailer.

Here is our advice from seeing Halloween in many retail businesses, advice on ways to promote Halloween to drive the opportunity further:

  1. Make your front window or front of story scary amazing, so shoppers have to step through it.
  2. Maybe host a night, after the shop closes, where people share local ghost stories. have some fun and get known as a place where local stories matter.
  3. Run a series of Facebook posts early in the season. Through these demonstrate your engagement as unique, different.
  4. Have a fancy dress competition on the weekend before.
  5. Mock yourselves in social media and elsewhere about being big kids, scary pants or more. Change how people look at your business.
  6. Run sales connected with people dressing up to access a sale price.
  7. A colouring competition for kids with a prize for the best.
  8. Have candy to give away.
  9. If you’re in a small town organise a Halloween trick or treat party for safe kid fun.
  10. Print a recipe sheet and give this away. Online you can find recipes for eyeball soup, eyeball appetisers, bloody desserts and the like.

Here at Tower systems we are all about small business retail. Anything we can do to help we will do, including providing practical business management advice for retailers on seasons such as Halloween.

Retail is all about entertainment. The more you embrace this the more fun people visiting your shop have. halloween is an ideal season for embracing retrial as  entertainment.

Sometimes, the best way to get from A to B is to take a 90 degree turn.

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Small business retail advice: how to setup a pop-up shop

POS software company Tower Systems offers practical everyday advice for indie small business retailers. Our advice serves not only our 3,500+ retailer partners but many other retailers. The advice we share in this post is from our portfolio of management advice for small business retailers.

Definition: a pop-up shop is a temporary shop, one that is open for a limited period of time, usually around a month, rarely more than three months.

We have assembled our pop-up shop advice and tips into key topic areas.

WHY?!

Like any business decision, a decision to open a pop-up retail location needs to be based on good research and the business itself needs to have a purpose. So, before you begin, think about why.

Here are some reasons to do a pop-up shop:

  1. To test new product categories.
  2. To supplement your income.
  3. To help quit slow moving stock.
  4. To enhance your retail experience.
  5. To experiment with a plan b where you might land if you close your main shop.
  6. To engage in targeted, temporary, competition.
  7. To compete with yourself.

LOCATION.

With a pop-up shop you don’t have time to find your customers. The location needs to already have good traffic passing daily, traffic you can easily leverage. Even more so than in fixed-location retail, location is critical.

The best locations are shops that have good passing traffic that is of interest to you and that have been vacant for a while where a landlord might be happy with something rather than nothing.

OCCUPANCY COST.

Negotiate the lowest rent cost possible. Some landlords see pop-up offers as a reason to charge a premium. Only sign up for a price you are 100% happy with. If it is expensive and does not work financially, don’t sign hoping it works out, because in retail it rarely does work out better. In a pop-up business you have less time to see if it works out. Also, preferably, no contingency deposit.

LABOUR COST.

Staff the business with a lean roster. This shop is about selling. that means, products placed for a price proposition rather than beautiful displays that take time to maintain. Every staff member is there to sell and maximise revenue from every shopper visit. There is no room in the roster for fat.

FIXTURES AND FITTINGS.

Don’t spend a cent on fixtures and fittings. That needs to be your starting position. It’s a pop-up shop. People expect it to be  efficient, cost-effective. Using tables and boxes adds to the feel of the shop feeling low-cost and that can help drive sales. Suppliers can be a good source for loaned fixtures.

INVENTORY.

Ask suppliers to offer consignment stock or special clearance deals they’d like to move fast. Go for items that can be sold out of a box, to make display and ranging easier. In-box displays of particularly cheap items can work very well.

PRICING MODEL.

Price to sell. This means being below usual retail. Price to understandable price points. For example, you might have a $10 table, a $20 table and so on. Consider bundling items into packs, which make price comparison difficult.

PROMOTION.

Don’t spend money on sign writing or marketing. Use social media and bargain websites and anywhere similar where you can list the store and its products.

Host an opening party. List this as a local event on Facebook.

MANAGEMENT MINDSET.

Your mindset in managing the pop-up shop needs to be different to a fixed-location retail situation. Pop-up shops are about low cost, low overheads, low prices. Be ready to do deals. Whoever manages  the pop-up shop needs to be different to how they would be in the fixed-location retail business.

SPEED.

You need to move fast. From the moment you sign a lease or agreement, the clock is ticking. Ideally, you’d open within 24 hours and when you are done, closing and clearing out the shop is done in 24 hours or less. This is all about maximising the time for income-production.

TRACK PERFORMANCE.

Cultivate good data that can guide business decisions for your next moves.

Is a pop-up shop worth doing? Only you can determine that. We have seen plenty of pop-up shops work well for the retailers, contribute good GP, help move slow stock and help open to the owners category opportunities not previously considered.

Do the planning and you should expect to benefit.

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Helping Australian newsagents create more valuable businesses through transformation

Tower Systems also owns newsXpress, a marketing group for newsagents who want to transform their businesses and grow them into something meaningful to today and beyond. Here are details of an offer from newsXpress…

We give newsagents hopeby providing options for finding new customers, by helping to farewell out of date practicesand by providing access to better marginproducts. We help newsagents enjoy their businessesmore and make them more valuable. This is what we do at newsXpress every day … because,we believe in local small business retail. We are not locked into the shingle of the past. On the horizon, we see a bright futureMark Fletcher, CEO, newsXpress Pty Ltd

Every day, we invest in the future of locally owned newsXpress businesses. We run as a community co-operative. There has never been a profit distribution. We are 100% focussed on helping our members be the best, most successful and happiest of retailers.

You can join us as a full-service full-benefits member. Or, you can try us out first…\

TRY NEWSXPRESS BEFORE YOU BUY OFFER.

BEYOND TRADITION, WE CAN HELP YOU FIND SUNSHINE.

We have some newsagents keen to join newsXpress but concerned about the five-year contract and the requirement that 75% of card space is allocated to Hallmark.

For a limited time and a limited number of newsagency businesses, we offer access to a valuable package of newsXpress services on a fixed one-year term trial basis.

As a friend of newsXpress you can trial newsXpress services without long-term obligation.

For a monthly fee of $295.00 (inc.GST) for twelve months only or a one-off up-front fee of $1,750.00 (inc. GST) we would welcome you as a friend of newsXpress for one year. This does not mean you would be a member of the group. There is no agreement to sign, no requirement to rebrand, no card company requirement.

Here is what you would get access to as a friend of newsXpress:

  1. In-store visits from a skilled Retail Development Manager, who will provide fresh-eyes advice on your business and suggest optional changes you could make.
  2. Access to centrally billed suppliers offering discounts off and extended terms.
  3. Access to our weekly newsXpress email, with management and marketing advice.
  4. Access to our knowledge base, an online resource with 200+ articles of advice.
  5. Access to our head office team of retail experts for tactical and strategic advice.
  6. Access to newsXpress regional member meetings.
  7. Access to the newsXpress conferences.

Here is some of what full newsXpress members have access to:

  1. Online sales through product branded websites, delivering net new revenue.
  2. Your own free website branded to your business, selling products your products.
  3. newsXpress preferential pricing from Hallmark and allpreferred suppliers.
  4. A private Facebook group – motivation and encouragement, a safe place to talk.
  5. Access to the private team member Facebook page for your staff.
  6. Financial management counselling service. We offer a deep dive into the business, develop a budget and help with resetting the business physically and financially.
  7. A secure .newsxpress.com.au email address.

At the end of the year you would either join newsXpress orcontinue to run your business without access to anything newsXpress offers.

If at any time in the year you want to switch and become a full newsXpress member, we’d apply the portion of the pre-paid one-year amount toward newsXpress member fees.

There is one catch to our offer: You need to be engagedYou need to work with us on growing your business, making it more efficient and more relevantto today.

If you are tired, we will help motivate you. If you are out of cash. We will make low / no cost suggestions. We will not force you do anything.

Become a friend of newsXpress and let is help you.

Our head office team… newsXpress has twelve full time employees working on behalf of members – merchandise experts, marketing professionals, retail advisors.

Our leadership team… is there for you, on anymatter, offering an ear, a hug, advice or representation, on any matter. We will help as much as we are able.

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POS software helps small business retailers add a surcharge for credit card use

Credit cards cost retailers money. Some more so than others. Indeed, some cards can cost a retailer three times as much as the lowest cost card. This is a real cost to business, a cost that retailers are seeking to m mitigate, especially in situations where they are unable to adequately cover the cost due to the fixed price nature of what they sell.

This challenge is especially real in small business retail, where economy of scale is not available and where leverage to push down other overhead costs is not an option.

Here at our POS software company, we have helped retailers for years to have options for charging a surcharge automatically through the software, tracked, managed and collected to help the businesses defray these cards costs.

While the charging of a surcharge is contentious, credit card fees are a real cost of business that is hidden, and that is why big businesses like it we think, because they have negotiating power to keep costs low and therefore not need to recover the card costs they are hit with by banks.

In charging a surcharge, small business retailers are being transparent about real costs and showing customers how they can help businesses to transact on a more equitable footing.

Tower Systems makes it easy. manageable and changeable for indie retailers to charge a credit card use surcharge, which is in line with ACCC requirements, through the software with transparency and tracking through the business and into Xero, MYOB and more through POS software integrations.

Whether you charge a surcharge or not is 100% up to you. For what it’s worth, we do not in the shops we own because they are in competitive Westfield centres and we’d rather not be that business that charges a surcharge.

Tower Systems serves indie specialty retailers with POS software designed specifically for those niche businesses, software tuned to their needs and that help businesses manage more efficiently and safely in a rapidly changing retail environment.

What we offer in the area of a credit card surcharge facility is a small part of a bigger and more valuable offering for indie retailers.

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Good POS software cannot stop poor business retains in small business retail

Good POS software offers flexibility, choices in how the software can be used in a business. What may be a good choice for one business could be a bad choice for another business.

For example, the Tower Systems small business POS software enables the sale of items by department. This could be appropriate in businesses where items are not bar-coded and where stock control is not required because of the unique nature of the products sold.

However, for most retail businesses, selling by department key only is not appropriate. It is old school, risky, poor business management.

A risk of selling items by department, by not scanning each item sold, by not tracking each item sold is loss of visibility of stock movement.

In this scenario, where items are not scanned, it is easy for stock to be stolenby customers or employees and the business owner to either not know or not know until long after the event.

yet, here we are in 2019 and we have some retailers using their POS software too sell items by using the department key, which is genuinely nuts in our humble professional opinion.

Valuable benefits of POS software are the reduction of customer and employee theft, the more efficient management of stock, faster selling and better business management.

All of these benefits are denied a business when it sells items using department keys, when it sells items by not scanning items when they are sold.

While POS software is designed to manage inventory using bar codes, sometimes people make the bad choice to not use this. The consequences of such a bad decision are on them and not on the software as it is doing what they have told it to do through settings over which they have control.

We can help you review your decisions, to improve them, so your use of the software improves. We can help make sure that you are leveraging all the time saving, money saving, mistake saving tools in our small business POS software, to ensure that the benefits flow and that poor business practices are in the past.

We’re here to help.

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Let’s talk about empty shops – why there are so many and what can be done about them

Talk to any small business retailer and they will have stories about empty shops in their area that are having a negative impact on their business.

In shopping centres, suburban high streets and country town main roads, there are plenty of empty shops.

Some have been empty for years.

Empty shops make a shopping centre or area feel unpopular, making the task of attracting shoppers harder for remaining retailers. Retailers nearby who are doing it tough will point to empty shops nearby as a core cause.

Some local councils have been innovative in addressing the vacant retail space challenge by opening them to local makers and artists. This has been terrific to see. In Newcastle in NSW, for example, they did some excellent work in this area years ago. Most councils, however, have not.

Why are there so many empty shops? Talk to retailers and they will blame landlords for rents that are too high. Talk to economists and others expert in retail property space as a ratio of population and they will say that Australia has too much retail space. Talk to the folks in some specific towns and they will blame the main street empty spaces on the new mall that has opened just outside town. Talk to almost anyone and they will blame online. Talk to some landlords and they will say retailers are not innovative enough.

As with any contentious issue that has opposing vested interests, it is hard to get to the truth of the situation.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that the answer to the question lies in a mixture of the reasons offered above.

I do think we have too much retail space in Australia. Rent is among the highest in the world. Retail is not that innovative. People are shopping online for convenience. So, yes, I am hedging my bets.

That said, the why does not matter as much as what to do with them.

Occasionally, you can find a pragmatic landlord who is happy to have a space filled at a lower rent than sit empty for a year or more. We think we need more pragmatic landlords.

Occasionally, we see small business retailers burst out of what has been traditional for their type of business and create something genuinely innovative, which is embraced by local shoppers. We need more of this. However, it is hard work, often capital intensive and high risk.

Occasionally, we see empty shops torn down and the space used for something difference. We need to see much more of this. Less retail space is a good thing for retailers and this is good for local communities.

The challenge for small business retailers today with empty shops nearby is how to deal with the stench of those empty shops.

If your landlord has those shops too and there is one next to you, ask them if you can use the space for display. To us, that would be a win win for you both. The key is to craft the right approach that serves the interests of the landlord as well as your own.

If the shops are not from your landlord, the most obvious response will be to be louder and bigger from your premises. By louder, we mean more events to attract shoppers, give people more reason to come to you.

The best way to deal with online is to be online yourself, with a compelling offer, probably under a brand that is not your shop brand, seeking out shoppers far from your shop location.

The alternative to action is to complain because, yeah, complaining achieves a lot … not.

Empty shops are a problem in Australia. How we deal with that in our own retail businesses comes down to us and the actions we take.

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Small business retail advice: make every day your pay day

We hear retailers saying that times are tough, that business is tough, that the economy is difficult. 

While complaints are easy, acting is harder. Our view is that everyone in small business has to act to the conditions. If times are tough, get tougher, smarter and faster is pursuing better times.

This is why one piece of advice we give to small business retailers is that they/you should make every day your pay day.

Today, the best way to extract value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business. The days of a retail business selling for a handsome multiple of net earnings are over for now. Making money when you sell is not and common. hence, the needs to make money today. What you make reflects in your P&L.

The P&L matters as this is what you need to be guided by in all business decisions and actions.

The challenge is how do you do this?

Retailers need to look at their businesses differently. This starts with the mindset of every day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context, in the context of the P&L impact.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Run with the leanest roster possible. Just about every retail business we review has capacity to lower labour costs. In a typical retail business, one hour saved today is worth around $75 in revenue.
  2. Ensure you can sell when the business is closed. Yes, this means sell online.
  3. Promote the business outside your usual foot traffic area … increase your customer base.
  4. Promote your business outside the brand people know you as. or example, online pitch under a brand other than your brand.
  5. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  6. Have stunning displays that attract people from outside the shop.
  7. Have compelling displays in-store that encourage people to browse beyond their destination purchase.
  8. Always have impulse offers at high traffic locations.
  9. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  10. Buy as best you can.
  11. Grab settlement discounts every time you are able.
  12. Measure product category performance by gross profit. Quit the categories that are not paying for themselves.
  13. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  14. Leverage adjacency information. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower software helps with this. It is easy.

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Small business retail advice on quitting stock

This advice could be useful to any type of retail business that wants to quit stock, especially if they ant to quit stock quickly. Too often in our work with retailers we see processes in place for quitting stock where speed is not the focus. We think that is unhelpful for once you decide to quit stock, it needs to go, quickly.

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. I think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products. Of course, this will vary based on your own local circumstances.

The easiest way to quit stock is for your shoppers to understand the deal. Understanding the deal starts with how you brand the sale.

A sign with SALE on it could mean anything. Do NOT use this. There are too many around, each meaning a different thing.

A sign with, say, 50% off could be confusing as they don’t know the starting price and some may not understand percentages.

Sign with HALF PRICE is more easily understood but they still do not know the starting price.

If you really want to quit stock, we suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

We, in one of our own shops, tried a $9.99 priced item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is my recommendation on quickly quitting stock: get the price messaging right.

If your price messaging is hard to understand or if there are too many different price messages you could be creating a barrier and this could stop you achieving the sales outcome you want.

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Small business retail management advice: make every day your payday

There was a time when small business retailers could rely on selling their business for a handsome increase on the price they paid thereby providing a good pay day, when businesses sold for a good multiple of net earnings.

No more. Today, the best way to extract value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business.

The challenge is how do you do this?

Retailers need to look at their businesses differently. This starts with the mindset of every day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Run with the leanest roster possible. Just about every retail business we review has capacity to lower labour costs.
  2. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  3. Have stunning displays that attract people from outside the shop.
  4. Have compelling displays in-store that encourage people to browse beyond their destination purchase.
  5. Always have impulse offers at high traffic locations.
  6. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  7. Buy as best you can.
  8. Grab settlement discounts every time you are able.
  9. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  10. Leverage adjacency information. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower Systems POS software helps with this. It is easy.

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The Retail Doctor Podcast

Tower CEO Mark Fletcher was a guest on a recent Podcast by The Retail Doctor, Bob Phibbs. Click here for a listen to the thirty-minute program.

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Diversity in retail

Here is an article I have recently completed about diversity in retail, as a management approach to help you attract more customers to your business. I have been thinking about diversity because of an inspirational presentation I heard by Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony, in which she outlined how a commitment to diversity has helped the Symphony become more successful.

Diversity in retail.

This is not about what you may think it is about.

For years, retailers, especially small business retailers have been told do one thing right, be known for something.

They have been told that a unique selling proposition(USP) is about that one thing and getting it so right that you are known for it.

This singular focus began in an era when people often discovering a business did so by being in front of the business.

While pursuing a USP has worked for many, the world today has changed. Technology has changed us, it has changed how people find retail businesses.

Whereas in the past, there was often one major path delivering traffic to a business, today, thanks to technology, there are usually many paths, often not as obvious to us as the path of years ago.

Technology has also changed what businesses can and do offer.

Most important, technology has changed the ease of reaching customers.

Being local is not as important as it used to be.

While local small business retailers wish being local is all that matters, it is not. Often, the local community is not sufficient to serve the growth needs of a business, often because locals themselves are shopping elsewhere because doing so is easier.

Retailers need to reach more people. This means reaching beyond what has been traditional. For local retailers it means reaching beyond local. It can mean reaching beyond what you are known for.

Thanks to cool personalisation technology and targeted marketing, businesses interstate or overseas can provide a special interest product in a way that locals can love. Big businesses, especially, can leverage technology to reach local shoppers in personal and local ways.

Being local is notas important as it used to be for plenty of specialty retail businesses.

A commitment to diversity could help local retailers in this changed world.

I am not talking here about diversity in the manner in which the term is often used.

To me, diversity in small business retail is about a business, your business, being diversein the customers it pursues and diversein the ways it seeks to connect with potential new customers.

Customer diversityis about being relevant, appealing and of value to different groups of customers to those you pursue today. No, not everyone, because that does not work.

Diversity in customers is about targeting very specific, new, groups that you are certain you can satisfy.

Why do people shop with you?

Think about what brings people through your front door right now. Typically, a majority of shoppers will come through for one reason, one product or service category.

Is there another product or service category not too distant from what you focus on today that you could introduce to broaden the appeal of the business, to help you reach people who are not interested in your prime product category or service today?

This is one example of diversity … making your business appealing to a group of people who do not find your current offer appealing.

It is not about becoming a general store. Rather, it is about making thoughtful moves, based on research, to broaden the pool of people who couldwant to shop with you.

This is about you reaching more customers.

Diversity in ways of connecting with potential new customersis about how you communicate, how you connect.

Multiple touchpoints matter in this connected world.

While we all get sick of emails, text messages, social media ads and the like, they are sent for a reason, by big businesses with strong tech infrastructure to take care of this follow up.

Think about the new shopper journey in your shop today. Think about how they found you. In small business retail, word of mouth remains important as does store location. But what about other new shoppers, how can they be found?

Diversity in how, where and when you promote your business matters as does diversity in your voice.

How you reach out to an older shopper should be different to how you reach out to a young mum.

How you reach out to someone new to your core product category should be different to how you reach out to someone deeply engaged with your core category.

A more diverse pool of shoppers requires a more diverse approach to find them.

Here’s what I mean: use diverse avenues of marketing and through these use diverse marketing pitches, targeted for a more diverse pool of customers.

Marketing avenues can include social media paid and free, Google Ads, with each being thoughtfully created to pursue a specific type of shopper, one that fits a diversity goal.

Just as you expand what you offer to appeal to new consumers, you expand how you appeal to reach new customers.

Local businesses often promote local. It made sense for years. Today, specialty retailers can easily sell outside the local area, making a commitment to diversity also being about reaching beyond local as that in itself is about pursuing diversity.

It’s about more than what you are known for today.

Here is what it comes down to. What you are known for today is not enoughsince that will limit your appeal to customers interested in that. Smart and tech engaged businesses are chipping away at your core, what you are known for.

Thoughtfully, carefully, broaden the appeal of your business through what you sell and how you pitch. Pursuing a more diverse pool of customers will buttress your business, help it weather change.

This is why diversity matters. It is why you have to make your business appealing to more people and why you have to be more diverse in how you try and find them.

Now, an action plan.

Write down your target customer today. Describe them in a concise way.

Now, think about another customer you could target, a different customer you would like to reach but do not reach today. Think about what you need to do in terms of inventory, shop layout, online engagement and other changes to reach this new customer.

Write down how you promote your business today. Now, think about other ways you could promote your business and other voices, styles, tones you could use to appeal to people you do not appeal to today.

New products, new services, pitched through new voices in new mediums, this is how to attract a more diverse customer pool to your business.

Diversity in retail is simple really. It is about expanding your reach through thoughtful planned actions to reach a more diverse group of customers.

The alternative is to keep doing what you have been doing. That will maintain your current business trajectory.

Mark Fletcher is the owner of Tower Systems, newsXpress and several niche retail businesses.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOWER SYSTEMS:

NSW / ACT / TAS: Nathan Morrison. 0417 568 148.
QLD / NT: Justin Randall. 0434 365 789.
VIC / SA / WA: Tim Batt. 0401 833 917.

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Advice for small business retailers on theft

Most theft from independent retail businesses can be identified and reduced through a consistent application of simple management processes and smart use of specialist retail software. Tower Systems has been helping retailers cut theft for decades through issuing advice, responding to requests and by continuing to provide functions in our retail software that allow business owners to identify and track suspicious behaviour – by shoppers, managers and store employees. Over the years our expertise has been called on by police and prosecutors as well as individual retailers.

Follow this advice on how to use our specialist retail POS software to hamper opportunities for theft and bolster the certainty of detecting it before it’s too late:

  1. Employ stock control for high volume items. Enter new stock as it comes in, scan all sales and only reorder based on what the software says. Perform a stock take regularly each month. High volume item stock discrepancies are an indicator of theft.
  2. Scan everything you sell. Do not use department tracking only – your data needs to be granular to prevent employees taking advantage of loose stock on hand quantities. Not scanning individual stock items is unfortunately an invitation to dishonest employees.
  3. Use the software-based end of shift procedure and have a zero-tolerance policy on cash balance discrepancies. Reconcile banking to your computer software at end of shift. We have seen businesses failing to do this: one was being skimmed regularly of $200 a day.
  4. Do spot cash balancing. Unexpected checks can uncover surprises. One business owner needing to perform banking during the day uncovered a $350 discrepancy that lead to the discovery of systematic theft.
  5. Mix up your roster. Sometimes people work together to steal. One retailer found a family friend senior and their teenage daughter stealing consistently.
  6. Check your audit Log. Look at cancelled sales, deleted sales and items deleted from a sale. Leaving a cash drawer open from the previous sale, scanning items, taking the cash and cancelling the sale is the most common process used by employees to accrue cash they then take from you. Our software tracks cancelled sales and what was in them. This can be matched with video footage.
  7. Check GP by department. If GP is falling outside what you expect, always research further.
  8. Publish a theft policy. Put this on a noticeboard in the back room. Get staff to read it and sign up to it. At the bottom of this page is a sample theft policy.
  9. Keep the store counter area clean. A better organised counter reduces the opportunity for theft. Reducing nooks and crannies makes detection of any cash hoarding easier.
  10. Have a “no employee bags” at the counter policy. This makes it harder for dishonest employees to hide stolen cash.
  11. Beware employees who carry folded paper or small notepads. These can be used for them to keep track of how much cash is in the register that is theirs – i.e. not rung up in the software.
  12. Beware of calculators and mobile phones at the counter. Employees can use these devices to track how much cash could be stolen prior to balancing for the day – cash from sales not processed.
  13. Do not let employees sell to themselves. If an employee wants to purchase something ensure they purchase it from the customer’s side of the counter.
  14. Be professional in your management of the business. The more professional your approach they less likely your employees will steal as they will see the risk of being caught as high. Do not take cash handling lightly; if you respect your business procedures your staff are more likely to too. Never take cash from the till for your own personal use, i.e. to buy lunch.
  15. Advise all job applicants that you will require their permission for a police check. From the outset this indicates that you take your business seriously. In many situations applicants who have been asked for permission to do a police check advise they have found a job elsewhere.

These steps work. They are based on decades of helping small business retailers to reduce and manage employee theft.

Employee and customer theft costs a typical independent retail business between 3% and 5% of non-agency sales revenue each year. Management attention and smart use of retail software can cut this dramatically. It does not take much time – it is simply about smart procedures and professional processes.

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Advice on avoiding the impact of a ransomware attach on your retail business

Ransomware / malware can come in many forms. Every computer connected to a network in any way is at risk.

There is no guaranteed protection but there are important steps to take. This advice sheet provides advice designed to reduce the risk to your business. Ransomware often comes in the form of a harness looking business email, seeking you to click on something that makes sense.

Often, if the recipient clicks on the attachment in the email, the ZIP file, on a PC running Windows they would have been locked out of the computer and subject to ransomware.

A ransomware attack is where money is demanded to unlock your computer. Often, the computer is not unlocked even after a payment is made.

More and more businesses including small business retailers are being affected by these malicious attacks, they are being locked out of their businesses.

You can reduce the opportunity of being hit by an attack by taking care with emails.

If you are not sure of the sender, ignore the email. Tell everyone who has access to your email. Lay out your ground rules and demand discipline.

Here is our best-practice advice to protect against Ransomware:

  1. Ensure you use professional, up to date, virus protection.
  2. Ensure you have a good firewall with strong settings.
  3. Do not click on emails or attachments unless you are sure of the sender.
    1. Be particularly wary of ZIP files in emails.
    2. The ATO will not email you.
    3. Your bank will not email you.
    4. Australia Post will not email you, not like the example I have posted.
  4. Ensure all passwords you use are strong.
  5. Consider using an email filtering facility.
  6. Do not allow remote access to your computer unless you are certain of the person accessing.
  7. Ensure you have strong passwords. A strong password should include: some CAPS, some numbers and at least one special character. Check your password at: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  8. Change your password regularly.
  9. Run an up to date operating system.
  10. Have rules on computer use: no games, no online gambling, no porn, no personal emails.
  11. Have an overarching rule: do not open any email or go to any website unless you are certain.
  12. Use a cloud backup service like the Tower backup service. This provides the fastest recovery.
  13. Have multiple backup devices for additional protection.
  14. Do not use automatic file replication programs / facilities such as Dropbox or Google Drive. If a file is encrypted with malware / ransomware it will upload to the account and infect other files.

Most ransomware attacks can be avoided by careful scrutiny of your emails and websites you visit.

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