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.

How our POS software company helps retailers go cashless if they want

Cashless retail is a thing. It is growing in retail, especially small business retail where trading in cash is challenging with banks withdrawing services and some increasing fees for handling cash.

Tower Systems, in its POS software, helps small business retailers transact without cast cost effectively, safely and quickly. We do this in myriad ways including…

Lower cost direct EFTPOS. We have negotiated excellent, competitive, rates for our 3,000+ customers for direct connect broadband EFTPOS, making accessing EFTPOS cheaper as well as faster and safer. This makes using EFTPOS at the counter as fast as cash if not actually faster.

Direct integration with EFTPOS. This means there is no extra keying of sales amounts, no separate terminal. No slower process for handling. Fewer mistakes. Easier end of shift balancing. More certainty for customers and for the business.

Easier access to cashflow finance. Through the EFTPOS arrangement, there is access to cashflow finance that can help the business better managing capital needs with greater certainty given the flow of funds between EFTPOS and the business bank account.

Direct Xero integration. This means less keystrokes, less accounting and bookkeeping fees, less mistakes and greater business certainty thanks to a more robust base off data on which business decisions can be made.

Business process advice. This includes migrating your end of shift from cash and other payment methods to other only, eliminating the float, making services payments easier and more.

Tower Systems can help retail businesses that want to transition to cashless to achieve this. We are not advocating this as we recognise each business owner needs to make the decision that is right for them. Our message is we are here with a plan if you want it.

As retailers ourselves, the questions about whether to go cashless in retail as well as how to go cashless in retail are as real for us as other retailers. Indeed, these are questions we have right now … hence, our preparation of plans and considerations, so we are positioning ourselves for our retail businesses and are happy to share this with other retailers in our small business retail community.

Cashless is growing in use in retail. We think it is useful and appropriate for retailers to learn how to deal with this. We are here to be a sounding board for anyone interested.

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.

How retail businesses do business is changing fundamentally, are you ready?

Back in the day in retail doing business with supplier representatives was all about face to face contact in-store or a nearby coffee shops. Relationships mattered. This is why suppliers and service providers invested in sales teams.

Good sales people could get a meeting and the required business from face to face interaction.

Today, things are different. Retail businesses run with less staff and management hours in the business. More business decisions are made outside the business, on the road, while at a second job or from home. More business decisions are being made and business transacted without any face to face discussion. Even phone contact matters less.

This shift is, in part, because of broader changes in terms of how we interact with friends and family.

We want to look at what is happening here from the perspective of how we do business with our customers in our retail shops.

More and more transactional business is done without live human contact. There is the obvious route of online (web) for sure. However, there is also business done through message platforms, email and elsewhere, where there is no face to face contact with shoppers.

Are you setup for this? Are you connecting with people through social media and able to sell to them through here? Are you timely in handling emails? Are you prepared with images and information sheets on products you sell so you can sell without face to face?

Without a doubt more and more retail business is being done outside of shops. We in small business retail need to configure and equip our businesses to be able to do this. This is part about technology, part about business mindset and part about availability.

Too often, we see small business retailers express anger and frustration at obvious baddies – landlords, employees, customers and more – for poor business performance.

Right now, with how the conduct of business is shifting, we, all of us – retailers and suppliers to retailers – need to look at ourselves and how we conduct business.

Further, we need to make sure that we are meeting potential customers where they are. We need to realise that more often than ever before, that is outside and, sometimes, far away from our shop. We need to do this when those customers want. Often times, that is when we are closed.

This is the new normal of retail.

———

Tower Systems is not your usual POS software company. As retailers ourselves (three shops and seven consumer facing websites of our own) we live closer to your world and this is reflected in ur software and how we serve our POS software customers.

To find out more about our POS software and support for specialty retailers…

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

Small business retailer advice: how to turn off, relax and unwind … to find space to be more successful

Small business retailers need to work relentlessly to find ideas of their own, ideas suited to their unique situation, big ideas and small ideas, ideas for new traffic, products and services.

Owning a business lays this obligation to be perpetually creative, perpetually innovating, on you.

Coming up with fresh ideas can be a challenge. Sometimes, retailers and retail managers experience a block, like writer’s block. Here are suggestions for ways to clear this blockage.

  1. Try a sensory deprivation tank. These are very popular now. The world outside is shut out. It’s weird at first. Your brain soon adjusts and you … relax.
  2. Cook a complex meal that you have never cooked before.
  3. Bake a cake you have never cooked before.
  4. If you don’t do jigsaws, do a jigsaw.
  5. If you don’t make models, make a model.
  6. If you don’t like ballet, go to the ballet.
  7. If you don’t like opera, go to the opera.
  8. Book in and take singing lessons.
  9. Turn your mobile phone off and go and see a movie from your favourite genre.
  10. Go to a music concert for a group you love. Let your hair down. Sing along at the top of your lungs.
  11. Go to a comedy show. Laugh out loud.
  12. Go for a walk in the forest. A long walk. Touch nature. Sit a while and soak it all in.
  13. Go and sit in front of water, preferably an ocean and look out to the horizon.
  14. Lie on your back at night time and look up to the stars. Think about out there and the bigger universe.
  15. Shut yourself in a dark room and put on your favourite music and sing along.
  16. Try yoga, even if you have never done it before.
  17. Light some incense, put on some relaxing music and meditate inwardly, shutting out the world.
  18. Have a therapeutic massage.
  19. Exercise at the gym, run or swim. Work up a sweat and get lost in exercise.
  20. Read a novel from cover to cover without interruption. Choose a work of fiction you are more likely to get lost in.
  21. Do yard work, things you have been putting off for a long time.
  22. Go for a long drive, away from work and home. Get to somewhere you have never been before.
  23. Have a romantic dinner with your partner at a place where you have never been before.
  24. Take an unexpected day off and treat yourself to guilty pleasures.
  25. Buy some lunch and sit outside your retail store, across the mall or across the road and eat.
  26. Write a fictional short story.

These ideas are about you getting lost in experiences which are unrelated to your business and unrelated to what you are used to.

By getting lost, ideas have a better opportunity of surfacing, solutions have a better opportunity of making their way out.

Scheduling time to nurture yourself with ideas like those noted above could help you become more productive and creating for the business.

While the activities should be enjoyable, the business stands to benefit from greater creativity and more focused mental energy.

Have fun and let the great ideas roll!

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.

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.

Instant asset write-off benefits for small business retailers

The immediate asset write off benefits that have been further enhanced by the federal government this year present small business retailers investing capital in their businesses tax and other benefits that are worth considering.

The details of what we in small businesses can do are outlined in the simpler depreciation for small businesses information from the Australian Taxation Office:

Right now, the threshold is $30,000. Spend this much on a depreciating asset and you can write it off this financial year. If your business books a profit, the benefit of the write-off can be considerable.

The Tax Office website has excellent details. Your accountant can help too.

The Small Business Development Corporation in Western Australia has an excellent explainer of instant asset write off on their website. Click here to access it.

Click here to access an explainer from Finstro, a business finance company.

Small business retail advice: making the most of election day

We are getting in early with refreshed election day advice for small business retailers.

Election day in Australia is a terrific opportunity for small business retailers with a spike in the number of people who are out and about. Smart retailers will embrace this opportunity as well as the opportunity of people standing in line waiting to vote and on their phone.

Here are some tips to get you thinking about marketing opportunities for any small retail business this weekend on election day:

  1. Set the front of the shop so it looks completely different – make the most of the extra people out and about. You want people seeing the shop for the first time ages to be surprised at the changes.
  2. Have a party. Plenty of music, activities, drinks and food. Make the day a celebration – to celebrate the end of the dreary campaign.
  3. Have an election sale – but make it fun. Do better than a straight sale. For example, in good Asssie tradition call it keeping the bastards honest sale.
  4. Setup sale tables in the name of local candidates.
  5. Give a discount to any customer who tells you and everyone in the shop a joke about politicians.
  6. Have a game of pin the tail on the politician in the shop.
  7. Declare the shop an election free zone. Maybe have a fine jar for anyone talking about the election on the day – raise money for a local charity.
  8. Promote your business online all Saturday with a series of social media posts so those out and about in lines waiting can see you are engaged.

All these ideas are about having fun on the day and offering a different shopping experience to usual. We hope they get yo8u thinking of what you could do, thinking of ideas of your own.

Here at Tower Systems we are not your usual POS software company. We are engaged with our customers deeply on a range of fronts to help them enjoy their businesses more and to get more from their businesses every day. In addition to excellent POS software for specialty retail businesses, we provide business management advice and support – way beyond the POS software itself.

Whatever you do this election day, have fun.

How our POS software company helps small business retailers set their businesses 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.

In our work with small business retailers we have been able to build knowledge assets in many areas, including how to set a business up for sale, how too make the offer compelling and the business manageable and enticing. We share a glimpse here into some of our knowledge assets in this area.

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 business 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.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers deal with cashflow challenges

Two weeks ago we published comprehensive advice for small business retailers on dealing with a cashflow challenge. It was not the first time we have provided business advice on cashflow management and it won’t be the last.

What makes us experts on cashflow management in small business retail?

This is a good question. We are retailers ourselves. We have 3,000+ retail businesses as customers. These points and our decades of service to small business retail position us to be able to help in this area.

Our advice was thoughtfully prepared, reviewed and edited, to ensure it spoke to the needs of local small business retailers, to help them in practical and genuinely useful ways.

We are grateful for the engagement of our small business retailer community, the follow-up questions, their engagement seeking help beyond our written advice.

Helping small business retailers beyond our POS software and with ready to use advice on managing a cashflow challenge is something we are proud of offering as part of our service at Tower Systems.

HERE IS OUR CASHFLOW ADVICE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. 

In it’s simplest form, cashflow management is about ensuring a business has the cash necessary to meet its obligations and, hopefully, build reserves for the owners.

Good cashflow management starts with the understanding that this is your business. You sign the lease. You sign up for any loans. You hire, train, motivate, manage and, maybe, fire the staff. You choose what you sell. You set your prices for most of what you sell. You control how the shop looks. You manage the promotion of the business outside the business. Yes, this is your business.

The cashflow of the business is a product of your choices.

It is critical for every business owner to own their business cashflow performance. Blaming others or external factors is a cop out. harsh as it is, that’s the truth.

MANAGING CASHFLOW.

This list is ordered by priority.

  1. Budget. Have one. Until you do, do nothing. This is priority #1. The budget should include an inventory spend allowance, so you know what you can spend. Plan the budget for the business to be profitable / viable without the need for agency to support it. Business budgeting should involve provision to grow savings / emergency funds without having to borrow / lifestyle choices / exit strategy if you cannot sell the business.
  2. Funding. Before you borrow from any source, get advice as to the appropriateness of this funding. Too often we see expensive, unsecured, loans taken out at ridiculous interest, to the significant cost and harm to the business.
  3. Shop lease. Only sign a lease you are happy with. Be prepared to walk away at the end of the current lease if the new one offered is not good. Run your business through the life of the lease as if you will not take up a new lease in the same location.
  4. Labour costs. Run a lean roster. $25.00 a day saved in labour costs is like $50 to $75 in retail sales. That is, $15,600 to $23,400 in revenue for a six day week over a year.
    1. Ensure every team member has a role description.
    2. Set business performance targets:daily revenue / revenue per labour hour or similar. It is critical everyone working in the business understands the goals and that they support them.
  5. Price for margin. Understand retail price psychology. For example, $13.50 is seen to be the same as $14.99. So, price at $14.99. By pricing to a higher price point you can discount back or fund a loyalty program that discounts for loyalty. Also, choose .99 over .90 or .95.
  6. Loyalty. Run a loyalty program that focusses on people shopping more often with you. Be consistent in your pitch. Do not waver over the offer. It rewards loyalty, not laziness. The focus on loyalty needs to be whole of business, whole of team in pitch and management.
  7. LayBy. Stop it. Instead, offer Oxipay, ZipPay or AfterPay.
  8. Basket depth. Maximise every touchpoint.
    1. Counter. Always have multiple offers at your counter, offers that are easily purchased on impulse, offers that deepen the basket and make a shopper visit more efficient for you.
    2. Top selling items. Look at what is on either side. Make sure the products are relevant and easily purchased with the popular item.
    3. Exit pitch. Make sure you have a compelling and regularly changed pitch to shoppers as they leave the business.
  9. Inventory.
    1. You control your buying. Not a rep of a supplier ordering on your behalf.
    2. A full shop is not necessarily a good shop. A smart shop is better. This is, one that people love to browse, love to shop. Often in retail less is more.
    3. Consider establishing a buying approval process where more than one person participates in buying decision. The goal is to slow impulse purchases. This could be someone outside the business.
    4. If you doubt your ability ton pay, don’t buy.
    5. Move, move and move. Every day there should be movement of products in the sore to keep it feeling fresh.
    6. If products don’t work, quit them as they are worthless if you put them in storage for later.
    7. Work with suppliers, exploring delayed terms or consignment opportunities.

DEALING WITH A CASHFLOW CRISIS.

A cashflow crisis is when you can’t pay your bills on time or a sustained period of dissatisfaction with the cash reserves in the business.Too often, small business retailers ignore a cashflow crisis, leaving action until it is too late.

Here is our advice on how to deal with a cashflow crisis.

  1. Own the problem. Fixing this is on you.
  2. Bring in outside help. This could be a friend, a financial counsellor. The best person will be someone who understands your type of business who can help you see what you don’t see and support you in tough decisions to be made.
  3. Understand the problem. Know if it is short term or long term. Be certain about the role you have played.
  4. If you run customer accounts, collect with urgency.
  5. Ask the landlord for immediate rent relief. The more transparent you are with them the better. Document your case. Be prepared to show your P&L in support of your request.
  6. Cut your roster to bare bones.
  7. If you have stock on sale or return and it is not selling, return for credit.
  8. Immediately start a sale.
    1. Give it a cool, non scary, name.
    2. Price items to sell, especially items for which you have already paid. Even selling below cost frees cash to the business.
    3. Get everything on the shop floor.
    4. Display to clear. i.e. not pretty displays for sale items.
  9. For inventory that you cannot sell, consider eBay.
  10. Consider selling assets. If you have equipment in the business that you no longer use, sell it.
  11. Talk to all your creditors, apologise, outline your plan, ask for help.
  12. When making progress payments on creditors, respect all with payments. NOTE: small regular payments could be key to you not facing debt collection action.
  13. Act. Every decision, every action you take must work to addressing the cashflow challenge. If you have created a plan act on it immediately. This is not a time to overthink things.
  14. Invest. If your cashflow challenge is because of a decline in traffic, not spending money chasing traffic will only make the problem worse. Spend carefully.
  15. Plan for the end point. This will be either coming out on top or closing the business.

The cashflow achieved by a business is a product of your decisions. Be thoughtful in each decision and single-minded in your focus on a better cashflow outcome.

Thanks for reading. We hope 2019 is awesome for you.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
Tower Systems International (Aust.) Pty Ltd
E | mark@towersystems.com.au.

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.

Advice for small business retailers on how to quit dead stock

Beyond being a POS software company, Tower Systems often provides business management advice to small business retailers.

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.

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.

Data security advice for small business retailers using POS software

2018 is not even half over and already it has seen considerable attacks on computers and on websites. Each attack reinforces the need for all businesses, including small businesses, to have appropriate security and backup measured in place to protect business data.

Appropriate backup means:

  1. Backup every day, without fail, without having too spend time for we know that time backups can take can make backups be ignored or forgotten.
  2. On-site backup.
  3. Plus, off-site backup.
  4. Easy access for recovery.
  5. Protection in a facility away from the business not only of all data but all software to facilitate swift recovery.
  6. Managed costs.
  7. Secure access to backed up data.
  8. maintaining backup services at the cutting edge.
  9. Appropriate security for backed up data.

Our advice is that you use a cloud backup service, like the Tower Backup service we offer. It works in the background, backing up without you having to do a backup. If your business is attacked, getting back to a clean and safe place is easy. Any reputable backup service should be able to offer similar to you.

Please do not put this off. Get protection for your business and your business data. You don’t want to be the person who does this after you have been attacked.

At the very least, backup every day, onto a USB stick for that day. While this is an old-school approach, it is better than nothing at all.

But let’s be clear, cloud backup is our recommendation. Our service provides you with a local backup and an offsite backup, in the cloud. This gives you two backups, excellent protection. We monitor the backups to ensure they are working. If we find an issue, we proactively call you. This is rare from a cloud backup service provider.

Here at Tower Systems we take data security seriously. We provide best-pracie advice. Our customers are welcome to use our service or another, our recommendation, however, is that they do something – to be protected.

Too often small business retailers think about data security after they have been affected. Hence this advice here and in our weekly emails and elsewhere in our touch points with customers.

Marketing tip: it’s not about you

Small business retailers tend to like marketing they can see. Like the ad in the local paper or the catalogue in letterboxes.

You seeing your own marketing is irrelevant. In fact, it is as irrelevant as many catalogues stuffed in letterboxes.

The best marketing today is about entertainment, accurate engagement measurement, faster delivery and more immediate in-store engagement.

Take the old-school catalogue . Artwork, printing and delivery will take three to six weeks and cost you or your marketing group around $1,500, maybe more.

In many locations, that $1,500 could have funded 60 Facebook campaigns reaching 2,000+ people, carefully targeted with accurate data on engagement.

While catalogues play a role, that role today is far less than two years ago.

A retailer told me they liked the catalogue because they could see it whereas they could not see a Facebook post. This is an old-school view.

Helping small business retailers leverage local in their POS software

In your Tower Systems POS software, you can easily to pitch that you are locally connected business. For example, you can serve, on receipts, local information relevant in your area:

  • A garden centre could provide advice on plants for local conditions.
  • A fishing business could provide advice on local fishing spots that are hot.
  • A pet store could include information about local dog parks and events.
  • A toy shop could list local collector and game clubs to foster community.

We can help you do this, we can help you show through the software how your business is better for the local community than any big business competitor.

BEING LOCAL BEYOND THE SOFTWARE.

Here are four ideas you could consider to show off a local connection. This collection of ideas is all about things you could do that are newsworthy for the local media:

  1. Tell the town’s story. Invite a school class to create a diorama telling some history of the down in your shop window.  This will be educational, topical, newsworthy and something that gets people connected with those involved to your shop to see the window.
  2. Famous and infamous people. Get your customers to nominate famous people form the area from back since when the area was first settled. Again, educational and newsworthy.
  3. Sports heroes from 2013. Invite all schools and clubs in your area to submit a photo and a brief description of their sporting winners from this year. The display could be your way of holding the winners up for another moment of glory.
  4. Where we come from. get a school class to create a map of the word for your window and get your shoppers to place a flag showing where they come from. Maybe the could have a place to note a story of how they got there.

While none of these ideas is about you selling product, each does better connect your shop with your local community and that is vital.

Here are other tips on boosting the local connection:

  1. Be knowledgeable about local activities, events, issues and places.
  2. Talk about local matters on your social media outlets. Help publish local news.
  3. Support local groups with knowledge, prizes and attention.
  4. Encourage local groups to use your business.
  5. Serve your community in practical ways such as volunteering.
  6. Help even the groups you cannot help financially – with an events noticeboard and supporting them on your Facebook page etc.
  7. Talk local across the counter.
  8. Be visible at local events and activities.
  9. Encourage your employees to be visible at local events and activities.

A theft policy is vital to helping any retail business cut the cost of employee theft

Here at Tower Systems we often help small business retailers detect and stop employee theft. One piece of advice that we see as vital to this mission is for a business to have a THEFT POLICY.

Here is a policy we share with our customers. Feel free to use it, modify it and share it.

THEFT POLICY

  1. Theft, any theft, is a crime against this business, its owners, employees and others who rely on us for their income.
  2. If you discover any evidence or have any suspicion of theft, please report it to the business owner or most senior manager possible immediately. Doing so could save a considerable cost to the business.
  3. We have a zero tolerance policy on theft. All claims will be reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation.
  4. From time to time we have the business under surveillance in an effort to reduce theft. This may mean that you are photographed or recorded in some other way. By working here you accept this as a condition of employment.
  5. New employees may be asked to provide permission for a police check prior to commencement of employment. Undertaking the police check will be at our discretion.
  6. Cash is never to be left unattended outside the cash drawer or a safe within the business.
  7. Credit and banking card payments are not to be accepted unless the physical card is presented and all required processes are followed for processing these.
  8. Employees caught stealing with irrefutable evidence face immediate dismissal to the extent permitted by local labour laws.
  9. Employees are not permitted to remove inventory, including unsold, topped, magazines, unsold cards or damaged stock from the store without permission.
  10. Employees are not permitted to provide a refund to a customer without appropriate management permission.
  11. Employees are not permitted to complete sales to themselves, family members or friends.
  12. Every dollar stolen from the business by customers and or employees can cost us up to four dollars to recover. This is why vigilance on theft is mission critical for our retail store.

PLEASE SIGN AND DATE YOUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Yes, you can cut the cost of theft in any retail business. It starts with the right policies and processes.

Retail business owner advice: understand insolvent trading

A business owning three shops went broke months ago, owing close to two million dollars. The liquidators report was released recently, declaring that the business had been trading while insolvent for at least two years. This finding could have serious consequences for the directors.

ASIC defines insolvent trading:

An insolvent company is one that is unable to pay all its debts when they fall due for payment.

Yes, the definition is that simple. The director of the company to which I refer above was a blowhard, a gunna my mother would have called them. Gunna do this or that, with an attitude that they were an amazing business operator. Except, they were not. Many suppliers to the channel were left out of pocket along with banks and the ATO – and through the ATO, all Australians.

In my experience, often, the louder someone is about how great they are in business the worse they are.

ASIC provides advice on what to do if your company is insolvent:

If your company is insolvent, do not allow it to incur further debt. Unless it is possible to promptly restructure, refinance or obtain equity funding to recapitalise the company, generally, your options are to appoint a voluntary administrator or a liquidator. The three most common insolvency procedures are voluntary administration, liquidation and receivership.

ASIC has plenty to say on insolvent trading, including:

If dishonesty is found to be a factor in insolvent trading, a director may also be subject to criminal charges (which can lead to a fine of up to $220,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both). Being found guilty of the criminal offence of insolvent trading will also lead to a director’s disqualification.

ASIC has successfully prosecuted directors for allowing companies to incur debts when the company is insolvent, and has sought orders making directors personally liable for company debts. ASIC also runs a program to visit directors, where appropriate, to make them aware of their responsibilities to prevent insolvent trading.

If you think you may be insolvent, reach out to someone you trust for advice and to be by your side as you navigate the challenges.

The retailer in my story did not want help. They said there was no problem.

Advice for young people joining the full-time workforce in retail jobs

In our work with independent small business retailers we get to see man different retail businesses up close. We have seen plenty take on young employees, right out of school. Some do it well while others struggle. Through this time we have see good attributes in school leavers that we share here…

  1. Learn as much as you can.
  2. If you are not sure of something, ask. Don’t assume.
  3. Work out how to love your job, because if you don’t, working there will not be good for you or the business.
  4. Be as low maintenance as possible. Your employer is not an ATM you can tap every time you feel like sleeping in.
  5. How far you go in a business, and in your career, is up to you. You get out what you put it.
  6. Add value. If you do this a business will want to keep you and that gives you leverage in this job and your next.
  7. Every day, it is up to you.

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.

Small business retail management tip: embrace the opportunity of hiring older employees

Older employees can being terrific value to a retail business that is keen bring change to the business. Young employees cost less and this is a common appeal among retail business owners.

An older employee could bring more value to the business, they could leverage a better return on labour investment for the business. Here are other benefits that can be available depending on the background, skill set and work interest of the older employee:

  1. Maturity. An older employee understand work.
  2. Appreciation. If they have been to of work for a while they are more likely to appreciate then job and could therefore invest more in it.
  3. Experience. An older employee could have experience in a field from which the business can benefit. I am not thin king here about retail experience. rather, they may have business management skills, special interests or experience that you can leverage as you change the business.
  4. Flexibility. With less focus on establishing themselves and a social life they cold be more available and this could help the roster.
  5. Communication. An older employee is more likely to be better with oral communication given they has less tech when they were younger. While this is a rash generalisation, I’d back it to be likely.

When you are looking to fill a vacancy or a new role in the business, consider older person for these and other reasons you can think of. The could bring to the business skills and interest the you can leverage more valuably than the skills and interest of a younger lower cost employee.

Of course, the value of any employee depends on your hiring, training, management and motivation of them.

The post of this post is to suggest that next time you hire you think about an older employee.

Note: The federal government jobactive restart program can help Australian businesses that hire older employees financially:

Restart is a financial incentive of up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) to encourage businesses to hire and retain mature age employees who are 50 years of age and over.

Older employees can bring new insights and energy to a business. The right hire could be just want the business needs to explore new traffic opportunities.