We need a Royal Commission into retail shopping centre development and retail tenancies in Australia

We, Australians, small business retailers, suppliers to small business retailers, local towns, all of us need a Royal commission into retail shopping centre development in Australia and the behaviour of shopping centre landlords.

There is enough evidence to indicate that an appropriately skilled and resourced Royal Commission could uncover behaviour that is illegal and harmful to our economy and small businesses and families that rely on the small businesses.

I appreciate that the areas I think the suggested Royal Commission cover are broad and could be better served as two investigations. However, the two issues feed into each other. I think they are best considered together.

WHAT IS A SHOPPING CENTRE?

For the purposes of my proposal, I suggest that a shopping centre is a retail development with fifteen or more shops of any size.

While I am sure there is misbehaviour to consider in smaller centres, for management and focus, a threshold of fifteen tenancies, or similar, is needed. Otherwise, any Royal Commission would run too long and cost too much.

RETAIL SHOPPING CENTRE DEVELOPMENT.

This is the beginning of the issue. Whereas in the US and other countries growth in retail tenancy space is flat or declining, in Australia it continues to grow. Some say we already have far more shops that the population can support.

In regional and rural locations the challenge is that a new centre is usually located outside town and its development can gut the centre of town, diluting or killing off the heart of a small town.

In some cases, mid-size centre development tis driven by competition by the two major supermarkets and aided and abetted by several other anchor tenants and supported by Tatts keen to be in all new centres.

  1. Do we need more shopping centre space?
  2. Should there be controls on approving this?
  3. What is the economic impact of the current growth in retail space in Australia?
  4. What is the social impact of the current growth in retail space in Australia?
  5. What is the impact, specifically on small business retailers of the growth in retail space?

LANDLORD BEHAVIOUR.

Talk to any small business tenant in a shopping centre and they will have at least one landlord story that causes them stress.

There is the landlord who did a handshake deal with a party that was negotiating to buy a business. the landlord squeezed and the family business closed. The new tenant moved in without paying goodwill.

There is the landlord that took too long on centre re-develoopmnent, making decisions that saw a 50% drop in shopper traffic, and refused any compensation for retailers.

There is the landlord that permits one sore to be on a % deal where they pay 9% of turnovers in rent with a shop next door not able to have such a deal and managing and occupancy cost of 32%.

There is the landlord that strong-arms retailers verbally, never in writing, never in a way that can be used against them.

There is the landlord that takes a marketing levy every month and spends this on activities that offer no benefit whatsoever to retailers.

There are hundreds of stories.

The Royal Commission needs to listen to stories, all stories. Tenants need to be able to do this confidentially as the fear of reprisal by landlords is real.

  1. Do landlords act unlawfully?
  2. Do landlords treat retailers differently?
  3. Do landlords act in secret knowingly harming small business retailers?
  4. Do landlords abuse funds they collect from retailers for marketing?
  5. Are landlords fulfilling their obligations in terms of bringing traffic to shops in their centres?
  6. How are the various roles of employees paid in landlord businesses? What are their incentives?

There are many other questions to answer. My goal here is to kick off the discussion.

WHY?

Too many families are losing their businesses, homes and other assets. Too many small business operators are having their personal situations, including health, negatively impacted. Too many small business operators are losing their life. Yes, this issue is that serious.

Small business retailers feel helpless. They want their business. It has been their life’s work. They fear without it they will have nothing. This can see them agree to a lease that is at its very foundation doomed inappropriate for their business.

Landlords have the upper hand. They are in control. Too many people in landlord businesses are bullies and aware of how to bully without being caught.

The best way to resolve this is to shine a light. Only a Royal Commission c an have the authority and power to do this.

I get that Royal Commissions are popular right now. This suggestion, however, is important given that those most impacted are also those most vulnerable – small businesses, run by families. Were are told small business is the business backbone of our country. However, there is evidence to suggest that small business retailers are disadvantaged in terms of shopping centre development and retail teensy negotiation.

Here at Tower Systems we only serve small business retailers with our POS software. In our view, small business matters. This is why we support the push for a Royal Commission into shopping centre development and retail tenancies.

This post first appeared on a blog last week in a post by the CEO of Tower.

INTRODUCING TOWER SYSTEMS – YOUR LOCAL POS SOFTWARE COMPANY

Tower Systems is an Australian POS software company that develops, sells and supports software for selected specialty marketplaces including toy, pet, produce, gift, newsagent, bike, garden and fishing businesses.

We only serve independent small retail businesses. This is important.

Our mission is to help retailers run more successful businesses. Our definition of success is a business that is making money, where the owners and employees enjoy what they do and where suppliers enjoy transacting.

Good software can play an important role in nurturing business success as it sits at the heart of the business: transacting sales, managing stock, tracking customer activity and shining a light on business opportunities.

What makes us different is how we engage. We go beyond what is traditional software company.

  1. We welcome working with product suppliers to create data links that save you and them time, data links that improve data accuracy, data links that feed more accurate business reports.
  2. We provide business insights based on data cultivated through the software – to business owners who ask. This is a free service.
  3. Our help desk provides context for advice. Rather than the turn it off and turn it on advice, our help desk team members explain the why, why from a business perspective the advice they are providing matters.
  4. Our software updates contain enhancements suggested and voted on by customers. You can have a direct say in the evolution of the software.
  5. Our communication is in plain English. While we are a company of IT geeks, when talking with customers we keep it simple. We know technology scares people. We don’t want it to scare our customers.
  6. We are accessible. You get to talk with real people all the time, including our leadership team.

We mention these capabilities today as they reflect what we stand for, what is important to us in our service of small business retail. Most important of all is our focus on small business retail, our commitment to helping small and independent retail businesses thrive as they compete with online a bigger retail businesses.

We take our mission seriously and personally. It is our reason for being in business. We are grateful to be of service to valuable and locally connected businesses.

Why local POS software matters to local retail businesses

Tower Systems is a proudly Australian POS software company. We develop software in Australia for small and independent Australian retail businesses.

  1. Our software focus is local.
  2. Our customer service team is local.
  3. Our installation team is local.
  4. Our business planning is focussed on local.
  5. We offer locally focussed facilities and services in our software.

Retailers wanting software to support their local focus ought to look at local POS software companies.

We have built a good strong business by being locally focussed. Yes, today we serve more than 3,500 retail businesses.

We are proud that in many of our specialty retail channels, we are the only locally developed and supported software. This makes us more fit for purpose for those businesses that care about living and supporting local.

As a famous song once goes so beautifully: we’re all in this together.

HOW TO FIND OPTIMISM IN SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL

Every day can be tough in small business. You can feel like the big competitors are winning and that you can’t climb the mountain to compete. You may not know where to start.

There are green shoots of good news and opportunities in every small and independent retail business. The key is to find these and to leverage them for more success.

A green shoot is a product or a category of products or a supplier performing above average in the business. Often, these successes have gone unnoticed.

We were working with a retailer recently who said business was down by 20% and they did not know what to do. It turned out that the best performing product category in their business was ‘failing’ for six months because they had not replenished stock.

They invested, instead, on new lines that had not gone as well as the successful product.

They, in part, created their own downward spiral and had not looked at their business data to understand that contributed to the problems they were confronting.

Once they realised the situation, they re-stocked the successful range of products and numbers started to improve. More important, their confidence level grew and with this their business decisions improved.

There are opportunities for optimism in every business.

Finding optimism is like mining, you have to look for it, sometimes for a long time. It is there, though, in every retail business.

As soon as you hear yourself talking your business down, STOP. Look at your data, look for the good news. That is what you need to think and talk about.

By looking at your data, we mean looking at year on year, quarter on quarter or month on month comparison data for departments, categories, suppliers or even individual products. Look for growth and once you see growth, think about what you can do with and around the products achieving growth so that you can achieve other growth.

Any product achieving year on year increases in unit sales is a product to be appreciated, nurtured and used to help grow other products that can sell to the same customer.

This is how you grow optimism. Find those small green shoots, leverage them with some small steps and, over time, build more success for your business.

While overall revenue, traffic count and profitability may be down, growth even at the smallest data point, such as for one or two products, could be enough to get you looking at your business differently.

In the Tower Systems POS software, the best initial reports for good news are: Monthly Sales Comparison (department level, category level and / or supplier level), the 10×10 Report, Ranked Sales Report (by units) for one period and then for the comparative period.

We’re here to help you find the good news in your business. Your business data is the key.

Helping small business retailers beat Woolworths in the loyalty sakes – Sunday small business retail management advice

The new Woolworths shopper loyalty program recently released has received plenty of coverage. Now that it is live we have had a chance to test drive it and, frankly, our opinion of it is not good.

The new Woolworths loyalty program is not good value for the consumer.

We know from our own small business customers using the discount voucher facilities in our POS software that the value they deliver is, on average, twenty times better value than the Woolworths offer.

Our tip today to small business retailers is – you can beat Woolworths in the loyalty stakes and we can help you do this.

Sunday retail management advice: leverage shop local

IMG_9093The shop local movement has a good profile. Locals do tend to prefer to shop local. Retailers need to actively and consistently leverage this through a regular reminder but such a reminder is hollow unless you offer local benefits such as community engagement, hiring locally and sourcing locally made products. Actively engaging in the business through locally focussed decisions helps any retailer bring power and strength to their calls for people to shop local.

This is our advice today – if you pitch shop local, live in in your shop every day and show you yourselves believe in it.

Tower Systems helps retailers actively pitch and live the shop local mantra through its POS software and through the business support the company provides in its training and on its website.

Free marketing resources for small business retailers

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 8.17.28 pmTower Systems is thrilled with the use small business retailers are making of the free small business marketing resources we have made available in our website.

These free resources are another practical way Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our terrific POS software

Our development and free access to these resources demonstrates are acre for and commitment to the small business retail channels in which we serve. It is easy for a business to say they support their customers in a variety of ways. This investment by us is us being true to our words – walking the walk if you will.

We have happy for these and other free downloads we place on the site to be used widely.

Note we have not included our branding as we don;t want to get in the way of the businesses using the materials.

POS software company supports local retailers and local communities

TOWERShopLocal_Page_6-1POS software company Tower Systems is releasing a range of promotional collateral for use by any small local retail business in promoting the shop local message. This collateral has been created for any type of retail situation where local connection with the local community is important to the business and the community.

This artwork is available at no cost to any retailer. The company has not included it’s logo on the artwork so as to not pull focus.

What does this have to do with POS software? Plenty. Tower Systems believes in helping in any way it can to encourage, guide and facilitate stronger and more valuable locally owned retail businesses.

While Tower Systems invests in enhancing its POS software for its customers and in its support team to provide timely and professional advice, it also invests outside the squall to help its customers in a more whole of business way.

POS Software company supports shop local promotion for small business retailers

LocalPosters2015_Page_3POS Software company Tower Systems is helping small and independent retailers to promote the support of local retailers through an innovative campaign of collateral created by the company for its retailers.

We are thrilled to be investing our creative resources in support of our retailer partners in this way.

This latest artwork is part of a series we have developed in-house through our amazingly creative marketing team to give our retailers different voices and platforms through which to pitch their shop local credentials.

This is another Tower AdvantageTM.

The free marketing collateral will be released next week.

Ways small business retailers can refresh their view of their business

WARNING: This blog post has some crazy ideas you’d not expect from a POS software company.

In our work with small business retailers we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again. They are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

Small business retailers vital to local towns and the Australian economy

Small business retailers punch above their weight in terms of the economic and social benefits they deliver the communities in which they serve. They are vital to their local communities and those who live nearby. This is what Australians must support small business retailers.

Small business retailers more than their big business competitors…

  • Employ locally.
  • Support the local community.
  • Pump profits back into local spending.
  • Often source products locally.
  • Reduce carbon emissions by saving people from having to drive.

Often in the cut and thrust of day to day trade small business retailers miss the opportunity to pitch the social and economic value they bring to the local community. This is why we are happy to add our voice to their cause, to pitch that small business retailers are being good for local communities.

With well over 2,000 small business retailers using our Tower Systems Point of Sale software, we know a bit about what they do and how they serve their communities. We are thrilled to support their cause as remind all Australians that small business retailers are vital to town and cities across our country.

Supporting the Shop Locally campaign

Tower Systems is proud to support the international Shop Locally campaign, a social media driven campaign aimed at getting people to shop locally, in a small and independent retail businesses.

While operating in different models in different countries, Shop Locally is really about educing shoppers of the benefits of shopping locally, near their home or workplace … saving time, fuel costs and benefiting the environment.

With more than 2,500 small, local and independently owned retailers as customers of Tower Systems, we are well positioned to help retailers to engage in a local shopping promotion, along the lines of the Shop Locally campaigns.

Our engagement is about educating our retail user community and networking with local shopping campaigns around the world, tapping into their initiatives and sharing our ideas in this vitally important and community driven campaign.

There is no doubt about the value of shopping locally:

  1. Supporting the local economy.
  2. Supporting the local community.
  3. Saving time.
  4. Saving fuel.
  5. A lower carbon footprint.
  6. More personal local community engagement.

And this list is just a start. Watch for our engagement here and elsewhere as we with with the Tower Systems retail community on ways they can promote local shopping. It’s good for local communities and the retail businesses which serve them.