Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Category: Small business management advice (page 1 of 5)

5 ways to use POS software to reduce labour costs in small business retail

Here are 5 valuable and easy to implement ways retailers are today using our Point of Sale software(POS software) to reduce labour costs in their local  businesses:

  1. Sales counter workflow. In our POS software it is smart, efficient, streamlined and labour cost saving. Best practice too. A competitively run counter can drive business success.
  2. Match revenue and roster. Focussing on rostering to revenue and revenue opportunity is a challenge for small business retailers. Tools in the POS software from Tower Systems help indie retailers do this with ease and consistency. These are tools retailers love as they can drive revenue reduction and / or labour cost reduction.
  3. Smart stock control including reordering. By eliminating manual processes around placing orders for replenishment stock, retailers are able to, in one place and at one time, accurately create orders based on business performance data.  By ordering based on business activity (sales) the business do working based on success rather than gut feel. A business switching to ordering from within their Point of sale system can expect to free up cash by reducing non-performing stock. This process is further improved through digitally engaged supplier relationships.
  4. Customer management including accounts and loyalty. Through computer-based customer accounts and loyalty management, the retail business is able to transact with customers accurately, in a timely manner and in a way which puts customers first.  Generating monthly customer statements, for example, could take a few minutes whereas manual processes could take many hours and face challenges with accuracy.
  5. Fact assisted decision making.  Too many retail businesses spend too much time spinning their wheels pursuing decisions because they are not using business facts to feed these decisions.  All to often we see poor business decisions made based on emotion and or ignorance rather than historical business data.  Replace the error prone and fact-less approach with a fact-based approach and a business will soon find that decisions are more right than wrong.  Retail businesses can bank on the results.

These are just three of the ways in which our Point of Sale software is helping more than 3,000 small business retailers across Australia to improve the management of their businesses, streamline processes and drive more efficient allocation of labour resources.

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.

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.

POS software loyalty 2.0 for small business retailers

Loyalty systems have been around in retail for decades. Too often, small business retailers copy big business, and fail.

A good loyalty system will get shoppers spending more, doling more than is usual, and doing this at little or no cost to a retail business.

A good loyalty system will be loved by shoppers.

A good loyalty system offers shoppers flexibility.

A good loyalty system has little or no management overhead.

A good loyalty system reveals insights about your business that are helpful, impactful and revealing.

A good loyalty system helps you grow your business, helps you make your business more valuable.

This is about Loyalty 2.0 – a fresh approach to shopper loyalty for small business retailers.

Discount vouchers have been in our POS software for more than six years. They are one of several valuable shopper loyalty tools designed to drive revenue and return shopper visits.

Yet, discount vouchers are the most misunderstood.

Setup is easy. It takes a few minutes. Change is easy, with changes taking effect immediately. Management its easy thanks tp three awesome reports. Pitch is easysince you can call them whatever you like, what is appropriate to your business.

The mistake most retailers make is overthinking. Stop that! Set Discount Vouchers up and see how your customers respond. Adjust accordingly.

In our experience, on average, only 20% of vouchers handed out are redeemed. Those offered with the least rules achieve the best commercial outcome for the retailer.

Remember, the $$$ opportunity on the discount voucher is a good reason to review pricing, to factor in the cost of voucher redemption.

So…

  1. Choose what you want to call them: Discount Voucher; Bonus Bucks; Thank You Gift; Come Back Again Gift; Appreciation Voucher; Pass It On $$$.
  2. Set your settings. Know they can change as you learn more.
  3. We suggest a 28 day expiry.
  4. Have the voucher value show as $$.
  5. Let vouchers be redeemed for as many different products as possible.
  6. Go!

ADVICE ON PROMOTING DISCOUNT VOUCHERS.

Every time a voucher prints, present it to the customer by placing it on the counter facing them with your finger next to the amount and say, while maintaining eye contact, hey you have a voucher here for $x.xx that you can use in store in the next 28 days. Well done.

Make sure that everyone working at the counter knows that the success of vouchers depends on their pitch.

Now, if they complain about the low voucher value have a response like hey it’s appreciation that almost no other business around here will show you.

Guys are more likely to spend the voucher right away.

Girls are more like to collect vouchers and put them together, which we recommend you allow.

What you want to see when you have out a voucher is for them to lift their hear and turn to look back into the shop, thinking of what they could buy.

GOOD LUCK!

————-

To find out more about our awesome POS software and support fir indie specialty retailers, please reach out…

  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.

Tower Systems is an Australian POS software company serving 3,500+ specialty retailers in Australia and New Zealand.

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 POS software loyalty 2.0

How small business retailers can use unique shopper loyalty facilities to easily get shoppers back sooner and spending more.

Here, we share advice we recently provided to our customers. I share it with you today as it demonstrates how we communicate with our customers, beyond the traditional software company support pitch. Here is the email in full:

We write to share with you insights on how to use Discount Vouchers in a smart way for your business.

Discount vouchers have been in our software for more than six years. They are one of several valuable shopper loyalty tools designed to drive revenue and return shopper visits.

Yet, discount vouchers are the most misunderstood.

Setup is easy. It takes a few minutes. Change is easy, with changes taking effect immediately. Management its easy thanks tp three awesome reports. Pitch is easysince you can call them whatever you like, what is appropriate to your business.

The mistake most retailers make is overthinking. Stop that! Set Discount Vouchers up and see how your customers respond. Adjust accordingly.

In our experience, on average, only 20% of vouchers handed out are redeemed. Those offered with the least rules achieve the best commercial outcome for the retailer.

Remember, the $$$ opportunity on the discount voucher is a good reason to review pricing, to factor in the cost of voucher redemption.

So…

  1. Choose what you want to call them: Discount Voucher; Bonus Bucks; Thank You Gift; Come Back Again Gift; Appreciation Voucher; Pass It On $$$.
  2. Set your settings. Know they can change as you learn more.
  3. We suggest a 28 day expiry.
  4. Have the voucher value show as $$.
  5. Let vouchers be redeemed for as many different products as possible.
  6. Go!

ADVICE ON PROMOTING DISCOUNT VOUCHERS.

Every time a voucher prints, present it to the customer by placing it on the counter facing them with your finger next to the amount and say, while maintaining eye contact, hey you have a voucher here for $x.xx that you can use in store in the next 28 days. Well done.

Make sure that everyone working at the counter knows that the success of vouchers depends on their pitch.

Now, if they complain about the low voucher value have a response like hey it’s appreciation that almost no other business around here will show you.

Guys are more likely to spend the voucher right away.

Girls are more like to collect vouchers and put them together, which we recommend you allow.

What you want to see when you have out a voucher is for them to lift their hear and turn to look back into the shop, thinking of what they could buy.

GOOD LUCK!

PS. Click here to access and print advice that I have previously published to 240 newsXpress stores. This is a retail marketing group I own.

————-

To find out more about our awesome POS software and support fir indie specialty retailers, please reach out…

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

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.

We encourage you to shop local and support local small business retailers

The value of small business retail in Australia

Here is a new infographic we created to help small business retailers pitch their economic value. We have made this available for use at no cost.

POS software Xero integration makes online LayBy and much more easy for small business retailers

newsXpress Southland is a card, gift and collectibles shop in the sprawling Westfield Southland shopping centre in south east Melbourne.

With rent increasing faster than foot traffic to the 300+ store shopping centre, the manager of the business needed to connect with shoppers outside.

Online was the obvious choice but time was limited. The goal was to find a solution that enabled the business to get online without any additional management or accounting time involved.

Xero partner Tower Systems provided an integrated Point of Sale software solution for in-store and well as online. This seamless link, coupled with complete xero integration, provided the time-saving solution the business was looking for.

“In the first six month, online revenue passed A$75,000”, commented Jayden Norton, Manager of the store.“This is a direct bottom line benefit for the business as there is no additional labour cost and no capital expenditure.”

“We could not have done this without the xero link as that enabled us to effectively open a second outlet without what in the past was additional accounting or bookkeeping cost.”

As the business has become more familiar with the Tower Systems and xero solutions it has evolved the online offering to be more comp0etitive against big retailers in the online space.  This has seen click and collect and online LayBy launched.

It is with online LayBy where the business has benefited from the xero integration in that the shopper is able to pay over time, interest free, and the retailer is paid immediately. There is no additional accounting or bookkeeping work involved as the data flows from the website to the POS to xero without being touched by human hands.

A shopper adds items to their shopping cart, they select online LayBy, provide basic instant credit check data and fine the application approved or otherwise in seconds. The retailer is paid less a small handling fee with the finance company taking full responsibility for collecting payment.

With click and collect, the payment is handled online. This works best as to commits the shopper and turns the in-store visit to an easy collection. Experience has shown this is what shoppers prefer rather than having to worry about payment in-store. It also means one person can purchased while another can collect, with appropriate secure authority.

Doing this, flowing data from shopper through to xero in this way eliminates mistakes that can be made when data is re-keyed. It also saves considerable time and this is a tangible business benefit.

“Control and transparency of data at each step in the line is key for our business because like any small business every cent of margin is important” commented Jayden Norton. “The solution needed to be easy and neat for us and for our customers. Xero was a key part of achieving this.”

In addition to the xero integration, Tower Systems POS software integrates with Shopify, magento and WooCommerce – the three leading e-commerce platforms in the world. The web development team at Tower has enhanced these to offer a multi-store solution whereby independent retailers can trade under a single branded website rather than needing their own website.

“The xero integration is the back-office piece where real labour costs are reduced”, commented Gavin Williams, Tower Systems COO. “We only sell to independent small business retailers in selected retail niches such as bike shops, jewellers and garden centres. Having the xero integration is vital as they are all competing with big business and every saving, no matter how small, is loved.”

Tower Systems is an Australian based POS software company currently serving in excess of 3,500 small and independent business retailers. The company can be explo9red at www.towersystems.com.au.

Tower Systems owns newsXpress Southland.

Small business retail advice: how to be local for local shoppers

Being genuinely local for any local business sounds easy, right? It can be challenging because of different expectations and experiences.

As a POS software company that only developed software and sells to small business retailers, we have plenty opt experience with retailers on thinking, living and acting local. We share this advice with our customers. Here in this post we share some of that advice, to provide a taste for the extent of business inspiration and management we provide our customers.

Being local in retail is more important than ever.

Yes, even with online, being local really does matter.

Local can mean different things to different people – it does not necessarily mean geographic proximity. Being local could be about the level of care and attention you provide customers, the additional advice you provide, that you live locally, that you source locally or that you serve the local community personally.

Locally sourced products could be products made in Australia. For example, detailing where a product is made and the family behind it pitches local compared to a similar product imported from overseas.

You can use your Tower Systems POS software to pitch local in a range of ways:

  1. Shop local yourself. Be seen doing this.
  2. Hire local. This shows you adding local economic value.
  3. Talk local. Know local news. Share it on your business social media pages.
  4. Include notes on receipts.Add product care instructions, use instructions or other useful information automatically on receipts – making your receipt a useful information platform.
  5. Tell people where you source products. For a product made by a family or small business in Australia, include details on the receipt. Shine a light on this local product – provide extra information so your shoppers can feel more locally connected.
  6. Include a SHOP LOCAL pitch. Add an image of a poster or some other promotion of the benefits of shop local to every receipt, reinforcing the value of shopping local. Tower Systems has images you can use for free – in the downloads section of our website.
  7. Thank your customers.Include text personally thanking customers shopping with you. Put our name to the message. Include your mobile. Big businesses do not do this.
  8. Track local product sales.Be aware of suppliers of locally made products and report on the performance of these through various reporting tools.
  9. Thanks for shopping local vouchers.You can use the discount voucher facilities in the software and call them Thanks for shopping localorLocal shopping reward. This reinforces a value for shopping with a local business – offering $$ discount off the next purchase based on rules you establish.

It is not enough to tell people to shop local, you need to demonstrate the value of this, you need to live it transactionally in your retail business. The best way to do this is through systems and processes in your POS software.

Tower Systems supports shop local, encouraging small business retailers

Tower Systems brings Shoptalk 2019 insights to its POS software community

Here is a video we shared with our POS software customers two weeks ago, from Las Vegas where some of us attended the extraordinary Shoptalk 2019 retail conference.

 

Suggested mental health plan to help small business retailers and their team members

As employers, as retailers and as small business owners, mental health issues are often not far away from any small business retailer. The challenges confronting retail businesses today add to the challenges already there.

Sometimes, we don’t know we are experiencing a mental health challenge while other times it’s obvious and on show for all to see.

How we confront mental health challenges is important for us, our business and those presenting with issues.

While we are not trained professionals in the area, our years of working with small business owners confronted by challenges to their mental health have helped us develop some guiding principles.

  1. Mental health is not easily measured or understood. One’s health is not outwardly obvious.
  2. Judgement cannot be part of how mental health is viewed or dealt with.
  3. Action is essential to improve your situation for doing nothing will achieve nothing.
  4. While taking the first step to confront mental health challenges can be difficult, it is relieving and rewarding.

Your GP is an excellent person to speak with. Explain to them how you feel and how this impacts on your life. Ask them to prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan. This is a government recognised plan. It can usually be prepared in a single double visit to the GP. This plan is the trigger to you gaining Medicare supported access to a psychologist for an initial number of visits, which can be extended depending on your situation.

Some people can feel a visit to a GP or psychologist is not warranted in their situation. While the medical professionals are the best to determine this, there are other resources you could explore:

Beyond Blue has published Business In Mind, a useful resource for small businesses on issues relating to mental health in the workplace. This is a good starting point for learning more. In the resource there are links to other resources that can help.

Finding mental health resources for small business owners dealing with mental health issues is not as easy as it is finding resources for managing the workplace for better mental health. It’s tough running any business and sometimes things can feel overwhelming. This is where networking can help as a first step, talking with others.

Small business owners feeling challenges within themselves need to treat themselves as employees and use the resources available such as:

We will help and support in any way possible. We would be glad to talk confidentially about individual situations.

Small business retail advice: how to see your business differently in a moment of tension or stress

It is tough work running a small retail business, working 70, 80 and more hours a week covering many tasks from business manager to cleaner to customer service to creating retail displays.

You can feel overwhelmed, snowed under and with your back against a wall … all at once, unable to make a decision, unable to move almost. It is not uncommon. Such are the challenges for small business retailers.

There is always something to do. Some days, often in fact, it can feel like no matter what you do you have more to do at the end of the day than when you started.

Here is our advice if you feel that overwhelmed that you don’t know what to do. Because doing nothing is not an option. Here is what we suggest…

Regardless of how busy you are in your retail business, we urge you to take time out every day for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk outside, in the sun (or the rain), alone.

Leave your phone behind – the shop won’t burn down.

Walk alone.

Listen to music or enjoy the sounds of the outdoors.

This is your time. 100% focussed on you. Your recharge. Your opportunity to think of nothing … and probably find that you have thought of everything once you return.

The best time to take the walk is when you feel most overwhelmed.

Walking, as a brisk pace can break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, the negative feeling about what is confronting you in the business.

Getting your heart rate up will be good for your physical and mental health.

A good energetic walk is an excellent opportunity to reset.

Being away from the business, other people and the phone will give your body and mind time to process – even if you are not actively thinking about the business.

If you are like me, stepping back into the business after a brisk 20 or 30 minute walk, you see things differently, decisions are easier, progress is real.

Days with a walk are far better than days without.

Footnote: this advice for business owners and managers to go for a walk when feeling overwhelmed is consistent with advice from mental health experts around the world. Better still, following the advice costs nothing.

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.

Tower Systems pitches support for small business

Here is a new unbranded marketing video we have created for small business retailers.

We encourage small business retailers to leverage the teacher appreciation opportunity

This is another in our series of practical, everyday, advice for small business retailers.

How to make the most of the teacher gift opportunity.

Gifts for teachers can be lucrative not only at the end of the year but also through the year by establishing your business as a destination for gifts for teachers. As with much in retail, it takes a commitment of time, space and capital.

While you can make money sourcing a teacher pack from a supplier, you will make more by taking a broader approach.

Our advice is that you offer a selection of gifts for teachers including the traditional plaques, mugs, apple-themed, frames and pens but this you expand the offer to include other suggested gifts such as scarves, Charlie Bears, soap, fudge, plush, jigsaw puzzles and other premium gifts.

Don’t be restricted by the traditional teacher gifts. Also, don’t be restricted by a price point. We suggest you show how two or more students could pool funds to buy a bigger gift such as a jigsaw puzzle. Show your customers how they can do this. For example: $19.99 or $10 each if two of you share giving this gift.  Maybe even consider a whole of class gift.

Promote the broader range of gifts with an appropriate sign such as: GIVE SOMETHING THAT WILL ACTUALLY BE USED.

Have your suggested gifts represented together in a location branded as gifts for teachers.

Be sure to include cards in your range – Thank You cards and blank cards. Consider packaging selected gifts and cards together to make buying easy.

Also consider a discount if customers purchase above a threshold for multiple teachers. For example, you could offer 10% off for purchases of $25.00 or more. Choose a spend hurdle that suits your area.

Marketing and promotion tips:

  1. Offer a $50 shopping voucher for one lucky teacher. To get an enter customers should purchase a card and gift from you.
  2. Include a flyer with all purchases announcing your teacher gift range.
  3. Leverage the local parents association to have them help you promote the offer. Consider having them hand out a coupon offering 5% off for purchases a 5% to them for each coupon redeemed.
  4. Setup a THANK YOU TEACHER WALL where anyone can write a note thanking their teacher – from any generation or year.
  5. Maybe run a Teacher of the Year competition where students vote. This could work well in a smaller location. However be careful as it could be seen as divisive if not done well.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers reduce the impact of shopper and employee theft

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

we take a best practice approach to theft mitigation in our smart POS software. There are extensive tools that benefit retailer, provide peace of mind and help act against the scourge off theft be it employee or customer initiated and executed.

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

By not managed properly we mean where:

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

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

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

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

Video: Some of what we learnt from the Magento Imagine 2018 conference in Las Vegas

Local matters to us here at Tower Systems

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.
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