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.

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.

Kudos for small business retailer advice on Amazon

In October last year we published this short video for small business retailers with our thoughts on the imminent arrival of the first Amazon warehouse in Australia – in the context of then shrill reporting. we have received wonderful and appreciated feedback from customers about this.

The shrill reporting has continued. Our advice remains the same. We are grateful to be helping small business retailers grow in the face of change.

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.

Xero POS software link from Tower Systems helps retailers cut theft

Retailers using the Xero POS software link from Tower Systems are well positioned to reduce the impact of employee theft on their retail business. Here is how…

  1. Every data touchpoint in a business is an opportunity for employee fraud. Using this link there is less touching, less entering, of data. This in and of itself reduces the opportunity for covering top theft and if you reduce this opportunity you reduce actual theft.
  2. Theft occurs where there is less oversight. Thanks to the seamless flow of data from the POS software to Xero, without human intervention, oversight is tight and constant. This means loess opportunity for theft.
  3. Track cash without the opportunity for manipulation and you reduce the opportunity for theft. The POS software / Xero interface means that cash is recorded the moment a sale is completed. Every step of engagement with the cash whether it be the end of shift cash count, a customer refund, removal of cash from the register is tracked.
  4. Getting data out of the business and into the accounting ting function makes it more protected. The POS software Xero link gets data to the accounting function quickly, easily and without being manipulated. Data is treated like a serious business asset, as it should be.
  5. Never take your eyes off data. For the moment you take your eyes off the data you open it to be manipulated. This link never takes its eyes off.

Also, thanks to powerful data tracking including deep security data tracking, you can rely on this software to help you manage theft so as to ensure the impact on the business is minimised compared to what would be the case if you were not using the Tow3r Systems POS software Xero interface.

There are many stories from small business retailers where Tower Systems has helped uncover, resolve and even prosecute in situations of employee theft. We have specialist experience in helping small business retailers in this stressful and expensive area of business operation.

Tower Systems has brought its theft mitigation experience to the Xero link to leverage this ti maximum benefit for its small business retail customers.

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

In our work with small business retailers our help often passes from POS software help to business management help.

recently, we were asked for advice on when and how to quit stock. here is the template advice we have created, which is useful in many types of retail businesses.

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. To me, this think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

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. I suggest you NOT use this.

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, I suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

I have tested this. I have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our 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.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

Counselling small business retailers through the challenge of employee theft

It is difficult hearing an adult cry on the other end of the phone when you pick up the call expecting it to be a regular business to business discussion. This time was different. Their story was one of hurt and pain, considerable financial hurt and considerable personal pain. They were distressed. They did not see how they could go on with business, they were so upset.

Our job in the call was to empathise and support, to not judge and to help them navigate next steps in what was a complex and unexpected situation.

The person on the other end of the phone was a retailer using our POS software. They called because they had just discovered an employee theft situation. While they knew they had tools in their POS software for early intervention on employee theft, they had not used them, until now, following a suspicion.

It turned out their suspicion was wrong. The person stealing from them was their most trusted employee, a family friend.

The first few calls with the customer about this were about them, about our customer, helping them navigate their own distress, so they could continue to function, to keep their business going, while they did what was necessary to have the theft dealt with formally by the authorities.

In addition to structured advice on handling any discovered employee theft, we provide help and support personally for the business owner, to help them personally deal with the violation they feel because of the theft.

We help the business owner(s) personally in several ways. These including pointing them to professional counselling services, physically being with them in the business when taking steps to deal with the theft, doing independent research on the theft so the authorities have the evidence they will need, being a pillar of support and strength for the retailer, ensuring they know we have their back and that how they feel right now will pass as they step through dealing with this.

While we are not professionally trained counsellors, we have been involved is supporting retailers from many different businesses in navigating the discovery and management of employee theft. We take care to support the person first, to ensure they are okay and reinforce that they will be okay. We help them as they pass through emotions ranging from hurt, anger, despair and hate. We take their hand and offer ourselves as a pillar of strength.

We do this because we have been there ourselves, in our own retail businesses over the years. We draw on our own experiences as we find this helps.

Practical advice for new small business retailers

If you are new to owning or running a retail business it is likely that you have been too busy opening the business and settling in to have time to pay attention to basic advice about running the business.

Business consultants and others who advise business owners, too, often get caught up in big picture strategies and themes to deal with the basics.

In the interests of helping new retailers and retail shop mangers, here is a checklist of basic retail business advice, headlines mainly – not too much detail, just enough to remind you of key areas which need attention to build a stronger and more profitable retail business.

This checklist has been developed over the years of us supporting plenty of start-up small business retailers. The list is based on things we often see them neglect or forget.

We have grouped the advice into business areas.

Hiring, training and managing employees

  1. Create an employee manual with all employee terms and conditions.
  2. Hire the best employees available.
  3. Train your employees well. Do this by working with them, taking them into your confidence about the business, what it stands for and what you expect of them.
  4. Pay employees in a way which respects your faith in them.
  5. Share the rewards you make from the business.
  6. Remember, you are more responsible for employee performance than anyone since it is usually you who hire, train, manage and fire them.

Cash

  1. Cash is king in retail. An unprofitable business with a good cash flow can weather a storm.  A profitable business with poor cash flow can fail.
  2. Have a strong cash management policy.
  3. Bank regularly.
  4. Keep little cash on the premises.
  5. Never let one single employee control the cash. Have checks and balances.
  6. Keep expenses to an absolute minimum.
  7. Watch your product margins, make the most from each product you sell that you can without hurting sales.

Inventory

  1. Buy what sells.
  2. Use your software to determine replenishment stock.
  3. Never sell anything without tracking it.

Marketing

  1. Use all the free touchpoints: receipts, customer display and more in your software.
  2. Use social media, daily.

Operating costs

  1. Be frugal.
  2. Know dead stock as this is too often a big overhead.

Your time

  1. Automate as much as you can.
  2. Know how to get data to guide decisions.
  3. Delegate, with rules.

Too often new retailers and retail store managers look for advice to react to situations.  Consider the headline advice in this article early on and revisit it regularly to ensure that you have a strong and healthy business.

How the Tower Systems POS software helps small business retailers compete with big retailers

Tower Systems has the back of small business retailers.

We believe in their value economically and socially to Australia and Australian families.

Small businesses matter.

They give people their start in work.

They are an excellent training ground.

They often pay more tax as a percentage of income than big business.

They serve local communities.

They provide a level of personal service you rarely see in big business.

Here at Tower Systems we only sell our POS software to small business retailers. For the reasons we outline here. This has always been the case with us. We don’t chase big business customers.

Being small business focussed means our customers can trust that we have their backs in our services and in our software. This gives them confidence that the software they purchase from us is for their size and type of business. It means they are not using software that a big competitor also uses. This plays to their point of difference.

Here is what is different for our customers, by purchasing software from our small business focussed POS software company:

  1. Tower customers have a terrific say in the evolution of our software thanks to a unique transparent process accessible to all customers.
  2. Tower customers know the names of each person they speak with.
  3. Our phones are answered by humans.
  4. Tower customers can speak with anyone on our leadership team, directly.
  5. Easy access to unlimited training opportunities.
  6. Accessible user meetings.
  7. Small business marketing advice.
  8. Small business management advice.
  9. Small business support.
  10. Employee theft assistance.

Tower Systems is a small business focussed POS software company. As our motto says, we’re here to help.

How our POS software helps small business retailers reduce the cost of dead stock

Dead stock is dead money for small business retailers. Too often we see businesses where buying mistakes have been made and action has not been taken to correct the situation.

Using our POS software, small business retailers can make better buying decisions. They can buy based on evidence, hard data showing what works, hard data showing exactly what they need to satisfy demand, based on past performance data.

Small business retailers who buy by the numbers, who buy based on data, are less likely to have dead stock challenges in their businesses.

Here at Tower Systems we provide the software with tools to reduce the incidence of dead stock. We back the software with practical advice and help for our small business customers on how to actually use the tools.

It is one thing to sell someone a hammer and another thing entirely to show how to best use the hammer for safety and efficiency. That is what we do but here the hammer is our smart POS software.

Our goal is to stop the dead stock problem before it is a problem, before the business purchases stock. This can be done as we can show in many businesses with which we engage regularly today. We can show it in our own shops where we use our advised principles to reduce the incidence of dead stock and thereby save the businesses significant costs compared to others.

We work with retailers, retail business employees and suppliers on a range of tech and business solutions to ensure that dead stock is minimised, to provide commercially sound outcomes for small business retailers such that the cost of dead stock reduces in businesses with which we engage.

Our POS software is part of the solution. Training is another. Business management processes are another. Together we combine these and offer our partner small business retailers a solution on which they can rely to achieve better outcomes for themselves and their businesses.

The how, the real nuts and bolts of how are a discussion for a more private place as it is part of our IP, something that separates us in how we have the retailers who use our POS software and who rely on our support and business assistance services.

Helping small business retailers relax when feeling overwhelmed

Through its help for small business retailers, POS software company Tower Systems helps beyond the software, beyond what is usual for a POS software company.

The most recent help has been through practical advice on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed…

If you feel overwhelmed and can’t work out what to do, reach for this list and try one of the practical and safe ideas. They cost nothing.

The goal is to help you see small steps you can take to walk through whatever it is that makes you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Go for a 5k or longer walk outside, alone. Not a stroll, but a walk, at pace if possible. Unplugged, no phone, no music.
  2. Establish rituals for your day. How you start your day, how you end your day, lunchtime, bed time. For example, starting with breakfast, and a nice tea or coffee could be the calm start to the day you need.
  3. Have apps on your phone that are fun and you enjoy. Play one of these for a while to take your mind off things. It is amazing how our mind helps us resolve things when we turn away from those things.
  4. Learn meditation. From simple controlled breathing to yoga, meditation can be a perfect reset from a busy and overwhelming day.
  5. Play Scrabble through Facebook on your computer. You can play anytime with someone you have never met and will never speak to.
  6. Draw, even if you think you can’t. If you are not sure what to draw, draw why you feel overwhelmed.
  7. Write. Anything but you could try writing on the page about what it is that you think makes you feel overwhelmed.
  8. Talk. We are good listeners.
  9. Three-count breathing. Inhale for three counts. Hold for three counts. Exhale for three counts. Do this for, say, ten rounds. Then increase the count. The rhythmic nature of this and concentration can help you see ahead.
  10. Earth. Go to the beach, a park, your backyard and take your shoes and socks off and put your feet on the ground.
  11. Watch. Go to a playground and watch kids play. If there is a local sports game on near you, go watch that.
  12. Start a journal. Write in it every day.
  13. Be clear to yourself when the day is done. While it is tough in small business to turn off, have a threshold so that once you cross it, you have turned off and the time is yours.
  14. Find a quiet place, put on headphones connected to a music source and listen to your favorite album of all time, with the volume turned up and a do not disturb sign on the door.
  15. Get away to a safe place and write a note to your overwhelmed self. Give yourself honest advice you’d give your best friend if they came to you with the feelings you have.

If you are struggling beyond what these suggestions can help with, consider speaking with your GP about a mental health plan. This provides access to medical professionals who can help you more effectively deal with what it is that leads you to feel overwhelmed.

Tower Systems develops and supports small business POS software. Our advice and help often reaches beyond what is usual for a POS software company. www.towersystems.com.au

Advice for small business retailers on leveraging the teacher gift opportunity

This is another in our series of practice 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.

Australian newsagency sales performance benchmark study results

For fifteen years, Tower Systems has published quarterly sales performance benchmark results based on accurate data from a broad cross-section of retail newsagency businesses.

This study is the most comprehensive even for the newsagency channel. Here is the latest report, for the April – June quarter of 2017 compares to 2016 on a same store basis.

The April – June quarter was tough for core products sold through the newsagency channel. In addition to the continuing decline in print media sales, this quarter’s benchmark results reveal a troubling downturn in lottery revenue as well as card revenue.

Here are the headline numbers by key product category:

  1. Magazine unit sales declined 11%.
  2. Greeting card revenue declined 4%.
  3. Lottery revenue declines 4%.
  4. Newspaper unit sales declined 12%.
  5. Gift revenue increased by 11%.
  6. Toy revenue increased by 16%.
  7. Stationery revenue declined 8%.

These are not good headline numbers. The bottom is falling out of the historic core of the newsagency channel. This will not be news to many as it continues a trend we have seen in this benchmark study for several years.

The above percentages reflect the overall performance of the 181 newsagency businesses in this benchmark study. It includes stores from a range of banner groups as well as independents. There are large businesses and small. Some are in shopping centres while others are on then high street. The cross-section is broad.

What is concerning is the pace of decline, especially with magazines as the decline had slowed recently. Looking more closely at the data, the decline is in the volume categories. Fringe categories such as special interest titles are doing well. Indeed, some segments show terrific growth.

Newsagents need to manage the overhead cost of newspapers and magazines. Labour, space and capital investment needs to be kept in line with the gross profit contribution of these categories. Busy work relating to newspapers and magazines should be eliminated.

The decline in greeting card revenue is a surprise. The reported percentage of decline, 4%, does not read well. However, like all the above data points, it is an average from the entire data pool. There are stores experiencing decline above 20% with others reporting growth above 20%. There is a clear correlation between stores with strong gift sales and card performance – in this case card revenue is stronger.

GOOD NEWS.

The good news is the performance of businesses playing outside the traditional space. For example, the newsagency with $25,000 in toy revenue in the quarter, reflecting growth of 18% or the newsagency with $45,000 in gift revenue and year on year growth of 22% of the newsagency with card revenue of $47,000 and year on year growth of 22%.

There are many good news stories in the latest study results. However, the good news will be overshadowed by the performance of the majority. It is challenging, some days, to know what to do or say to cut through with newsagents who are not engaged.

Too many newsagents think growth will come from categories close to what they have done historically. For example, too many get into cheap social stationery thinking that is competitive with Kikki.K or Typo.

My experience is the best growth comes from turning away from traditional lines and traditional suppliers and going with products and price points you would never have considered for a newsagency business. I see this approach working well in the benchmark results in businesses of different sizes and in different situations.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE DATA.

  1. Customer traffic. 78% of newsagents report average decline of 5%.
  2. Overall sales. 53% reported an average revenue decline of 3%.
  3. Basket depth. 61% report a 2% decrease in basket size.
  4. Basket dollar value. 63% report a decrease in basket value of 3%.

It is in the overall business gross profit numbers where the differences in businesses can be seen. 62% sit in the traditional newsagency GP performance band of 28% – 30%. 7% sit below 28%. 20% sit in the GP band of 30% and 35%. 7% sit between 35% and 40%. The rest, 4%, have a GP of more than 40%.

GP is a function of what you stock and the type of shoppers you attract to the business. Buying is where it starts.

WHAT IS DRIVING THE DECLINES?

Close to 80% of the businesses in the benchmark reported a decline in traffic with the average decline set at 5%. However, just over half reported a decline in revenue. This is because plenty are selling higher priced items, usually gifts. This softens the blow of the decline in legacy products.

I think the traffic decline is being driven by a decline in interest in legacy products on which traditional newsagency businesses have relied. I have said for years it is crucial newsagents have a strategy to drive net new traffic. Relying on legacy product to sell new products is not a plan. You need to source new products and to use these to attract people to your business who would otherwise not have shopped with you.

HOW TO RESPOND TO TRAFFIC DECLINES?

Any newsagency business can be successful, regardless of location and situation. This is truer today than at any time in the past thanks to what we can see being achieved online – not only in newsagency businesses but through other retail channels.

The key to success is to not run the business as a newsagency. That’s is, to not obsess about legacy products. Focus on new traffic products. Focus on price points you would usually say would never work in your business. Buy products you think will never work. Be radical and through discover what is possible in your business.

I urge you to ask yourself daily, what have I done today to reach a new shopper, someone who does not know we exist? This is what successful businesses in the benchmark study are doing and doing well.

DOES THE NEWSAGENCY CHANNEL HAVE A FUTURE?

I ask this every quarter. My answer remains – Yes! Absolutely. If you are prepared to shrug off what has been traditional for a newsagency business, stop hoarding, embrace change and embrace social media – you can have a bright future. The transformation from traditional to the new world must be urgent and dramatic.

AGENCY IS OVER.

My opinion remains – there is no upside in any agency parts of the business. People saying they are proud to be called a newsagent are entitled to their view. History will show that era is behind us.

OPTIMISTIC.

I am optimistic for my own newsagency businesses and for the businesses of many newsagents. Indeed, I have opened a new outlet the last few months. It does not look or feel like a newsagency. The numbers are terrific.

WHY I DO THIS STUDY

My interest in the study is as a newsagent and as a supplier to the channel through Tower Systems and through newsXpress. I want the channel to grow for selfish reasons and because it has been my life since 1981. I am invested.

BENCHMARK GOALS.

I am often asked for benchmark goals newsagents ought to aim for. Here are some benchmarks I have developed in my work with newsXpress and through Tower Systems:

  1. Gross profit: this is the goal gross profit for all product sales not taking into account any revenue or costs related to any agency business. The traditional newsagency average sits at 28% to 32%. For a newsagency focused on the future, the goal has to be at least 45%.
  2. Ratio of Gift revenue to Card revenue: 50% minimum. The goal ought to be 100% or more. If you do $100K a year in cards, target to do $100K in gifts, or more.
  3. Revenue per employee – $250 an hour minimum not including agency revenue. This is a contentious KPI. If you think it is not for you, work the numbers back and see what your number needs to be based on each labour hour in the business.
  4. Revenue PSQM $4,500 – $8,500 depending on country vs. city / high street to shopping centre and depending of product mix. Higher GP lower revenue required.
  5. Overall revenue mix percentage targets: Cards: 25%; Gifts/toys/plush: 25%; Stat: 10%; magazines/newspapers: 20%; other: 15%.
  6. FLOORSPACE ALLOCATION: Cards: 25%; Gifts/toys/plush: 25%; Stat: 8%; magazines/newspapers: 15%; other products: 15%; office/back room / counter: 12%. It’s rare you make money from an office or store room.
  7. Mark-up goals: Stationery: 125%; Gifts 110%; plush: 110%.
  8. Occupancy cost: between 9% and 11% of revenue where revenue is product revenue plus commission from agency lines. Location and situation are a big factor in this benchmark. For example, a large shopping centre business will have a higher cost than a high street situation.
  9. Labour cost: between 9% and 11% of revenue where revenue is product revenue plus commission from agency lines. Labour cost should include fair market costs for all who work in the business. (See above).

Mark Fletcher.
Email: mark@towersystems.com.au  Website: www.towersystems.com.au  Blog: www.newsagencyblog.com.au
M | 0418 321 338

Footnote: I founded Tower Systems in 1981. That company now serves in excess of 1,750 newsagents as customers with its newsagency software. In 2005, I joined newsXpress. That newsagency marketing group now serves 243 retail businesses with a traffic and revenue growth strategy.

Helping small business retailers quit dead stock with best-practice advice

In our weekly customer support email to our small business POS software users we include everyday business management advice.

We are grateful for customer feedback on the practical tips we provide and for suggestions on new topics se can cover.

Here is recent advice we shared with our customers on quitting dead stock.

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. We think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

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. We suggest you NOT use this.

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

A 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 have tested this. We have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our 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.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

This advice in another example of how Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our POS software and the support you may expect from a company like us.

We love helping small business retailers save time, make money and enjoy their businesses more. These are core goals of our Australian POS software business. They reflect what we call the Tower AdvantageTM.