Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Category: Small business management advice (page 1 of 6)

A marketing tip small business retailers can leverage into additional revenue, easily

Use this unique facility to drive sales in any retail business and nurture optimism in the business and among customers.

It’s a bold claim. A true claim though in that we have the evidence to show that what we talk about here works, and works well, in hundreds of retail businesses.

Loyalty points are dead. Big businesses killed them, made them useless.

While our specialty retail POS software has a loyalty points program you can use, it is our smart discount vouchers that retailers in our community of 3,500+ retail; businesses love. Discount vouchers are part of broader loyalty tools we offer.

Note, we call them discount vouchers – you can call them what you like. The facilities give you leverage that you can employ to encourage shoppers to spend more and shop with you sooner.

Here’s a video from June this year in which we show how vouchers work and provide examples of the value they offer the business for little or no cost.

Here is a video we shot in August this year where we look at discount vouchers in more detail and explore what it looks like inside the business.

We use discount vouchers in retail businesses we operate and have done so since we first released the functionality in February 2013. They work a treat, delivering net beneficial value at no cost to the business.

The fundamental question for any retailer is do you want to grow your business? The answer, of course, is yes. Discount vouchers provide the means through which you can do this. It starts by changing the conversation, by offering something your competitors do not offer and, most likely, cannot offer.

By changing the conversation you drive a different shopper expectation and that helps shoppers see your business through a different light.

People like being rewarded for doing what they would do anyway. Through fine-tuned levers, you are able to nudge their engagement to go beyond what they would do and you can factor the cost of nudging into your pricing.

Across plenty of retail channels, discount vouchers deliver commercial benefits for retail business. Plus, they offer a community group connect that further enhances their value to the business as well as to the local community.

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Everyday retail management advice: measure everything and win

Measurement is key to the success of any retail business, especially in small business retail where competition is tough.

Measuring sales, stock, employees and suppliers will profit a business if those in charge act on what measurement reveals.

This is small business retail management advice we share with our POS software customers. While it is a boring topic, it is a business critical topic for if you measure and act on the evidence you are on a path to success. Ignorance may be bliss … it is also a road to failure in business.

Without accurate and consistent measurement, you are not able to make good business decisions or to hold others to account for their actions.

By measuring you can make better decisions.

Here are some simple rules for accurate measurement in retail:

  1. Only sell what you can track – by scanning a barcode or pressing a PLU (stock code) to track the item.
  2. Do not use department keys to sell items as this denies you the opportunity of tracking individual items you sell. Scan the barcode every time!
  3. Enter into your computer system everything you sell. Record stock you receive by supplier so that you can track supplier performance.
  4. Enter into your computer system everything you return to suppliers – consignment stock, returns or damaged goods.
  5. Record all sales and other activity at the sales register by employees.
  6. Reorder replenishment stock by using your computer system to create orders for you.

My making your business data driven you are better equipped to take the emotion and gut feel out of business decisions.  This will improve decision quality and accountability and, hopefully, the return you achieve from these decisions.

Businesses which do not measure stock, suppliers, employees and sales accurately often find themselves faltering without knowing why – because they have no accurate data on which to base research.

Measuring everything reveals a path forward and this path is success.

Yes, this is a snooze of a topic. However, it is also a business critical topic offering a bankable result – if you measure everything and act on the results as revealed by the measurement.

Tower Systems helps small business measure, analyse and act. Our advice for small business retailers is considerable – reaching as far as retailers ask. It starts with our POS software and offering retailers opportunities to fully learn how this software can serve any specialty retail business that chooses it.

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Advice for small business retailers on combatting the Covid recession

Whether we like it or not, the world economy is in recession, a Covid recession. While each country fares differently, the recession is global.

While small business retail is vulnerable, it is well positioned to trade out of the Covid recession. Here is our advice for small business retailers on combatting the Covid recession, or at least on guiding trading in your business to be against trend.

Our advice is based on decades of work with many different retail businesses across multiple retail channels. It also drains on our own experience running several different types of retail businesses.

  • Get shoppers buying more. Increasing your average visit spend value can be done through smart loyalty lever engagement as well as intelligent product location on the shop floor and with appropriate encouragement for multi-item purchases. Our POS software helps with all of these. It offers facilities through which you can systemise your approach to these and retailers activities.
  • Bring shoppers back sooner. You can do this with targeted emails that are based on past shopper behaviour, financial encouragement to shop sooner than they otherwise might and by offering items people collect and add to. Our POS software can support each of these activities in a consistent and easy to manage way.
  • Improve retail floorspace performance. Outside of inventory, labour and retail space are the highest costs to any retail business. maximising return from retail space and from labour engageed in managing retail space is key to success. Using our POS software you can stock more of what does sell and less of what does not sell – thereby improving the return on labour and retail space investment.
  • Broaden your shopper reach. While opening the doors is considered a marketing activity in many small retail businesses, for a small effort and investment you can be online connected to your POS software and selling products to shoppers far away, shoppers =not in your current reach … thereby improving the efficiency of the business.

Much of what a small retail business can achieve in trading against the trend of a Covid recession comes down to decisions made in the business, decisions about products, people and marketing that can be leveraged through smart POS software.

We’re here to help!

Tower Systems is grateful to serve thousands of small and independent t retail businesses in Australia and New Zealand in service of profit and enjoyment.

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What does Q4 2020 look like for small business retailers

Welcome to the last quarter of 2020. What a year it’s been already.

For many in retail, what happens over the next 3 months traditionally determines the success of the full year for the business. We have been asked several times recently what the next three months look like.

Considering sales data from plenty of business and from many different types of retail businesses, we share some thought below on what we expect. Of course, our expectations are based on current Corona trajectories as at the start of October 2020. Any change to that will impact these.

  • Christmas is here, now, early. Christmas purchasing started over a month ago with sales of specific Christmas products including cards, decoration and Christmas themed items already good. People appear to be shopping to be prepared for possibly another lockdown. Some are also buying because of worries regarding the supply chain.
  • Working from home is here to stay. retailers selling products that help with working from home should have a good quarter if they continue to leverage this opportunity. There is no sign of working from home slowing, which will impact businesses that rely on major CBD business worker traffic.
  • Regional / rural property sales are strong. Property sales in regional and rural locations have surged, bringing in more people and plenty of new faces, which bring in new shopper opportunities. Serving new residents plays well for some retail sectors like garden centres.
  • People want to be happy and give happiness. Offering products that will make people happy is key to a good fourth quarter.
  • Locally made. This matters more than ever.

Focussing on these and related points positions your business well for a good last quarter.

Thinking predictions, we think that businesses that rely on strong Christmas trade have reason to expect this year to be at least as good as last year. We know one business that does more than 50% of their revenue through the Christmas season and current indications comparing this year to the last 2 years suggest they will be up this year by 20%. The product mix is the same.

The success of this last quarter really relies on your product sourcing, in-store messaging and out of store marketing … your connection with the emotional messages that matter to people, that will get them purchasing through you.

The time to act on Christmas 2020 was months ago. If you are starting now, go for it, quickly and engagingly as Christmas shoppers are spending today.

We hope that this last quarter of 2020 is awesome for your retail business and all who rely on it!

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Some retail businesses are having an awesome 2020

Yes, some retail businesses are having an awesome 2020, plenty in fact. However, most of those having success this year do not want to talk too much about it. They want to keep a low profile because most of what’s in the media about business in 2020 is negative and they do not want to distract with what they think is a unique good story. Some even feel ashamed at their success.

The reality is that many retail businesses, especially local small retail businesses, are having a good 2020.

Yes, there is excellent good news out there. Here are some good news stories we see in our work with specialty retail channels, without identifying store details. These are channel-wide stories with many businesses in each channel having success.

  • Garden centres are doing very well, offering customers the ability to grow their own produce, be more self sufficient, eat more healthily. Many garden centres we are working with have been challenged to keep up with demand. They have risen to the occasion, helping many folks into their first ever veggie patch.
  • Farm supply / rural produce businesses have had a big and successful year. Sales are up as more people are living in regional and rural locations and needing more materials as they work on their properties in these locations.
  • Toy shops are doing well helping people enjoy their time at home. Those who engaged online have done especially well. Those that expanded their jigsaw, game and relaxation product ranges have done well.
  • Pet shops have done well as pets have become even more important this year, offering comfort and company, making isolation easier.
  • Bike shops are having a terrific year as they offer people enjoyable ways to remain healthy in a safe way.
  • Fishing and outdoors businesses are doing well, too, thanks to their ability to help people be more self sufficient for food.
  • Newsagents are having an awesome 2020 as they have become more relevant through offering essential services, keeping people informed and helping people enjoy home time more through their games, jigsaws, crosswords and more.

We know many small local and independent retail businesses that have done so well that they do not qualify for government pandemic assistance. Double digit growth in 2020 is real for them. They are loving being in business and serving their local community. They are loving that local shopping is more popular in 2020 too.

So, while the TV news and current affairs programs focus on stories of doom and gloom, there are many, hundreds and thousands of good stories, happy stories, stories of growth and success in small business retail … stories of success in 2020.

For many of the business owners enjoying success this year, they have made it happen through their decisions and actions, they have pursued success and for this they have every reason to be proud.

Well done to all of these small business retailers having an excellent 2020, well done!

We are grateful to be part of this, part of the community of businesses having a good year. We are thankful that through what we make we are able to play a role in helping retail businesses find and nurture success.

Now, if only media outlets could share some of the good news stories. They don’t have to look far to find them.

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Staff management tips and advice for local small business retailers

In our work with more than 3,500 small business retailers across a diverse mix of retail channels, we have collected, along the way, a kit of tips and advice for managing staff in retail. We share some of these tips today here as an insight into the help we can provide beyond our POS software, beyond what you may expect from a POS software company too.

We are interested in retail business management, especially small retail business management, as we own and run shops ourselves and have done so since February 1996. We bought our first shop to give us a live test site. It’s grown since then.

Before we get to the tips themselves, we like this selection because it focusses on the management challenge as well as on the financial outcome for the business.

Here are some of the small business retail staff management tips we like:

  1. Set sales goals. In our experience, people perform well when they know the goal. It could be individual goals or a business-wide goal.
  2. Track performance. If not for reward, at least for active management engagement.
  3. Reduce mistakes and theft. Get employee code or number entered for each sale. It works.
  4. Skill your people. Make sure they understand the software and how they can use it to achieve more for the business.
  5. Change the roster. Roster changes can push back against predictability, they can also uncover opportunities.
  6. Set standards. In your POS you can establish standards for data to be followed – product naming conventions, department descriptions and more. The more consistency in your data the more valuable your data.
  7. Stop using the back room. You can’t sell product from the back room. Have staff do all pricing and other usual back room tasks on the shop floor.
  8. Track location performance. Train your staff in the process of tracking the performance of impulse locations. Moving a product could help it find customers. Make sure staff understand what you are looking for.
  9. Share basket insights. Knowing what sells alone and what sells with what can help staff make better decisions as to what is placed where on the shop floor.
  10. Ask them. Yes, ask them what you should / could stock, ask them what think a product is worth. Value their input and they will value more working for the business.
  11. Cut data handling. At every possible point, stop touching data. Having it flow from electronic supplier invoices through the POS to scanned sales through to Xero for accounting can reduce mistakes and possible fraud opportunities.

There are many opportunities for managing staff through and with your POS software. This can improve the business and enhance their experience with your business.

 

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11 mistakes small business retailers make with their websites when selling online

Here at Tower Systems we develop POS software for small business retailers. We are grateful to serve 3,500+ customers in Australia and New Zealand. We also develop beautiful websites for small business retailers.

Leveraging that experience, we have evolved a suite of knowledge about works for small business retailers going online. We have plenty  of advice to offer retailers about going online.

Today, we flip that consideration, we want to take a look at common mistakes retailers make when they go online, mistakes that can cause their shop connected websites to fail or, at least, to not achieve what they hoped for.

These are mistakes we have seen retailers make, advised against and, often, had to fix once the retailers agree they were mistakes. They make our mistake list once corrective action is shown to fix an issue, thereby proving the first move was a mistake.

  1. Poor navigation. A site that is hard to get around will see people leave quickly.
  2. Unclear shipping charges / policy. People want to know what it will cost.
  3. Inadequate payment options. Credit card is as essential as PayPal, buy now pay later like Afterpay, ZipPay and Humm, Apple Pay and Shopify pay.
  4. Using photos are are blurred or with more than. one product in them. Good photography is key – yes, you can do it yourself.
  5. Using stock photos that are already on many other websites. Google likes unique photos. Take them yourself.
  6. Using the same text that is on plenty of there websites. Google likes fresh text, fresh content. Write this yourself and follow consistent standards.
  7. No chat. Chat is key because shoppers have questions.
  8. Secrecy – not including an email address, phone number and actual street address.  People want to know they can trust you.
  9. Having no USP – unique selling proposition. Really, why should people shop with your website if your website offers nothing unique.
  10. Poor fulfilment. If you take too long to fulfil, people will know and they will complain to others.
  11. No support. Your website needs support online and elsewhere, so people can find it. This could be marketing, links on other sites, links on socials and more.

Our advice for small business retailers with websites goes beyond the 11 points we have noted here. Take these as a start. Anyone with a website can address these without additional cost. Fix these mistakes and you should start to see growth non engagement with the website. This is another step to growing online sales.

Tower Systems is grateful to serve thousands of small business retailers. Working with them helps us learn every day, which we love.

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3 shop local community connection and marketing tips for small business retailers

2020 is the year of shop local with a surge in people shopping locally. In our work with 3,500+ small business retailers, we have seen a surge in sales, both in -store sales and online sales with small business retailers.

It is wonderful to see, this authentic support for shop local in 2020.

Today, we share some tips for small business retailers on how to maximise the shop local opportunity, marketing advice on how to make shop local work better for you. These are marketing tips you can use right away without spending any money in most cases.

  1. What makes your business local? Know this and you can know much more about your message and how you can leverage it. For many retailers, their local connections are a point of difference. usually, what makes your business local is local knowledge. If this is you, serve this knowledge through touchpoint in your POS software. It is easy to encode local knowledge is related to what you sell and auto-serve this through customer purchases.
  2. Connect with the local community. Offer community groups fund-raining opportunities when your members choose your local business over other local businesses. It’s easy to manage through your POS software, to track the purchases by group members, given them a benefit and gift the community group itself a benefit in appreciation for their recommendation. This can be a perfect win / win / win for all in the local community.
  3. Stay connected. Through social media, email and other platforms, keeping connected with locals by sharing locally relevant information you can connect and share knowledge and this will be appreciated by locals. Your POS software can capture email addresses and share these with mailChimp for safe and spam free emails.

Know where your customers live. It’s easy to capture the postcode of shoppers. In every business we see doing this they learn things about shoppers that they can leverage, for better local community engagement especially.

Nurturing local shoppers really is all about your local community connection. It helps to have ways to do this that do not take too much time, ways that are consistently leveraged. This is where good POS software with tools for pitching your local connections can help.

Here at Tower Systems we care about small business retailers. We care for your businesses, those who rely on the business for income and your local shopper customers. We only work with and help local small business retailers with our POS software.

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Optimistic about local small business retail in Australia

We have been interviewed several times this year about the state of local retail, small business retail, in this corona challenged world.

While corona is challenging, and heartbreaking, too, for plenty, in local small business retail world, it is an opportunity to demonstrate the value of shopping local, sourcing local and serving local.

People want to shop local more than ever. They want to know that where possible products are sourced locally too.

There is no doubt that we are in a period of significant change. We have the disruption of online, disruption of completely new business models, banking challenges pushing cashless, about costs that force a rethink on shop floor engagement, overcrowding in terms of retail space per capita and more. Change surrounds us. Corona is driving an increase in the pace of change and this is interesting to see.

Small business retailers who are nimble stand to gain the most.

In this change, when you bundle it all together, is opportunity to explore the business considerably outside its usual four walls and it is in this consideration that I find a key opportunity for optimism.

Change is good. Change drives innovation. innovation is key to better business results.

While there will be collateral damage through the change, those that remain confront wonderful opportunity.

The optimism for the future of local small business retail stems from seeing many businesses pivot as a result of corona, move online, offer delivery, offer click and collect, expand product mix and more. many businesses are enhancing their service in response to the needs they see locally and even far away as they reach through online.

Small business retailers can respond to needs faster than big business. Being nimble in 2020 and beyond is more important even than having deep pockets full of cash.

Innovation matters. They is where POS software can serve in that it provides a data pathway as well as low cost execution opportunities for businesses that do with to pivot or innovate or both and more.

Change is bringing these opportunities and change is key to encouraging optimism and local small business retail.

It is terrific seeing so much good news in the marketplace right now, in the middle of corona. Good news from small business retailers being smart and engaged in embracing change and the opportunities to be found from change.

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Helping small business retailers embrace the covid pivot opportunity

Every day we are engaging with new opportunities to embrace the covid pivot opportunity with small business retailers in Australia and New Zealand.

The covid pivot is where a business embraces a change outside of what has been usual for the business – new products, new services, new business methods – in pursuit of new shoppers and that it does this in response to the covid challenge and opportunity of 2020. Hence, the term the covid pivot. It is real.

It is important to understand what the covid pivot it not. It is not made out of fear or desperation. It is not a last stand. It is not a retreat. No, the covid pivot is a confident move a business makes to pursue new opportunities, new customers, to expand the reach of the business. This is the pivot part. the covid part is that the virus provides opportunity, encouragement and cover, if necessary.

We are grateful to serve more than 3,000 small business retailers in our POS software community, and to be growing this daily as more join with us. Within our current community and without we are helping retailers in their covid pivot journey to find new shoppers, to expand their reach and to being new life and opportunity to their businesses.

While we get that 2020 is challenging, early on, back in march tis year, we decided to focus on walking  forward, turning here and there, expanding the business and the businesses of our customers. We think it is too easy to get caught up ion the doom and gloom of some in the media, the negativity. That’s not for us. It’s a mug’s game. That’s not us.

Opportunities abound for finding new customers in retail as well as in our space of being a small business POS software company.

In our focus on the covid pivot opportunity we are doing this here ourselves, in retail businesses we own and with plenty of our partner retailers. This is a 2020 good new story. We call it the covid pivot as something to celebrate, while not forgetting the health and personal harm and suffering that covid itself ha=s brought to so many.

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Retail solutions for small business retailers in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  1. More revenue from each sale – greater sales efficiency

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

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

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

  1. Better margin – by selling for the best price

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

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

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

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

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Retail coaching tips for small business retailers in Australia

We are grateful to have a diverse and engaged community off small business retailers using our Point of Sale software on which to draw when putting together tips and advice for retailers.

Daily, we are engaged in coaching retailers, providing advice and practice al support to help create more valuable and enjoyable businesses. Our coaching advice ranges from motivational to the practical. Sometimes it is Point of Sale software related while other times it is not.

Always, though, our advice is shared openly and with supporting reasoning and evidence. We want what you want – a more successful and enjoyable retail business.

Here is an example of one aspect of coaching for small business retailers. It’s related to our Point of Sale software:

Measurement is key to the success of any retail business. 

Measuring sales, stock, employees and suppliers.

Without accurate and consistent measurement, you are not able to make good business decisions or to hold others to account for their actions.

By measuring you can make better decisions.

Here are some simple rules for accurate measurement in retail:

  1. Only sell what you can track – by scanning a barcode or pressing a PLU (stock code) to track the item.
  2. Do not use department keys to sell items as this denies you the opportunity of tracking individual items you sell.
  3. Enter into your computer system everything you sell. Record stock you receive by supplier so that you can track supplier performance.
  4. Enter into your computer system everything you return to suppliers – consignment stock, returns or damaged goods.
  5. Record all sales and other activity at the sales register by employees.
  6. Reorder replenishment stock by using your computer system to create orders for you.

My making your business data driven you are better equipped to take the emotion and gut feel out of business decisions.  This will improve decision quality and accountability and, hopefully, the return you achieve from these decisions.

Businesses which do not measure stock, suppliers, employees and sales accurately often find themselves faltering without knowing why – because they have no accurate data on which to base research.

Tower Systems develops Point of Sale software for a range of select specialty retail businesses.

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Using POS software to reduce dead stock in small business retail

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

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Small business retail advice: as we come out of lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Advice from our POS software co. for small business retailers on reducing the opportunity of a ransomware attack

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

There is no guaranteed protection but there are important steps to take. This advice provides advice designed to reduce the risk to your business.

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

You can reduce the opportunity of being hit by an attack by taking care with emails. If you are not sure of the sender, ignore the email. Tell everyone who has access to your email. Lay out your ground rules and demand discipline.

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

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

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

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Advice from our POS software company for small business retailers facing a cashflow challenge

We are asked regularly for business advice by small business retailers. It comes with the territory of being a small business focussed POS software company. It also comes with us owning and running retail businesses ourselves.

We draw on 0ur own experiences as well of those we serve in providing advice.

A question we have had recently is about how yo manage a cashflow challenge in a small retail business, a tough challenge, one that could end the business. Here is our overall advice for that situation:

The common approach we have seen from business owners is to hide from those to whom you owe money. That only serves to harm your business and put you under more pressure. It is not a smart move.

  1. Understand the problem. Know if it is short term or long term. Be certain about the role you have played. If you don’t understand the problem your fix may be inappropriate.
  2. Own the problem. It is personal. It is about leadership. Fixing this is on you.
  3. Develop a plan and document it succinctly:
    1. To borrow if appropriate.
    2. To put more of your own money into the business.
    3. To cut overheads: labour, rent.
    4. To convert more stock to cash.
    5. Work our what free cash you have availabke from your weekly trading.
    6. Ensure all creditors receive payments, no matter h0ow small. Regular payments reflect your commitment to goodwill. They also show you are not playing favourites.
  4. Talk to your creditors, apologise, outline your plan, ask for help.
  5. Act. Every decision, every action you take must work to addressing the cashflow challenge. If you have created a plan(point 3 above) act on it immediately. This is not a time to overthink things.
  6. Invest. If your cashflow challenge is because of a decline in traffic, not spending money chasing traffic will only make the problem worse.

If your cashflow challenge is more serious than a short to medium term plan could resolve it could be that your business is insolvent.

Company directors have a legal obligation to not allow their businesses to trade while insolvent.

Many have been in this situation. You can come out the other side by acting sooner, with commitment and with transparency to your creditors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Small business retail advice: on cutting theft by employees

Employee theft continues to contribute more to the total cost of theft in retail theft than customer theft based on data we see. yet, employee theft is easier to track and manage than customer theft.

In our POS software we have hidden tools that help track and cut employee theft. Outside the POS software, we have this practical and useful small business retail advice that we know works on cutting employee theft.

Issue this Theft Policy in your business, have all team members sign it and place it is a place where team members can see it every day. Doing this establishes your commitment on the issue as well as your policy and practices related to the issue. Following through on the policy is key for without discipline in this area the cost of theft in your business will be higher than it should be.

This is the theft policy we recommend to all retailers…

THEFT POLICY OF THIS BUSINESS

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

PLEASE SIGN AND DATE YOUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

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Small business retail advice: on competing with big business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Small business retail advice: how to cut the insurance overhead

Insurance is a must-have business overhead. It is critical to have the right level of coverage with a respected insurer.

As retailers, we often look at our overheads. We recently re-negotiated insurance coverage for our 3 retail shops and achieved a 30% cut in insurance costs. We reviewed the needs of each specific retail business and set about discussing these with our insurance broker, the same broker we have used for years.

We went into the discussions armed with facts about the business, accurate stock value data and accurate fixed asset value data.

Here are some of the changes we made to our insurance coverage:

  1. Property Cover – Annual Turnover adjusted to reflect trading, Contents including Re-Fit Costs adjusted, & Stock On Hand levels adjusted; These had drifted over time, adding to our costs inappropriately.
  2. Business Interruption –  Gross Profit levels adjusted; This is high cost coverage.
  3. Money Cover – Level reduced from $20K blanket cover per store to $5K (lower limit); We bank daily so there is minimal cash on hand. Also, more and more over the counter payments are non cash so the level of cash cover was too high.
  4. Glass Cover – Removed for for one store as there now is no glass window as well as no internal/external glass;
  5. POS Equipment Breakdown – Removed; We looked at the actual costs and considered that we had not claimed in our 23 years in retail and then determined that we effectively cover ourselves through the saving.
  6. Excesses – Increased from $500 per claim to $1,000 per claim since we have not claimed, ever.

The critical factor for us was that in all our years in retail we have never made a claim on insurance. Then one time our shop was flooded, we claimed against the builder for the landlord for disruption and inventory damage.

The renegotiation process took an hour. Time well spent for the 30% cut in insurance costs saving achieved.

We willingly share with our POS software customers details of our own experiences like this, in more specific detail than at this blog. We are glad to be able to help our customers in this practical way as every dollar shaved from business overheads is worth considerable more than you consider retail margins.

Yes, insurance cover is important. However, pay for what you actually need.

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Helping small business retailers leverage Boxing Day sales

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Helping Australian newsagents create more valuable businesses through transformation

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

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

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

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

TRY NEWSXPRESS BEFORE YOU BUY OFFER.

BEYOND TRADITION, WE CAN HELP YOU FIND SUNSHINE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Become a friend of newsXpress and let is help you.

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

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

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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.

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