Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

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

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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Let’s talk about empty shops – why there are so many and what can be done about them

Talk to any small business retailer and they will have stories about empty shops in their area that are having a negative impact on their business.

In shopping centres, suburban high streets and country town main roads, there are plenty of empty shops.

Some have been empty for years.

Empty shops make a shopping centre or area feel unpopular, making the task of attracting shoppers harder for remaining retailers. Retailers nearby who are doing it tough will point to empty shops nearby as a core cause.

Some local councils have been innovative in addressing the vacant retail space challenge by opening them to local makers and artists. This has been terrific to see. In Newcastle in NSW, for example, they did some excellent work in this area years ago. Most councils, however, have not.

Why are there so many empty shops? Talk to retailers and they will blame landlords for rents that are too high. Talk to economists and others expert in retail property space as a ratio of population and they will say that Australia has too much retail space. Talk to the folks in some specific towns and they will blame the main street empty spaces on the new mall that has opened just outside town. Talk to almost anyone and they will blame online. Talk to some landlords and they will say retailers are not innovative enough.

As with any contentious issue that has opposing vested interests, it is hard to get to the truth of the situation.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that the answer to the question lies in a mixture of the reasons offered above.

I do think we have too much retail space in Australia. Rent is among the highest in the world. Retail is not that innovative. People are shopping online for convenience. So, yes, I am hedging my bets.

That said, the why does not matter as much as what to do with them.

Occasionally, you can find a pragmatic landlord who is happy to have a space filled at a lower rent than sit empty for a year or more. We think we need more pragmatic landlords.

Occasionally, we see small business retailers burst out of what has been traditional for their type of business and create something genuinely innovative, which is embraced by local shoppers. We need more of this. However, it is hard work, often capital intensive and high risk.

Occasionally, we see empty shops torn down and the space used for something difference. We need to see much more of this. Less retail space is a good thing for retailers and this is good for local communities.

The challenge for small business retailers today with empty shops nearby is how to deal with the stench of those empty shops.

If your landlord has those shops too and there is one next to you, ask them if you can use the space for display. To us, that would be a win win for you both. The key is to craft the right approach that serves the interests of the landlord as well as your own.

If the shops are not from your landlord, the most obvious response will be to be louder and bigger from your premises. By louder, we mean more events to attract shoppers, give people more reason to come to you.

The best way to deal with online is to be online yourself, with a compelling offer, probably under a brand that is not your shop brand, seeking out shoppers far from your shop location.

The alternative to action is to complain because, yeah, complaining achieves a lot … not.

Empty shops are a problem in Australia. How we deal with that in our own retail businesses comes down to us and the actions we take.

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POS software loyalty 2.0 for small business retailers

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

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

A good loyalty system will be loved by shoppers.

A good loyalty system offers shoppers flexibility.

A good loyalty system has little or no management overhead.

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

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

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

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

Yet, discount vouchers are the most misunderstood.

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

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

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

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

So…

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

ADVICE ON PROMOTING DISCOUNT VOUCHERS.

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

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

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

Guys are more likely to spend the voucher right away.

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

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

GOOD LUCK!

————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun and let the great ideas roll!

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Small business retail POS software loyalty 2.0

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

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

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

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

Yet, discount vouchers are the most misunderstood.

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

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

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

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

So…

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

ADVICE ON PROMOTING DISCOUNT VOUCHERS.

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

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

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

Guys are more likely to spend the voucher right away.

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

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

GOOD LUCK!

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

————-

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

  • WA / SA/ VIC: Tim Batt. 0401 833 917.
  • NSW / ACT / TAS: Nathan Morrison. 0417 568 148.
  • QLD / NT: Justin Randall. 0434 365 789.
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Small business retail advice: make every day your pay day

We hear retailers saying that times are tough, that business is tough, that the economy is difficult. 

While complaints are easy, acting is harder. Our view is that everyone in small business has to act to the conditions. If times are tough, get tougher, smarter and faster is pursuing better times.

This is why one piece of advice we give to small business retailers is that they/you should make every day your pay day.

Today, the best way to extract value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business. The days of a retail business selling for a handsome multiple of net earnings are over for now. Making money when you sell is not and common. hence, the needs to make money today. What you make reflects in your P&L.

The P&L matters as this is what you need to be guided by in all business decisions and actions.

The challenge is how do you do this?

Retailers need to look at their businesses differently. This starts with the mindset of every day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context, in the context of the P&L impact.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Run with the leanest roster possible. Just about every retail business we review has capacity to lower labour costs. In a typical retail business, one hour saved today is worth around $75 in revenue.
  2. Ensure you can sell when the business is closed. Yes, this means sell online.
  3. Promote the business outside your usual foot traffic area … increase your customer base.
  4. Promote your business outside the brand people know you as. or example, online pitch under a brand other than your brand.
  5. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  6. Have stunning displays that attract people from outside the shop.
  7. Have compelling displays in-store that encourage people to browse beyond their destination purchase.
  8. Always have impulse offers at high traffic locations.
  9. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  10. Buy as best you can.
  11. Grab settlement discounts every time you are able.
  12. Measure product category performance by gross profit. Quit the categories that are not paying for themselves.
  13. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  14. Leverage adjacency information. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower software helps with this. It is easy.

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

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The value of small business retail in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tower Systems owns newsXpress Southland.

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