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About our POS software for local small business retailers

Category: Small business (page 1 of 13)

It’s Black Friday, a key day in retail, and we’re grateful to help small business retailers

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Shop small, shop local – how Tower Systems helps small business retailers

Here at Tower Systems we believe in shop small. We love small business and small business retailers in particular. This is what shop small is about – supporting local small businesses.

Shop small matters because small businesses are more likely to support local communities. This is what we see in communities across the country where local shops are fast to offer support for community groups.

Shop small and the local community benefits. That’s it in a nutshell.

Through our POS software we help small business retailers to leverage the shop small and shop local opportunities … everyday through the POS software and levers that are available in the POS software.

Using marketing tools, customer communication tools and more our POS software helps small business retailers to demonstrate how shop small works. We offer multiple communication platforms through our POS software, through which small business retailers can pitch and reinforce their shop local messages. We also help small business retailers to go beyond telling and to actually show – you know … like show, don’t tell. We help small business retailers differentiations titan in their shop local messaging, to demonstrate in real terms their local community connection.

We love shop local campaigns because they absolutely do focus attention on the value for the community of shopping local. They bring to live the benefits for local community groups and local folks to be gained from supporting local businesses. This is what shop small shop local is about – the very circular nature of local communities.

The more community groups and their members shop small shop local the more those local businesses that benefit can support the groups.

Here are the benefits to shoppers who engage with shop small, shop local:

  • Local jobs, which benefit the local community more broadly.
  • Local makers, boosting local creativity.
  • Local community groups, they depend on locals for support and they support locals.
  • Save time.
  • Save money on travel.
  • Make the community better.
  • Nurture local happiness.
  • Make were you live a better place.

Shop small, shop local is about these things and more. It reaches beyond commerce and into the come and into community groups to make the whole local community better. It really can make a difference to living locally. This is where local small businesses can make a measurable difference.

We are grateful to help small business retailers engage with shop small, shop local.

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Shopify website development for small business retailers in Australia

Tower Systems is proud to offer local, Australian-based, Shopify website development for small business retailers.

We have a team of skilled Shopify web developers, all working from our Hawthorn, Victoria, head office. This is in addition to our POS software developers. Both development teams work together, helping to create valued solutions for small business retailers.

We offer a one stop shop service whereby we offer specialty retail POS software and beautiful Shopify websites connected to this POS software. The connection is safe, fast and seamless. The Shopify websites we develop are made specifically for each retailer customer, to their needs, meeting their requirements, populated with data that is collated through the integrated POS software.

Being a Shopify website developer and a POS software developer in the one business and being Australian based positions us well to serve the needs of local Australian retailers.

We offer more of an end to end Shopify website development solution for small business retailers. Since we are retailers ourselves and using Shopify websites created by us, we bring that experience to life in our own shopper engagement.

Our Shopify website development for small business retailers is done on a fixed price basis. We do this because it is important that small business retailers know exactly what their cost basis will be. We collect information up front to ensure that the fixed price approach serves the needs of our customers, to ensure that the site is the solution our customers are looking for.

handing freight, payment type and other requirements, we help retailers to being to life online their retail businesses or at least parts of their retail businesses. We do this with care from a retailer first perspective. Too often, we see websites created from a tech first perspective and while this is cool for the tech folks, it does not serve the retailer well.

Selling online is a retail activity. It needs to be approached from a retail first perspective. This is what we do. As retailers ourselves we understand this from a unique perspective and through this we are able, we think. to provide our retailers with a Shopify website solution that is fit for purpose with them very much in mind.

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An early look at Christmas 2020 in local small business retail in Australia

We are grateful to the many retailers who have shared recent year on year comparative sales data. This has enabled us to a deep dive into shopper traffic, basket depth and product category performance. We have done this to get an early look into what Christmas 2020 in local small business retail might look like.

The headline is that Christmas 2020 looks good in local small business retail.

Local high street retailers are doing considerably better than shopping mall retail. Suburban, regional and rural high street retail businesses, for which we have comprehensive sales data, are doing very well. They are experiencing solid double-digit year-on-year growth. For the dataset of 60+ businesses in our latest analysis, the average year on year revenue growth is 22%.

What is interesting is that the spike in revenue growth is not matched in a spike in shopper traffic. Rather, the revenue spike has come from shoppers buying more in each visit, driving better shopper efficiency. We are seeing average sale value increase by between 10% and 25%.

The dataset includes business across all states and territories except for the Northern Territory. The results are universal. There appears to be no difference between Victoria, which was in lockdown for some of the weeks under analysis and other states that were not in lockdown.

In terms of Christmas specifically, data indicate excellent year on year growth in Christmas card sales. The same is true for Christmas decorations, Christmas-themed home decor and gift wrap. Year on year growth is, again, 20% and more.

Locally made products are doing particularly well. Shoppers continue to engage with supply chain questions. A common question relates to sourcing from China.

Also of note is excellent growth in sales of calendars and diaries. The diaries growth encourages an optimistic outlook on 2021. Smart retailers are pitching it as that and having some fun with putting 2020 in the past.

Back in March, in the early days of Covid in Australia, jigsaws were hot. They sold out fast. Some expected the surge to fade over time. The latest sales data for October and even into the first two weeks of November suggest otherwise. Yes, jigsaw sales remain strong. half of the stores in the latest dataset sell jigsaws and every one of them is reporting year on year growth. The average of that growth is 150%. Key is breadth of range of supply.

In addition to the jigsaw growth, crafts, art, maker kits and similar are all showing strong results.

Comfort gifts are especially strong. Core in this category is plush. Plush is often dismissed as being tired or ho hum. We have seen sales in the plush space up as much as 50% off a strong base. In one local high street retail business in one recent week, for example, they did $1,850.00 in everyday plush, more than double their usual sales. Range, again, is key this this success.

Not reflected in the POS software collected data is anecdotal evidence that people are spending more this Christmas. Many retailers spoke to this. They spoke of shoppers saying they were spending more on loved ones as well as buying gifts for some they would not usually buy for.

There is the wonder as to the role of government stimulus funding on the sales results. While retailers think is is a factor, they do not see it as the key factor. If time does reveal it as a key factor, local small business retailers will respond accordingly. They are an agile bunch.

Considering the sales data and the and the anecdotal comments, Christmas 2020 looks strong. Plenty of retailers are already talking up the first quarter of 2021.

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46 Christmas marketing tips for small business retailers

Yeah, it’s odd for a POS software company to offer Christmas marketing tips to retailers because … we are tech people and not retailers. That may be true for some.

Tower Systems has owned and run retail businesses since 1996.

We are not your usual POS software company. We actively share marketing tips with our customers. Here are some Christmas marketing tips for retailers that we hope some find useful, or at least inspiring to you to develop your own.

We offer you 46 low cost and no cost Christmas marketing tips for retailers  ideas to help create a different Christmas experience in your business.

  1. Always:
    1. Have tape with wrapping paper.
    2. Have wrapping paper with cards, at the counter and with magazines.
    3. Have Christmas bags at the counter.
    4. Have tape at the counter.
    5. Pitch easy to purchase ready to go hampers close to the counter.
    6. Keep displays fresh.
    7. Run your loyalty programs through Christmas – to bring them back.
  2. Make it easy. People often talk about how hard Christmas is. Be the local business that makes it easy. The ways to do this are with easy Lay-By, free wrapping, better shop floor help, guide buying advice or tips on perfect gifts no one else will think of. Consider making Christmas easy as being a key part of your messaging.
  3. Host a simple party. To preview Christmas, say thank you to shoppers and support a local cause. Do it when the shop is closed. Limit numbers. have some drinks and food. Have fun. Celebrate.
  4. Use video. To promote products on social media.
  5. Offer impulse purchase of often forgotten lines. At the counter, with newspapers, next to weekly magazines.
  6. Offer help. For kids and others who ,may find choosing a card or writing a card difficult.
  7. Visit nursing homes. With some gifts and cards for easy shopping.
  8. Be thrilled people are in your shop. Your personal smile or greeting is something they may not see in a big business where employees are less invested in each shopper and where the owner is usually thousands of kilometers away.
  9. Make the giving easy. If people purchase items from you to send somewhere else. Offer a one-stop shop. Save them the trip to the post office.
  10. Make the shop less about Christmas. Consider pulling back on the Christmas visual noise. Go for something simple, muted, respecting the season but making a calm statement. Consider declaring the shop a Christmas carol free zone – not because you hate carols but because you want to help customers take a break.
  11. Help people rest and recharge. Create a Christmas shopping rest and recovery zone. Offer free tea, coffee, water and something to eat. Encourage people to take a break in your shop – without any obligation for them to spend money with you.
  12. Let your customers help each other. Setup a whiteboard or sheets of butcher’s paper, yes keep it simple. Get customers to write gift suggestions under different age/gender groups. For example: Girls 18 – 25, Boys 55+. Encourage your customers to help each other through their suggestions.
  13. Make price comparison difficult. If you sell items people are likely to price compare with other businesses, package them so price comparison is not easy. Put items into a hamper as a perfect Boy 8 to 12 bundle for example. Or offer the item with pre packages services if appropriate for an item.
  14. Less is more.  The stack em high watch em fly mantra can be wrong. Indeed, it is often wrong in retail. Shoppers can be store blind because a shop is too full or a display is too busy. Consider creating simpler less cluttered displays and window promotions. Draw attention to what you want people to see by promoting that one thing. Every time someone asks if you have something that you think through should be able to find easily – take it as a challenge for you to address rather than a commentary on a facility of the customer.
  15. Change. Christmas season in your shop should evolve. Major change weekly is vital for people to see what you have that they could buy.
  16. Be socially engaged. On Facebook, Instagram, twitter and elsewhere, be the calm voice, the person people enjoy reading or seeing photos from. Provide entertainment this Christmas rather than the usual retailer shrill of come and shop here!
  17. Be community minded. Choose a local charity or community group to support through Christmas. Consider: a change collection tin at the counter; a themed Christmas window display; promotion on your social media pages; a donation to their work; a collection point for donations from customers.
  18. Facilitate sharing stories. Find space in your shop for customers to share their Christmas stories. It could be a story wall inside or in front of the shop. This initiative encourages storytelling by locals and better connects the business with the community.
  19. Award a prize at a local school. Fund a year-end prize at a local school. Attend a school assembly to award the prize. Work with the school leadership on a prize appropriate to your business.
  20. VIP preview. Host a VIP shopper preview night when you show off your Christmas ranges ahead of being available to the general shoppers. Respect and reward your local shoppers with deals and the opportunity to preview ahead of others.
  21. Leverage Christmas traffic. Encourage the Christmas shopper traffic surge in after Christmas. Give them a reason to come back. A coupon promotion or a discount voucher on receipts could be the enticement to get shoppers back in-store. Note: the Tower POS software produces discount vouchers to rules you establish.
  22. Become a gallery. Work with a school, kindergarten, community group or retirement village to bring in local art for people to come and see through Christmas. A small space commitment can drive traffic from family and friends of those with art on show.
  23. Dress the shop. Fully embrace Christmas. Create a Christmas experience such that shoppers know they have stepped into somewhere special this Christmas. Go for more than some tinsel and a tree. Fully embrace the opportunity.
  24. Make your shop smell like Christmas.
  25. Send cards. Send Christmas cards early in the season to suppliers, key customers and local community groups. This connects you with Christmas. Invite all team members to sign each card.
  26. Host a Christmas party. For shops nearby. You are all in the season together – let your hear down before things get crazy.
  27. Ensure you have gifts targeted at occasions. For example: Kris Kringle, by price point and by recipient. Make it easy for people to know what they could give.
  28. Stocking stuffers. At your counter always have one or two stocking stuffers for impulse purchase.
  29. Offer gift vouchers – for someone to give when they are not sure what to give.
  30. Be local. Ensure you have a selection of locally sourced products available for purchase. Make it clear in-store that these products are sourced locally.
  31. Tell stories. On your Facebook page, talk about what is important to you at Christmas. Personalise the season and deepen the connection with those who could shop with you.
  32. Offer a free gift. Bulk purchase an item to offer those who spend above a set amount. For example, spend $65 and receive XX where XX may have cost $5.00 but could have a perceived value of $20.00.
  33. Keep it fresh. Every week make significant change to your Christmas displays and promotions to keep your offer fresh.
  34. Share Christmas recipes. Each week for, say, four weeks, give customers a family Christmas recipe. This personalises Christmas in your business, creates a talking point and makes shopping with you different to your bigger competitors.
  35. Free wrapping. Sure, many retailers offer this. Make your offer better, more creative and more appreciated.
  36. This is essential in any business. Manage it through your computer system with strict rules.
  37. Work the floor. Increase time on the shop floor. Be present to manage shopper flow and to facilitate purchases.
  38. Christmas is crazy busy I most retail situations. Give yourself and your team members sufficient time to recharge so the smile greeting shoppers is heartfelt.
  39. Keep a secret. If yours is a business selling gifts a partner may purchase for their loved-one, create some mystery with a closed off display for the shopper to see the products.
  40. Free assembly. If you sell items that require assembly. Offer to do this for free.
  41. Free delivery. Offer free Christmas Eve delivery for items purchased for kids for Christmas.
  42. Sell training. Leverage the specialist knowledge you have in your business by selling as gifts places at classes you run sharing your expertise.
  43. Hold back. Don’t go out with everything you have for Christmas all at once. Plan the season to show off what you have as the season unfolds. This allows you multiple launches.
  44. Share a taste. Regardless if your type of business, bake a family recipe of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or Christmas biscuits and offer tastings to shoppers on select days. This personalises the experience in your shop.
  45. Offer hampers. Package several items together and offer them as a hamper. Time-poor shoppers could appreciate you doing this work for them. We have seen this work in many different retail situations.
  46. Buy X get Y. Encourage people to spend more with a volume based deal. Pitched right, this could get customers purchasing items for several family members in order to get the price offer you have. Use your technology to manage this.

Christmas is the perfect time to plan for next year. It is the time to do everything possible to leverage bonus Christmas traffic to benefit your business through next year.

Feel free to share these Christmas marketing tips with others.

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Tower Systems helps newsagents with sales benchmark study

We have completed our latest retail sales benchmark study for newsagents and released the results. This is a considerable body of work done for small business newsagents and businesses that supply them.

The analysis is something we have done for almost 20 years. We hope you find it useful.

Newsagency sales benchmark study results: July -October 2020 vs. 2019

Based on comprehensive sales data for July through September 2020 with data from 2019 from 128 newsagency businesses across Australia in city and country locations, high street and mall, the latest newsagency sales benchmark study is revealing as to the impact of Covid on our channel and the value of location.

  • Covid restrictions have benefited many newsagency businesses.
  • High street locations have fared better than shopping mall locations.
  • Regional Australia has performed better that capital city Australia.
  • Diversification of product mix is key to traffic generation.
  • Magazines are back on their pre-Covid trajectory.
  • There are winners and losers.

I have data from a mix of branded and un-branded newsagencies as well as a mix of states and territories in the data set.

Given the extraordinary gap in performance, I share the results for different cohorts, because reporting them as one dataset does not make sense this quarter.

Victorian newsagencies.

Victorian newsagencies have had a good second Covid lockdown. Their newspaper, magazine and lottery products performance is better than other states, because of the lockdown I think.

All but one Victorian high street business I have data for is up on on 2019. The biggest increase relates to average sale value, this has spiked considerably, as you may expect. The categories that have performed best in Victoria this quarter in terms of year on year growth are: cards, gifts, plush, jigsaws, home decor and games.

Even though the data is up to September 30, 2020, it is interesting to see Christmas doing so well in Victorian businesses that had it out. This augurs well for the season.

All Victorian shopping centre businesses are down. Shopping centres are in for a rough few years I think.

Now, outside of Victoria…

Regional high street businesses.

  • Transaction count change: up 3%.
  • Revenue change: up 7%.
  • Basket size change: up 13%.
  • Newspaper unit sales: down 11%.
  • Magazine unit sales: down 9%.
  • Card revenue: up 7%.
  • Stationery revenue:  down 8%.
  • Gift revenue: up 19%. 80% of businesses report selling gifts.
  • Toy revenue: up 11%. 10% of businesses report selling toys.
  • Puzzle revenue: up 43%. 25% of businesses report selling puzzles.
  • Instant lottery revenue: up 26%.
  • Lottery revenue:  up 7%.

City high street newsagencies.

  • Transaction count change: up 1%.
  • Revenue change: up 5%.
  • Basket size change: up 9%.
  • Newspaper unit sales: down 8%.
  • Magazine unit sales: down 9%.
  • Card revenue: up 6%.
  • Stationery revenue:  down 8%.
  • Gift revenue: up 9%.
  • Toy revenue: up 11%.
  • Puzzle revenue: up 60%.
  • Instant lottery revenue: up 28%.
  • Lottery revenue:  up 4%.

Regional shopping centre businesses.

I do not have enough businesses in this group to safely report.

City shopping centre based newsagencies.

  • Transaction count change: down 22%.
  • Revenue change: down 31%.
  • Basket size change: up 2%.
  • Newspaper unit sales: down 13%.
  • Magazine unit sales: down 11%.
  • Card revenue: up 4%.
  • Stationery revenue:  down 17%.
  • Gift revenue: up 11%.
  • Toy revenue: up 9%.
  • Puzzle revenue: up 22%.
  • Instant lottery revenue: up 28%.
  • Lottery revenue:  up 5%.

Note. 

These are averages. The gap between those doing well and those not doing well is considerable. It is important that newsagents look at their own data as the most important competitor they have is themselves. The trading period from the past against which you compare results is your competitor. Look at those numbers more carefully than you look at these benchmark results.

What have we learned from the last 8 months?

  • High street retail fares better than mall based retail.
  • Diversification in newsagency product offering drives better shopper visit efficiency.
  • Having an online presence is vital.
  • People want to connect – this is one reason cards are doing so well.
  • Postable gifts are selling well.
  • Safe buying is key.

I am grateful to all newsagents who shared their data for inclusion in this study.

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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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Covid impact: Australians embrace shop local, shop the high street is a pivot to back to basics retail

Since March this year we have seen Australians embrace local high street retailers in greater numbers than for many years.

They have turned from shopping malls to the more easily accessed and the more open and safe high street retail situations.

They have spent up with local businesses as an act of genuine support for small businesses.

How do we know this? In our work with 3,500+ small business retailers across a range of specialty retail channels we are fortunate to see sales data and to talk with many retailers daily. Sales are terrific in many retail channels.

We are told the growth is primarily due to shoppers referencing the high street over the mall situation and making an active choice to support local retailers. Indeed, plenty of shoppers speak to these preferences in-store.

While, for sure, retail since March 2020 has been challenging, small business retailers who have leant-in to opportunities have benefited with sales growth, improved shopper efficiency and greater repeat businesses. Businesses that have enhanced their positioning with a POS software connected Shopify site have done better.

This is great news. It is a thrill to see local Aussie small businesses doing well.

From what we hear, shoppers love easy access to high street retail, a safe shopping experience, curbside pickup, local delivery and delivery for those further away. Add these to the other local retail business benefits such as product knowledge, local knowledge, local community support and you can see why Aussies love local small businesses and why they support them in a year like 2020.

In real terms, based on real data, we see revenue growth in a time when so many say there is none. We have seen this growth in many businesses. While in some cases growth has come from new product categories for businesses, the reality is that good growth is coming from traditional product categories. This, to us, demonstrates growth in support for local high street businesses.

The types of businesses we are talking abut here include garden centres, produce businesses, pet shops, newsagents, gift shops and organic grocer businesses. So many are doing well. So many are making an awesome contribution to the economy.

Australians are embracing local high street retail businesses, small businesses, family run businesses. This is a joy to see and a thrill to be part of.

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Politicians need to follow the principles of low hanging fruit in stimulating the economy our of the Covid recession

Reaching for low hanging fruit is something we in small business know about. It’s about reaching for what is close, within reach, what will deliver tangible benefits in the short term.

This is what I wish governments, federal and state, would do when making decisions designed to stimulate the economy out of the Covid recession.

There are low hanging fruit opportunities, especially in the small business space. We see this here at Tower Systems, through our work across a range of specialty small retail channels. Some channels are already growing while others are stalled.

We also see broader low hanging fruit in small businesses compared to big businesses as the are known to act faster and invest more locally.

While we understand the need for financial support for businesses in distress because of Covid, we think there are opportunities to support businesses that do not meet the current JobKeeper criteria, businesses that are growing without current support as it is these businesses that present low hanging fruit opportunities. These businesses have proven resilience. Resilience is a good foundation for growth.

Businesses that do not meet JobKeeper qualification requirements could grow further and faster, add more jobs, increase local spending, if stimulus was targeted to encourage more growth for them.

I’d like politicians to look more closely at the businesses that are growing, businesses not on JobKeeper, to understand what they can do to leverage their success.

It is frustrating reading of public companies getting JobKeeper and increasing executive bonuses and shareholder dividends.

Thinking about low hanging fruit opportunities for businesses already doing well, I’d like politicians to consider … reinvestment rebate on reported profit, a reinvestment rebate on every new full-time head count, a reinvestment rebate for capital investment with Australian businesses.

I’d like governments to look at where jobs have been created in recent months and to talk to folks in those businesses to understand what they could to achieve more of this. I’d like them to specifically focus on jobs that could be created now without an education lead time, jobs that on themselves lead to other investment that could benefit the economy.

I see opportunities in plenty of niche retail channels as well as in local Aussie tech companies and a range of supporting service providers.

I want to see reward for local sourcing and local spending, and especially anything with a short lead time.

Them more spending today that can provide an impact this quarter has to be a priority. While I get that news outlets like big infrastructure stories, the more beneficial moves are those focussed on the next step as it’s that step that has more valuable potential right now, it’s that step that will help small businesses reach for more low hanging fruit.

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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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Small business retail management advice: make every day your pay day

In our work with more than 3,500 small business retailers, independent retailers, mainly high street retailers, we have developed a kit of advice from which we draw to help these retailers run more successful and enjoyable businesses.

One piece of advice that we have found to be most useful is what we share here today. It is advice that is rooted in practicality and personal accountability. We offer it today and hope you find it useful…

Make every day your pay day.

Some retailers consider the day the sell their business as their pay day.  Smarter retailers know that every day the business is open and trading is a pay day.

It is unrealistic to look on a retail business as a bank accruing interest which is repaid in the form of goodwill when the business is sold.  However, this is how many retailers do view their businesses.  So much so in fact that they lose focus on the profitability of the business on a day to day basis.

The Small Steps Strategy for Growth outlined in the previous chapter is vitally important to ensuring the best possible pay day every day.

By making every day your pay day, you focus on profitability today and not next year or the year after, when you ultimately sell the business.

If you run your retail business this way, focusing on driving traffic, leveraging sales efficiency and ensuring the best possible margin every time, you will see profitability improve.  While this will drive up the ultimate sales price you can achieve for the business, it will also put more money in your pocket from the business every day.

By driving profitability on a day by day basis, as if this is all that matters, you will take more notice of employee costs, sales efficiency and other more micro factors and drivers in the business.

You are more likely to make changes if you view sales and profitability data on a daily perspective rather than for a longer period such as quarterly or annually.

Did you make enough yesterday to pay for the rent, employee costs, cost of goods sold, marketing and utility costs as well as to pay yourself?

If not, what can you do to change this?

If so, did you make enough?

These are the challenges and the opportunities we will explore in this special report.  By looking at your business as if every day is your pay day, you are more likely to look more closely at your business than if you are focused on the day you sell as your pay day.  Obsess about these things and you are more likely to bank the results.

If you don’t know how you are doing daily or weekly, you need to put in place manual or computer based systems which enable you to track and report on this.  Good or bad, it is information you need to make better business decisions.

So, how did you do today or this week?  Make enough to pay all your bills, your employees and yourself?  Look on and work on every day as your pay day.

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The covid pivot that is helping small business retailers in 2020

What a thrill it is when a retailer calls and says I got my first online sale … when your POS software co created the POS software connected website just for them.

This is happening here at Tower Systems with more and more small retailers embracing our covid pivot encouragement, attracting new shoppers from out of state and even sometimes overseas as they expand their shopper reach and, in some cases, expand their product offering reach.

The covid pivot is about making a move in your business to find new customers and to do this using smart POS software usually connected to a beautiful Shopify website.

The covid pivot is not reactionary. No, it is thoughtful, opportunistic, leveraging existing infrastructure, doing it with the least investment possible, chasing a brighter and more valuable future for the business.

The covid pivot is smart small business retail.

Our web development team is busy developing Shopify and Magento websites for our POS software customers. Building them, fashioning them to attract new shoppers in local, out of state and other areas. Through our research we understand keyword and SEO opportunities that can leverage data sent from the POS software to the online Shopify or other site and to do this in a labour effective way.

Having an in-house web development team as well as a POS software development team as well as retail businesses with websites of our own – we are conditioned and positioned to be able to help our customers to embrace this opportunity, to embrace what we call the covid pivot opportunity.

The covid pivot is something we first discussed here back in March this year, once were understand what corona was and games out how this could play out for small business retail. We worked it into our own business strategy, to help small business retailers to make the most of the opportunity in their businesses.

We did not want to wallow and think oh, poor us with all this stuff going on. In our marketplaces, bike shops, produce businesses, farm supply businesses, toy shops, newsagents and more have bene growing through corona and in plenty of cases this is because of covid pivot engagement, being opportunistic themselves in making the most of today not knowing what tomorrow may bring.

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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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Tyro EFTPOS for small business retailers through POS software

Tyro EFTPOS has been integrated with our Tower Systems POS software for small business retailers for more than ten years. The Tyro integration is simple, effective, seamless and fast… all factors that matter to small business retailers keen for a smooth counter operation for their businesses.

The thousands of retailers using the Tower Systems POS software for specialty retail can bank on Tyro for delivering counter and mobile based EFTPOS access, including through the Tower Systems Retailer Roam product that takes retail on the road, out of the shop and into the field, the markets and the farm gate.

We like Tyro because it is a smart interface, one that works well for small business retailers, delivering EFTPOS solutions that are best-practice and secure.

Through the recent COVID-19 challenges, Tyro has been our preferred payment solution for small business retailers, as it offers contactless EFTPOS integrated with the Tower Systems Point of Sale software.

At Tower Systems, we use Tyro EFTPOS in our own shops and have done so for many years. We like the streamlined operation, the security, the speed and the ease of settlement. Tyro makes doing business a breeze for our retail shops and we think many retailers using Tyro EFTPOS integrated with our POS software would agree.

Tower Systems is well positioned thanks to a solid relationship with Tyro and our experience across eleven specialty retail channels. The Tyro and POS software solution is robust, proven and used in more than 1,000 retail outlets in Australia.

Together, our integration is regularly updated, ensuring it is current and continues to be useful in serving the evolving needs of small business retailers. This matters now more than ever, because the environment of the retail industry is constantly changing.

Working with the tech folks at Tyro, we are able to deliver an integrated Tyro and POS software solution that is dependable, useful and financially rewarding.

Tower Systems offers first level support for retailers using the integrated Tyro and POS software solution, offering a one stop shop support entry point, delivering fast access to help on any Tyro related query. We pass these queries to Tyro’s 24/7 Australian-based Customer Support team if they are outside our remit. In both support cases, most are easily handled and retailers are able to get back to business quickly.

Tyro is a breeze to work with. We are grateful for the relationship and the value it brings to our small business customer community.

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How Aussie small business retailers have helped Aussies through COVID-19

Australian small business retailers have served their Australian communities well through COVID-19. They have provided certainty in challenging situations, helping to keep people fed, clothed, entertained and encouraged.  Many Aussie small businesses have kept local people employed.

Small business retailers were quick to adopt safe shopping protocols so locals could shop locally with certainty around cleanliness, health and safety. For example, the installation of perspex screens at the counter, encouraging tap and go and providing social distancing guidance are all moves that we saw early in small business retail.

Since they are locally owned and run and they employ local people, local small business retailers are closely connected with their local communities. What we have seen is that local communities have turned to their local small businesses through COVID-19.

We know of small business retailers who have adjusted their business offerings to bring to local shoppers products in demand. For example, the local newsagent offering cost-effective work from home furniture, the toy shop offering in-home fitness products, the gift shop offering calming and personally nourishing products, the pet shop offering dog training online, the garden centre offering advice and help to people creating their own veggie patches and produce businesses offering drop off.

Then, there are the new services for many small business retailers, to provide safer shopping options, services like click and collect, curbside pickup, ready to go shopping packages and home delivery in situations where none of these were offered previously.

Small business retailers have served Australians well through COVID-19. While hospitality businesses have been challenged because of the regulations, small businesses permitted to be open have been open, delivering shopping opportunities to their local communities.

Without wanting to sound inappropriate, COVID-19 has provided plenty of small business retailers an opportunity to demonstrate the value they offer their local communities, and they have shined through this.

While, for sure, some big businesses have been serving Australians through COVID-19. Plenty of big businesses, however, closed early and stayed closed for a long time, leaving small businesses to step in.

The other trend through COVID-19 has been people fleeing shopping malls for shopping on the high street. This is good for small business retailers in that on the high street you are more likely to find small business retailers.

The last four months have demonstrated to Australians the importance of small business retail as a core offering for local communities. Well done small business retailers!

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Newspaper closures, small business newsagents and local communities

Toower Systems is proud to serve 1,700+ small business newsagents in Australia. Yesterday, our CIEO Mark Fletcher, shot this 10 minute video in which he talks abut the newspaper closures announced last week and the implications and opportunities.

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Embracing life in the COVID-19 world in small business retail

Two months in and we can say for sure that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how we do business. Of course, we are not alone in this. What we do own is our response.

We have learnt plenty over the last two weeks, about new opportunities, new needs, fundamental changes in retail and what we are capable of.

What has been most interesting is how flexible small business retailers have quickly become as they have adapted to the new business environment. Things that have have taken ages to consider in the past are considered and embraced in short time. We are loving the challenge of engaging with this, with our customers.

Time has changed. We think this is good because we are seeing small business retailers move fast and forward, seeking new customers through new products and new ways of doing business.

Some business owners are pushing harder online, which is a natural move. Others are doing this but through a product mix that genuinely reaches new shoppers for the business and thereby expands the opportunity and value base of the business.

Some business owners  are de-cluttering their businesses, fine-tuning and bringing tighter focus to their business, leveraging business data to make decisions about product range, product location and supplier selection. These data driven moves are a thrill to see and be part of.

COVID-19 provided encouragement to embrace change and an opportunity of cover to make the changes – and this is the real opportunity of right now. It truly is a thrill to be part of businesses that are doing this.

In our POS software co. own case, we are doing more online than ever before as new customers are happy to be trained using video and phone hook-ups. Sales, too, are won online as we meet prospective customers over video calls. We have found some new opportunities, too.

In our retail businesses we are embracing the opportunities of the changed circumstances to grow online sales and recast the focus of the retail businesses.  It is truly fascinating discovering decisions that are easy today that may have felt more complex a few months ago.

Who knows how long this COVID-19 world will exist. It could truly be the new normal. Regardless of what happens with COVID, we expect many of the changes and opportunities embraced in these months will stick, which would be good.

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Why the national cabinet position is not sufficient help for retailers – SME retailers need a 100% rent subsidy for 3 months

While the decision of the national cabinet over a week ago on a mandatory code for retail tenancies of small to medium enterprises is welcome, it gets nowhere near addressing the urgent and dire financial challenges facing many small business retailers.

Having talked with many retailers in a range of channels since the adoption of the code, the biggest challenges are being faced by those in larger centres. Whereas many, not all but many, high street and independent landlords are agreeing deals that are usually considerably better than forecast in the code, shopping centre landlords are slow to negotiate and demonstrating no willingness to go beyond the code.

The code allows for a rent reduction based on the quantum of reduction in revenue. In one business I know of with base rent at $16,000 a month, turnover is down 50%. The code suggests a rent reduction of 50% on the basis of the revenue decline, with half of the reduction being waiver and half being a deferral.

The retailer in our example could expect a waiver of $4,000 a month and a deferral, to be paid later, of $4,000 a month. That is if their landlord is fair in their approach.

The decline hit the retailer from early March. The landlord says the code will not apply until April.

Prior to COVID-19, the business had annual revenue of $1,130,000. It’s average GP% then was 35%. Out of the $395,500 GP it paid $192,000 in rent, $143,000 in wages and $42,000 in overheads, leaving $18,000 in profit – in broad terms.

Revenue is now down 50% and is likely to fall further. In addition to the decline in revenue has been a shift in what shoppers purchase. The average GP% has fallen to 29%.

Here is what an average month looks like. This example does not allow for retail peaks and troughs, like winter. Revenue: $47,500. GP: $13,775. Rent: $8,000. Wages: $5,000 with hours significantly cut. Overheads: $2,800 with all possible cuts made. The business is in the hole for $2,025 a month. However, in the rent number in this example, I have not factored that half of the reduction, $4,000 is deferred, not waived. This makes the hole worse.

The owners are at maximum borrowings. They have no fixed assets against which to borrow.

The question the owners have is – do we continue to trade and lose $2,025 a month plus the $4,000 a month deferral and in six months and be at least $36,150 worse off? … knowing that realistically, the loss will be closer to $80,000 based on the current trajectory.

Talking to the owners their position is the government regulations on social distancing are what have stopped people shopping. They created the situation where our business is now no longer viable. While we support what they have done, they have left us with a financial obligation that we are considering not accepting. We think going into administration now is the best option for us, to not extend our personal exposure.

This scenario is not uncommon. It demonstrates the inadequacy of the SME retail tenancy code of conduct.

We accept it is a complex issue to address. We think that state and federal governments need to immediately agree to themselves fund 100% of occupancy costs, rent, outgoings, marketing, for 3 months from April, with a goal of a better plan being developed prior to the end of June.

That move would keep landlords and retail businesses afloat. The downstream benefit would be cash in the economy, people in jobs, fewer businesses collapsing and, I suspect, lives saved.

Note: this example is not one of our retail  businesses and is not a newsXpress business.

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We love small business retail

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We are proud to support local small business retailers

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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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We believe in indie small business retail

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Claims of a retail apocalypse are grossly overstated

We’ve all seen the headlines, because news outlets are drawn to  the drama of retail closures and challenges. Terms like retail apocalypse and retail armageddon have appeared in stories in recent weeks on the back of a series of challenging news about retail.

These headlines are, in view, inaccurate and unhelpful.

News outlets are quick to run stories forecasting doom and gloom. Often, the stories skate close to the surface without much analysis as to the reasons for closures. This bothers me as understanding the details can be helpful for context, and for mental health for those in retail.

Here are some of the stories already from this year (2020) with notes from usher at Tower Systems  offering context:

  • Harris Scarfe is closing 21 stores. They have been in trouble before. It is a second tier department store with  modest critical mass. It found it hard to be competitive in a marketplace;axe that does not favour depatrment stores. I think their problems are due to department stores overall being in trouble and that they are a small group and therefore less able to weather changing times.
  • EB Games is closing 19 stores as a first step in an international review of physical store retail. I expect there will be more closures. There has been a fundamental shift in how games are sold. {physical stores are not as important as they used to be.
  • Bardot is closing 58 stores. This is a fashion brand that has not maintained relevance.
  • Curious Planet is planning on closing 63 stores. Ever since they list the Australian geographic branding the future has been in doubt.
  • Jeanswest is in administration and is reportedly likely to close 146 stores. Jeanswest sells discount jeans. The biggest group of jeans consumers are looking for more engaged brands than Jeanswest offers. Their differentiation was minimal. They as a business had not kept with the times.
  • Bose is closing 119 stores. They have figured out the commercial benefits of direct online engagement. Offering a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee and costing shipping and other challenges, the company will make more money by closing 199 stores (leases, labour etc) and investing some of that into stronger online marketing.

The Bose move is what we should expect to see more of from international brands consumers trust. They will make more from direct consumer relationships and we think that this has been considered by Bose in their decision making to close physical retail.

Rather than being drawn to the doom and gloom, which is a natural human response on reading reports like these, our time and energy is better spent on ensuring our retail businesses are relevant today.

How do we do that?

Yeah, it is the million dollar question … for which there is no one size fits all answer for every situation.

Here are some tips that we know work from our experiences helping indie small business retailers:

  1. Be the boss. It’s your business. You choose what you sell, who works there, how the business looks and how the business is marketed. Make those decisions like you are in charge.
  2. Be relevant to today’s shopper. It’s likely the shopper is not like you. Too many stores stock what the owners and staff like. That is not a model for the future.
  3. Be different. The more your shop looks like others the less it will stand out.
  4. Provide solutions. It is much harder to convince someone to buy something they do not need, do not like, do not want or do not understand. It is much easier to get them to buy what they like, want, need or understand.
  5. Embrace change. Know that what works today will be different tomorrow.
  6. Treat data as cash. Small business retailers are notoriously bad at managing data. This leads to poor business decisions, which put businesses at risk. Treat data as a valuable asset and make better decisions as a result.

Sure there is tough news out there about retail. There is plenty of good news too.

Tower Systems is a small business focussed POS software company.

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Tower Systems: POS software for small business retailers that supports your dreams

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