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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
City high street newsagencies.
Regional shopping centre businesses.
I do not have enough businesses in this group to safely report.
City shopping centre based newsagencies.
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?
I am grateful to all newsagents who shared their data for inclusion in this study.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Most ransomware attacks can be avoided by careful scrutiny of your emails and websites you visit.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.