Helping small business retailers manage to reduce theft

cuttheftRetailers using the Tower Systems POS software are embracing our latest online training opportunities including the How to cut theft in your retail business live and interactive workshop coming up on August 7.  This session will fill up. We have more coming on the schedule.

Tower Systems demonstrates its commitment to consistent access to free post-installation training with workshops like this one, workshops that are valuable to retailers using our software.

Theft – employee theft and customer theft – continues to have a high cost for small and independent retailers. Tower Systems actively helps retailers to recent the impact of theft through personal training like this latest workshop. Being for owners only, we have a safe place where we can take people deep into the theft mitigation facilities in our software.

Thrilled with POS software stocktake surge

Checking back on POS software customer engagement out of our 2,800+ retail business customers shows an excellent surge in engagement with stock takes. More than any other year. More retailers and a greater percentage of our retail business community.

We are thrilled that so many retailers did stock takes using our software, participated in training, asked us questions and used our software facilities.

It’s a pleasure to see more retailers actually using this time and money saving facility in their software.

The greater engagement encourages us to push again in 2014/15 as it shows the lead up we engaged in this year with free live workshops, free video based training, free one on one training and more all helped to encourage retailers to use their software and benefit from this.

Today, thanks to the push, more independent retailers have accurate stock on hand data as a result of our campaign.

Sunday retail management advice: drive better gross profit by selling at 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:

  • Convenience.
  • 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.

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

d. 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.

f. 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.

Small retailer POS software users love transparency on software enhancement suggestions

software-ideasMany small business retailers using the POS software from Tower Systems actively engage in suggesting enhancements for the software and many of these suggestions make their way into the software.

Retailers regularly thank Tower for the opportunity to publicly make suggestions and for the transparency of voting by and feedback from others about the suggested enhancements. Indeed, the level of transparency Tower Systems has offered in this area for years now is rare. Some claim user engagement but it is hard to find another software company living the transparency claim like Tower.

The real test of the exclusive Software Ideas facility from tower Systems is the enhancements that make their way into the software. Hundreds of enhancements including new facilities, large and small, exist in the software today thanks to user engagement in making suggestions and voting on these suggestions. It is proving to be a valuable process for tower Systems and its retail business customers.

It is a measure of the company’s confidence that the facility is promoted on its website home page and that the list can be accessed by anyone including competitors.

Software Ideas is managed by a senior member of the software development management team within the company and the overall Tower leadership team makes final decisions about ideas it embraces. All ideas receive feedback from the company.

Helping small business retailers save money on EFTPOS fees & time at the sales counter

As a POS software company working with close to 3,000 retailers, we have experience dealing with all the major banks when it comes to EFTPOS and offering EFTPOS solutions at the retail sales counter.

In our software today we have EFTPOS processing links to a range of third parties as well as direct to banks.

It is our experience that retailers linking to Tyro broadband EFTPOS experience faster processing, fewer operational problems, easier setup and better customer service than any other EFTPOS connection. This is why we recommend Tyro to our small business retail customers.

Thanks to excellent assistance and communication from and with the team at Tyro, we are able to triage any operational issue and usually resolve it immediately. This provides our retail business customers with a one stop shop. This is far better than having to navigate a third party who then has to navigate your bank’s support service. In that scenario it could take days to resolve an issue. Thanks to the Tyro approach, the few problems reported are resolved quickly.

Choosing the right EFTPOS solution is important for small and independent retail businesses. It’s what happens at the counter that matters the most. Fast and accurate processing are the most important goals followed by easy setup.

Major banks tend to lock retailers into long term contracts that have a breakage cost. This can lock small business retailers into poor service and higher than necessary fees. Thanks to Tyro we are able to deliver to small and independent retail businesses a more cost effective solution. Tyro helps newsagents ensure that the solution is right for them without the need for a long term contract.

Our advice to retailers considering EFTPOS is – buyer beware. That big bank that says it has a great deal is a big bank – when was the last time a big bank put the needs of small retailers ahead of their appetite for profit.

Ways small business retailers can refresh their view of their business

WARNING: This blog post has some crazy ideas you’d not expect from a POS software company.

In our work with small business retailers we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again. They are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

POS software support small business retailers love

Here are some of the reasons newsagents, jewellers, gift shop owners, bike retailers, garden centre owners and others love the support we offer with our Point of sale software. For a small annual fee they have access to:

  • A friendly help desk staffed 7am through to 6pm Monday to Friday and 7:30am to 3pm on Saturday. Local call numbers in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
  • After-hours support available 24/7 through five mobile phone numbers.
  • Free one-on-one training for every newsagency every year.
  • Free new owner training.
  • Mandarin and Cantonese language support for those who prefer this.
  • Free hardware support for all h/w sold by us plus a 3 year on-site warranty for all HP h/w.
  • Weekly free online live training workshops.
  • Access to more than 130 professionally produced training videos for business owners & staff.
  • Free theft check service – we help newsagents uncover possible theft.
  • Free business performance analysis service – we help you see growth opportunities.

This mix of support services is exclusive to us. It’s a reason our customers choose to continue with software support coverage. We don’t force them by stopping their software from working if they choose to not continue support coverage. We think this type of action by a POS software company is unreasonable coercion.

Sunday small business retailer management advice: human interaction is key to success

We switched a retailer to our Point of Sale software recently solely because of the poor support they had received from their previous POS software company. When calling their old POS company they place calls using a computerised phone system where you pressed a bunch of buttons to get to log your call for assistance.

Here at Tower Systems when you call you speak with a human, most likely our receptionist.Your query is listened to and then passed to someone, another human, who can help.

Our software company is thriving on the back of the human support we provide our retailer customers. Retail businesses can thrive on the back of human service too. There is no better way for a retailer to show off why dealing with them is better than dealing with online than by providing excellent human to human service.

Our retail management software has facilities through which retailers can improve the service they provide and thereby show off why dealing with them can be more useful and valuable for a shopper than going with an online business. Our support team can share ideas on these facilities in our software.

Sunday small business retail management advice: how to make more money from every sale

Every retail business can sell more to every customer. This is easy when you have good business data and use this to make good business decisions.

Making more money from every sale starts with good Point of Sale software. This will tell you what you are selling, how often and what your top selling items sell with.

Get a report from your Point of Sale software listing your top ten selling items, by unit sales for the last three months. Do not look at dollars. Unit sales is the far more valuable count since this is a discussion about leveraging volume.

In a typical retail store, the top ten selling items will account for between 30% and 50% of revenue of the business.

Look at your top sellers report and concentrate on the top selling items. Answer these questions about the top ten selling items from the last three months:

  1. Do you have appropriate impulse purchase products located on either side of each top item?
  2. Are the top items spread through the store, to maximize customer throughput?
  3. How often do you move the top items?
  4. Do you have the top ten items in multiple locations?
  5. What impulse purchase items do you have at the counter which will appeal to customers who purchase any of the top ten items?
  6. Has the list of top ten sellers changed in the last year? If so, how have they changed and what can you learn from this.
  7. Are there products which you do not currently carry which you could add to the store to sell with the top ten sellers?
  8. Do customers who purchase the top ten sellers ask for any other items?

The idea embedded in these questions is very simple. Use the top ten sellers, or top twenty or top thirty, to focus your attention on items with which you can work to achieve more sales in your business.

By focusing on the top sellers and what you can sell with them you can increase the size of the average shopping basket.

If you can’t see opportunities for achieving more sales by placing products next to or with the top sellers then speak with your team and speak with trusted customers. Don’t rest until you unlock suggestions to try.

If what you try does not work, try more products. I know of retail businesses which have spent months finding add on items to work with their top sellers.

The key to this project is proper use of your Point of Sale software. You need this to identify the top selling items and to track the success or otherwise of your project to sell more with your top performing stock lines.

There is plenty of additional money to be made from your top sellers. Invest time and attention on this project and get ready to bank the results.

Why we serve small business retailers

Tower Systems was created to serve small business retailers and we happily remain focused on that mission today.

We love small business retail for the people, their passion and the contribution to communities around the country.

While our Point of Sale software can be used by retail businesses of any size, it is in the small business retailer community where we are most comfortable.

So, why do we like small business retailers?

This is a question we confronted recently in a business review where we took some time for introspection about who we are, what we do and why we do what we do.

We believe in small business.

Small business retailers play a vital economic role, often punching above their weight in terms of economic contribution.

Small business retailers play an even more important social role, holding, sharing and even adding to the narrative of communities around the world as well as providing practical support for community based endeavours.

Small business retailers help local shoppers with a level of personal service which leads to better buying decisions.

We like these points, especially that small businesses and small business retailers in particular are more like to uphold and carry forward local customs, beliefs and stories.  Small businesses support the ,local voice.  This is why small businesses are important in countries like Australia and New Zealand.    They push back on globalisation and the dilution of the local voice to a whisper.

Whereas with big business retailers you are dealing with a person representing a corporation and focused on the goals of the corporation, in small business you are dealing with the owner or someone very close to the owner, reflecting the personal and connected nature of the business and the community in which its serves.

We also feel that we can contribute more to the community and the economy by working with small business retailers.  We are happy with our track record in this regard since starting in business in 1981.

So, yes, we enjoy serving small businesses and remaining a small business ourselves.  This is where we think we can actively contribute and do the most good.

The value of a business is not only about financial performance.  Its contribution to community is, in our view, equally if, not more, important.

There was a time when small was almost considered a dirty word in business.  Not any more.  This is the time of small business.  It is a niche in which many of us choose to remain.  It is a place of profitable businesses and businesses making a genuinely valuable economic and social contribution.

Independent small business retailers vital to Australian communities

In our work with small business retailers here at Tower Systems we get to see first hand the value small business retailers bring to their local communities. It is a privilege to witness the commitment of these local retailers to their communities.

While big retail businesses capture the attention of media outlets, small retailers work in the trenches delivering more authentic and greater value to local communities. We see this every day and the esteem with which these retailers are held by locals.

Local independent and small retailers are vital to Australian communities for many reasons including:

  • Hiring locally.
  • Supporting local clubs and community groups.
  • Making products available locally and thereby saving costs.
  • Carrying on local traditions.
  • Supporting the local narrative.
  • Supporting the local economy.
  • Investing more of every dollar in sales back into the local community in one way or another.

Any assessment of how much of every dollar spent with a national retailer stays in the local community versus the same metric for a local small business retailer and the local small business retailer is more valuable to the local community by far.

Small and independent retailers are important to the communities in which they serve.

Just as small and independent retailers support local communities, so to should local communities support small and independent retailers ahead of their bigger competitors.

Tower Systems is thrilled to help small business retailers in their support of local communities. Using our retail management software, retailers are able to support community groups, raise much needed funds and track community engagement in a range of ways.

While Coles and Woolworths fight over customers, small business delivers value

We are fascinated by the money supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles are spending in their latest price and loyalty war. Each is trying to outdo the other with their claims of discounts and loyal shopper benefits.

Smart shoppers who price and service compare an independently owned retail business with Coles or Woolworths will often find that the independent retailer offers better value, value in the form of price, service, social responsibility and even respected brand range.

Small and independent retailers and the lifeblood of the Australian economy and they are our customers here at Tower Systems.

We recently compared prices charged by some retailers using our Point of sale software with nearby major supermarkets. Yes, our customers were cheaper on everyday items despite the advertising by the supermarkets.

Australian consumers need to look beyond the advertising campaigns and check for themselves. Often, the genuine value offered by a business is the inverse of what it spends in advertising its claimed value proposition.

We support our community of small and independent retailers by delivering retail management software while helps them to operate efficiently, transact accurately, order with reduced waste, reward loyal shoppers and manage employees for business growth and personal reward.

We help small and independent retailers compete in an economy dominated by large retailers.

Thanks to smart tools in our software, our retail partners can communicate the benefits of their business through several touch points during and after sales processed by our system.

By empowering small and independent retailers with outcome-focused competitive tools, oyr partners can bank terrific results.

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Small business retailers vital to local towns and the Australian economy

Small business retailers punch above their weight in terms of the economic and social benefits they deliver the communities in which they serve. They are vital to their local communities and those who live nearby. This is what Australians must support small business retailers.

Small business retailers more than their big business competitors…

  • Employ locally.
  • Support the local community.
  • Pump profits back into local spending.
  • Often source products locally.
  • Reduce carbon emissions by saving people from having to drive.

Often in the cut and thrust of day to day trade small business retailers miss the opportunity to pitch the social and economic value they bring to the local community. This is why we are happy to add our voice to their cause, to pitch that small business retailers are being good for local communities.

With well over 2,000 small business retailers using our Tower Systems Point of Sale software, we know a bit about what they do and how they serve their communities. We are thrilled to support their cause as remind all Australians that small business retailers are vital to town and cities across our country.

Calling on the Minister for Small Business to act

Here is a list of suggested actions we have sent to the new Minister for Small Business in the federal government. We think that after a succession of Small Business ministers over many years and successive governments who have done little for the vital sector they serve, it is time for action:

  1. An urgent review of Fair Work with a view to eliminating casual employee penalty rates in roles sought out by people not looking for full time work. This could cut labour costs for newsagents on Sundays in half.
  2. A genuine reduction in government red tape. Successive governments have promised this. None has delivered.
  3. Strengthening laws and processes for ACCC in dealing with unconscionable conduct and unfair treatment of a big business over a small business.
  4. A government wide campaign to purchase everyday office items from local businesses. Yes, selfish but we should try! We should match with a national pricing offer.
  5. The introduction of an annual pool of funding for small business start ups with generous tax concessions. They fund films to attract spending here why not businesses?
  6. Establishment of fixed interest working capital funding for small businesses.
  7. Development of portable bank accounts and capping loan exit fees – to make switching banks easier.
  8. Ensuring genuine small business representation at government events, discussions and roundtables – too often politicians of all sides suck up only to the big end of town.
  9. Focussing on IT by way of tax concessions for 100% Australian owned companies under $10M in annual revenue creating intellectual property in Australia which aids business productivity. Yes this is a selfish idea (I own and IT company) but it is also smart. A stronger IT industry will bring money to our shores, reduce the brain drain and boost business productivity. Get this right and we could deliver more benefits for the economy than mining.
  10. And to kick start small business and businesses which provide them with equipment and services: a once-off investment allowance in any productivity improving investment such as plant and equipment, knowledge or people.

We have put these thoughts in a letter to the Minister.

Disappointing Labor Spin on EFTPOS Fee Challenge Faced By Retailers

In our work with and on behalf of retailers facing an EFTPOS fee hike thanks to the new fee regime agreed recently by EPAL, we have been collating responses from federal politicians.

These responses indicate that Labor politicians are more likely to pass on the EPAL developed spin response than their Liberal and National Party counterparts.

The new regime sets up small and independent businesses, including retailers, to face EFTPOS fee hikes starting later this year.

The major banks, Coles and Woolworths, all shareholders in EPAL, an organisation established by the reserve Bank a few years ago, have colluded to dud small business.

The engagement of politicians in educating themselves about this issue is crucial. If only all politicians saw it that way.

Lobbying on the EFTPOS issue

We have continued to lobby politicians and media outlets of the EFTPOS issue which is set to hit all small businesses as a result of the decision by the EPAL Board (major banks and Coles annd Woolworths) to come up with a new fee structure which suits Australia’s biggest two retailers.

Our interest is the health of independent and small retailers.  Australia needs these businesses to thrive to serve local communities and to nurture the Australian retail narrative.  Our vested interest is that we sell to these marketplaces.  We are a small business ourselves.

We have good data on the potential impact of the EPAL EFTPOS decision and will happily share this with any independent retailer who wants to lobby their local member of parliament.  Many of our customers are having success at getting the attention of parliamentarians.  Every contact helps as it raises the profile of the issue in the stats which each of the parties keeps on issues.

Inaction could see EFTPOS fees increase for independent retailers, giving Coles and Woolworths another competitive advantage.

Helping Retailers Fund Investing in Business Efficiency

With sourcing capital for small business, especially retailers, a considerable challenge in today’s economy (see the recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald), Tower Systems is well positioned to help thanks to the work we have put in sourcing a range of finance options for our retail business customers and potential customers.

Retailers investing in our Point of Sale technology are able to fund the purchase through lease, hire purchase, rental and other financial instruments. this can bring the cash flow cost down to a few dollars a day.

We are in a position to connect our customers with respected financial institutions which understand the value the proper use of our software can bring to a retail business.  This is vital in the assessment of the viability of providing funding for the purchase of our Point of Sale system.

How our customers ultimately fund their software only or hardware and software purchase with us if 100% their choice.  The work our finance people have done with a range of institutions means that we can present them with introductions which could prove to be easier than their existing finance relationships.

While we cannot guarantee finance, we can put our customers in contact with financiers who understand the value derived from an investment with us.  This helps retailers tap into sources of capital for business development and expansion.

That we are usually able to connect a sales prospect with an institution which can provide funding quickly, without fuss and for a competitive market rate is another way we demonstrate our can do approach to business.

From completing the sale to helping to arrange finance through to installation, training and on-going support, the tower Systems team works hard to help its retail business customers enjoy and benefit from their IT investment with us.

Smart reports help small business retailers

reports.jpgPoint of Sale software is useless for any small business retailer unless it provides outcome focused reports which help drive good business decisions.

Good reports assemble data in a logical and accessible way – so they may be read by and of use to non financially trained business operators. They provide multiple views of a business so a complete picture may be determined and opportunities uncovered.

Reporting is a strong point for us. Small business retailers, their accountants, their bank managers and their business advisors tell us they like the range of reports we offer, the flexibility available in these and the decisions which can be made as a result.

We see reports as driving business goals for they are the measuring stick of success (or otherwise) and the roadmap to future opportunities. We think of these as goals when enhancing existing reports and developing new reports for users of our retail software.

Poster to help retailers connect with stimulus package

stimulate_newsagency.jpgClick here to download a print ready copy of the poster the Tower Systems creating team has developed for our retail partners to use to promote consideration of spending the federal government’s stimulus package locally.  Click on the image for a larger copy on your screen.

If there is other material our creative team can develop to help connect your business connection with the stimulus package please let us know.

We are grateful to have the resources and creative capacity to help our customer community in this way.  As retailers ourselves, we understand and appreciate the value some suppliers bring to a relationship by going the extra mile.

Feel free to share the poster around. 

Why I like independent retailers

Independent retailers are important to Australia for several reasons:

  • Community. Small independent retailers are more likely to support local traditions and tell stories which need to be passed on.
  • Creativity. They make creative decisions locally.
  • Diversity. No two small independent retailers in the same channel are the same.
  • Entrepreneurship. These businesses are where entrepreneurs are born.
  • The local economy. They are more likely to hire locally, shop locally, live locally and invest locally.
  • Leadership. Small independent retailers nurture the development of leadership skills since decisions are made locally.
  • Humanity. You are more likely to observe humanity at work because there is no corporate manual rules.

My list is as incomplete as it is unscientific. Faults aside, it lists what I like about independent retail businesses.

Submission on the investment allowance

We have made a written submission to the Federal Government on the Investment Allowance, pitching the case for the inclusion of busivess software.  The current Tax Laws Amendment (Small Business and General Business Tax Break) Bill 2009 on page 12 lists computer software as not eligible.

Our argument is that business software is as valuable and important an asset to a business as a piece of machinery is to a miner.

Promoting integrated broadband based eftpos

Following successful use in several locations and good data to support efficiency and other benefits, we are actively promoting the Tyro integrated broadband based eftpos link with our retail management software. We use this in our own retail businesses and therefore have first-hand knowledge of the benefits.

Tyro is a terrific help for retailers because eftpos processing is faster, more accurate and time saving at the back end (end of day and back office).  We have put together a cost comparison for ourusers who express interest.

Investment allowance package

Now that the Federal Government stimulus package has passed, we are proud to announce our own small business bonus package. This, in addition to the excellent 30% investment allowance available for the next four and half months, makes partnering with Tower Systems tremendously valuable.

The Tower Systems BONUS PACKAGE includes:

  • An additional six months of software support – making eighteen months in total included in the package price.
  • Hardware and software packages at 2008 low prices – we are insulating you against the dollar fall.
  • Free additional follow up training – after you have installed the system, to help answer questions which are bound to arise once you get further into the software.
  • Help in navigating the investment allowance benefit.

There is more to our package but we will leave that for our sales team to explain.