Diversity in retail

Here is an article I have recently completed about diversity in retail, as a management approach to help you attract more customers to your business. I have been thinking about diversity because of an inspirational presentation I heard by Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony, in which she outlined how a commitment to diversity has helped the Symphony become more successful.

Diversity in retail.

This is not about what you may think it is about.

For years, retailers, especially small business retailers have been told do one thing right, be known for something.

They have been told that a unique selling proposition(USP) is about that one thing and getting it so right that you are known for it.

This singular focus began in an era when people often discovering a business did so by being in front of the business.

While pursuing a USP has worked for many, the world today has changed. Technology has changed us, it has changed how people find retail businesses.

Whereas in the past, there was often one major path delivering traffic to a business, today, thanks to technology, there are usually many paths, often not as obvious to us as the path of years ago.

Technology has also changed what businesses can and do offer.

Most important, technology has changed the ease of reaching customers.

Being local is not as important as it used to be.

While local small business retailers wish being local is all that matters, it is not. Often, the local community is not sufficient to serve the growth needs of a business, often because locals themselves are shopping elsewhere because doing so is easier.

Retailers need to reach more people. This means reaching beyond what has been traditional. For local retailers it means reaching beyond local. It can mean reaching beyond what you are known for.

Thanks to cool personalisation technology and targeted marketing, businesses interstate or overseas can provide a special interest product in a way that locals can love. Big businesses, especially, can leverage technology to reach local shoppers in personal and local ways.

Being local is notas important as it used to be for plenty of specialty retail businesses.

A commitment to diversity could help local retailers in this changed world.

I am not talking here about diversity in the manner in which the term is often used.

To me, diversity in small business retail is about a business, your business, being diversein the customers it pursues and diversein the ways it seeks to connect with potential new customers.

Customer diversityis about being relevant, appealing and of value to different groups of customers to those you pursue today. No, not everyone, because that does not work.

Diversity in customers is about targeting very specific, new, groups that you are certain you can satisfy.

Why do people shop with you?

Think about what brings people through your front door right now. Typically, a majority of shoppers will come through for one reason, one product or service category.

Is there another product or service category not too distant from what you focus on today that you could introduce to broaden the appeal of the business, to help you reach people who are not interested in your prime product category or service today?

This is one example of diversity … making your business appealing to a group of people who do not find your current offer appealing.

It is not about becoming a general store. Rather, it is about making thoughtful moves, based on research, to broaden the pool of people who couldwant to shop with you.

This is about you reaching more customers.

Diversity in ways of connecting with potential new customersis about how you communicate, how you connect.

Multiple touchpoints matter in this connected world.

While we all get sick of emails, text messages, social media ads and the like, they are sent for a reason, by big businesses with strong tech infrastructure to take care of this follow up.

Think about the new shopper journey in your shop today. Think about how they found you. In small business retail, word of mouth remains important as does store location. But what about other new shoppers, how can they be found?

Diversity in how, where and when you promote your business matters as does diversity in your voice.

How you reach out to an older shopper should be different to how you reach out to a young mum.

How you reach out to someone new to your core product category should be different to how you reach out to someone deeply engaged with your core category.

A more diverse pool of shoppers requires a more diverse approach to find them.

Here’s what I mean: use diverse avenues of marketing and through these use diverse marketing pitches, targeted for a more diverse pool of customers.

Marketing avenues can include social media paid and free, Google Ads, with each being thoughtfully created to pursue a specific type of shopper, one that fits a diversity goal.

Just as you expand what you offer to appeal to new consumers, you expand how you appeal to reach new customers.

Local businesses often promote local. It made sense for years. Today, specialty retailers can easily sell outside the local area, making a commitment to diversity also being about reaching beyond local as that in itself is about pursuing diversity.

It’s about more than what you are known for today.

Here is what it comes down to. What you are known for today is not enoughsince that will limit your appeal to customers interested in that. Smart and tech engaged businesses are chipping away at your core, what you are known for.

Thoughtfully, carefully, broaden the appeal of your business through what you sell and how you pitch. Pursuing a more diverse pool of customers will buttress your business, help it weather change.

This is why diversity matters. It is why you have to make your business appealing to more people and why you have to be more diverse in how you try and find them.

Now, an action plan.

Write down your target customer today. Describe them in a concise way.

Now, think about another customer you could target, a different customer you would like to reach but do not reach today. Think about what you need to do in terms of inventory, shop layout, online engagement and other changes to reach this new customer.

Write down how you promote your business today. Now, think about other ways you could promote your business and other voices, styles, tones you could use to appeal to people you do not appeal to today.

New products, new services, pitched through new voices in new mediums, this is how to attract a more diverse customer pool to your business.

Diversity in retail is simple really. It is about expanding your reach through thoughtful planned actions to reach a more diverse group of customers.

The alternative is to keep doing what you have been doing. That will maintain your current business trajectory.

Mark Fletcher is the owner of Tower Systems, newsXpress and several niche retail businesses.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOWER SYSTEMS:

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

Instant asset write-off benefits for small business retailers

The immediate asset write off benefits that have been further enhanced by the federal government this year present small business retailers investing capital in their businesses tax and other benefits that are worth considering.

The details of what we in small businesses can do are outlined in the simpler depreciation for small businesses information from the Australian Taxation Office:

Right now, the threshold is $30,000. Spend this much on a depreciating asset and you can write it off this financial year. If your business books a profit, the benefit of the write-off can be considerable.

The Tax Office website has excellent details. Your accountant can help too.

The Small Business Development Corporation in Western Australia has an excellent explainer of instant asset write off on their website. Click here to access it.

Click here to access an explainer from Finstro, a business finance company.

POS software helps small business retailers cut government compliance costs

The Tower Systems POS software actively helps small business retailers to reduce the time it takes to comply with government requirements.

We do this in a range of ways. We also enhance our engagement with this as government regulations change. By evolving our software offering, we ensure we help businesses leverage time-saving opportunities.

Preparing the BAS, Business Activity Statement, is easier and faster thanks to easy access to accurate data collected and managed by our POS software This is a key time saving. It also helps reduce stress by ensuring the provision of data that is accessible and useful to business owners.

Managing accurate business performance tracking through the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet is facilitated through automatic data flow between the POS software and Xero, MYOB or Quicken. Indeed, the accounting software links we provide in our POS software make it easier for small business retailers to undertake more accounting work in-store, reduce accounting fees and facilitate more accurate accounting records.

So, time saved, mistakes cut, errors voided, accurate data curated and managed – all through there work we do for small business retailers in 0ur POS software – these are real benefits for small business retail.

We see businesses put in our POS software, connect it to xero and cut bookkeeping costs. This can save a business thousands of dollars a year without any additional spend within the business beyond the low cost of POS software and attendant support services.

This is good business that we are proud to deliver for the small business retailers we serve through our smart POS software.

Saving time takes careful thought and planning on the software design end. As retailers ourselves, doing this time saving work in our own retail businesses, we know what is needed first hand. Having a CPA in our office, working with us enables us to be knowledgable for an accounting perspective too. These two things – being a retailer and having in-house accounting capabilities – ensure that we prove a proven and practical solution to our small business retail customers.

This is another bankable Tower Systems advantage for small business retailers.

Advice on avoiding the impact of a ransomware attach on your retail business

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 sheet provides advice designed to reduce the risk to your business. Ransomware often comes in the form of a harness looking business email, seeking you to click on something that makes sense.

Often, if the recipient clicks on the attachment in the email, the ZIP file, on a PC running Windows they would have been locked out of the computer and subject to ransomware.

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

More and more businesses including small business retailers are being affected by these malicious attacks, they are being locked out of their businesses.

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.

Small business POS software customers appreciate THEFT POLICY

A week ago we shared with our customers an updated THEFT POLICY, and suggested they print this and seek employee engagement.

The reaction has been terrific with plenty downloading and pricing the policy. We have had calls, too, from retailers seeking our suggestions on other actions they can take. Some have called with their stories of theft in their businesses.

Our work in the area of retail employee theft is comprehensive and on-going.

We welcome opportunities to work with our thousands of small business retailer customers to help them mitigate the theft situation in their businesses.

Here is the latest version of our THEFT POLICY that we shared a week ago:

THEFT POLICY

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

PLEASE SIGN AND DATE YOUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

In our work with small business retailers our help often passes from POS software help to business management help.

recently, we were asked for advice on when and how to quit stock. here is the template advice we have created, which is useful in many types of retail businesses.

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. To me, this think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

The easiest way to quit stock is for your shoppers to understand the deal. Understanding the deal starts with how you brand the sale.

A sign with SALE on it could mean anything. I suggest you NOT use this.

A sign with, say, 50% off could be confusing as they don’t know the starting price and some may not understand percentages.

Sign with HALF PRICE is more easily understood but they still do not know the starting price.

If you really want to quit stock, I suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

I have tested this. I have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our recommendation on quickly quitting stock: get the price messaging right.

If your price messaging is hard to understand or if there are too many different price messages you could be creating a barrier and this could stop you achieving the sales outcome you want.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

Advice for small business retailers experiencing year on year decline in retail sales

If your year-on-year sales are not down in your retail business, this advice is not for you.

If your year-on-year sales are down, something must change if you want to turn the situation around, please read on.

Sometimes, when we are asked by retailers how to deal with a year on year sales decline, our suggestions are not taken up and the business keeps doing what it was doing. In doing this, the declining trend will continue.

We appreciate it can be challenging looking outside of the fog of declining sales and worsening business performance numbers. However, if you cannot reach out beyond this fog the survival of the business is at risk.

Here is the most important statement relating to our advice:

If you keep doing what you have been doing, the sales results in your business will be what they have been, the trend is unlikely to change.

It would be a mistake to think that external factors are the sole reason your sales are down.

So, change is necessary – change in what you sell, how you merchandise and how you promote.

It is only from change that the sales decline could be arrested and reversed.

Our advice is to look for u-turn or right turn opportunities, changes you can implement to divert you from your current path.

Suggesting such changes is something we can do through looking at your business performance data for you. Ask us to challenge you. We will first ask to see your year on year data at a detailed level as this will reveal the truth of the situation and from there we can develop change suggestions for your consideration.

Why ask a POS software company? We see data from many different businesses. That perspective can help. We are retailers too and have been for decades. That provides a body of experiences on which we can draw in considering advice we can provide. We will gladly leverage our experiences to help in any situation.

We don’t have all the answers, we will even suggest ideas we later discover are mistakes. However, doing what you have been doing in a situation of declining sales is a bigger mistake.

Can we help?

Helping retailers take better photos for their POS connected online stores

Photos are very important to retailers who sell online. The better the photos of a product the easier it is for an online shopper to purchase.

This is tough small business retailers as they often need to photograph products themselves if they want photos that look different from the stock photos provided by suppliers.

Photography for online sales is different to personal photography.

We get involved in this as it is in our POS software where small business retailers store photos and other content for each product they wish to sell online. Having the one repository for inventory information and images is important. It assists management and provided ease of change should the need arise.

To take better photos, retailers need to have the right tools:

  1. The right place for photography that is setup for easy access.
  2. Props for posing photos as the more you can show how a product might be used the better in some circumstances.
  3. A lightbox for taking shadowless photos. This should take different background colours and bet of the right size for the types of products you are likely to need to photograph.
  4. A good camera. A current model smart phone is usually okay given the quality of the cameras they offer today.
  5. Basic editing software for correcting any imperfections than cannot be easily fixed by taking another photo.
  6. Photo guidelines for all product photos taken by the business, so there is a consistent aesthetic for photos used by the business.

Once photos are taken and the actual ones to be used have been selected, these are loaded into the POS software for use there and for feeding to any ecommerce site used by the business.

If there are bulk photos to be uploaded to an ecommerce site, there are easy ways to do this without having to go through the POS software if that is a preference.

While none of this is related directly to help desk support using our POS software, we happily get involved, sharing the expertise of our team gained from our own retail businesses and the various ecommerce sites with which they connect.

Business management help for small business retailers from our POS software company

Retailers who partner with our small business focussed POS software company can rely in us for more than terrific POS software. Every day we offer business help, advice and support, beyond the software itself but using the software as a mechanism for help.

Many calls to our management and help desk team are from business owners not knowing where to turn. We help where we can, based on our experiences, but without providing advice that we are not qualified to provide.

Since we own and operate retail businesses and have done since February 1996 we can draw on considerable experiences when helping our customers.

Like any small business owner, we like to help our friends and we see any small business retailer as a friend.

There are people we help who do not even use our POS software. That is not a requirement at all. Our support is for small business owners and their businesses first. Getting a sale of our POS software is secondary.

The advice and support we can be called on to assist with includes these areas:

  1. Shop lease terms, permitted use clause, special conditions.
  2. Employee management.
  3. Employee training.
  4. Customer theft.
  5. Employee theft.
  6. Business planning.
  7. Supplier trading terms.
  8. Supplier dispute resolution.
  9. Data analysis.
  10. Cash flow.
  11. Banking relationships.
  12. Business insurance.
  13. Visual merchandising.
  14. Quitting stock.
  15. Buying stock, planning, buy lots and related topics.
  16. Creating new products beyond what has been usual for the business.
  17. Landlord disputes.
  18. Trading online.
  19. Running a high street and online business.

There are many areas where we help and discuss beyond these listed here. This list offers a flavour of the types of areas we are asked to provide advice or a comforting ear on. Often, we are able to drawn on our own personal experiences and small business retailers like that.

We are grateful for the trust our c customers show in seeking our advice or listening ear when they have concerns. We do our best, and if we are unable to speak with confidence on a query, we try and point them in a direction of someone who can.

This is all part of the Tower Systems service and assistance to small business retailers. We saw we’re here to help and try hard to live up to that.

Small business marketing advice: people like shopping local

For years, we here at Tower Systems have helped small business retailers to pitch shop local in a range of interesting and creative ways.

Our work in this area has nothing to do with small business POS software, yet it has everything to do with it.

Shopping local is important for local economies and we love helping small business retailers to encourage locals to shop local.

These are other resources from us are free to anyone via our website with no password required.

Small business retail advice: save time and money with Xero POS software integration

Save time, eliminate bookkeeping costs, cut mistakes and make better business decisions sooner with the Tower Systems POS software Xero integration.

Our Xero partnership sees us linking direct to Xero. No middleware. No third p[arty. This is a direct, fast and time saving link. It is best-practice.

We use this link ourselves in the retail businesses we own and run. We know it works a treat. Our accountant loves it.

The Xero integration designed by Tower Systems, working with the folks at Xero, makes it easy for small business retailers to cut accounting paperwork and thereby tap into time and money saving benefits.

We use our Xero integrated POS software ourselves. This enables us to provide practical advice on how to benefit the most from Xero and our POS software working together.

Our customers have access to our in-house CPA, to provide a professional accounting perspective on the link and how to get the most from it.

Tower Systems is a unique POS software company. In addition to serving 3,500+ small business retailers, we own and operate several retail businesses as live test sites. Our in-house CPA manages the accounts for these retail businesses.