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Controlling stock control and doing orders, the reality is that the computer will win.

There is no way a person can keep in tune with their shop's twists and turns. There are too many stock items to keep track of in the shop. Here is a better and cheaper way.

The best way to do it is with predictive analytics (focus). These tools are generally too expensive for small to medium-size retailers unless they have our point-of-sale system. This is because we have embedded it into our software and give it out free. To use it is both intuitive and straightforward. It does not need much training either to use. Once working it produces less work than manual stock ordering.

Let's say you have a basket for tape. You cannot order limitless quantities of tapes. So what our users can do is use the option, focus order. It is an advanced type of "just in time" method of stock control, which gives you a plan of how much stock you should have now.


 

The computer tracks the stock on hand and estimates the stock level required for these goods in the period (focus). If it thinks that the stock on hand is too low, it can send an order to a supplier with the speed and accuracy that no one can match.

It is easy to set up and use.


You can control your stock with relative ease.

For details on how to do this, please, click here

 

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While anecdotally, they say that uncertainty around elections causes shoppers to curtail their spending. This is as, during times of uncertainty, we often hear that shoppers are deferring their spending. They are taking a wait-and-see approach. This is true for major items such as real estate and HiFi sets, but in the stuff like food, groceries, petrol, etc., they do not defer. Then once it is over, most of them are happy.,

There have been many studies that show this. I did a data-mining analysis going back to 1982 in Australia with a few of my clients' data and found little. Some minor effect on clothes sales caused by the high ticket items, but nothing else. If anyone wants to see my report, let me know.

The real problem of the elections is that from a business administration, it's a bother. People have to go and vote. This can take some time in some places.

One thing I did notice looking at the polling booths, the one where I usually vote is not open this year, and I have to go to another. So check here first your booth. Put in your desired location. You get a list like this

Then check your closest voting booth.

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I went to the Small Business Week Conference and talks last week.

Maybe something to keep in mind for the elections tomorrow.

This is what the retail experts thought about the next six months in bullet form:

- Overall Retail outlook is healthy and looking good. Don't count on the growth we have seen in the last twelve (12) months which was up by 9%. Much in the short-term they expect will be fueled by the existing high household saving. What happens when that saving runs out is unclear.

- There is a wide range here in the retail outlook across sectors, e.g. some sectors like travel are down, others like second-hand goods are up.

- Shops in the CBD are expected to have continuing problems.

- Staff hiring is expected to be difficult, they suggest looking at mature staff.

- Supply challenges to continue throughout 2022. I know this is hurting my clients now.

- Inflation is up, and goods now take six (6) months from the factory to get to the public. Much of the price rise is on the way as costs suppressed over COVID are now coming.

- Studies have shown that most people prefer to buy products that they can taste, smell and touch. They suggest applying this if possible, e.g. have music in the shop. This is where they see the big plus shops have over the internet. Today 80% of households spent something online last year, yet 85% of goods were brought in shops.

- They thought it was important to realise that most of Generation Z is now in the workforce and a significant chunk of the consumer market.

- Public today is less loyal than before. In a survey, 86% put stock availability over loyalty. If you do not have it, they will go elsewhere.

These are the problems that they see we face.

 

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Many of my clients use business plans. I wish more did, as it gives them a chance to:

1) See how they have done

2) See what they did right

3) see what mistakes they made in their planning

4) Frame their thoughts on they want to go. It is not essential, but it is a good idea.

I have never seen anyone regret doing one.

I confess I have changed much of my mind about doing business plans in SMB. So here is my updated experience.

Although it is recommended that the plan be done three months before it is needed. No one ever does that. In my experience, most people put them together sometime before they think they need them. Besides, with the elections coming up in a few days, it makes sense to wait till early June to start putting one together for the next financial year.

In my experience, there are three reasons for people to do business plans, none of which are mutually exclusive

1) To clarify their thoughts. This option is underrated.

2) Get stakeholders and critical staff on the same page

3) They need money from banks, lending institutions or investors.

The closer to (3), the more likely, the business plan will be professionally designed and written up.

If you want to do it yourself, it is best to do it with pre-written templates. Your bank will often provide you with one free. Of course, the significant advantage of using your banks is that they know it.

If you are doing such a short business plan it will take you a few hours of work. It is best to do it with other people around, so you can discuss and get a collective sense of the plan. When filling it out, do not worry about it not being perfect; nothing ever is.

If you cannot get one from the bank, I found this one here, which is extensive and presentable.

You can get a professional to write you a plan if you want. If so, budget about $5,000, and they will need a month to do it. The problem here is that the professional knows what to do, but they need to get the information out of you. Then they need to understand the business, which takes many hours. If you are going to get them to write it, Do it yourself first and then present it to them. It will save time and money.

Lastly do a section on budgeting for this year. I will discuss this once the elections happen.

Of course, once you have a plan, it does not take that long to do the next year. Most of the stuff is similar and only about 20% changes every year.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.

 

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This COVID pandemic has proven to be a boom for shoplifters. The current big problem is that it's harder to identify shoplifters as they tend to wear a mask.

Once they have the mask, a CCTV camera often can no longer be used to identify people to the authorities. Nor can camera photos in front of the shop or Facebook posts shame people.

Note: A retailer can ask a person to remove your face mask to confirm their identity. Yet, the person does not have to do it.

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Looking at the cash drawer today for your POS software, here are some problems I have noticed recently.

1) When we supplied some drawers for a client, we found that every drawer in that model used the same key. It will not be a problem if you have one cash draw in the shop. It makes it easy to get spare keys. However, if you have many in the shop, anyone with access to any of your cash draws can open any other one.

2) Modern cash draws often use a lot of plastic. Most of these cannot take much in the way of punishment. Even if you do not use that cash draw much in a shop, these need to be able to take punishment. People are tense, they are in a rush, and they do belt them. 

One client told me that the lock on the door had fallen out. They had to disassemble the unit to get the cash out. Now they cannot put the lock back on. Another told me that their drawer continuously comes off the tracks. Another has a spring that is gone. They have to yank on the key and pull it out the door to open it. 

3) Do not trust the manufactures dimensions. A client built a desk to hold his new cash drawer with the measurements from the specifications. One was a back measurement and was wrong. Wait till you get it before building.

4) Lastly, this is getting to be a big problem. Check the size of the notes the cash draw can handle. Many Australian notes are bigger than US or Chinese notes. As a result, many cash draws cannot hold Australian notes. We had to send some back because of this. 

I hope this helps.

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As COVID is dying down, we are seeing more fairs happening. Although many tried some form of virtual meetings, it did not work. Buyers need to see, touch and feel. If you are looking into having gifts or are already into it, this is the place to be. You will meet many new businesses and connect with your existing suppliers. Generally, the senior people in these organisations are there to network. Do not forget your business cards!

So if you are interested in marketing gifts, this show I do recommend.

Here are some points to consider if you are thinking of going:

* Do market research before. See what sells in your shop, the gifts near you, and your business type. Most crucial, check the current prices.

* Ask yourself what you know. It would be best if you stick to these items as much as possible. With gifts, you need to specialise and product knowledge is important.

* Many places have minimum orders unless you are prepared to buy big. The odds are many places will not deal with you. If you like something, first say your budget on these products and say I will go up if it works and see what they say. I suggest you walk if the answer is NO.

* The prices are, from what I can see, the prices are not terrific; be prepared to bargain. If you look, you will find some real bargains. The last day in my experience is often the best day to pick bargains. This is the day many stalls will be looking to get rid of stock that they brought for the show; if you are going to pick up bargains at the fair, that is the day. Unfortunately, it is also the day that many popular lines are gone. If you are looking for something expensive for the house, say a genuine Persian carpet. It may be your chance to get it at a discounted wholesale price. If so, you will need to wait for the show to end to pick it up.

* Consider the show more a chance to buy seeder stock and get ideas. If you want reasonable prices, you need to go on the net and go to the overseas gift shows. Note that if you intend to go overseas, you need a decent gift business turnover.

* You will gain an understanding of your market. See what sort of suppliers handle it and how many.

Finally, look for new things, there are many innovative ones there. Consider this the main reason to go.

 

 

 

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This is a picture, I took of the latest All-in-one system.

Here are some advantages

Space: They are compact. It only takes on the bottom about 20 cm long of space while the screen height is adjustable. This makes them convenient as everything you need is together in one smart design. This saves space. This is great if you have only a limited front counter space. S giving more room for displaying impulse items on the front counter.

Modern: Besides looking modern, they also look stylish. We all go to a lot of trouble to make our shop look good for customers, old computers and monitors make a bad impression.

Ergonomic design: Experts designed them to be easier to use. This makes your operation more convenient. After many hours on the front counter, this is something the operators do appreciate.

Life expectancy: Retail is a tough environment, it is often dirty and people tend to be rough handling them. Computers are designed for an airconditioned office. All-in-ones are made for the tough retail environment. This means that their life expectancy tends to be longer.

What these ones also come with is the customer-Facing Display.

It is a high-definition customer-facing screen.

So while customers are waiting instead of feeling impatient they can be engaged. If you want you can use this display to show custom advertisements. Here it is being used to allow the customer to review their transaction.

If you are looking for something to improve your system, gives us a call and take a look at these. You will be impressed.

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Make and sell hamper packs.

A basket chock-full of goodies is a popular method of moving stock that does not sell well. It is versatile. They can be made to be appropriate for almost every occasion. In our family shop, when I was a kid, we used them a lot to sell. So I am quite experienced in them.

Remember a hamper is a good sale in the shop.

Here are some tips.

) Research hampers that sell near you. Check out the price points, see what they are composed of, see what they look like and how they are put together.

) Now you need a theme.

Consider an individual searching for a hamper in your shop. For example, Mother's Day has recently been. That would have been your theme. What would they want to find in a Mother's Day hamper from your shop? Get imaginative! Check out last year's selling reports for the same time as last year. We have a very good report top-selling report you can use.

) Look through the shop for items you want to move that are not selling well. Select a few that are appropriate. Now you need some articles that do sell. These help move stock that does not sell. Your selling reports can help you here. If there is a community festival, often your suppliers will help with stock to move. They usually have the same problem, too, the desire to move inventory that is moving slow.

You need to select a large item as a visual focal point for your hamper. Now you will need to arrange the smaller things around this big one. Most hampers look like a triangle. The most desirable items have to be seen.

) Value

You need to set a budget. What will your customer spend?

When making your hamper, make sure that if a customer adds up the total items in the hamper pack, it is less than the total price. This is where the slow-moving stock report can help.

Research indicates that customers want simple rather than complex and if it starts to get too complicated that many people tend not to choose, so giving you a no sale rather than a purchase.

Now with this in mind, consider if you make a hamper or pack name.

In stock pricing, you will find this under hamper packs. See the green arrow.

Hamper description

Naming your hamper or pack is a good idea (see red square) as long as you make the name understandable and straightforward. Say you are in office stationery why make a name like "The flying carpet pack". Besides this name telling your customer nothing and so confusing them with something meaningless, it makes it complicated.

Make it simple with something they can identify with, eg "Secondary Student Plan", "Home Office Plan" or "Kindergarten Pack."

Another idea that works very well is to make a "Starter Pack", "Small Pack", "Medium Pack" and a "Large Economy Pack". 

Hamper packs are a great way to upsell. 

They can be used for anything, lotto, pet foods, magazines, services, etc.

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Data mining in retail

Retail is possibly the most competitive industry. It is a cut-throat competitive market and every edge helps. So retailers struggle to meet customer expectations and sustain their business in an increasingly volatile market. This is where data mining can play a significant role in the retail industry by giving retailers a unique perspective to learn about their customers' behaviour and buying patterns from a computer perspective. 

In many cases, there is no choice as there is nothing but a computer that can tell you the answer to some questions, like if I drop this line, how will it affect the rest of the business. It is relatively easy to estimate how much you make from a line, but it is difficult to say what effect will the loss of this service have on the rest of the shop. Another question might be the effect of the introduction of credit card fees on my business, etc.  

To make it work, though, we need powerful computers. We use this one. It is a beast rated in the top 1% of all computers, and it will often run overnight, doing millions and millions of searches. 

Data mining has proved to be an important tool in identifying helpful information collected over time from your computer's large pool of knowledge.

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This is something you will use a lot.

Continuously we get people, e.g. bookkeepers, bankers, etc. asking us for financial figures that are years old. So what people need from their POS Software is to find out what a client or the total clients owed on a nominated date. Say they wanted to know how much your customers owed you on 3/1/2018.

This is often a problem for people with other Point of Sale Systems. They have to keep special backups. Now they have to find the appropriate ones. Then load these backups to get the figures. Once they manage to supply this information as sure as day follows night, they get asked for other figures from other dates. This can be a problem if they have not kept the backups.

Here is a better way for you to do it.

Go to the main menu> Register reports>Customers>Trial Balance.

Now select the date that was, in this case, we want 3/1/2018, so I put this date here.

Now comes out all the details.

If they pick another date for you, no worries put in those dates.

You have saved yourself a lot of work and time.

 

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We have all had shop assistants asking if they can help.  Most customers say they do not like to be disturbed by shop assistants. It's a fact, but is not disturbing them the best thing for the shop? 

If you want something to think about in your shop, have a chew on this study here. This study points that out.

"Shoppers who interact with a sales associate are 43 percent more likely to purchase a product, and their transactions have 81 percent more value, compared to those who don't interact with an associate. In addition, they are 12 percent more likely to revisit the store."

This is true of all shops; see here.

The orange is the increase in sales, notice the department store which is the least technical got the biggest percentage increase.

Let me give you a personal example. I went to a toy shop to buy a kid's present. I was unsure of what to get, so I appreciated it when a shop assistant suggested that I buy a kid's table set. So I bought it on her recommendation.

1) So your staff needs to know their products.

The study also states there are significant problems when customers can't find a shop assistant when they have questions. A negative experience can lead to customers going elsewhere.

2) So you have to make sure that your staff is at hand.

What is clear is that consumers do rely on interaction with your staff to make purchasing decisions. Helping them will lead to a significant increase in sales and repeat purchases.

Try it out now.

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I was reading here about the three problems that concern SMBs in the retail industry now. Two we can help you with to measure directly.

Inflation

 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that inflation which was at its highest level in 13 years, at 3.7%, is now 5.1%, and we all know it is going up. We are looking at the worst inflation here in fifty years.

What you need to know is your business rate!

The reallocation in consumer spending

There can be little doubt now that after two years of COVID, buying habits have changed. People are not travelling as they used to, not going out as before, etc. The tourist that many of my clients depend on is not coming.

So what do we need to see what is working now?

Where we are going, no one knows. But what your POS System can tell you is where you are now and how you got there.

So here is how you can get your figures?

Go to main menu> Sales - Register> Sales Comparison for a given Period.

Now do this in two hits.

First, put in the last 12 months and compare the results to the 12 months before. That will give you a picture of the change in your department sales between the two years. Also, for the total and each department, the inflation rate.

Now go back in and put in three years ago. Now compare that to the last 12 months, which will give you these pre-COVID figures, which will give you a better idea of where you are going.

There is much more in there, but this is a good start for this analysis.

Let me know how you go.

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Zara is a worldwide large fast-fashion retail chain. On their flagship store in New York, look at their shop front. It definitely would attract attention. 

Does anyone want to put something similar on their shop front?

 

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​For many years, the study "For the love or money" has been the best study of Australia's customer loyalty and loyalty programs. The 2022 edition is now released. You need to pay for the study itself, but the executive summary is free and accessible here.

It is worth a read if you are a retailer thinking about a loyalty program. 

About 88% of Australians enrolled in at least one loyalty program. The average is 4.3.

About 46% consider themselves active, which is up on last year. That is a lot of people, about 40% of Australia active.

Have a read. I am confident you will get a few thoughts.

 

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Track staff for all sales transactions.

What is all too common is that a transaction has occurred which appears strange. A something does not appear correct, you want to investigate, but you do not know who did it. Typically it could be the price, the discount, etc. 

With our POS software, you can make it mandatory to put a staff ID on each transaction. This staff ID can be set to remove or reduce options for employees to give discounts to customers. So you can stop many of the queries before they happen.

Plus, once the staff ID is used, you have a data tracking system. You can then track every sales transaction entered into your system to see exactly who did what and when.

Firstly what you need to do is enter a unique staff ID for all staff.

Go into staff maintenance

 

Give every user in your POS Software a unique Staff ID with a password.

- Make sure every person has their own ID.

- Make them use it.

- Do not allow two people to share the same login. You do not want a have a general Staff ID that everyone uses.

This will enable you to monitor, audit and if required you can, then investigate what is happening.

 
 

 

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Retail today is about pursuing information-driven decision making. Working by guesses and feelings puts you at a disadvantage over your competitors. They are working with exact information. Large organisations often display sales graphs on how they are going at their monthly meetings. This is because it is a great way to show information.

In our Pos Software, the graphs about your business are there.

Let me show you an example from a shop where I will use two years to give you a long term trend and a seasonal view.

This is a two-year graph of their toy sales.

As you can see, something was done right in October. Plus, the outlook for this department looks good. You can also see that the sales figures vary greatly month to month.

 

This is a graph of sales of their dry cleaning agency in the shop over the same period.

 

We can all see that something is NOT going well here. The trend is down. Interestingly the monthly swings are much less 

Now you have had a taste for graphs why not try it now in your shop?

Let us use it so lets us start our excursion into the universe of graphs.

Go to register reports > Sales-Register > Dissection Monthly Sales Trend (Graph)

First, make the overall shop sales to show how your shop is travelling. So pick the last 24 months.

Now select individual departments and start looking at them.

) Examine the trends.

) The seasonality of the department.

) Think about why they are happening,

) Discuss these graphs with other people in the shop.

Take your time as each graph has a story.

Also, remember that these graphs are adaptable. You can change many of the details. We will discuss this in a future post.

 

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POS SOFTWARE

How are physical shops doing in Australia?

As official figures include both online and physical shops, so it's hard to say. However, an interesting pattern emerges looking at the major companies' shares that are mainly internet shopping sites in Australia, since the COVID lockdowns stopped about the start of the year.

Here are the share prices of some of these majors since the start of the year.


) eBay: 
Its chart shows over a 20% drop.


) Amazon:
Its chart shows almost a 20% drop.

) Shopify: it's not exactly a website, but it is a wholesaler for people with eCommerce websites.

Its chart shows almost a 70% drop. Now that would hurt badly.

 

) Kogan: 

Almost a 50% drop. That would also hurt badly. 

Clearly, the share market is saying something here about these business models.

This is all happening at a time when worldwide retail sales are booming. In the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, last month was 9.1% up.

Although we have not yet got the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for March, we look at the Mastercard SpendingPluseTM report, which states the following.

This all suggests that as COVID goes down, we buy more at physical shops than online.

Let me know what you think and what is happening in your world.

 

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POS SOFTWARE

Now most of us are sitting on a heap of old (dead) stock. It tends to be pretty bad this time of year because we have a lot of short holidays with specific themes. These require stock that are specific to the event. This stock if unsold will sit uselessly on the shelf, tying up cash unless you do something.

We have in our POS Software an extensive system to help you identify this old stock.

Click here for a training video on the identification of such stock.

As a tip, it's best to work with each department separately.

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POS SOFTWARE

Many of my clients use financial advisors every year. So we have worked with a few financial planners on behalf of our clients. So the information they need is in your POS system for your shop.

Generally, the cost is between $1,500 and $3,500 a year; yet it can be more. For example, here. Look at the case study below and see the green arrow pointing to the first year fee.

 

​That is $13,660 initially and an ongoing fee per year of $8,000. That is a lot of money on a personal $400,000 investment fund.

There are several reasons why the cost is so high. Part of the reason is that it takes almost as much effort to do a plan of $400,000 as it takes to do one of $4,000,000. The items, decisions and complexity are similar, and all that changes is the amounts. This is a typical problem in accounting.

But the other reason is the time taken by the financial planner to put together the plan. You go to them and say you need this. They then request a heap of information. You then hunt for the information, put it together, and they then examine this information. They interrogate you for clarification, then, as sure as day follows night, they ask for more information, so you have to hunt around for some more documentation, supply it, and only then can they start. Most of the time is spent collecting the information, not doing the actual work.

The result is that you pay much more than you should.

I will give you a personal example of how the price can spiral. I paid $1,500 for a financial plan, which I did not want, but I had to get one for taxation reasons. Then, after paying that, I received another bill of $500 to pay the accountant fees used in the plan. Then, after paying the accountant fees, I found that there were two entities involved, so the other had to be done too. Then it was announced that this was a yearly fee. So a one-time fee went from $1,500 to $4,000 yearly, which was stated as a very cheap fee. I felt that there had to be a better way.

I knew that I could save a lot by being organised and doing much of the job myself.

So I looked at a few online tools. I generally found them of limited use, more for amusement than helpful.

Then I found one I liked "projection lab."

It a professional online tool. You enter in the information. Since its only me, only I have access to the information. Then I could then experiment with it and so model my financial future. I know what I put in will not precisely match real life. But it's better than a vague concept in my head. Plus I can ask it questions and decide what I like about the consequences.

It had enough functions for me but I suppose as I learn more, I will use more. for now its fine.

Best of all, my accountant told me that it should be acceptable for the ATO for my purposes. Of course, if I had to go to a financial planner, I would be better organised as most of the information would be on hand for them.

It is free, so give it a go. At least if it does not work for you, you will have a better idea of what you need.

Let me know how it goes for you.

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