Be Frugal and be Wise With Good POS Software

Excerpts from Jayne O’Donnell and Sandra Block, USA TODAY

To survive in today’s economy, retailers are battling to convince these new, mindful spenders that their products deliver long-term value, not just empty promises. Speaking before NRF’s annual conference this month, Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte Research’s chief economist for consumer business, said the spending slowdown was predictable. After a spending boom like the one that occurred after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said, "You always see a return to simplicity." To appeal to today’s customers, retailers need to convince them that their brand will make life easier or better. "We need newness, freshness and unique products that will get people interested in buying again. To compete in this environment, retailers need to go back to their roots, says Janet Hoffman, Accenture’s global retail managing partner. That means "knowing their customers and coming up with a unique offer or product, price or, in some cases, service," she says. In store POS software and merchandising products can help achieve this.

Use your marketing dollars to promote your being a local independent retailer. A survey of independent retailers in a wide range of categories found that sales fell an average of 5% in December, vs. a decline of 9.8% for retail sales overall, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit research organization. Retailers in cities that sponsored "Buy Independent/Local" campaigns reported an average decline of 3.2%. Consumers who patronize local businesses instead of big-box stores are "realizing that cheapness is not the same as value," says Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance. They need to put their marketing support behind the products consumers really want, he says, and not focus on creating "artificial demand." " Gustavsen says people are looking for a "valid reason to buy something." "If the reason is authentic, even if it’s emotional, that’s as good a reason as any," he says. "What’s out is buying just to be buying. What’s also out is stocking inventory to just fill shelves. Use your POS software to evaluate your best selling items and best performing vendors