Using websites and apps can help level the playing field between independent retailers and the multiples. Two top retailers tell Alex Yau how they integrate these tools into their store management
Ken Singh, Mill Hill Stores, Pontefract
Ken uses apps and websites to get the best out of his business behind the scenes. From weekly Booker orders to store security, technology helps relieve any unnecessary stress.
My shoppers range from office workers who read the paper on their morning commute to the elderly who enjoy magazines over tea, so newspapers and magazines are important to my morning trade. The i-Menzies app is useful on a Monday morning because I can check all my weekly deliveries. If there’s an issue, I can immediately call Menzies and prevent the likelihood of any lost sales.
My Booker delivery comes on a Wednesday and it’s crucial I use the Booker website on a Tuesday. This isn’t just to order products, but also to see if Booker is out of stock of anything. I can decide which products I will get instead or whether to shop around for them at other wholesalers. As it’s only myself and my wife who run the store being able to make these checks online means not beings short staffed during busy periods.
Today is delivery day and by using the new PayPoint One EPOS Pro mobile app, which collects real-time data from my till, I can now do another last-minute check to see if I’m running low on any items. I’ll then call Booker and ask if I can make any last-minute additions to my online order before the lorry gets sent out.
Having got our big delivery out of the way, Thursday is a quieter day when I can spend time analysing how the store is performing. As well as looking at our sales data category by category to find opportunities, this also allows me to check for any oddities which indicate something has been stolen. I use this information to place these products somewhere in the store where I can keep a closer eye on them.
I work with Collect Plus and store customers’ online deliveries outside the store – it’s a good footfall driver. However, each box does have a time limit and I get an email at the end of every week telling me to send packages back to the sender if a customer hasn’t picked it up within seven days. This prevents congestion and increases the likelihood of shoppers coming into the store.
I never open on a Sunday. My drinks fridge is connected to a smart meter and I can use a mobile app to alter the temperature on a Saturday evening and throughout Sunday. There’s no need to have the fridge at full power when there are no customers. Doing this has helped me save £200 per month on electricity bills. I’ve also got the security cameras hooked up to my smartphone, which allows me to monitor the store at home. It sends me alerts should a break in happen.
Mandeep Singh, Premier Singh’s, Sheffield
Mandeep Singh focuses more on promoting his store through social media as a way to increase sales and awareness.
We get a big delivery from Booker on a Monday and this will include stock that’s part of their weekly promotions. I manage five Premier stores across Sheffield and WhatsApp comes in useful because I can send the deals in one message to all my store managers and it allows my staff to determine how much stock is needed alongside what needs to be done with merchandising throughout the week. This process used to take me several hours, but I can do it all in just over an hour.
It might not be an app or website but Adobe InDesign is invaluable. We promote products with posters designed by ourselves. Our graphic designer uses InDesign and it helps the store stand out with its own personality – and they don’t look like they’ve been created by an amateur. I speak to the designer regularly throughout the week, but Tuesdays are normally best because we’ve organised the deliveries by then which take up a lot of time, and we’ll know what to advertise on the posters afterwards.
We start promoting the posters on Facebook, which is a really important way of increasing sales for us. We do this throughout the day, every day of the week and it works. For example, we once advertised a promotion for an eight-pack of Bud Light at £5. We sold 180 cases within 10 days of the promotion going online. Taking the time to invest in your own branding and social media certainly pays off.
If you’re a multi-site retailer, managing the finances of various stores can be quite time consuming. Internet banking has helped make this aspect of the business more efficient. We can check the cash flow of each store by either going online or using a mobile app. It saves each store manager having to go through the slow process of calling or going to the bank, which used to take up at least a couple hours in the day. It also means we save money on having to pay an additional staff member to cover the store.
The weekends allow us to prepare for the next business week. As well as reviewing what has been working well throughout the last few days with Facebook and WhatsApp, we use apps like i-Menzies to make sure our weekly newspaper and magazines delivery is still scheduled and whether we’ll have the full stock coming to each shop.
Our Booker delivery needs to go as smoothly as possible on Monday to minimise any disruption throughout the week. We normally send our delivery orders at the weekend to Booker and we get an email shortly after telling us what’s missing or if there’ll be any late deliveries. If one delivery doesn’t go well, this can have a knock-on effect all week.
Come back tomorrow for an update of what's going on in the world of websites and apps