Gift and card shop owners need to be careful when considering a computer system for their business. While some computer companies claim to have software suited to gift and card shops, few actually do.

Just as you would not go to a general practitioner for specialist medical advice, gift and card shop owners ought to be wary of buying from a general computer business.

While general software programs may handle general aspects of the business, they will most likely not link to card companies and other industry suppliers, provide industry specific reporting or handle other aspects unique to your business.

The card company link is important since close to 20 card companies in Australia now provide electronic invoices and receive returns data electronically – saving considerable time in-store. Australian card companies have agreed on common card categories – making it easier for specialist card and gift shop software to report on card sales where more than one supplier is involved.

Another area where specialist gift shop software will help is with the tracking of boxes. For example – imagine a computer system which tells you where the box for an item you have just sold is located. No more searching drawers or shelves in the back room. A specialist gift shop software package will tell you where the box is instantly and save your time for customer service.

Specialist gift shop point of sale software can do more than track boxes or track your sales. It can drive the business on many fronts – increasing sales, reducing costs and enhancing the sale value of the business.

Good software will also help you operate in your individual way – many gift shop owners have expressed that they do not want to become a clone business since if they wanted that they would have bought a McDonalds franchise.

Gift shop owners ought to consider specialist gift shop facilities when considering the best IT solution for their business. For example, consider these facilities:

  • Rewarding Customers. With the fuel and other loyalty programs around today it is important for a gift shop to have a loyalty offer. The best loyalty offers are those which bring people back to your shop to accrue rewards which can then be spent in store. Good gift shop software will track customer purchases and allow you to build a reward system which builds your business.
  • Special orders. Imaging having a system that sends your customers a text message advising them when a specially ordered item has arrived. This saves you time and ensures the customer is reminded to collect the item.
  • Basket analysis. Knowing what customers are buying with what helps you analyse your business beyond raw sales success. For example, if you sell a range of glassware it may be that one item, not the top seller, is sold more often with other items and thereby is more ‘efficient’ for the business. While strong single sales are good, sales with multiple items are more valuable for a gift shop as it boosts the margin per sale. Good basket analysis tools can be gold in the hands of a good business operator.
  • Fast Seller Tracking. It is difficult to watch every item in the shop. Fast Seller tools do this for you by alerting retailers if an item is moving faster than in the past or faster than other items in the category. Having this information allows the business to respond and use this traffic to build other sales.
  • Employee sales tracking. Knowing who sold what and when allows the business to pay incentives for success. Major retailers use commissions very effectively to get employees from behind the counter and into the body of the shop guiding customers to purchase.
  • Analysing sales. Unlike other retailers, gift shops are individual businesses, often carrying items that are one-off. Sales therefore need to be coded so that the owner can track the department, category and supplier equally with the individual items. This enables the retailer to buy within the successful sales categories if not buying the exact same item. Being armed with this information at trade shows helps foster better buying.
  • Ratios. Good business starts with good measurement and good measurement is all about ratios – return on floor space, return on investment and stock turn. While a gift shop may look attractive and have friendly staff, if the stock is not turning the business will fail.

Good gift shop software can make or break any business. For this reason, gift and card shop owners need to ensure that the software they choose is suited to their business. Settling for a general software program may cost less in the short term but the saving may be false if it does not help the business grow.

Remember, Caveat emptor.

Mark Fletcher is the owner of Tower Systems.