Norma Retires from CCS Retail

Norma Retires


After 32 years of service Norma has retired.  All of us at CCS Retail Systems will miss her talents and cheery personality.  She plans to do lots of reading and following her many interest from her home computer system.  She may submit some articles for us from time to time.  Stop back and check this blog occasionally.

All the best from your friends at CCS – Norma. 

5 Golden Rules For The Next 5 Days

Focus on your customer

There will be lots of people walking into your store for the first time. They won’t know or care that you’ve been working long hours, that your feet hurt, or you cheeks hurt from your perma-grin. The only thing they know is its Christmas and they need to buy presents. Give them a GREAT experience that will keep them coming back in the new year.

Focus on your staff

It’s your store and your responsibility to keep your staff motivated and working the way you want them to. Do everything you can to show them how much you appreciate their efforts. Bring them lunch, schedule a chair massage, give them cash bonuses, or send them a thank you note.

Pay attention to your sales statistics

It only takes a few minutes a day, but can pay huge dividends. If an item hasn’t sold – do a “flash” discount to move the merchandise.

Gather customer names and email addresses

One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is not getting customer contact information when it’s busy. Getting their contact information now is how you sell to them later. If the register is busy, have a clipboard ready and ask customers to fill it out while they’re in line. Remember to keep it simple – name and email address and/or phone number is imperative.

Have fun

Make the last couple of days a joyful, fun-filled experience. Remember, the holidays are a time for celebration. Your attitude is contagious. Make sure it’s positive.

Talk to you soon   ~Norma


Keep Your Christmas Cheer Going – It’s Important To Your Business

It’s December 14th. You’ve been working non-stop during this holiday season and you have 10 more days of Christmas ahead of you.

In my previous blog, I gave you some ideas for increasing your sales in these last 10 days. But there is another important aspect I want to cover – attitude.


I guarantee that sometime during  the next 10 days you and your staff are going to get cranky.


~ And tired

~ Possibly preoccupied

~ Or annoyed

~ Even disgruntled


In short, your Christmas spirit will have headed south. That’s understandable. But it’s not okay to let your customers feel that lack of Christmas cheer.


If you don’t feel it, you’ve got to fake it.


Your customers are counting on you to make their Christmas shopping experience fun and festive. They might be tired and grouchy too, so the last thing they need to hear is grumbling from you or your staff.


Think of your time on the sales floor as being an actor. It’s showtime! Put a smile on your face and try for a spring in your step – even if you’re feeling Grinchy in your heart.


Funny thing is – when you start faking all that Christmas cheer, pretty soon you really do start to feel it!


Talk to you soon.  ~Norma


Boost Your Holiday Sales In These Last 10 Days

Here are 10 suggestions to boost your sales during these last days before Christmas. 

Add on to every sale

Pick one or two items with high margins and wide appeal. Then get everyone on your staff to ask every single customer if they would like one. This simple idea has been known to generate thousands of dollars in sales.


Load up on impulse items

Display these items all over the store. Think stocking stuffers.


Sell up

‘Tis the season to be generous, so always show your better quality merchandise.


Keep demonstrating

“Show, show, show until they say no”. (I saw this in action in a gift shop at a resort this past summer. You would be surprised how a pretty innocuous item became a “must have” for many of the shoppers).


Make the shopping experience easier

Use as many signs as possible. Good signage is like having an extra salesperson on the floor.


Make the Holiday easier

Offer gift wrapping. The easier it is for them, the more they will buy.


Get out on the selling floor

Now is the time to be involved first hand, and it can’t be done from the quiet of your office.


Keep an eye on your best sellers

Running out of your most popular items not only costs you sales – it’s poor customer service.


Increase your store hours

Opening an hour earlier or staying open an hour longer gets the “early birds” who want to start before the rush and the “rushing in after work” crowd that can be looking to buy no matter what the price.


Mark down slow moving holiday merchandise NOW

It’s much easier – and more profitable – to sell slow movers at 25% off in December, than at 50% off in January.


Talk to you soon.  ~ Norma

4 Defensive Measures Against Cybercrime

4 Defensive Measures Against Cybercrime

Evidence that criminals are targeting the computer systems of small businesses continues to grow. Many small businesses don’t realize that, regardless of location, they can be the target of cyber-attacks.


With that in mind, below are four tips that small businesses can use to help prevent cyber-attacks.


Know what you are defending

Many small businesses don’t have a clear picture of where their computerized data resides. If this is the case, have a meeting between management and IT staff (or your service provider) to review the following:

·        Data that comes into your location such as orders or customer information.

·        Data that you create and store such as sales history, inventory or employee information.

·        Data that is allowed or required to leave your location such as reports, credit card data or payroll information.


In addition to this “data audit”, you need to perform a “network audit” so that you know what equipment is on your network and what devices are connecting to the internet or phone lines. (e.g. do you have people logging in remotely?).


When you get a clear picture of where the sensitive data is and who has access to it, then you can put rules in place.


Have rules

A written information security policy or plan is essential in today’s climate. It may be required by law – such as health information. If you have a policy in place, it can be a real “positive”.  That is because many larger companies are requiring them from smaller companies that they do business with.


Enforce the rules

Having a security policy is only effective if you enforce it. That includes sanctioning people who violate the policies but also educating your employees about what the rules are. Education should be an ongoing process – not a “once and done” event. Reminders – refreshers – whatever you want to call it, it’s important that you make sure your employees are aware of both the policies and the consequences for violating them.


Start with stronger passwords

This sounds like a very low tech tip but it has high rewards. And if you’re running CounterPoint software, you’re already ahead of the game. You already know that CounterPoint SQL requires strong passwords. But don’t stop there. Make sure everyone knows to use strong passwords on all of their devices (smart phones, tablets, anything that can access your system). Also change default passwords on routers and other hardware that requires password use.


If you follow these four tips consistently, you may not prevent everything but you will prevent the great majority of cyber-attacks aimed at small businesses.


Talk to you soon.  ~Norma                                                  (Excerpted from a Tech Brief by ESET)

42 Days Until Christmas – Don’t Let The Big Box Stores Beat You Out

How do you compete with the big box stores? What do you do?  Do what you do best.


It’s still a week until Thanksgiving and already stores have had their Christmas merchandise displayed for a month. We may not like it, but the big box stores are driving the start of the season.


But you can still compete by doing what you do best.


Personalize the shopping experience for your customers. One idea that has proven successful for a number of store owners is creating a Holiday Gift Guide to email your customers. Make it simple – VERY simple. This isn’t the time for a big complex catalog. Leave that to the big box stores. This is what we suggest for a more personal touch:

Of course, if you’re using CounterPoint Retail Software and “Customer Connect”, you’re way ahead of the game, because a lot of these steps are already built into the software.


Think about 3 to 5 gift-giving categories that fit your merchandise

For example: Gifts for Him, Gifts for Her, Gifts for the Beginner, Gifts for the Expert, Gifts for Dogs, Gifts for Cats…. And don’t forget Stocking Stuffer gifts – This category will make up in volume sold even if the prices are lower.


Pick 4 to 6 of your favorite gift items in each category

These could be items you have a lot of, items you’re getting great margins on, bestsellers, or just items you love. Remember – we’re keeping this simple, so no more than a half-dozen items. (Of course you can always add a note like "come in and see more of the delightful items we’ve picked for you".

Create a Word document with a page for each category (Not necessary if you have Customer Connect)

Add a picture of each item and a little bit of copy telling why it’s a great gift. Notice that I didn’t say "what it is" but “why it’s great”. (Of course if it’s a cherry pitter, you might want to say "this cherry pitter makes a great gift for….or because….".

Ask your vendors if they have professional shots of the items you’re featuring. They’ll most likely be thrilled by the free advertising. If you can’t get shots from your vendor, then take a picture with a camera or with your cell phone. You don’t have to strive for perfection here.


Include some kind of call to action

Prominently display your store name, location, phone number, an email address and a message like "Come shop with us today" on every page. If you have an eCommerce website, include the link.

Add a cover sheet, a table of contents, and a short letter from you (Customer Connect again!)

The letter is extremely important because this is an invitation to visit and shop with you.

Email your Holiday Gift Guide to your customers

If you have a Facebook page, post it there, or tweet it and put it on your Website. You can also include copies in the store for your shoppers.




Turn your Word document into a .pdf file (What can I say – not necessary with Customer Connect)


Google "pdf creator" and you’ll find many free programs that you can use.


And next year you can have CounterPoint  and Customer Connect installed! Believe me, it’s money well spent.

Talk to you soon. ~Norma

How To Compete With Big Retailers for Holiday Dollars

Rising gas prices and a still-shaky economy aren’t dampening big retailers’ expectations for the holidays. According to a survey of 14 major U.S. retailers, 75 percent expect an increase in sales compared to last year.

Big Retailers’ Holiday Plan

Here’s a look at what big retailers have planned for the holidays.

Hiring: Big retailers are putting their money where their mouths are, with 57 percent planning to hire the same number of seasonal workers as last year, and 36 planning to hire more (a big jump from last year’s 10 percent).

Early start: Despite economic turbulence, retailers have “figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment.” One way they’re doing this is by starting holiday sales and promotions earlier. While 58 percent plan to wait until November to start holiday promotions, 42 percent will start in October. This will allow them to operate lean—instead of overstocking, they’ll be able to see what products sell well in October and reorder in time for the November rush.

E-commerce: E-commerce is expected to be strong. Last year’s holiday season, which boasted 10 days that each had over $1 billion in online sales, has prompted retailers and e-tailers to fine-tune their e-commerce strategies all year long. As a result, just 12 percent of seasonal hires will be in distribution centers, compared to 74 percent who will be in physical stores.

Pricing: Retailers with brick-and-mortar locations are feeling more confident, too. Compared to last year, a smaller percentage of retail stores (18 percent) say they feel pressure to match the prices offered by online-only stores. And half of all retailers say they will cut back on discounts and sales compared with last year.

The optimistic outlook extends beyond holiday 2012. Some 43 percent of retailers plan to add more permanent workers and fewer seasonal workers this year, showing they expect strong sales to continue into 2013.

Small Business Holiday Planning Tips

How can your small business compete with the big-box ramp-up? Here are some ideas:

Get an early start: You, too, can benefit from soft launching holiday promotions early. Consider targeting customers you think will be most receptive, or promoting certain products.

Consider offering layaway: Layaway plans have been making a comeback at big retailers, and are a great way to garner what is essentially “pre-sales” so you can predict your cash flow with more confidence.

Discount with care: Consumers are still price-conscious, but it’s tough to compete with big companies on price alone. Instead, see where you can offer extra value that makes your products worth a premium price.

Hire now: A shortage of qualified workers isn’t forecast, but with big retailers hiring permanent employees, competition will be stiffer than in years past. If you think you’ll need extra hands on board, start recruiting now for best results.

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

Hurricane Sandy – A Tragedy And A Wake Up Call

You can take precautions to minimize the effects on your business and your life

I received an email today from Bob Negen of Whizbang Training. It’s a very worthwhile "read". So here it is (slightly edited) with a brief note at the end about one of our customers..

Every single store, every single business, every single person is vulnerable to disasters of all kinds. I’m sure many folks are reeling from the devastation caused by Sandy this week – dazed and confused that it happened to them.

You can’t always keep bad stuff from happening. But you can take precautions to minimize the effects on your business and your life.

  1. Write an emergency procedure for your staff. What should be done first, second, third, in case of a fire? Or a power outage? Or earthquake? Or tornado? Or hurricane? Or if the store is robbed? If you don’t know what you should do, call your fire department or police department. They can help you. 

    Having these procedures in place can save lives, prevent injuries, and minimize damage to your business.

  2. Double check your insurance policy. Make sure you have enough coverage for your entire store, including all your merchandise, fixtures, equipment, supplies, building, etc. Call your insurance agent if you’re not sure.

    Ask if you’re covered for debris removal as well as replacement costs. Find out if you’ve got loss of business coverage. Talk to your agent about your deductibles for each type of disaster. We’ve had too many retailers tell us the insurance coverage they had was not sufficient to cover all the ancillary costs associated with their disaster.

    Although it may be tempting, this is no place to cut corners.

  3. Take a "one shot wonder" video or digital pictures of your store. You will not remember everything you had until you need to claim it later… and it’s gone! Make a spreadsheet listing all the big items you own like furniture, fixtures, artwork, computers, or other office machinery and include make, model and serial numbers where possible.

    After a major disaster it is difficult to think clearly – or even at all. Make it easy on yourself by planning ahead.

  4. Do backups for all of your data. Imagine the crippling effect it would have on your business (and your life) if your lost all the information in your computers. Your customer lists, your sales history, your inventory data, and your financial records… not to mention all the seemingly small stuff you’d have to re-do from scratch like merchandise signs, employee manuals, forms, checklists, brochures, and other marketing pieces. 

    Many businesses never recover from this kind of loss. Although you may not guess it, re-creating your data is much harder than re-building a store or re-buying merchandise. Sometimes it’s plain impossible.

Mother Nature’s fury is unpredictable so it’s important to be prepared before disaster strikes. Even though you don’t want to think about it… it could happen to you. 

Norma Note: A few years ago, one of our customer’s business burned to the ground – building, merchandise, accounting data – anything and everything needed to run their business. That was the bad news. The good news was that they were up and running within two weeks in a rental location.

Why? They did complete backups nightly. Most importantly, management had a policy of removing the backups from the store. Different personnel took the backups home with them on a rotating schedule. The whole city would have had to burn down for them to lose everything.   ~Norma

P1530 – Newest Entry In NCR’s Line Of Innovative Point Of Sale Terminals

NCR P1530 – New Compact Touchscreen Terminal

From compact workstations with an easy-to-use touchscreen interface to powerful back office servers, NCR meets the demands of specialty retailers by delivering the industry’s most comprehensive technology solutions. NCR point-of-sale (POS) terminals, customer displays, kiosks, payment terminals and peripherals are designed to maximize simplicity and speed in every part of your store’s operation.

The NCR P1530 – introduced this month – is the newest product within NCR’s mainstream line of POS terminals for the specialty retail industry. The highlights of its open platform include a highly-efficient, dual-core Intel Atom processor for greater performance, a bright 1024×768 LED color main display with a resistive touchscreen, lower power consumption and a reliable, stylish design. The mainstream POS terminal has been engineered and manufactured to provide sustainability, non-stop reliability, maximum uptime and a low total cost of ownership.

Built specifically for retailers, Radiant Hardware is constructed to withstand long hours of constant use, spills, dirt, grease and other conditions common to retail environments. Radiant Hardware also minimizes costly and disruptive downtime. Day in and day out, Radiant Hardware increases sales and customer satisfaction while keeping your costs down.

For more than 18 years, NCR has provided innovative hardware solutions for the entertainment, hospitality, petroleum and convenience store, and retail industries. These industries represent the harshest environments for hardware and POS equipment technology. Systems used in these industries must withstand the challenges of high transaction volume, continuous operation, and contaminants.

NCR’s approach to hardware and POS equipment is simple: focused innovation for "Non-Stop Sales Reliability" in the harshest retail environments.

Ten years ago, NCR introduced solid-state touch screen POS terminals to the petroleum and convenience store industry and today leads the entertainment, hospitality, petroleum and convenience store and retail markets in deployment of solid-state touch screen POS equipment systems. And, we continue to drive Non-Stop Sales Reliability with key innovations, including:

  • ·   Passive cooling
  • ·   CableLock™ system
  • ·   Solid-state electronics
  • ·   Embedded operating systems
  • ·   Efficient return to service with field replaceable parts 

Call us for pricing. 

Talk to you soon  ~Norma

Four Old School Business Rules

Four Old School Business Rules


I saw this thought provoking article – read it – and wondered if it still applies today. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Some “truisms” never go out of style. Although this was written from a manufacturer/distributor viewpoint, read on and see if you don’t think there are lessons here that apply to retail as well…

“My father quit school after the fourth grade—not uncommon in the old days. Despite this, he built a successful jewelry manufacturing business with his brother and a good life for himself and his family.

His experience taught me a lot about overcoming entrepreneurial obstacles and how to set myself up for success. Here are four ‘Dad-isms’ that contain tried-and-true advice about business and overcoming adversity that I still use today.

1. Follow the 2-2-2 rule. The key to earnings is to plant in your mind the fact that opportunities to make money are everywhere. Every day do two things that will pay off in the next two weeks, two things that will bear fruit within two months, and two things that could yield benefits in two years.

This rule works because it sets up a success cycle. Some of the ideas you plant will germinate and some won’t, but you will be successful because you’ve planted so many ideas, written so many queries, called so many prospects and taken so many actions both for near-term success and success down the road.

2. Always keep five opportunities for business on your desk. It sounds impossible, but the idea took root in my subconscious, and it has helped me move forward. Here’s an example from my desk:

·  I usually have several speeches and seminars on my calendar [to attend].

·  I write articles…  [whether published or not].

·  I teach.

·  I keep [my] Marketing Group humming along.

·   My favorite: At the moment I’m thinking of creating a YouTube show for small-business owners.

3. Nothing happens until somebody sells something and money changes hands. Don’t fall in love with your product, service or client too early. Always let customers tell you its value first. If Dad’s brother designed a pin with a dog on it that he loved, he’d want to manufacture thousands of them right away. But my father would ask the buyers for orders first. They were his target audience and if they didn’t order, no dog pins were ever made.

4. Find experts to help you. Share your ideas with people who know more than you do, ask for advice on solving your dilemmas and show them your products.

If you pay for the expertise, it will be well worth it. (Generally, free advice is worth what it costs.) As tight-fisted as my dad could be, he always hired the best accountants, lawyers, marketing people and he sought the best advice on whatever he was doing.

My daily work routine may look different than my dad’s did, but he and I have a lot in common, and I still follow his four rules.”


Talk to you soon ~Norma