Setting up shop: A guide on how to set up a retail outlet

By Anthony Caruana

Setting up a retail store is not easy. Fortunately, you can learn from those that have gone before.

When you set up a new retail outlet there are a number of things you'll need - phone lines, fax, EFTPOS, broadband and point-of-sale systems not to mention finance systems and other applications.

Retail today means having a multi-channel strategy that might combine a traditional bricks-and-mortar store with online and phone ordering. That means getting all your communications and technical ducks in a row.

Phone lines

Depending on the nature of your business, you'll need to decide how many incoming and outgoing phone lines you'll need. If you're planning to take phone orders then having more than one line will be important so you don't miss potential sales.

Running a multi-line phone system used to be expensive and complex but it has simplified over the years. A multi-line system does away with the need to have a separate handset for each phone, which will make handling multiple callers easier.

Ask your provider about phone number portability. When you're starting out, chances are that you're watching costs closely. That means you might outgrow your first shop in a short time. Check that the phone numbers you've been allocated can follow you to a new location so that moving your store doesn't mean getting new numbers.

It may also be worth considering toll-free numbers to make it easier for customers to call you.

Fax

Although email has completely transformed business communications, the fax machine continues to survive.

You have a couple of options when it comes to faxing. You can purchase a fax machine or multi-function device, or use an online fax service.

A multi-function device that combines faxing with printing, scanning and copying is handy - the one device will look after several different needs. Remember that for faxing, you'll need to provision a phone service.

Alternatively, you can look at online fax services that provide your customers with a number they can send faxes to. Online fax services let people send faxes that are then directed to your email. As well as saving on paper, this reduces clutter and makes saving documents easier. The prices for these services vary depending on how many faxes you expect to send and receive. Be sure to check the service you choose has adequate encryption and security measures in place.

EFTPOS

Being able to receive payments electronically is practically mandatory for retailers. All of the major banks offer EFTPOS solutions for businesses. The costs are generally comprised of a monthly subscription, a fee for the terminal and transaction charges.

When you're setting up your business bank accounts look into EFTPOS options, as there may be some benefit to setting it all up at the same time. Also, while you may find it cheaper to have your accounts with one bank and to procure your EFTPOS elsewhere, there may be a delay in settling the transactions and having the sales transferred into your account. Having everything set up through the one bank will potentially deliver money into your account faster.

EFTPOS terminals come in many different configurations. Amongst the main features you'll need to consider are:

Wired vs. wireless - a wireless EFTPOS terminal will allow you to go to your customer to complete a sale instead of having you locked behind a counter.

payWave - Also known as PayPass and Express Pay, payWave uses Near Field Communication. This is embedded in many new EFT and credit cards so that customers simply tap a terminal to make a payment rather than swipe or insert a card. This makes the checkout process simpler and faster.

Broadband

A reliable, fast internet connection is essential for businesses today. If you're starting out, chances are that you'll be using cloud-based systems for many essential business functions such as accounts, email, stock control and customer-relationship management.

Choosing the right internet solution for your business is like a three-way tug of war. You need to balance cost, speed and capacity.

Start by looking at price so that you can ensure you stay within budget and capacity - that's the number of gigabytes (GB) you can download each month. If you plan to use your internet connection heavily then look at plans that offer over 100 GB of data. While that sounds like a lot, it's important to ensure that you don't have your service slowed down or suffer from excess usage charges in order to keep essential business applications running.

If the budget is tight, start with a lower capacity, less expensive plan but make sure that you can upgrade to faster connection without penalty and that any upgrade can take place quickly and not have to wait for a new billing cycle to start - you don't want to be kept waiting if you need an upgrade.

Speed is a little tricker and will be dictated by a number of factors. If you're in an NBN coverage area then that will provide for connections at a particular performance level. If ADSL is your only option then speed will be influenced by your proximity to a telephone exchange among other things.

Business systems

Your business needs a number of applications in order to run effectively. For example, you'll need a point-of-sale system - in the old days this was called a cash register - as well as accounting and stock-control systems. All of these can be run either on your own computers or over the cloud.

Point of Sale

If you're considering a cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) then there are several cloud-based systems to consider at a range of price levels. The handy thing about these is that you can run them on a tablet so you can get out from behind the counter and interact with your customers.

Some of the options here are the locally developed Kounta. It's focused on allowing non-technical people, or ordinary businesspeople, to create and customise their own POS terminals using iPads, iPhones and other computers. It integrates with other services including MYOB, Saasu and Xero for accounts, PayPal for payments and others.

Vend runs on almost any computer - all it needs is an internet connection. This versatility means that it can work in almost any situation from occasional market stall to trade show through to a bricks-and-mortar store.

Accounts

Your accounts are a critical part of your business. Amongst the leaders are a couple of well-known players in MYOB and QuickBooks. Both deliver key features such as invoicing, purchasing, bank feeds - so that you don’t have to manually enter every single transaction - and reports to make creating a BAS and tracking business activity easy.

Among the more recent entrants to the market are Xero and Saasu. These don't come from the traditional accountant-based applications but are designed for business users first and foremost. The focus is on business information. For example, when you launch the software in your web browser, you get instant views of cashflow, account balances, outstanding invoices, pending payments and other information you need for running a business.

There's no denying it can take a bit of work to get your outlet up and running. But get the right equipment in place from the outset and you're well on your way to retail success.

To learn more about Optus' office phone and broadband plans, visit Optus Business or call 1300 106 481.

 

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