Loss leaders in retail are items or merchandise that are offered either at a significant discount, at minimum profit margin, or sometimes even below cost to entice shoppers to make a purchase.
This pricing strategy has been used by many big box retailers and discount stores to encourage impulse buys and has been met with great success.
Simply put, the intention behind this marketing tactic is to bring shoppers in-store and once they’re there, encourage purchases of higher margin items to make up for the profit lost on loss leaders.
Examples of Loss Leader Pricing
You have probably encountered loss leader pricing more often than you would think while shopping. Can you think of a sale that seemed too good to be true? Your local grocery store may have been selling eggs at a steep discount or your favorite clothing brand may have sent you an email advertising their sweaters at a ridiculously low price point.
These deals may have you thinking “there’s no way that the retailer is making any money on these items”. And in most cases, you’re right! Let’s take a look at some common examples of loss leader pricing in retail.
1) Grocery Store Staples
Grocery store staples such as milk, meat, and eggs work really well as loss leaders. Because they are regularly bought commodities, discounts and low prices are sure to attract shoppers. These items are strategically placed at the back of the grocery store to promote impulse purchases. Because shoppers have to walk to the very back of the store to purchase these staple goods, it is likely that they will be enticed to purchase other items as well.
Printers are also commonly used as loss leaders to encourage shoppers to purchase complementary items like ink and printer paper. While printers are often sold at or below cost, the price of ink is extremely high. Loss leader pricing is used to get shoppers to purchase the printer, and create the demand for ink which again, is relatively expensive.
3) Gaming Consoles
While the price of gaming consoles may seem high, they are actually sold at or below cost. For example, Microsoft Xbox gaming consoles are strategically sold below cost to encourage consumers to buy higher margin video games.
The Pros and Cons of Loss Leaders
1) Sell Slow Moving Inventory
If you have a slow moving or overstocked inventory item, choosing to price it as a loss leader can help you move it faster. This will result in more shelf space, less inventory, and an increase in cash flow.
2) Promote Complementary Items
Strategically choosing your loss leaders can help you increase sales of other items in your store. For example, let’s say you’re looking to increase the sale of a certain brand of women’s razor blades. In this case, you would price the associated razor as a loss leader. Once consumers buy the razor that complements those razor blades, they’ll have to come back to purchase the blades as well (which you can choose to sell at a higher margin).
1) May Hurt Your Brand Perception
Drastically discounting items can affect how consumers view your brand. Many shoppers associate lower prices with poor product quality. And overusing loss leader pricing can give consumers the wrong perception of your retail store. Remember people want high quality merchandise at good price points, not garbage.
2) You can Lose Money
There is risk associated with loss leader pricing – which is why you must closely monitor sales of complementary products and of the loss leaders themselves. There is a chance that customers will only purchase the loss leader itself in high quantities. Meaning lower or no sales of complementary, high margin items which results in less profit for your store overall.
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Inventory SKUs (pronounced “skew”) stand for Stock Keeping Units and are used by retailers to both identify inventory and keep track of inventory movement or changes in product stock levels over time.
It is basically a unique combination of numbers and letters assigned to each product in a retail store. As a retail owner, inventory SKUs give all of your products a single type of code to help you keep track of certain details for a specific product including price, product information (colour, size, features, etc.), quantity, and manufacturer. SKUs are often associated with vendors or supplier barcodes but can they can also be converted into scannable barcodes and printed on to product labels.
A retail POS system is the software that holds all of this inventory information so that you can track what you’re buying, how much stock you’re carrying and whether stock movement matches what you’ve sold. Whenever you’re looking for a new retail POS system make sure to check if the software will allow you to use your existing SKUs and also generate consecutive SKUs for new products. This is particularly important if you integrate to other non-POS systems (e.g. accounting systems) based on your SKU names.
SKUs vs GTINs
SKUs should not be mistaken for Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) or Universal Product Codes (or UPCs). SKUs are internal codes used for products that are unique to a retail business. On the other hand, GTINs or UPCs are the same for a product – no matter who/what store sells it.
How Are SKUs Made?
Each retail store has a unique and specific process in place for choosing SKUs. This method is usually easy to understand and follow for retail staff.
POS systems can help you create SKU codes based on a format that works for your business. For example, your SKU code can have a specific prefix or suffix together with a number that increases consecutively. For example, a SKU for your business might be FD-2340-GR. Others use shortcodes within their SKUs as an easy hint to staff so they don’t need to memorize numbers.
How Are SKUs Used?
Inventory management: Inventory/stock-takes should be done at regular intervals in retail; both for tax purposes and to ensure accurate inventory levels.
When each product is assigned a unique SKU, inventory availability is easier to determine throughout the year. And when it comes time for a stock-take, SKUs make it easier to reconcile stock levels – so that actual inventory levels match inventory counts in your retail POS or inventory management system.
Making use of SKUs can help store owners identify reorder points and a minimum threshold – so when inventory hits a certain level, they are made aware that a new purchase order needs to be placed.
These internal codes also help you identify the products that move faster. Meaning you only have to re-order when you really need to – resulting in reduced inventory holding costs.
Better Customer Experience
Have you ever walked into a store and seen a pair of shoes or a t-shirt that you liked – but it turned out that you needed a different size? In this case, retail employees usually scan the item’s barcode or label to see if they have your size in stock, either in the back stockroom or at a different location.
This instance explains how SKUs are used within a retail system to improve customer experience. When products share a traceable type of code, you and your staff can more easily identify stock levels quickly so that more time is available to actually assist customers.
Easier To Identify Profitable Products
SKUs are generally the easiest way for retailers to filter for specific and detailed product reporting – e.g. identifying bestsellers and underperforming products by their SKU. When you combine this with merchandising and product categories or tags, business owners can more easily see the effectiveness of their store’s product mix or product lines.
Identify Inventory Shrinkage
Inventory shrinkage in retail can be defined as the difference that exists between the inventory quantity in a retailer’s POS system and the actual inventory in that store. In other words, it consists of the stock/product/inventory that goes missing due to human error, theft, damage, miscounting, etc.
Inventory management is key to minimizing shrinkage in retail. As stated in an inventory shrinkage article published by Forbes, “Without an active inventory process, you do not realize your losses until it is too late.”
And properly designed and implemented inventory SKUs are central to any good retail management system. They are key to modern retail operations since they are necessary to share and track inventory information between different locations, systems, and sales channels.
Did you find this article helpful? We will be posting more inventory management tips in the upcoming weeks.
Your business category on your Google My Business listing is used to describe the type of business you operate (pet store, hardware store, grocery store etc.).
It’s important to be specific when choosing your business category -the category you choose determines how local shoppers find you!
For example, if your primary category is “pet supply store”, your business will show up on Google when shoppers search for “pets”,”pet food”, or “pet supplies” in the area.
Important Things to Note
You can only select 1 primary category for your GMB listing.This is the category that people see on your business listing. It is also the most important – Google prioritizes your primary category in it’s search algorithm.
You can select up to 9 additional categories (other than your primary category) to describe your business. Focus on selecting the most relevant and specific categories for your business.
You can’t create your own category. It is best to choose a more general category if you cannot find the one that you had in mind.
Google can detect category information about your retail business from across the internet (including your own website and other mentions from across the web).
Which can be broken down into the following points:
1) Be as specific as possible when choosing a primary category. The more specific you are when choosing your primary category, the less local stores/businesses you will be competing against. For example, if you sell gift baskets, choose “gift basket store” instead of “gift store”.
2) Your primary category and additional categories should describe your retail business as a whole. Don’t add additional categories in an attempt to list all of your products, amenities, and services. For example, if you run a furniture business that also includes a pastry shop, avoid adding the category “pastry shop”. Instead, the pastry shop owner should claim their own listing and choose “pastry shop” as their primary category. Google suggests that you select categories that complete this statement: “This business IS a” rather than “this business HAS a”.
3) Try minimizing the amount of additional categories that you add. Although you may be tempted to select as many categories as possible, it’s important not to. Doing so will negatively impact your store’s local ranking. Only choose categories that directly apply to your business!
Note: Skip adding categories that seem redundant. Again, you should focus on adding the categories that are most specific to your business. Google will do the rest of the work! For example, if you choose the category “children’s furniture store”, Google will implicitly add more general categories like “furniture store” and “children’s store”.
For more information, on how to choose a business category, click here.
Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA) significantly increase retail store sales by turning nearby shoppers who are searching online into in-store customers.
River Island, Best Buy, and Williams-Sonoma Inc. are examples of retailers who have successfully leveraged Google LIA together with their POS systems to grow foot traffic and sales. Now, smaller retailers have the chance to do the same with a minimal budget.
Keep reading to find out how you too, can take advantage of this opportunity to increase your retail sales.
Local and Mobile Searches Lead to In-Store Purchases
There are two factors that make Google LIAs so effective:
For retailers, this means that there is a lot to be gained by being easily found online. The challenge then becomes figuring out how to give target shoppers the answers they are looking for at the exact moment that they are searching.
This is where Google Local Inventory Ads come in.
Google LIAs helps store owners succeed in these micro-moments – by capturing shopper intent and most importantly, the sale.
What are Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA)?
Local Inventory Ads showcase product and store information to nearby shoppers who are searching on Google. They are different from traditional Google ads as they are designed to drive shoppers to your physical store. While users also have the option of purchasing online (if you have an e-commerce store), LIAs are meant to attract nearby users and only show when a shopper is within a certain range of your store.
When shoppers click on an ad, they are taken to the local storefront page which can be either a Google-powered product listing or your own e-commerce site. Here, they can view other in-stock merchandise as well as important store information such as business hours, directions, current promotions, and more.
Below is an example.
When I search for “laundry detergent near me”, Local Inventory Ads appear next to the search results. Both Canadian Tire and the Home Depot are currently running LIA campaigns for laundry detergent (pointed out in red below).
I know that at Canadian Tire and the Home Depot, the items are definitely in stock because of the “in store” label.
How do Local Inventory Ads Work?
Let’s take a look at the example below.
Canadian Tire is looking to increase foot traffic to their physical stores. So they’ve purchased Local Inventory Ads hoping to target local shoppers like me. They’ve set up a Google Shopping campaign that showcases ads to shoppers within a 45 km radius.
As you can see above, I’ve made a search on my mobile phone for a ceramic stove top-cleaner. Like most people (87% of shoppers), I frequently turn to a search engine as a resource for product information.
By looking at the search results, I can see that Canadian Tire has what I need in stock and the closest store is only 2 km away.
I decide to head to the store because I am certain that they have the product that I need. A store associate is able to tell me more about the product in-store and even recommends I try out a surface scraper. After my conversation with a store employee, I’m happy to purchase both products.
LIAs let local shoppers know that you have the items they are looking for – at the exact moment that they are searching for it. The ads even create a sense of urgency and encourage shoppers to act by letting them know when certain items are low in stock.
2) Advanced Geo-targeting Capabilities: Target local shoppers who are actually nearby the store and are looking to purchase. Advanced geo-targeting capabilities allow retailers to reach target shoppers within a certain km radius.
3) Measure Campaign Results: See how your ads are impacting your bottom line. Monitor the effect LIAs are having on foot traffic and in-store sales – and adjust your campaign bids accordingly.
4) Gain a Competitive Edge as an Independent Retailer: In the past, Google LIAs were only available to national retailers. But now, independent retailers have the ability to run high-performing ads on Google with a minimal budget. For as little as $150-$300 per month, store owners have the ability to drive local foot traffic and increase store sales.
5) Automatic Ad Optimization: To minimize marketing costs, LIAs automatically turn off when products sell out. Not only does this benefit your bottom line, it also results in a better shopping experience for your customers.
To learn more about how your retail store can easily implement Google LIAs to increase foot traffic and in-store sales, click here.
A point of sale system is demonstrably the most important tool you can have when running a retail business.
In fact, retail stores that invest in a strong POS system are quick to see a huge return on investment.
A retail POS can help you save time and money by streamlining repetitive tasks, maintaining business records, and reducing human error. Even better, it can even help grow your retail business with useful data and marketing integrations.
Keep reading to find out more about how your retail business can benefit from a POS system.
What is a Retail POS?
Traditionally POS stands for “point of sale” – which refers to the place where a customer transaction occurs. Or in simpler terms, the point at which a customer hands over money in exchange for a product that they’ve purchased.
For many retailers, this usually means the area surrounding the checkout line. For retailers who adopt cloud POS or mobile POS solutions, their whole store essentially becomes a point of sale.
What is a Retail POS System?
To better manage in-store checkout, retail POS systems were created. The original POS systems were a combination of hardware and software that retailers used to manage their sales operations. Because POS systems are the only source of all detailed store sales, they eventually expanded to include everything from tracking customer history and taxes reports to advanced marketing and inventory management.
Retail POS Software
Today, there are 2 main types of retail POS systems in the market: on-premise software and cloud-based subscriptions.
On-premise POS software: This type of software is installed on specific devices and usually does not rely on the Internet because the data is stored on the same devices. Because the database is stored “locally” in a specific server computer in your store, you can only access the data when you are in the store.
Cloud-based POS software: Cloud software stores data in an off-site cloud server (often hosted by a major cloud hosting service such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and is accessed via the Internet. You can compare it to writing a report on Google Docs. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your report from anywhere. While there may be some limitations without Internet access with cloud systems, there are major gains in remote accessibility, cost-savings and real-time data accuracy. Click here for more information on the benefits of cloud-based retail POS software
There is also a 3rd type of “hybrid” retail POS system which combines a hardwired local connection with access to data in the cloud. While this type of solution reduces the reliance on Internet, it is often a more complex system to maintain and more commonly used by larger operations. At the same time, because it is designed to allow for longer offline use, there is greater potential for issues with data quality during “synchronization” of online and offline data.
Expert Tip! It’s also important to note that offline usage and “data integrity” actually work against each other. While it is key for operations to have usable salesscreen functions (or alternative ways of processing sales) when the internet or network is down, the quality of the pooled data is lower and less accurate the more often the stations in a POS are “offline.” So if getting accurate, accessible business data from anywhere is a major priority, it’s important to consider a system which prioritizes real-time data accuracy with fast and reliable data sharing and considers offline usage for emergency scenarios only. Systems that prioritize offline capabilities over the data sharing functionality will be designed for infrequent synchronization. While this may not be a concern for certain types of businesses, the reality is that omnichannel retailers that need real-time stock quantity and even restaurants that take online orders need accurate POS data to make better operational decisions. After all, customers now expect real-time information when they intend to shop or order something. It’s another reason why smart POS is now able to automatically help merchants update correct store information or product stock levels in real-time.
Retail POS Hardware
POS hardware includes all of the physical components of your POS system. It is usually comprised of the following items:
1. POS terminal: This is the hardware or device (computer, laptop, desktop etc.) that the POS software runs on.
Traditional, on-premise systems have limitations when it comes to hardware. This is because most on-premise solutions can only operate on certain devices and operating systems (such as Windows or Mac).
To use on-premise POS software, a license must be installed on each device that a merchant wishes to operate on. At the same time, licenses are often tied to the hardware they are installed on and can be difficult or costly to transfer to other devices.
For newer, cloud-based POS software, merchants can use any device with Internet connectivity to access their data – laptops, tablets, desktops and even mobile phones. Cloud POS software does not require merchants to pay per device, rather merchants often pay per active station (or users logged in at the same time). Transferable access offers multi-channel merchants a lot more flexibility when managing store operations.
2. Cash Drawer: A cash drawer is an important yet simple part of a retail POS system. This piece of hardware provides both security and organization to retailers. It is where cash, coins, checks and credit card receipts are stored.
The receipt printer will send signals to the cash drawer, prompting it to open when necessary.
3. Barcode Scanner: Barcode scanners are an important part of most retail stores. Compared to restaurants, retailers carry a lot more inventory and need to use barcode scanners to make checkout an easier and faster process for both store employees and shoppers. Scanners use lasers to read barcode numbers unique to each SKU and enter these numbers immediately in the POS software.
While most retail POS systems should be designed specifically for barcode scanners, it is important for there to be other search methods should barcode tags get damaged or lost. Without scanners, cashiers should be able to quickly search by product codes or keyword for each item in the store.
Expert Tip! Unless a retail store has a very low number of inventory items (e.g. coffee shop), the default salesscreen mode should be designed for barcode scanners. The picture gallery touchscreen mode commonly found in tablet-based POS was traditionally designed for restaurants where the number of inventory items is very low and is generally not efficient in retail stores with more than 500 unique SKUs. While some POS providers will serve both restaurants and retailers, if the default salesscreen is designed for touchscreen picture gallery, most likely the company that developed the original software started with a restaurant POS and later retrofit it for retail.
4. Receipt Printer: Once a customer pays for the items that they have purchased, cashiers will usually hand them a receipt to confirm payment. While email receipts are increasingly popular, the majority of receipts are still printed based on the data received from the POS software.
There are three ways that credit card terminals can accept credit or debit payments:
1) Using chip & PIN cards: Where shoppers insert chip & PIN cards to make a purchase. This type of payment is EMV-compliant and the most secure of the 3 types.
2) Swiping card magstripes: Where shoppers swipe their cards in order to make a payment. This type of payment is not EMV compliant and opens the merchant up to chargebacks on all payments processed.
3) Near-field-communication (NFC): Where shoppers use their devices (Apple or Google Pay) or simply tap their cards to pay. This type of payment is the fastest of the 3. While tap is not as risky as magstripes (it is generally only allowed for individual payments of up to $100), in a busy store, this can be costly as the merchant is still fully liable for any chargebacks.
3 Reasons Why Your Retail Store Needs a POS System
Adopting a POS software that is designed for checkout speed will help speed up store operations and improve shopper satisfaction. This is especially important for busy multi-lane stores as they often deal with long line-ups.
Faster checkout is also key to increasing revenue during high season or rush periods. The longer your customers wait in line, the slower your turnover and lower your sales.
Here are some checkout features to look out for when choosing a retail POS software designed for fast checkout:
Easy navigation: Look for a software that is designed for checkout speed and minimum clicks. You shouldn’t have to leave your salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast scanning speed: Retail POS software should be designed for quick barcode scanning with easy recall of your last search. Make sure that the system you’re looking at is able to handle multiple barcodes per SKU as every retail product commonly has an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code, a manufacturer code and possibly several carton codes.
Advanced inventory search: Besides barcode scanning speed, a retail POS software designed to handle high volume inventory or a large number of transactions quickly needs to be able to have smart search functions including keyword search by description, barcode or tag should labels not be scannable, etc.
If you want more information about adopting a line busting retail POS software that is designed for checkout speed, click here.
2) Increased Mobility
Retail POS systems – cloud POS software in particular, provide retailers with more flexibility and mobility. As data is stored in the cloud, store owners can access their business information around the clock from anywhere – even if they are not physically in the store. They can view inventory levels, tax reports and sales data right from the comfort of home or even on vacation. Well-designed cloud POS software can also function on any device – from tablets, laptops to smartphones.
3) The Ability to Use the POS Data for Retail Marketing
POS data is critical to the success of any business. This is because data provides retailers with the tools to effectively manage inventory, sales, and finances.
Besides standard sales and inventory reports, modern cloud-based retail POS systems help store owners sell more using their own POS data. Because cloud POS are particularly good at integrating with other cloud solutions, real-time store data can be shared other solutions such as e-commerce platforms, shipping services or listings such as Google My Business, which help improve SEO and drive more local foot traffic to stores.
We will be posting more POS tips in the upcoming weeks.
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