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A fresh start for SA's retail sector in 2021.

Steven Heilbron, CEO of Connect shares 5 tips on how SA retailers can improve cash flow and make the most of business opportunities.

After a difficult year that saw year-on-year sales fall every month between the start of the hard lockdown and September, South Africa’s retail sector is hoping for a fresh start in 2021. Retail merchants that start the year with access to financing and ready to pursue new opportunities, will be best positioned whatever the new year and lockdown restrictions may have in store.

“Few retail merchants emerged unscathed from the Level 4 and 5 lockdowns in March 2020,” says Steven Heilbron, CEO of the Connect Group of Companies. “With vaccines on the horizon, 2021 will hopefully be a better year for South Africans in general and specifically the retail sector. To take advantage of business growth opportunities, however, retailers will need to be agile, look at their operations and finances with fresh eyes, and innovate to outsmart their competition.”

Heilbron suggests five ways retailers can start 2021 on the right note:

1. Look for growth opportunities

The hard lockdown has reshaped consumer behaviours and expectations, creating new market niches for merchants to exploit. This is a good time to relook your business model and plans, adapt and innovate. For example, if you don’t yet offer online ordering and delivery, this could be a good time to dip your toes into the water. Adding a coffee shop, bakery or other in-store entertainment or education could enhance the shopping experience and open up alternative streams of revenue.

2. Improve cash flow management

During a difficult economic time, disciplined cash flow management takes on even more importance. New age and reputable accounting software can help you run accurate and predictive forecasts, so that you understand the flow of money and inventory into and out of your business. With the Connect Group offering, you have access to an automated cash management solution from Cash Connect, enabling you to automate the flow of cash from your retail store to your bank account, you get access to working capital from Capital Connect in just 24 hours based on your card or cash volumes that you deposit in your cash vault - all which enable you to speedily capitalise on business opportunities.

3. Identify cost optimisations

The beginning of a year is the ideal time to analyse your expenses base from a zero-cost perspective. You might find cost savings by approaching your stock purchases differently or negotiating with service providers to receive discounts on bulk or cash purchases. Other tactics might be to look for cheaper suppliers, optimising cash handling costs, and evaluating the costs of subscriptions such as telecoms and insurance.

4. Automate where possible

Automation is a great way to reduce costs by eliminating the need for manual labour. Instead of manually capturing data and filling in forms, your staff can focus on adding value for the shopper. Automating cash management, for example, eliminates errors, reduces the cash risk, increases business efficiency and eliminates shrinkage. Cashiers and back-office staff don’t need to waste time counting money, preparing bank deposits or standing in bank queues.

5. Quick access to business finance

Whether your plans are to expand by adding a new product line, invest in promotions or store renovations, stock-up, buy equipment or enhance your in-store shopping experience, you’ll need fast and reliable access to working capital. A financial technology solution like Capital Connect allows you to apply for up to R2,5 million trading capital straight from an app on your smartphone. A short term, unsecured loan can reflect in your bank account in under 24 hours.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and to thrive, they need access to working capital,” Heilbron says. “The future dictates fast, reliable access to business finance – no red tape or long-winded finance approvals that often take so long that opportunities are lost by the time the loan is granted.”

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