Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmas, consumers and $$

This week I met with some business owners, one of which was expressing his displeasure with the rush to Christmas. It seems that each year the gift wrapping and holiday sales start earlier and earlier.

It used to be that retailers would run a Christmas in July sale, because we had several months to wait until the real Christmas shopping season. Perhaps in a few more years, it will be all one blur.

Then there is all the talk about if it is going to be a good Christmas for retailers, there's the age old thinking that retailer's make all their profit during the Christmas season and they struggle the rest of the year. Some say this is why the season starts earlier each year, so the retailers can start making money sooner. And once one retailer kicks off the season in October (or September?), everyone else feels like the better jump on or be left out.

In my family, we waited until after December 11th to put up the Christmas decorations since my birthday was on the 11th. I knew that whatever I didn't get for my birthday, I'd get another chance in 2 weeks! Also my Dad refused to patronize those stores that kept pushing things up on the calender. "Merchant's Holiday's", he called them.

Which brings me back to the first paragraph. When should Christmas shopping season begin? And how do you as a retailer keep things on your time table?

Here's a few suggestions:

  • Develop your own promotional schedule. If you want to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to role out the Christmas goodies, then do it!
  • Communicate with your customers what you are doing. Let them know that you will have the products they want for Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November and Christmas after Thanksgiving.
  • Create a calender for your customers, debut and celebrate the transitions from one holiday season to the next with an open house.
Make sure your marketing is correct 12 months out of the year, not just at the end of the year.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, and have a Happy Thanksgiving next week.

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Toys for Boys (and Girls, but now it doesn't rhyme)

Being a guy, age 47, I noticed that 4 of the top 10 were on my Christmas list 40 years ago. How about you? Feel free to add a comment.

Top Toys For 2007 Holiday Season
Top Toys for Girls, 2007

1 Barbie
2 Bratz
3 Dolls (generic)
4 Dora the Explorer
5 Disney Princess
6 Disney Hannah Montana
7 Nintendo Wii
8 Webkinz
9 Elmo
10 American Girl

Top Toys for Boys, 2007

1 Transformers
2 Video Games
3 Nintendo Wii
4 Cars (generic)
5 Spider-Man
6 Legos
7 Thomas the Tank Engine
8 Xbox 360
9 Elmo
10Remote-controlled vehicles

Source: NRF 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Balancing life wisdom

From a newsletter I received today:

Tips to Improve Work/Life Balance - With the holiday season quickly approaching, the subject of work/life balance inevitably garners additional attention. There are many ways to achieve work/life balance, ranging from simple behavioral adjustments to innovations such as flextime and telecommuting. Consider these often overlooked but important aspects:

1. Schedule smartly. Schedule more time between meetings; avoid scheduling work every evening unless it's unavoidable.

2. Prioritize your commitments and tasks. Develop a list, then establish your priorities. Doing so will help promote organization, eliminate stress and improve morale.

3. Work for a purpose. Avoid coming in early or leaving late just because you're the boss.

4. Protect your days off. Schedule routine tasks on workdays so your days off are more enjoyable.

5. Learn to say no. Most people overestimate the fallout from denying a request and underestimate the consequences of agreeing to one, especially a request with escalating responsibilities.

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Fun "Kiddy" Facts

I realize that "Kiddy" makes me sound old, but the following bits of info ain't talking 'bout my generation. It's my kids generation:

Volume 1 Issue 10
November 14, 2007


This holiday season, teens and college students plan to spend an average $266 on gifts for family members, $210 on gifts for friends and significant others, and $158 on gifts for themselves, according to research and consulting firm Youth Trends.


Boys are the intended recipient for 58% of electronic toy purchases, say the Consumer Electronics Association and the Toy Industry Association.


A teenage babysitter in New York City charges an average $14.84 per hour, reports the Wall Street Journal. Sitters in Dallas, TX average $7.33 an hour, Washington, DC $9, Chicago $8.67, and Los Angeles $8.64.


46% of parents read to their children less often than their own parents read to them, according to Kelton Research.


28.5% of all videogames are rated T for Teen, notes NPD Group.

Youth Markets Alert (YMA) identifies the latest trends among U.S. children, tweens and teens. Download a free sample issue to discover how twice-monthly case studies, research, contacts, and industry sector analysis connect you with young Americans' $200 billion in spending power.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Experience vs.Education

Okay, which would you rather get, advice from someone that has 20 years of experience doing something successfully, or advice from someone that has a p.h.d. but no experience in real life?

Yep, I thought you'd choose that one. By the way, I have a poll that you can answer with this question over to the right of this posting.

The following comes from the founder of B.N.I. which is one of the most successful networking organizations in the world. Read, enjoy, and learn:

Why We Make All the Mistakes,
When We Can Learn From Others

by Ivan Misner

There are "tried-and-true" sales techniques that are so simplistic that it seems they cannot be really effective. Many times, we try to re-evaluate, improve upon, and complicate them. An experience I had once while on vacation reminds me of how we try to make some things harder than they really are.

I was in Hawaii enjoying the surf when, unbeknownst to me, the water became thick with Portuguese Man O'War jellyfish. Suddenly I felt a stinging sensation across my chest. I wiped my chest with my right wrist and arm and lifted my arm up out of the water. I saw the tentacles dripping off my arm and followed them with my eyes to the body of the Man O'War jellyfish about eight feet away. With mounting alarm, I shook the tentacles off my wrist back into the water and quickly swam out of the surf to the shore.

I ran up to the first hotel employee I saw, a cabana boy, who was serving drinks to a sunning couple just off the pool deck and urgently exclaimed, "I think I've just been hit in the chest by a Man O'War jellyfish! What should I do??"

"Are you feeling any pressure in your chest?" he wanted to know.

"No, none at all," I replied anxiously.

"OK, OK, here's what you need to do. Go on over to the market off the lobby and ask for some vinegar and meat tenderizer. You're going to want to spray the vinegar onto your chest and then shake the meat tenderizer onto the same spot and rub it all around. You'll be fine," he assured me.

Well, I must say that I was less than impressed with this bizarre advice. He was entirely too calm and that was entirely too easy to be a real solution--not to mention that it was just plain strange. I figured he was doing a version of "let's goof on the tourist," so I moved on to ask someone else for help. Strangely enough, I asked two more hotel employees what to do about my injury, and got the exact same answer: vinegar and meat tenderizer!

I reluctantly trucked down the hall to the store just knowing that they were all back there laughing at the goofy tourist who was actually going to do a self-imposed "meat rub" on his chest. I was sure they had some barbecue grill going for when I returned to the lobby all slathered up with vinegar and meat tenderizer.

I entered the small market off the lobby and started my search for char-grilled products when I started feeling short of breath. Suddenly, very quickly and forcefully, I began to experience a crushing weight on my chest. Was I having a heart attack? Great! I'm having a coronary after wasting so much time talking to members of the hotel staff, who were trying to get me to rub meat tenderizer on my chest. I walked out of the store and staggered to the front desk, which by now was very busy with new guests checking in to the hotel. I made eye contact with the hotel manager and almost immediately, dropped to the ground, clutching my chest, barely able to gasp, "Man O'War!"

What happened next was a total blur. I seem to remember a small child yelling and pointing at me as I lay there in my bathing suit, gasping for breath.

"Look mommy, there's a man on the floor." The mother said something about staying away from people who do drugs. I looked over and tried to say no, not drugs--jellyfish! But all that came out was gibberish.

The paramedics rushed to the scene. Finally, I was going to get the medical attention I needed. After determining what had happened, the paramedic opened his lifesaving kit, and I knew he was about to pull out a defibrillator. I made my peace with God and I braced myself for the big jolt. Instead, he pulled out--yes, you guessed it--vinegar in a spray bottle and some Adolf 's meat tenderizer! He then proceeded to spray the vinegar and sprinkle the meat tenderizer on my chest, and thoroughly rub the mixture around. Within seconds, literally seconds, the excruciating pain began to subside. Within a couple minutes it was almost completely gone.

What I thought was a big "barbeque joke" on the tourist turned out to be a well-known cure for some jellyfish strikes. You see, the meat tenderizer contains the enzyme papain, which breaks down the toxin proteins and neutralizes them. It sounds too simple to be really effective, but it is, in fact, one of the best things to do in that situation.

Thinking back on it, I am amazed at how many people gave me the solution before I had to learn the hard way. Sure, who's going to believe a cabana boy? I mean, what does he know, right? And the hotel employee--OK, maybe there's the start of a pattern here but, I have a doctoral degree--I'm "smart," and these guys have just got to be kidding me . . . Right? And then the hotel manager as well . . . OK, I admit it, at that point there's just no excuse. I should have figured out these guys knew what they were talking about, and I did not.

I made one of the biggest mistakes that people in business (and especially in sales) make--I didn't listen to the people who have experience. I assumed that I just had to know better . . . and the truth is, I didn't know better.

There is nothing like experience. It beats education every day of the week. The only thing better is a combination of education and experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people's experience. There are many basic sales techniques that any good salesperson knows to be effective. They don't try to look for something more complicated or involved, because they know from their own experience, as well as the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn't work in sales.

You may hear things that seem too simple to be effective or ideas that you've heard before. Never dismiss them. Embrace them. Go get that vinegar and meat tenderizer, and learn from the masters that sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.

Ivan Misner is Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization and co-author, with Don Morgan, of Masters of Sales: Secrets From Top Sales Professionals That Will Transform You Into A World Class Salesman (Entrepreneur Press, September 2007).

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Monday, November 12, 2007

And now we pause for these messages Just go there and watch some great ads.

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Fun Facts

Volume 2 Issue 47 - November 12, 2007


Nearly half of Americans (46%) feel antagonistic toward their grocery store because it falls short of their expectations, according to IBM.


If money were no object, 19% of newlyweds would honeymoon in Fiji, the most popular dream destination, reports the Honeymooner's Review Guide.


One in six adults (17%) has re-gifted a gift card they received, says Comdata.


The number of Americans aged 45 and older who visit comparison shopping sites increased 38% from November 2006 to November 2007, notes Hitwise.


More than half of customers (55%) want restaurants to offer burgers in a range of sizes, from mini-burgers to 1/2 pounders, reports Technomic.

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What's Your Specialty?

Great article from Chuck McKay:

I have a friend who's very talented. He's an accomplished musician, writer, and marketer. He owns and operates three profitable businesses which he grew from scratch.

And yet, when people are looking to hire help in any of these areas, he's frequently passed over. He isn't the first choice when people want to hire a performer, or a composer, or a consultant.

Care to speculate why?

While you're pondering that, consider this: Proctor & Gamble manufactures detergents. They make Tide, and Gain, and Ivory, Era, Dreft, and Cheer.

Are there significant differences between these products?


Yes, there are. But by far the biggest differences are in their marketing.

Each is marketed to a different group of consumers as a solution to their specific concern. Tide gets clothes clean. Ivory provides a gentle and pure clean. Gain makes your clothes smell clean. Dreft leaves clothes soft. Era is tough on stains. Cheer has color guard.

Why not an all-purpose laundry detergent?

Why doesn't Proctor & Gamble make one detergent which gets clothes clean, makes them smell clean, leaves them soft, is tough on stains, and guards against fading and color transfer?

Because it wouldn't sell.

Think about it. Would you choose an “our product does everything” detergent if your biggest issue was stain removal? Or would you choose a product designed for stain treatment? If your biggest issue was stains, would you choose a product that left clothes soft? Or one that smelled better?

No. You'd buy a product that you believed would solve your problem. You'd "hire" a specialist.

Why don't companies specialize?

The biggest fear people have about specialization is all of the business they believe they'll be passing up. When they declare themselves a specialist in left-handed widgets, they'll miss out on the right-handed widget jobs. Guess what? They won't get the work by not declaring a specialty, either. Those jobs will be snagged by the right-handed widget specialist.

Tide gets clothes clean. Specialists make more money.

I can hear you right now saying, “But I don't manufacture detergent.” It doesn't matter. Whatever you do, you'll do better as a specialist.

Jermaine doesn't sell music instruction.

Have you ever heard of Jermaine Griggs? He's a 25-year-old musician. In 2000 (when he was 17 years old), he formed a company, Hear and Play, to sell music instruction.

How many music instruction courses are there? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?


Yet, Jermaine's company, Hear and Play, grosses over a million dollars a year.

How narrow should your specialty be?

  • Jermaine doesn't sell music instruction.

  • He doesn't sell piano instruction.

  • He doesn't sell Gospel piano instruction.

  • He sells books and videos that teach you how to play Gospel piano BY EAR.

  • Can you get much more specialized than “learn to play Gospel piano by ear?”

    Specialists make more money.

    Don't be an accountant. Be an accountant that understands the specialized needs of the hospitality industry. Don't be a travel agent. Be a travel agent who specializes in honeymoon trips to Cancun. Don't be a mechanic. Be a mechanic who only works on BMWs.

    What should your specialty be?

    There are three questions you must answer yourself.

    1.What are your passions? What would you do for free because you enjoy it so much?

    2.Can you make a living doing what you love? Is there enough of a market to support you?

    3.Can you articulate in a single declarative sentence what it is you do?

    Tide gets clothes clean.

    Jermaine helps you learn to play Gospel piano by ear.

    When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

    Ban won't wear off as the day wears on.

    Have it your way.

    A simple declarative sentence that sums up what you do.

    Answer those three questions, and take the plunge. What's your specialty going to be?

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    Updates Changes and more of the same...

    Yes, the layout is different, but the content will stay the same. A few comments from me, but mostly some of the best from others.

    I also changed the links around. I'll be adding more as I find more good stuff.

    And I added a link to the other ScLoHo sites too. Thanks for visiting.

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