Atlanta Gift & Home Market – Lights, Products, Action….What a Show!

For those who attended Atlanta AmericaMart Gift & Home show you surely witnessed the energy,the abundance of great products, and most definitely the certainly the positive energy buzzing throughout this awesome trade market.  For those of you not able to attend, here is a photo recap-from fashion, to function to just plain fun, Ivystone customers, reps and vendors had it all going on!

 

What Is Your Digital Retail Personality?

Want to find our more about your digital retail personality?
Do people look to you for creative genius?
Or is it your razor-sharp analytical mind that makes you an irreplaceable asset?

 

To learn more take the Shop.org Digital Experience Workshop retail personality quiz.

With just 5 short questions, they’ll tell you what kind of retail pro you are.

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Our 20 Billion Dollar Day of Love (Infographic)

Valentine’s Day has surpassed the football craze with total spending set to hit a record $19.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Some 54.8 percent of Americans celebrated the holiday this year, with candy, greeting cards and an evening out at the top of the gift list.

Valentines_Day_Infographic

Holiday 2015 Retail Sales Surge in Furniture & Apparel

Solid holiday sales results were released,  giving 2015 a happy ending for most retailers. Strong demand for furniture and women’s apparel helped U.S. retail sales grow by a “solid” 7.9 percent this holiday season, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

Furniture was a bright spot this holiday season. Sarah Quinlan, the head of market insights for MasterCard Advisors, said that solid spending in this category — which includes many big-ticket items — is a sign that consumers are plenty willing to open their wallets for purchases they’ve carefully researched. Bloomingville_Furniture

Another encouraging sign for retailers in MasterCard’s data was its finding that apparel sales saw “high single-digit growth” during the season. Shiraleah_boho-iconComing into the holiday rush, apparel sales had been soft at many retailers due to unseasonably warm weather which initially appeared to keep consumers from scooping up cold-weather gear.  As warmer temperatures hung on throughout December, there were reports that apparel retailers were missing out on millions in clothing sales this holiday season.  However MasterCard’s data suggests that consumers ended up ponying up for clothing after all. MasterCard found that women’s apparel sales saw robust growth.

Read the full Reuters story here.

West Coast Port Issues Resolved-Resolution Won’t Be Quick

Product manufacturers and retailers have had their patience stretched while trying to get products on the shelves due to the west coast ports labor dispute.  Finally a resolution is in place, however more time is needed before products are loaded and delivered throughout the country.  Port officials have informed retailers it will take 45 to 60 days to clear out the backlog, said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation trade group.    

According to Reuters reports: “It’s not going to be fast,” Jon Slangerup, chief executive officer of the Port of Long Beach, told CNBC television. “It’s going to take us a couple of months to dig out, but we were at full strength on Saturday night, all full strength yesterday, and we’re going to stay at it until this backlog is cleared.”  writes Reuters Lewis Krauskopf.

Ships sit anchored outside the Port in Los Angeles

Cargo containers sit idle at the Port of Los Angeles as a back-log of over 30 container ships sit anchored outside the Port in Los Angeles, California, February 18, 2015. CREDIT: REUTERS/BOB RIHA, JR

 

Got Thieves? Customer Service is Key

JoyceWashnik_Giftbeat

By Joyce Washnik, Editor, Giftbeat

How would you feel if one of your longtime customers, someone you knew by name and were even affiliated with through your local chamber of commerce, turned out to be a thief?

It happened to a New York retailer, who says the woman stole from her for 10 years before she figured it out. Now the customer’s picture is posted on the store’s back door so employees see it every day. “We never ‘caught’ her, but  she never came in last season, so she must know we’re onto her,” she says.

Dealing with theft is an ongoing challenge for retailers, but it’s especially hard to catch when carried out by your store’s “best” or most frequent customers. Or by the well-dressed woman who chats with everyone and compliments your merchandise, only to drop items in her purse when your back is turned.                  Woman Shoplifting

A number of our retailers have installed camera systems to stay on top of would-be thieves, especially as their inventory has shifted to more desirable categories such as jewelry and apparel. Others have moved expensive items to protected cases, or even installed alarm gates.

But experts say you already have what you need to make thieves less likely to frequent your store: customer service. “Customer service is the first weapon in the anti-shoplifting arsenal,” says Bill Bregar of Loss Prevention Systems. “Shoplifters hate attention! To do what they do, they must have privacy, even for a few seconds. Customer service negates their ability to steal.”

Here, retailers offer additional ways to thwart thieves:

  • Cite local ownership. A Louisiana retailer confronted a shoplifter last year and asked, “Why do you hate my kids?” The customer looked stunned when the retailer explained to her that the jewelry and shirts in her purse were how she paid for her children’s education, food, clothing and house note. The thief drove off with the stolen items, but the next morning, they were all in a bag at the store door. Now, the retailer plans to post a large family portrait in each location so customers see who is behind the business.
  • “Can we hold those for you?” A South Carolina respondent doesn’t hesitate to approach someone who appears to be a shoplifter (or has stolen before) and say, “Would you like me to hold that at the counter for you?” It sends the message that you’re watching them.
  • Telltale signs. If a person is wearing a coat on a hot day, a New York retailer says to watch out: He or she could be a shoplifter. She also trains sales associates to look for other red flags, such as big purses/totes or trips back to the car for a “forgotten” item.

If you have discovered creative and effective ways to thwart retail theft, send us your story, we would appreciate hearing about and learning from your experiences.

Note: For more than 20 years, Giftbeat has been the “bible” for independent gift retailers who want to make smarter product selections, slash costs and increase profits. Each issue includes in-depth articles covering business news and trends; ideas and inspiration from your retail peers; “what’s hot” gift sales data; and interviews with industry experts. Best of all, Giftbeat brings you the expertise of successful retailers from across the country to help you get — and stay — ahead in today’s competitive marketplace. Visit Giftbeat to download your free sample issue. In addition, sign up today for editor Joyce Washnik’s free Top Tips & Picks alerts.

Give A Voice To Breast Cancer Awareness and Share Your Story

Beaucoup Designs True Blue Goes True Pink!

With Breast Cancer Awareness month  right around the corner, Beaucoup Designs will be offering exquisite new and cherished existing merchandise to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

Three new pieces will be available in early September from Beaucoup Designs owner and designer, Leah Ann Messer.  Two of these pieces were designed in honor of her sisters, Janet and Melissa, both of whom have recently battled with Breast Cancer. Leah Ann has designed a beautiful new bracelet named “Melissa”‘  and a stunning new necklace named “Janet”, recognizing the incredible courage and struggles experienced by each of her sisters.     Beaucoup_TruePink_Campaign

Leah Ann’s third design will be a beautiful pair of pink earrings, and they too will need a NAME!  In order to find the perfect name for this design, we are asking all of our customers, sales reps, and friends to email YOUR story and give your voice to raise awareness and help find a cure.  Your story can be about any experience you have had with breast cancer.  After receiving these stories, Beaucoup will publish them on their website, Beaucoupdesigns.com. At the end of October the Beaucoup Advisory board will choose one entry.  The new earrings will then be named after the author of the entry (or the subject of the entry).  This person will also get to choose the non-profit cancer organization of their choice and we will give 100% of the proceeds to this organization.

Please spread the word and give a voice to your story. Email your submissions to truepink@beaucoupdesigns.com.  In the email, include your name and contact information.  This information will remain confidential (it will be your choice to have your name attached) and will be published on the Beaucoupdesigns.com website.

We want to have a place where everyone who has been affected by this disease can have a voice, and by sharing these heartfelt and touching stories, we are able to help each other and help find a cure!

Leah Ann Messer- True Pink Video

 

 

 

How Satisfied Are Your Customers?

The more information you have from your customers, the better your opportunities for growth and capturing the all important holy grail of business, customer loyalty.     Customer Satisfaction

When you have accurate and worthwhile information from your customers, you put yourself ahead of your competition. Here are 6 actionable ways to get information and feedback from your customers to help improve your standing with them:

1. Ask Them. The simplest way to find out what people want from your service or product is to ask them. The problem is that many businesses owners often assume they know what people want.  Assuming and really knowing are decidedly different.  Always ask and act on the answers.

2. Be Your Own Customer. One of the most obvious ways to find out what a customer experiences when they use your business is to be a customer yourself. You can do this by walking the customer journey one step at a time and seeing things through your customer’s eyes.

3. Focus Groups. These groups gain information and insights as to how the target audience is using or reacting to a service.  Information gained from focus groups open up the opportunity for your business to see what it is customers expect.  Recent results from a focus group survey used by a bakery to review their customer needs discovered that they had three different types of customers: locals who wanted personal attention; after-work shoppers who wanted convenience; and tourists who wanted something special.   You can also use social media to gather this type of data.  Collectively it is great information to tailor products and services toward.

4. Questionnaires and Surveys. Getting customers to put their thoughts in writing on a questionnaire or survey is one of the best feedback techniques.  When well-conducted, the information can be invaluable.  As Volkswagen was designing the new Bug, they sent their existing customers a detailed survey stating, “We want you! Your ideas, preferences, and constructive comments will be evaluated and fed into the development process. So tell us about your impressions and ideas for the new Beetle. We’ll do our best!”  The result:  air-conditioning is standard and lighters and ashtrays are optional. Who would have guessed?  Car companies and manufacturers of high ticket items are consistent in getting this type of customer feedback, why can’t you be as well?

5. Use the Results (and real data). The most important  information on whether your customers are satisfied with your service or not is whether they continue to buy from you. While sales information may be a first line indicator of how well you are doing,  it is no guarantee that you are delivering the product or service the customer really wants.   Use the data from one or more of these steps to assess the real story and take action accordingly.

6. Customer Service aka Your Staff. Your personnel is the most resourceful and reliable, as well as the least costly, of your customer feedback sources.  Your staff should be encouraged to build strong relationships with customers so that they feel free to share how they feel about all facets of your business from the product selection to the check out process. Make certain they have an easy way to feed back important information for improving customer service and for managers to make use of what they tell them. There is also value in taking good care of your staff.  Recently a grocery chain, through their annual customer and staff satisfaction surveys discovered a direct connection between customer satisfaction levels and staff satisfaction levels.  Those stores where customer satisfaction is high are consistently the same stores where staff satisfaction is high.

You may deliver what you think to be the best service in the world, but if it is not what people want, your time and talent is being wasted.  Finding ways to get customer feedback is vitally important to your business, why do you think a majority of websites consistently ask for survey participation upon exit?  You should be doing the same and plan to implement one, two, three or all of the above techniques – your business can improve overnight.

Here are steps to help you get started:

6 Questions to get actionable feedback from customers

From Retailwire.com

5 Mistakes Retailers Can’t Afford to Make

With so much to do each day to run your business it could be easy to overlook critical details that make all the difference to your bottom line.  Below are 5 hot points to avoid along with solutions to help you resolve these frequent challenges.  

Mistake #1:

Stock too much of one item and your money is tied up.

This is the challenge you face every day. With so much money invested in your inventory, it’s essential that you stay on top of it. That means that your inventory figures need to be constantly updated. Relying on a cash register or paper-based transactions does not automatically update your inventory. Retailing requires that inventory tracking occurs in real-time and is effortless and automatic.

 Mistake #2:

Run out of stock and you’ve missed an opportunity to make a sale.

Few things hurt sales, or frustrate customers, more than failing to stock an item consumer’s want. A good inventory management system should enable you to always know what inventory you have on hand, without conducting a physical count. It should use a bar code scanner to scan items when ringing up sales or entering new inventory – automatically adjusting inventory totals as you sell items and automatically notifying you when items are out of stock.

 Mistake #3:

Making inventory decisions by the seat of your pants.

Imagine being able to spot trends in sales, profits, liquidity and assets as well as optimal operating hours and profit margins. Oh, and of course track inventory with easy-to-access data so you can act quickly on new products or eliminate poorly performing products.

Mistake #4:

Ignoring shrinkage and failing to secure against theft.

Shrinkage is all merchandise that is taken out of stock without being paid for. Studies consistently show more people will steal if they think they can get away with it. You might not even realize that theft, by employee or customer, is actually going on in your store.

 Mistake #5:

Not making lemonade when you have lemons!

Pricing items correctly and knowing when to offer discounts is key to successfully managing and growing your business. You should be able to identify the most “saleable” items, which are typically your most price sensitive (generally the 20% of your inventory that moves the fastest), and price them competitively.

You can then recognize the “slow movers” from the remaining bulk of your inventory, which are typically your most non-price sensitive items, and raise the margins. By selling the “slow movers” early in the season, when items are more saleable at higher prices, you will minimize clearance markdowns at the end-of season.

Reporting is critical to understanding and managing your inventory. QuickBooks Point of Sale allows retailers to keep track of critical information and avoid costly mistakes and Merchant Solutions  Authority is focused on these types of business solutions for retailers.

Merchant Solutions Authority is a proven and trusted advisor to retailers across the country.  MSA specializes in business tools and methodologies for independent retailers – single store operations; small to medium sized chains.

Why they are different: Merchant Solutions Authority has over 50+ years of experience in independent and specialty retail – they know your passion and understand your business. MSA uniquely combines their retail and product experience with business expertise to simplify your operations and enhance your profitability.

Let them help you avoid costly mistakes.

For more information on Merchant Solutions Authority please visit their website:

MerchantSolutionsAuthority.com

 

Stand Out From the Crowd With These Sales and Productivity Motivators

SALES

I often have the discussion with my husband (who is not a sales person)  that sales is an absolute essential skill everyone should learn and feel comfortable with.  Each of us has to sell something throughout our lives, even if it’s just an idea.  As sale people and business owners we certainly know this-we live and breath it daily.

               

                 Here’s a proven 3,500-year-old technique for helping to make the sale.

 

 

 

PRODUCTIVITY

Have you noticed that some people just seem to accomplish tons and still appear happy and relaxed?  

 

 

Here are six tips for standing out and becoming more productive

 

 

 

What are some of your sales and productivity tips?