Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Ridgefield

In Ridgefield, CT now....drove down from Toronto via Niagara-on-the-lake and Niagara Falls. We stayed the night in Auburn, NY and visited some local vinyards in the Finger Lakes region, Ithaca, Cornell University and headed this way through the Catskills, along the Delaware river in some bits and lots of other streams and brooks. It's an absolutely beautiful area that I hope to come back to in warmer weather, maybe for some camping too. Pics later...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Coming soon---Wal-Mart India

Forbes reports that Wal-Mart is finally coming to India. The world's largest retailer announced that it had tied up with Bharti Enterprises to set up hundreds of stores across the country. While the full details are not yet out, the deal is said to be one of "equal partnership" between the two companies.
"We have signed an MoU (memorandum of understanding) for a joint venture and a franchise agreement," Mittal told reporters on the sidelines of an international business summit in New Delhi.

Driving to the US

Tomorrow we leave for the US from Toronto, via Niagra and a stop in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Even after living for so many years in the US, this will be my first trip to Niagra Falls and I'm really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the Maid of the Mist is not operational this time of the year, but we hope to go in the tunnel behind the falls. The Finger Lakes region is said to be one of the most beautiful areas of New York state, with its vinyards, lakes. More details on the area in a later post.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Its good to be back in this part of the world again. Especially, since it's not as cold as we expected it to be in Toronto. Living in Bangalore and Bombay for the past two years, I've got accustomed to long, hot summers and a mild short winter, if you can even call it a winter. But it is nice to use my woollens again after two years. I really love the immense range of nationalities in Toronto, especially when it comes to the wide variety of food available. We had some great Vietnamese subs a few days back and hope to have some Sri Lankan food before we head back home...yummy yum yum!!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On vacation

Off to the US and Canada for 3 weeks, so will be posting only sporadically. Will definitely be missing my daily writing schedule that I have grown to love so much. My last vacation was to the interiors of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayas, a totally internet and blog free vacation. Although, I will definately have access to modern means of communication on this vacation, not sure if I will have the time though.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Top Toys for 2006

The National Retail Foundation writes about the Top Toys for 2006 for both boys and girls. No surprises here, TMX Elmo tops the list for boys and Barbie tops the list for girls.
“Retailers can expect to see long lines of shoppers eager to get their hands on this year’s hot toys,” stated NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “For parents, the name of game is ‘Buy it when you see it.’ There is no telling how long these hot toys will last on store shelves.”

Best Buy makes changes to appeal to women of Mineapolis and St. Paul writes about Best Buy's new marketing experiment to woo women shoppers this holiday season. Usually one the the biggest turnoffs about Best Buy stores, as perceived by women, were the loud music, cluttered aisles and crowded checkout lanes but the company has embarked on an experiment to appeal to women. In 60 of its stores, Best Buy has increase aisle space, addes play areas for children, trained its staff on how to communicate with women customers and reduced the volume to loud music.
The changes represent an admission by Best Buy that, 40 years after opening its first store, the retail chain still hasn't figured out how to connect with female shoppers.

"We know we haven't figured out women and shopping, but we're committed to figuring it out," said Erin MacMillan, a Best Buy spokeswoman.

Best Buy is also experimenting with "women's shopping nights," in which experts are brought in to share ideas on how to shop for consumer electronics. On Wednesday evening, for instance, representatives from the women's magazine Real Simple were on hand at 10 Best Buys, giving tips on how to budget for holiday spending and maximize time while shopping.

Audio Video workstation

As more people take up non traditional and work at home jobs, changes in the way they work will affect several industries that are provide products and services to them. Take a look at the range of audio video centers available at for instance. These products can be adapted to people who work at home or in non-traditional settings. The Versa Audio Video Development Center is one of the best Multimedia Tables and is really the ultimate workstation available today. It has a ability to support several components such as monitors, CPU's, mixing boards, speakers etc. Built of steel and high density wood, it is adaptable and versatile, so users can make changes to suit their needs.

Au Bon Pain expanding overseas locations

Some news about one of my favorite bakery and cafe chains Au Bon Pain, although still no plans to open in India as yet. reports that the the company will be doubling its locations, adding 200 new stores in overseas locations through franchising agreements with local companies in Kuwait and Thailand. The company has tied up with The sultan Center in Kuwait to open 100 stores in the Middle East and North Africa and with ABP Thailand to open 100 cafes and kiosks in Thailand.
Au Bon Pain currently counts 255 cafes, including 115 company-owned locations in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, and franchisee-owned cafes in 19 states. The privately held chain also has overseas cafes in South Korea and Taiwan.

The 28-year-old company has recently emphasized adding franchise locations to the chain's traditionally company-owned cafes, giving Au Bon Pain greater access to prime real estate, Morelli said.

Many of the chain's cafes are located in big cities, and in or near shopping malls, university campuses, hospitals and transit centers.

Gift ideas

Do you have your holiday gift list ready? Well, if you're like me then you have lots of ideas on what to buy, but still haven't decided on anything specific as yet. I saw a site that makes handcrafted gift baskets chock-a-block full of goodies that are hard to resist. Holiday Gift Baskets are a really good gift idea since they will actually be liked and used unlike the majority of Christmas gifts that are either returned or relegated to the back of the closet. There is a wide range available of gift baskets which are filled with goodies such as chocolates, fine liqueurs, chewy candies and other snacks, they will work for family, friends and business assocites.

Birlas’ retail division on a hiring spree

Money Control and CNN IBN report that Birlas’ retail division is fast picking up steam and already has 45 professionals. The shortage of retail talent in India has forced the company to hire from overseas. CNBC-TV18 reports that the company has hired two executives from Tesco and Wal-Mart to lead its hypermarket and supermarket divisions. The Aditya Birla Group will be investing Rs. 9,000 crore to open 3,000 supermarkets and 200 hypermarkets in 100 cities over the next 7 years.

Black Friday deals creating buzz

Advertising Age writes about how consumers are diging up Black Friday deals on the internet. Retailers usually promote their post-Thanksgiving sales with circulars and inserts in newspapers, but this year, consumers are not willing to wait and are using the internet to find the best 'Black Friday' deals online.
"Retailers are just beginning to realize that they are combating leaks," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the Retail, Advertising and Marketing Association. "We really started to see it become a trend last year."

The Yahoo Buzz Index shows a trackable number of searches for the term "Black Friday ads" starting Oct. 19 and growing 147% since that time. "Black Friday ads" was the No. 4 search term within Yahoo's miscellaneous/holiday and observances category as of Nov. 13.

During that same time frame, blog discussions revolving around Black Friday, its sales and advertisements has jumped from roughly 100 blog posts a day during the first week of November to nearly 350 posts a day in the third week., a registered community of more than half a million bargain shoppers, has even set up a Black Friday section. To date, more than 100 conversation strings are taking place. The oldest dates back to September and is based on rumors of Ace Hardware's Black Friday sale.

Related posts on Black Friday that I have written earlier:

Black Friday deals
Will you be shopping on Black Friday?
Midnight madness shopping after Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Investing in an online degree

Online education has been in the news a lot lately, as more and more students and career professionals are taking advantate of being able to study no matter where they are located and without even having to take a long leave of absence from the workplace. Learning is and should be seen as a lifelong process and getting an Online Degree let you take advantage of this perfectly. I know of several people who would nver consider going bakc to college in the regular way, as it takes up too much time and effort away from ones regular life, but getting an online degree is the simplest solution to this problem. Once you have an additional degree, it is always going to come of use, no matter how late in life you study.

Therapy for your beloved denims reports on a new trend coming from New York City--Denim Therapy. The company provides services to repair torn jeans by using real denim fabric and thread to replace holes, cover spots etc. These are not patches and in fact are so well matched, that they become part of the jean itself.
Owing to the fact that both buying a new pair of jeans can be expensive and finding a perfect fit is a challenge, founders Francine Rabinovich and Karla Schufftan recognized a business opportunity. At USD 7 per inch, most repairs cost between USD 21 and USD 35, which many consumers gladly pay for the revival of a well-worn, well-loved pair of jeans.

Subhiksha aggressively building its private label brand, to cross 500 stores this month

The food retail sector is gearing up for the more competition after Reliance Retail's mega entry in the industry segment. Subhiksha is one of the best known names in food retailing, but has been limiting its growth in the south where it has already established its brand. Now, The Economic Times reports that discount food retailer Subhiksha is likely to cross 500 stores this month and is building its private label brand and its mobile phone and pharmacy sections. The company will be opening 100 new stores this month to reach a total of 500 stores. Subhiksha is happy with the results of its phone retailing that it started in Delhi last month and is considering setting up a separate chain for the segment along with one for pharmacy products.

By March 2007, the company hopes to reach 750 stores. Store openings are happening at a faster pace now, due to adequate funds being raised and the company fixing its backend integration. The company has allocated Rs. 300 crore for its expansion, raising money through debt, equity and working financial capital.

Bombay Dyeing plans a dual strategy for retail

Bombay Dyeing is one of India's oldest home furnishings company. Over the years it has become a household name across the country, but its brand is being eroded by its failure to move beyond simple franchising opportunities and creating a brand for itself. Now the company has again been focusing on building its own unique image and brand to counter the threat from new entrants such as S Kumars and Welspun. The Hindu Business Line reports that textile manufacturer Bombay Dyeing plans to use two separate strategies to market its products to low and high end consumers. The company is making an effort to not be known as a ‘discount’ brand anymore with this new strategy. It’s competitors S Kumars’ Carmichael House and Welspun have both been increasing their top end brands and so Bombay Dyeing does not want to be left out.

According to Arun Bhawasingka, Head of Domestic Business for Bombay Dyeing, the company is not just focusing on the price to differentiate their products, saying that, "Apart from the price points, the look and feel of these new stores will be different to signify the high-end range of our products." Another differentiator would be location of the premier stores. It's a good time to watch and see how this growth is received by consumers who night have switched to other brands.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Managing your online identity has a superb article on how to manage your online identiy. It's common knowldege that companies try to find out as much information about potential employees by 'googling' their name and vice versa. So, its really time to get down to controling and fine tuning the information out there about you.
People are googling you and making decisions about you from what Google reveals. Whether you are an employee looking to advance in your company, a professional seeking your next marketing role, or a consultant looking to land your ideal client, you should plan on being googled. And you should prepare for it.

Will you be shopping on Black Friday?

Display and Design Ideas Magazine writes that according to a survey conducted by Maritz Research Inc, an estimated 34% of shoppers are planning to shop on Black Friday. An estimated 33% of those who will be shopping on Black Friday will spend over $875 on gifts and 17% plan to spend more than $1,000.
"For those who wonder why retailers invest so much effort and creativity into one shopping day, these numbers speak volumes," said Mark Rein, director of strategic consulting for the Maritz Retail Research Group. "The poll also revealed strong demographic indicators, such as 44 percent of those with household incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 planning to shop on Black Friday."

Black Friday has generational implications with the majority of Gen Y respondents (58 percent), as well as a significant portion of Gen X (40 percent), planning to shop. "Gen Y, which is known for its affinity for fashion and impulse spending, is a prime target for retailers," Rein said. "A good Black Friday showing by this group is key for many retailers trying to jump-start this holiday season."

Garden Offices

This is an absolutely amazing idea. I would love to work in one of these to work in myself, except I don't have a garden since I live in an apartment! reports on a new trend from the UK: Garden offices. These are modular offices made by iscape that you can set up in your garden. At present there are only two models available called 'Miana' and 'Winola'. While both are multi-use outdoor spaces, Miana has been designed to be use as an office. As the world is becoming more connected and physical presence is not required at a specific 'office' location, people can set up and work in an office anywhere.
Every garden office (from GBP 4,995 including installation and delivery) comes complete with integral electrics and includes sockets and lighting. Constructed from panels, the Miana can be ordered in a range of sizes, with door and window positions meeting a customer's specific requirements. Customers can choose from 60 colours for timber and plastic coated steel finishes, and iscapes are insulated to high standards for all-year round comfort. The modular designs are pre-fabricated and can usually be installed on site in just one day.

HLL refashioning kirana stores

The Hindu Business Line reports that Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) has launched a project to improve the quality of kirana stores and make them compete with modern retail formats. The ‘Super Value Store’ programme is targeting mom-and-pop stores to update their look and help them add value to their stores. HLL will be buying shelf space from the retailer and giving a 3% discount to the retailer on its products. Besides theses tangibles, HLL will also train kirana stores on modern retail basics.

Industry sources estimate that the Super Value Programme will cover 15,000-20,000 kirana stores. One such store in South Delhi, who has been inducted in the program, has already seen a 20% increase in stores sales and a saving of Rs. 5,000-6,000 due to incentives of the scheme.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Focus on shoes reports that shoe retailing is the next big thing. With several high profile retailers starting to retail shoes, the segment is going to receive a lot of attention. One high profile entrant, Gap Inc, launched an online store called Piperlime to sell its own shoes. Others such as Talbots and H&M have also been focusing on their footwear collections. Marshalls has increased its shoe departments in 40 of its stores in New England and Famous Footwear has opened 90 new stores across the country. Teen retailer Pacific Sunwear has launched a store focused on shoes called One Thousand Steps.
Shoes increasingly are becoming every season's must-have accessory: Between 2000 and 2005, US footwear sales rose 19 percent to about $49 billion, and they are expected to grow another 23 percent by 2010, according to Mintel Group, a Chicago market research firm. Women's clothing sales, on the other hand, rose only 2 percent between 2000 and 2005, and researchers predict growth of 9 percent by 2010.

Fitness goals

A treadmill is one of the best forms of exercise, since it exercises the entire body and can be done all year round, regardless of the weather outside. For a healthy lifestyle, one should have grounded Fitness Goals and exercise 3-4 times a week at least. I personally prefer exercising in the open, since the natural air gives one a much better high than working out indoors. Doing a little research, I was quite amazed at the number and variety of treadmills available in the market today. Before buying one, I'd recommend doing a comparison to see which one will suit your needs.

Mall or University?

The Miami Herald writes that the University of Central Florida's newest residence halls have retailers at their doorsteps. Chain stores such as Maggie Moo's, Subay, Starbucks, Red Brick Oven Pizza, Barnes & Noble and other retailers have opened on campus so students don't need to go far to spend their cash. Earlier, most colleges (including Kansas State University, where I went) had a campus store selling college memerobilia, textbooks and other supplies. We also had a few food chains at the Union along with the university food service.

Now it seems, retailers have upped the ante to catch students where they spend most of their time anyway, making the university look increasingly like a mall. UCF has its own little shopping centre opening in a few weeks, attatched to the dorms and across the basketball arena.
Though nearby college towns with quirky health food and rare-book stores have long been a staple at traditional universities, many schools are placing retail on campus and collecting rents to subsidize operations and attract students. At UCF, money from the dorms, shops and a pair of parking garages is subsidizing the 10,000-seat basketball arena.

''We're a public university, but we want to adopt some of the best practices of the private sector,'' said Bill Merck, vice president for administration and finance at UCF.

Florida Atlantic University's board of trustees began moving in the same direction Tuesday. Trustees discussed ''Innovation Village,'' a proposed complex of dorms and retail stores designed around a proposed football stadium at the Boca Raton campus.

In a study, administrators learned many students were rejecting FAU to attend UCF, Florida State and the University of Florida -- in part because those schools offer more campus life. And FAU defines that to include a shopping district.

On furniture

My favorite style of furniture is that with clean and simple lines. No gothic, carved stuff for me please. I love furniture that is adaptable to many different looks, since I like to mix things up quite often. I really like having a good bookshelf, something I don't have right now. Living in Bombay or pretty much anywhere in India, one needs to have a closed bookcase so the dust doesn't get to the books. Unfortunately, mine are open bookshelves and the quality of my books are deteriorating with each passing day. I also find it extremely important to have some good storage in the bathroom. Here's some resources on Bathroom Vanities, that will help store and organize stuff.

What happened to the Biotech industry?

The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge writes about the Biotech industry and how in the 1980s it looked like th industry would revolutionalize healthcare and imporove hon the R&D process. While some firms have made breakthroughs, the industry as a whole does not have a good track record and has in fact even suffered losses. Professor Gary Pisano talks about his new book "Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech" and how the industry has created poor conditions for science based businesses to bloom.
"The sector has indiscriminately borrowed business models, organizational strategies, and approaches from other high-technology industries under the (false) premise that if it worked there it will work here," Pisano writes.

Experts predict a shakeout

Financial Express reports that Reliance’s mega launch in the retail sector has propelled its rivals to ramp up operations which experts estimate will lead to a retail revolution in the next 3-5 years, followed by a shakeout. The potential for growth is still immense, with penetration only at 5% at present.

Current big guns of the retail world, Pantaloon and RPG are also expanding operations. Pantaloon will be increasing its 4 million sq ft of space in 30 cities to reach 30 million sq ft of space by 2010. RPG plans to double its 80 stores by next year, opening Spencer’s Hyper, Super and Daily in tier I and tier II cities. Piramyd is planning to increase its TruMart stores from 15 to 40 next year, mainly in tier II and tier III towns.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How much is your blog worth?

I had this in my sidebar when I had the regular blogspot blog, but since I've switched to the Beta version, I can't seem to add it to my sidebar. I get an error message saying the img tag must be properly closed. Not sure how to fix it, so here it is for all to see......

My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

Vietnam's consumer class

The International Herald Tribune reports that shopping habits are changing in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The middle classes in cities like Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi are enjoying spending money at restaurants, buying luxury cars and shopping for vanity items.
"Vietnam is wealthier than what we believe, but we honestly don't know how wealthy," said Ralf Matthaes, managing director in Ho Chi Minh City with TNS, a market researcher based in London. "Urban Vietnam has a middle class and, when a country has a middle class, it means it is able to sustain itself for the future."

Research by TNS has shown that in an average household in Ho Chi Minh City, which is still commonly called Saigon, people spent 2.5 to 7 times more than they said they earned.

Entertainment options beyond the mall

Rediff News reports that Indians are looking beyond the malls for entertainment. Part of the mall boom has taken place because of the newness of the concept and as a one-stop-shop that provided something for the entire family to do together. Well, malls now have competition on this front. A new type of 'integrated leisure complexes' or ILCs are coming up that will offer the entire family a place to relax and unwind for a few hours or the entire weekend.
"There is a need for convergence of various kinds of entertainment and leisure elements for different members of a family," says Gupta. Up until now, we have had malls with multiplexes. Most of these are shopping -- not leisure -- oriented. "The need today is to have separate zones for different segments."

According to Gupta, an ILC would typically have a mix of leisure, entertainment, food and beverage as well as intellectually stimulating options such as art or reading galleries, informal clubs and maybe very sophisticated shops. The scale here will be tipped towards the leisure and entertainment options.

These would be on the outskirts of the city (prohibitive land cost within the city makes such large projects unviable). The advantages of these, explains Gupta, is that they will tap into the local public and create a new market. They can, in the long run, also become a prominent feature of a city, increasing its appeal as a destination.

Searching by appearance not words

The New York Times reports on a new trend this Christmas season's shopping has brought. Consumers can now search items by visuals to find something than maybe a celebrity has worn. is said to be the world's first visual search engine and its searches of itmes brings up products from over 200 merchants' websites.
The site, operated by San Mateo, Calif.-based Riya, an expert in visual computing, allows customers to click on images of celebrities wearing accessories or on pictures of handbags, jewelry, shoes and watches. In a few weeks, the site will add clothing, according to Riya's CEO and co-founder Munjal Shah. Eventually, customers will be able to download their own images onto the site.

Improving productivity

Working from home teaches you how to have an organized and productive schedule. It's not always an easy task, there are so many distractions calling out to you, so many temptations, so much pending housework and errands. It takes discipline and order to have a productive day at work. I personally like to read tips on improving productivity from a variety of business newletters such as Productivity 501, which has interesting write ups on improving time management skills. There is a good post on The Sacred Todo List, which I thought was quite appropriate for me since I love to make lists and work from them. If you have not signed up for their newsletter, now is a good time to do so, since they are having a free iPod Shuffle contest, to give a free iPod Shuffle to their 250th subscriber who signs up.

Wal-Mart's 'wish-list' tactic earns parents ire reports that Wal-Mart's marketing tactic of sending children's wish lists to their parents, has earned them some bad press. The company had earlier launched a new toy website where children are encouraged to review toys and send a wish list of toys they would like for Christmas to be sent to their parent's email address.
"The child has no choice," said Ottawa's Camille Lechasseur, a mother of two girls, aged two and five. "These toys appear `Do you want it, yes or no.' What child wouldn't want it? It's trying to dupe the parents that it's their child's choices. That's laughable."

Kessa Edwards of Calgary said the toyland site takes marketing to kids to a new level. "I was actually quite shocked by it," Edwards said. "Just the fact that kids can have an e-mail sent to their parents. I haven't seen anything like that before."

She is particularly dismayed by the value of some of the products peddled on the site, including the Little Tikes H2 Hummer Ride-On for $199.77. "I really felt that they were really putting ideas into kids' heads," said Edwards, the mother of a five-year-old girl.

They are among the parents who have signed on to the "Tell Wal-Mart Nagging is a Family Value" campaign, launched recently by the Harvard University-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a coalition of health-care professionals, educators, and parents. The group is asking Wal-Mart to shut down the site.

Barista likely to be bought by Italian coffee chain Lavazza

The Economic Times reports that Italy’s leading coffee chain, Lavazza has made an aggressive move to purchase the Barista Coffee chain owned by C Sivasankaran. Standard Chartered Bank had advised C Sivasankaran to ask for Rs. 2.5 billion for the coffee chain and according to sources, Lavazza has bid close to this figure. Other companies interested in purchasing the company are rival coffee chain, local chain Café Coffee Day, a European coffee chain and financial investors.

Raymond to launch more brands for women

The Economic Times reports that Raymond will be bringing out new brands for women to balance its product mix and not be known only for its ‘complete man’ products. Shreyas Joshi, president (group apparel) for Raymond, told ET, “So far, we have been a men’s apparel-dominated brand while women’s wear is an interesting market, with not too many organized players in this segment. We are seriously looking at this segment, which we should be able to announce by January 2007. Yes, we could look at Jvs with international labels, too, or acquire existing brands.”

Currently, Raymond has 16 Be: stores, a women’s brand which features some of India’s top designers, and will be adding four more by March 2007. There will be multiple brands for women, including an ethnic wear brand. It’s other brands Manzoni has 2 stores at present and will add three by March 2007, Park Avenue, has 12 stores now and will be 25 stores by March 2007, Parx has five stores now and will have 12 stores soon, Zapp!, its children’s’ wear brand has two stores now and will add another 10 by March 2007.

On cheesecakes

So, we decided to go to town yesterday instead of lazing at home. We had a really nice lunch at Cafe Basilico in town, close to the Yatch club which had superb salads, some good fish and chicken entrees and good desert too. What I just don't understand is how and why Cafe Basilico and so many other restaurants in the city just can't get the cheesecake right. So far we have been able to find authentic cheesecakes only at JW Marriot's BBC cafe (short for Bombay Baking Company) and at the Grand Hyatt off the western express highway. Everywhere else, one gets something in-between a mousse and a cake on ordering a cheesecake. My favorite cheesecake is at Coffee Exchange on Wickendon street in Providence, although I had a really decadant one in a little diner off Times Square in NYC. Unfortunatley, I can't remember the name of the place.

Making the perfect cup of hot chocolate

We've always been mad about a good cup of hot chocolate. Each time we move, we go crazy finding the best cup possible and once we find it, try to fit it into our routine on a weekly basis or even more. So, when I read about this new machine that can make a Tassimo Hot Beverage Machine superb cup of hot chocolate, or for that matter espresso, latte, cappuccino or crème, I thought, this is perfect for us. The Tassimo Hot Beverage Machine is one helluva machine, it has pre-measured T-Discs that are sealed to keep the flavors of the tea, coffee or hot chocolate inside, each one with its own barcode with specific instructions on how much water should be added and how long it should be brewed etc to make a delicious drink.

Fast fashion concept being overused?

The International Herald Tribune writes that the concept of 'fast fashion' might be getting overdone, with customers not being able to keep up with the constantly changing fashions. Stores such as Target started the trend selling inexpensive trench coats by Issac Mizrahi and bedspreads by Cynthia Rowley, H&M took it further and got record numbers wanting to buy its version of Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney clothes, and now it has fueled a trend for cheap fashions by not just the famous names but by minor celebrities too.
But the fast fashion strategy already shows signs of wear, most notably at Wal-Mart, which was disappointed by reaction to its introduction of more fashionable women's clothes this year, including its version of a fast fashion line by the designer Mark Eisen.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fortune to have an Indian edition soon

Good news for all business buffs. Business Stnadard reports that Time Warner owned Fortune magazine will most likely be published in India soon. Fortune already has editions in Europe and Asia, including one published in Chinese. In the US, readership of the print edition has not really been increasing although the online version is showing growth. In Asia, the print edition is likely to be the dominant edition.
“We are in talks with two-three Indian publishers. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has a large English-speaking population,” a senior executive working with the magazine told Business Standard. He, however, declined to comment on the timeframe for such a venture.

While the executive ruled out any possibility of a licensee agreement with the local publisher due to stringent regulatory norms, he said there were expectations that the government would liberalise the norms for increasing foreign direct investment in publication.

“We are open for a joint venture or may provide 20 per cent of the content or go for a royalty over content to be provided for the Indian edition,” the executive said, adding that the magazine was also in talks with the publishers in Korea and Japan for local editions there.

Starbucks 'cheer' campaign

Advertising Age reports that Starbucks is using a new viral campaign to spread holiday cheer and build its brand. In its holiday marketing, the company will be surprising people with a variety of free goodies, such as free subway MetroCards in Manhattan, free movie ticktes in Chicago etc. Starbucks is wanting its cutomers to pass on the holiday cheer to others, by doing simple good deeds such as holding the door open for someone or buying a cup of coffee for someone, and in doing so will recieve a 'cheer pass' which is a numbered card that tracks the person's effort.
As much social experiment as buzz campaign, Starbucks is hoping the cheer-pass recipients take the individually numbered cards and log on to the coffee chain's holiday microsite,, to share how and where they received the pass. The idea is to follow how long people can sustain the "chain of cheer." Of course, the site also will promote a trio of holiday coffee blends and other gifts consumers can buy through Starbucks.

"I'll be happy if we create a single cheer chain," said Brad Stevens, VP-marketing for Starbucks. He said he's more interested in the qualitative response, as the effort has no traditional marketing metrics tied to it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Timex in talks with Reliance Retail

Business Standard reports that Timex India is conducting talks with Reliance Retail to acquire shelf space or have a shop-in-shop fir its own brands. Timex has been ramping up operations and has invested Rs. 8 crore in relocating its manufacturing facility in Himachal Pradesh to take advantage of the tax breaks the state government is offering. According to Kapil Kappr, MD of Timex India,
"We are rolling out a slew of initiatives, which will improve our market share. We are exploring options to bring in more brands to plug the gaps in our portfolio and are in talks with our strategic partner for this."

Hate crowded stores? Here's some shopping tips for you

The National Retail Federation has brought out a list of its Top 10 Holiday Shopping Tips. There are some really cool tips like going to a store after 6pm the evening before a sale is to begin. Most retailers program the registers the night before a sale, so you will be able to shop in relative peace and still get the discount. Another good tip on avoiding crowds is to take advantage of extended shopping hours by shopping early in the morning and late in the evening.
“Holiday to-do lists can get a little overwhelming this time of year,” said Dan Butler, NRF’s Vice President of Retail Operations and Merchandising. “From finding out ahead of time when an item goes on sale to knowing the best times to avoid crowds, smart shoppers can follow little tricks of the trade to reduce unnecessary frustration."

Online shoppers want good customer service too

More on the internet shopping experience. StorefrontBacktalk reports that according to a study by internet performance tracking company Gomez, customers who have had a bad experience shopping online, will avoid going to the physical store of the company too. Customers want good customer service above all else, even in an online shopping scenario. The National Retail Federation also conducted a survey where came in as the number one online retailer, followed by Nordstrom, LL Bean, and Lane Bryant.
Nordstrom, for example, has a reputation for delivering extremely personalized and attentive customer service for people visiting their stores. That high-touch attribute is quite difficult to replicate online, setting themselves up to disappoint online visitors. Those disappointed unhappy online visitors would then potentially punish the brick-and-mortar locations as well.

Who shops on the internet more? Men or Women?

Did you know that it is men that are the driving force behind the growth of internet retailing. The Financial Times reports that according to a study conducted by The British Council of Shopping Centres, the main reason behind this is that they have actually going to the store. Men generally have an idea of what they want and want to get it as quickly and painlessly as possible, and doing it at a computer is simpler than going to the mall.
“Men find it much more convenient and cost-efficient to shop on the internet than in shopping places and envisage that in future they will do more of their shopping on the internet,” says the report.

“Women were at the opposite spectrum compared with men when it came to their future intentions. They were certainly not planning to do more shopping online, nor did they think it was more convenient to shop online.”

While many British adults expect to spend 40 hours doing Christmas shopping they could do the same chores in just 10 hours online, says the report.

Generating traffic

A lot of bloggers start blogging just for the sake of airing their opinions and having their say, not really caring what their page rank is or if Google ranks your site high in their searches. Over time, most will want to see their blog become highly rated and highly searched, but are not sure how to achieve this. Google uses an algorithm to judge how popular a site is based on a complex mathematical formula. While Google's Page rank is a good indicator of a site's popularity, Google is putting less weight on it, since it can be easily manipulated with links.

What Google really looks for is quality inbound links to your site. It is testing an even more complex new algorithm, called the Latent Symantec Indexing (LSI), which will determine how search words are related to each other, focusing on the Title Tag and other textual content on your page. So, essentially the best way to increase link popularity is links between pages that have similar content.

One of the most effective methods to increase link popularity used so far has been press release distribution, where publications write about the content of the release. Purchasing links from link brokers can have a negative affect on a site in the long run as Google will devalue a site with too many of outbound links. Reciprocal links were one of the best methods to increase link popularity but don't have much value now. Using blogs effectively, you can increase link popularity substantially. Blogitive, for example, has over 2000 blogs in its database where you can submit a press release and have bloggers write about it.

Organized retail majors record over 50% growth in Q2

The Economic Times reports that the top five retailers in the organized retail sector have had a phenomenal performance this past quarter, with a combined net sales growth of more than 50% for the quarter than ended September 2006. The top five retailers, Pantaloon Retail, Shoppers’ Stop, Trent, Titan Industries and Provogue, have combined net sales growth of 52% and net profit growth of 22%.

Pantaloon Retail had the highest net sales growth at 65%, its value segment increasing by 78% and lifestyle segment increasing by 50%. Value retail accounts for close to 72% of the company’s turnover.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Moving again?

We've been moving houses with great regularity although each stay is getting slightly longer with each move, every 6-8 months at first and now every year and a half to two years. It's been a fun experience for me, being a Gemini I like change, crave it after a while, even if it means just changing the direction of the bed and rotating some of the paintings around the house. For a while, I was so organized at the moving-and-finding-a-new-place-to-live game that everyone told me I should go into business providing relocating services. Hmmmm, now that would be quite interesting thing to do.

Hats off to moving companies, as they are the ones who really make each move possible. So, the most important thing you can do is to get yourself a good moving company to take care of everything. Seattle is on my list of must live places at some point of our lives, and on doing some research about the city and moving there, I already found a good moving company. TempStore is a great Moving Company in Seattle, and I thought no harm in having their contact details in hand. TempStore started in 1998 and have established a reputation for local as well as international moving and packing services.

Finding the right gift

The wedding season is in full swing here. Actually, is there ever a time that the wedding season is not in full swing somewhere in the world? I don't think so. Weddings are a round the year event and they are getting more and more elaborate each year. The Knot Wedding Shop is a great place to get all your wedding supply needs, including novelty items such as cake toppers, ring pillows, personalized attendant gifts and personalized wedding favors. With over 1000 great ideas, The Knot Wedding Shop is a great place to get ideas and stock up on all your wedding needs. They have a great delivery service and can deliver last minute items too.

Will you buy a premade Thanksgivng dinner?

How will you be doing your Thanksgiving shopping this year? Going to the store as usual or ordering online? USA Today reports that time starved shoppers are leading the trend to shop for premade items for their Thanksgiving dinners, buying from upscale restaurants such as the Flagstaff House restaurant in Boulder, CO, natural food grocers such as Mrs Green's Natural Markets in New York and Connecticut, meal assemblers such as Smart Made Meals of Virginia Beach, Online food services such as Wally's Food in San Francisco and fast food chains such a Boston Market.
Last year, 5% of consumers bought premade Thanksgiving meals from a restaurant, caterer or supermarket. This year, it will top 6%, says Harry Balzer, food guru at NPD Group. "Everyone wants to know: How do I get out of this and still make it seem homemade?"
There's definately a market out there for such products and services. Consider the sizable and ever growing size of immigrants, who might want to enjoy the idea of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but don't know how to or don't want to cook it. We ordered a ready made meal on Thanksgiving when we lived in the US too, but it was really hard to find a decent place open that day.

PW's 100 Best Books of the Year

Check out this list of Publishers Weekly's 100 Best Books of the Year. There are a wide variety of books included in the list, divided by categories such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Religion, Comics, Children's etc.

Here's my list of books that I must read:
  • The Inheritance of Loss--Kiran Desai (winner of the Booker Prize 2006)
  • The Alibi Club--Francine Mathews
  • My Life with the Saints--James Martin
See the entire list for yourself and make your own list of must read books this year.

Would you go to an online university?

Are you interesting in furthering your education, but can't take a few years off from work? Have you considered getting an online degree? Online education has really been picking up steam lately, not quite becoming mainstream but getting noticed by several high profile companies. The biggest advantage of going to an online university is not the time that you save, but instead being able to adapt and apply what you learn to your real working life. In regular college one has to wait 4 years before applying what one learns in the classrooms, but here its immediate and if you're good, you can really set yourself up to have an amazing career.

Capella University is one of the best known online universities in the US, has been accredited from The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Capella offers graduate degrees in business, IT, human services, education and psychology and undergraduate courses in business and IT. In total, there are 76 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 16 certificate specializations available. With more than 16,000 students from across the country and 63 countries, students have a diverse learning experience. For more information, visit their website, or call 1-888-CAPELLA (227-3552).

What will having Democrats in Congress mean to retailers?

With the Democrats winning the House in the US, how will retail be affected? George Anderson of Retail Wire comments on the likely issues that the Democrates have promied to address in the new Congress; wages, healthcare, immigration policy and environmental policy.
Yesterday's election is being seen by many as a strong rebuke of President Bush and the Republicans on a number of issues, including the war in Iraq and the perception that power has corrupted the GOP.

Now that the dust has mostly settled, it is time to have a look at just what a Democratic majority in Congress will mean for the broad retailing and food industries. Contrary to the polarizing rhetoric of the partisan politics, it may turn out that Democrats, while not in lockstep with retail leaders, are not as far out there on key issues affecting the industry as suggested by some.
There's also a poll at the end of the article on whether you think the Democrat party controlled Congress will be better for the retail industry?
Take the poll and the read the article here.

Thanksgiving treats

Planning your Thanksgiving menu yet? You've got to add these amazing breads and cakes to the list. These moist and rich old fashioned cakes are made with liqueur or glazed with bourbon, rum or whiskey and are said to be really quite sensational. I think the Spirited Eggnog cake would be great for Christmas dinner and Chocolate Bourbon Cake perfect as Thanksgiving Treats. See for yourself and order some to have a memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family.

Bangalore shoppers still want more

The Financial Express reports that while new stores and malls seem to be opening at a quick pace in Bangalore, shoppers there are still keen on many more malls and shopping centers. While certain areas of the city have several malls, others areas don’t have enough. Also, which The Forum and Garuda can be classified as malls, others like Bangalore Central, Eve Mall, Sigma Mall and The Pavilion are simply shopping complexes and not malls.

According to Ankur Srivastav, managing director of DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, a global property consultancy, "There is an under supply of quality retail malls in the city.” The company recently conducted a survey that showed that about 10 malls in the 500,000 to 1 milliong sq ft range will be coming up in Bangalore in the next three years.

Subhiksha to enter north Indian markets in two months

The Hindu Business Line reports that Chennai based supermarket chain, Subhiksha announced that the company will be entering markets in north and west India in the next two months. The company will be setting up supermarkets in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. The company has 54 stores at present in Andhra Pradesh and plans to open another 80 in the state, with an investment of Rs. 40 crore.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reebok plans large exclusive stores

Business Standard reports that Reebok India is carrying forward its aggressive policy to expand its market share in India, by opening exclusive large format stores that will increase visibility of the brand. According to Subhinder Singh Prem, managing director of Reebok India, the large format stores allow the company to showcase the entire collection together. The latest of these large format stores was opening in Kolkata this week and another one will be opening later this week in Hyderabad.

Reebok plans to have 600 exclusive stores by 2007 across India. Currently the company has 375 standalone stores, which it is planning to increase to 1,100 stores by 2010. An estimated 30% of stores are currently located in Tier II cities.

Marketing to the BOP

An excerpt from 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid":
The BOP, as a market, will challenge the dominant logic of MNC managers (the beliefs and values that managers serving the developed markets have been socialized with). For example, the basic economics fo the BOP market are based on small unit packages, low margin per unit, high volume, and high return on capital employed. This is differenct from large unit packs, high margin per unit, high volume, and reasonable retun on capital employed. This shift in business economics is the first surprise to most managers.
The BOP market is wide open for companies who are willing to change their marketing and tactical strategies to focus on them. Customers here are willing to spend money on several items that most MNC companies would not at first think possible like, international brand shampoos in single serve sachets. It all comes down to if a company feels this market is worth targeting or not.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Scottsdale property

I had written about Scottsdale, Arizona some time back. The city of Scottsdale is said to offer one of the best lifestyles in the US, although it is known for being expensive. There are plenty of things to do in Scottsdale, outdoor activities such as golf or hiking, cultural activities such as museums and theatre and of course shopping. If you are looking for Scottsdale Property or in other areas such as Phoenix, Fountain Hills or Carefree, then The Holm Group is the best place to go to. Andrew Holm is an experienced Scottsdale Realtor and an Accredited Buyers Representative and you can be sure you will get the best possible property. They are experts in all real estate transactions, whether it is for a residential or commercial property, re-sale or an investment property.

On Forrester Research

Are you an online marketer or researcher? I do a bit of both as part of my job and find that I rely on Forrester Research for a lot of tips and tools. Their teleconferences and forums are a great way to connect with other researchers and analysts and keep track of things in the industry. I am quite keen on taking part in the teleconference on November 9th on 'Forty Facts about the US online Shopper', which will discuss profiles of customer who shop online, the top categories that are shopped and the top eCommerce browsing categories. Hosted by Sucharita Mulpura, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, the teleconference is sure to be chock-a-block full of useful information.

Hi-tech gift ideas

Still thinking about what to get your tech crazy friends? Well, I've got some great suggestions for technology related gift ideas, that you don't want to miss out on. ZTMax, a company set up in 2005 by Ron Sharon owner of Zetta Global to import high technology products before regular retail stores got them, has some new items on offer. ZTMax has made a name for itself for bringing cutting edge products to consumers who can even submit their own ideas on how to make a product better.

The first item is the Multifunctional Digital Mini Speaker, which is priced at $49.95, and is pretty sleek in appearance. The mini speaker uses the latest in digital driver technology and has a built in mp3 player, a plug-in SD/MMC card and a USB port. You can play up to 10 hours of uninterrupted music on it, thanks to a 1500mAH lithium battery. The second item is the iMage Driverless Webcam from Pico Instruments, that can connect to any popular Mac or PC video application, such as iChat AV, Yahoo!, Messenger and Skype. You don't need to install any special driver to use the webcam which is priced at $54.99.

On sinks

The kitchen sink isn't what I usually write about but I remembered a really incredible sub sandwich I used to have in college, called the kitchen sink, which included pretty much every kind of topping available. Surprisingly, the sub was pretty darned good. OK, back on the real kitchen sinks... Very frankly, the kitchen sink tells the health of a house. I am quite particular about having a neat and clean house and therefore, I am very particular about having a good sink, one that fits on the counter neatly and is easy to keep clean. Stainless Steel Sinks are the best utilitarian sinks, I feel. They are tough and can handle a lot of stuff, but are easy to clean and disinfect too. I've never been too fond of preparation sinks, I feel they just end up doubling the work. I like a medium depth double stainless steel sink, like a restaurant kitchen style sink. Other materials like marble, granite, or copper sinks are great too look at but not as practical to use. On shapes too, I prefer the simpler rectangular designs with rounded edges.

Reliance Retail to strengthen supply chain mechanism

The Economic Times reports that Reliance Retail’s newly launched Reliance Fresh is only the first step of the company’s retail plans. The next format to be launched will be Reliance Fresh Plus, a larger format store. The company plans to completely secure its supply chain from the farmer to the store, and has been aggressively purchasing property to set up its own fruit and vegetable mandis.

Hyderabad has the first of these Reliance Mandis, which is selling around 15-20 tonnes of vegetables. With these mandis, the company will be able to control the entire distribution channel and make commission agents and other intermediaries redundant. Reliance Mandis will sell all basic fruits and vegetable at 50% of the current price to vendors.

According to sources, Reliance will also be using its Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as distribution and stocking hubs, with each one specializing in different commodities. Along the Western Freight corridor, RIL will develop SEZs in Haryana, Jamnagar and Mumbai at an estimated cost of Rs. 25,000 crore.

US cites RIL entry to make case for foreign retail chains

The Economic Times reports that the entry of Reliance Industries Ltd in the retail sector has led to the US pushing for the entry of foreign retail chains into the market. This discussion reportedly came up at the meeting of Indian and US officials at the CEOs Forum. India has been against the entry of foreign retail players saying that local vendors would be hit by such large scale operations, but US officials are countering this issue, that Reliance and Bharti Enterprises will affect local businesses just the same as Wal-Mart would.

A Commerce Ministry official said that,
“It is true that there is no way we can regulate the Indian companies which have turned retailers but given the political opposition we are not in a position to allow the foreign chains to enter the Indian market.”
While the government is open to allowing foreign retailers to set up shop in India, the Left and BJP are opposing the move on the grounds that it will cause widespread job loss in certain communities.

Beach home on Tybee Island

Ah, a home by the beach.

Isn't half the world dreaming of just that?

Well, you might be able to own a house on Tybee Island in Georgia. Just 20 minutes away from Savannah, Tybee Island has 5 miles of beaches and sand dunes. The area is packed with history from many of America's wars. To help people find houses in the area, Tybee Island Real Estate has a service called 'Housetrack' through which you can locate the kind of property you would like to buy, at the same time as local real estate agents come to know of it. The Housetrack service is for free of charge.

Capitalize on your voice

Do you have a good voice? Do you want to make some money from your voice? Well, then check out, where you can set up your own website and upload audio samples, resume and profile, so clients can contact you directly for voice over work. It's as simple as creating an account, filling in your work profile, review offers from clients, once you get the job, record the work at a local recording studio and send it to the client, who will send your payment via paypal. The best suited for these jobs are stage actors, radio personalities, singers, public speakers, comedians and educators.

Monday, November 06, 2006

K-State beats Colorado

K-State beat University of Colorado 34-21 at the game on November 4th at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and more importantly K-State qualifed to compete in the Bowl games.
Josh Freeman completed 22 of 26 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lift Kansas State to a 34-21 victory over Colorado that earned the Wildcats bowl eligibility in head coach Ron Prince's first season. This is the first time Kansas State (6-4, 3-3 Big 12) has been eligible for a bowl since it won the Big 12 championship in 2003.
See the full report here.

Shoppers’ Stop plans on making ‘fun centers’ for families

Daily News & Analysis reports that Shoppers’ Stop is picking up 45% stake in Time Zone Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.’s India operations to connect with families and young adults via entertainment. BS Nagesh, CEO of Shoppers’ Stop, told DNA Money that, “The board has just approved of the company’s decision to synergize our existing business with entertainment facility. To this effect, we will be acquiring 45% stake in this family entertainment centre (FEC) company operating under the brand ‘Timezone’.”

At present Time Zone Entertainment operates three family entertainment centers (FECs) in India, Inorbit Mall in Mumbai, Gallops Mall in Ahmedabad and Salt Lake City Centre in Kolkata. According to industry sources, the company is planning to increase their operations to have 100 such outlets.

How to succeed at eBay auctions

All regulars at eBay are going to love this tool. lets eBay users place bids at the very last second before closing to increase chances of winning and avoiding bidding wars. The sniper tool also protects your username so others from seeing what you are bidding on and bids for you without you even sitting at a computer. The system has lots of other features such as letting you hold prices down by not bidding during the auction. Bids can be placed in any currency, automatically by the system that you have set up. See for your self how easy and user friendly the system is, in a 15 day free trial and also read up some articles on the effectiveness of sniping written by leading mathematicians and educationists.

The importance of innovation

CK Prahalad in 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid':
Because innovations for the BOP markets challenge our established ways of thinking, BOP markets can become a source of innovations for the developed markets as well. Innovation in BOP markets can reverse the flow of concepts, ideas, and methods. Therefore, for an MNC that aims to stay ahead of the curve, experimenting in BOP markets is increasingly critical. It is no longer an option.
Usually, one thinks of the BOP market as deserving of only old technology that is of no use to the urban or elite, but the BOP has need to innovation and technology too, but it just needs to be focused on the right factors that are required in that market.

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

I finished reading CK Prahalad’s 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid' about the ignored potential that lies in marketing products and services to people who live below the poverty level. There are more than 4 billion people who live on less than $2 a day and even with these limited means, this market is teeming with potential. CK Prahalad writes about the characteristics that define the BOP (Bottom of Pyramid) market and how to reach them, by systematically breaking down the barriers and common misconceptions that stop companies from marketing to them.

The biggest misconception about the BOP market is that there is no money. This is simply not true at all. Bottom of the Pyramid customers have requirements for a lot of service and products like other markets and due to the unorganized functioning of the system, usually have to pay more for the same services and products than do better off customers. People in shanty towns pay higher amounts for almost everything such as telephone calls to rice to basic medication.

Contrary to common belief, the BOP markets are extremely brand conscious. These customers aspire to improving their lives, and aspiring to own a particular brand of product is their way of achieving status in their society. The BOP market is also able to adapt to modern technology, such as personal computers and cell phones.

The entire book is full of examples of organizations, companies and people who have made a difference in focusing on the BOP market. The biggest problem lies in the rest of the world changing their opinion about the bottom of the pyramid customers. In the first page of the book, CK Prahalad states, “If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Humidifier info

So the monsoon has finally withdrawn from Bombay, the humidity has gone completely and its suddenly become extremely dry on the skin and throat. Living in Bombay one gets used to the humid weather almost all year round, so even though it never really gets cold here, the humidity does drop quite radically after the monsoon goes, leaving one's skin dry and parched. A humidifier is probably a good way to solve this problem. Read up on how low humidity affects the body and how one can fix it at this site which has a complete guide to buying a house humidifier. I especially found the section on different types of humidifier very helpful.

Quick facts on the Indian retail industry

India’s retail sector is estimated to be worth $350 billion, of which organized retail accounts for only $8 billion. This organized part of the retail industry is growing at 30% annually.

Market Data:
  • New entrants: Reliance Retail and Bharti Enterprises
  • Established retailers: Pantaloon Retail, Shoppers’ Stop, Spencers, HyperCITY, Lifestyle, Trent.
  • An estimated $412 billion is likely to be investing in the retail sector over the next five years.
  • Food, beverages and tobacco make up 40% of the retail sector.
  • The organized food retail sector is estimated to be worth $666 million and likely to reach $33.3 billion by 2015.
  • Branded apparel segment is estimated to be worth $422 million and is growing strongly at 20% annually.
  • Major metro’s such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad is where 68% of organized retail is located.
  • There will be an estimated 220 malls by 2007, a significant rise from 30 in 2003. Current lease rates in major cites vary from Rs. 88 – 120 per sq ft per month.
  • India’s retail industry is the 2nd largest employer, after the agriculture sector, employing 21 million people, roughly 6% of the country’s total workforce and contributes 13% of the GDP.
Foreign Investment:
  • Foreign companies are permitted to hold only 51% of equity in a single brand format only, whose products are sold under the same brand internationally.
Source: Reuters

Black Friday deals

Check out the Black Friday site for great deals and steals, covering a wide variety of stores, products and services. Black Friday is the day after thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year in the US. Retailers are publicizing their special promotions to get people to come to their stores and the site is a good place for information on the best deals available. You can also sign up for an email update, each time Black Friday ads are posted, you will be notified.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

UK: Christmas sales to improve from last year

Retail Week reports that Christmas sales in the UK are expected to be higher than last year, according to Verdict, a retail consultancy based in the UK. Factors such as rising consumer confidence, decrease in petrol prices and high bonus' in the City will help in boosting the figures for this year.
Electricals is set to be the star performer this Christmas, with the sector benefiting from a strong pipeline of affordable products. Clothing retailers are likely to struggle and online retailers are preparing for another record in Christmas sales.

Verdict expects the value of goods bought online in the fourth quarter to rise by 3.5 per cent, reaching £3.4 billion – 4.5 per cent of total Christmas spending.

Tanishq to open in the US

Business Standard reports that Titan Industries jewelry brand Tanishq announced that it will be launching in the US market by next Christmas. Initially the company will be going through a franchisee model, to gauge on how the brand will be accepted in the US market. Tanishq sees a huge potential in the US due to the large number of people of Indian origin settled there. Besides targeting the Indian customer, Tanishq is considering attracting the average American consumer also. A company spokesperson said that,
“We can’t ignore the general American consumer. We are figuring out details and the strategy will be firmed up in the next two months.”

India's retail sector

Some quick facts on the Indian retail industry

India’s retail sector is estimated to be worth $350 billion, of which organized retail accounts for only $8 billion. This organized part of the retail industry is growing at 30% annually.

Market Data:
  • New entrants: Reliance Retail and Bharti Enterprises
  • Established retailers: Pantaloon Retail, Shoppers’ Stop, Spencers, Hypercity, Lifestyle, Trent.
  • An estimated $412 billion is likely to be investing in the retail sector over the next five years.
  • Food, beverages and tobacco make up 40% of the retail sector.
  • The organized food retail sector is estimated to be worth $666 million and likely to reach $33.3 billion by 2015.
  • Branded apparel segment is estimated to be worth $422 million and is growing strongly at 20% annually.
  • Major metro’s such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad is where 68% of organized retail is located.
  • There will be an estimated 220 malls by 2007, a significant rise from 30 in 2003. Current lease rates in major cites vary from Rs. 88 – 120 per sq ft per month.
  • India’s retail industry is the 2nd largest employer, after the agriculture sector, employing 21 million people, roughly 6% of the country’s total workforce and contributes 13% of the GDP.
Foreign Investment:
  • Foreign companies are permitted to hold only 51% of equity in a single brand format only, whose products are sold under the same brand internationally.
Source: Reuters

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cutting down on fradulent returns

The Detroit Free Press writes that retailers are agressively working to cut down on fradulent returns in the Christmas season. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, conducted with 90 retailers, 69% of retailers admit that they have changed their policies to reduce these returns. An estimated $3.5 billion is what retailers expect their returns tally to add up to in the Christmas season and $9.6 billion in the entire year.
More than 95% of retailers surveyed said that stolen merchandise returns were the most frequent type of fraud, followed by 69% getting returns of items originally bought with counterfeit money and 52% seeing returns with fake receipts.

In the past two holiday seasons, many retailers have changed return policies by shortening the time allowed to return items, requiring receipts with returns, charging restocking fees or using sophisticated computer software to track returns.

Among retailers that haven't altered their policies in response to the problem, the survey found that 25% expect to toughen their return policies this year, 70% said their policies will remain the same and less than 5% planned to loosen their policies. The survey was conducted Oct. 2-27.

DVD kiosks

The Akron Beacon Journal reports about a new trend in columbus, Ohio that is combining dinner and entertainment at Wendy's, Meijer and White Castle and the Columbus airport. Customers can buy a meal and pick up a DVD from touch screen DVD vending machines or kiosks as they are called. Alan Rudy is one of the investors who came up with and set up his DVD vending machine company e-Play.
A handful of Wendy's restaurants already have the kiosks, which are about the size of soft drink vending machines and offer 800 movie titles for prices ranging from $10 to $20.

Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini said he hopes offering films alongside the Frosty draws in the younger crowd the company is targeting.

"It's a very innovative way to give customers the opportunity to tap into movies that they like," Bertini said. "We would hope it increases foot traffic in our restaurants."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My 600th post!

My 600th post!!
I'm quite impressed that I haven't overdone the blogging thing and burnt myself out. I confess to really enjoying blogging on a daily basis and being paid for it definately helps as does developing my own 'voice' and having some sort of regular readership are great incentives that make it addictive.

Old economy sectors to cross IT sector

Business Standard reports that old economy sectors such as retail, mining and power transmission are showing faster growth than software service in the past three years. Software companies have been growing at a three year compound rate of 33% and retail, mining and power transmission are growing at a much faster pace. Of the three, retail is the fastest growing sector, growing at a three year compound rate of 46.64%, mining sector at 44.8% and power transmission at 36.6%. Pantaloon Retail has an impressive growth rate of 57%.

Illycafe plans to promote gourmet coffees in India

The Hindu Business Line reports that due to the rising consumption of coffee in India, illycafe S.p.A. is planning to promote gourmet coffee culture and open an outlet of its ‘University of Coffee’ in Bangalore. Illycafe is the producer and marketer of a single blend Arabica and operates the Universita del Caffe in Italy at Trieste. Andrea illy, chairman and CEO of illycafe, said that the University of Coffee will be functional in January 2007 and will be training Indian coffee growers and baristas, organize food and beverage courses, train managers etc.

Would you use a fingerprint lock?

With innovation comes adaptation. Fingerprint door locks which at one time were only for James Bond movies are now available in the market. It's really great to see such things that were once only for high tech and futuristic movies become usable for the regular consumer. It's definitely more towards high security than just a toy, although I'm not sure if I would use it in my home just yet.

I would prefer to try it out for a while first, before installing the fingerprint door lock as the primary mode of locking at home. The convenience factor is a definate plus; just imagine never worrying about lost keys. I like the fact that these locks have 3 ways to unlock; fingerprint, a PIN number and a mechanical key. Up to 100 fingerprints can be stored on a lock, making it practical for an office too.

Gourmet burgers

I absolutely love burgers and since moving back to India, am always on the lookout for finding the perfect one, with the right combination of meat, condiments, bun etc. In the US, it was so easy to get a good burger, and I'm not talking about the fast food variety here, but unfortunatley one can't always find a good, hearty burger here.

One of the best burger's I have eaten in India is from a tiny little eatery in Mohali, a suburb of Chandigarh, where a friend of mine who is from the food and restaurant business had taught them how to make a perfect one. Sadly, I don't get to eat it very often, since I go to Chandigarh usually only once a year. There is a real lack of places to get a good burger in Bombay, although I have heard that Pop Tate's on JP Road in Versova is pretty good. It's on our list of places to check out.

On a related note, reports that a company in the UK has opened a restaurant that serves nothing but gourmet burgers. I like that at lot. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen is a sit down restaurant that has already won several 'best burger' and 'best cheap eat' awards. The idea for the restaurant originated in New Zealand.
Endorsed by internationally recognized chef Peter Gordon, GBK's menu features an extensive range of innovative and exotic burger combinations, some of which are likely to tempt even non-burger loving customers. On offer are classic combinations such as chicken, camembert and cranberry, and beef, avocado and bacon. Innovative alternatives include chorizo with sweet potato, and lamb with minted relish.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Selecting a realtor

Growing up I wanted to either go into the hotel and restaurant industry or be a realtor. The hotel and restaurant field seemed attractive to me because it sounded glamorous but the realtor option was my personal choice just because I loved everything about real estate, planning them, understanding how they are constructed, why people like them, how to make them better and so on. Well, I never got into the field of real estate, but still loved going to open houses to check out what made a great house.

Being a realtor is not all fun and games, as I used to think it was. Realtors have to work in extremely competitive circumstances, understanding clients on both sides, be great at finances as well as time management. A good real estate agency is one that really understands what its clients are looking for and showing only those properties that match their requirements. The Realty1st real estate agency is a family owned real estate agency and has lots of options to chose from Atlanta area real estate or the Norcross Georgia real estate. Owned by Mark Teytel and Lena Zaretsky, the company is a well-known and respected agency in the area.

on asking too many questions

I seem to be in a questioning mood today. Three of my posts this morning out of five have titles that question. Indicator of the way my day is going to turn out or just a coincidence?
Oops there I go again!

Newspapers anyone?

Does anybody read newspapers anymore? Or let me specify, does anybody read newspapers for the news anymore? In India, newspapers are really cheap and the culture of reading newspapers every morning still exists, but in the US, newspapers are not full of news anymore. They are full of advertisements, coupons, and promotions. (Times of India does that too and its really very irritating, especially when they fill up the Sunday colour supplement with ads.) According to an article in Fast Company, newspaper readership is rapidly declining in the US.
In 1960, 80 percent of Americans read a daily newspaper. Today the figure is closer to 50 percent -- and it's falling. Globally it's the same story. Between 1995-2003, worldwide newspaper circulation fell by five percent. In 1892 London had 14 evening papers. Now it has only one. Also in the UK, a staggering 19 percent of all newspapers delivered to retailers in the first quarter of 2006 came back as returns and three national newspaper titles had return (non sale) rates approaching 50 percent.
Personally, I find that I love to spend at least an hour every morning reading the newspaper. When we lived in the US, not having a good newspaper to read was a huge drawback. The local newspapers are only full of local events, missing dogs and death and marriage notices. Here in Bombay, we get two newspapers during the week on three on Sundays, and most days I manage to finish going through all of them in the evening, but it's an enjoyable part of my day.

Straight Up

Here's an interesting business idea. reports about a vending machine that gets rid of frizzy hair so you can fix it before going to that big business meeting or hot date. Beautiful Vending was invented by two men, who were sick of hearing about girls hair being spoilt in the damp British weather after being styled to perfection at home. After a year of research, they came up with a vending machine called Straight Up that lets women purchase a ceramic straightening iron for short use. In 90 seconds, your hair is beautifully straightened, for about $1.85.
Offering style-conscious females the opportunity to look their best at all times -– regardless of unpredictable weather -- this is a simple business idea with low start-up costs and serious potential. The business is currently run solely in the United Kingdom, where 500 units have been placed so far, but Beautiful Vending is seeking to grow quickly and franchise opportunities are available worldwide. Press hype regarding the product has been huge in the UK, garnering much interest from club and bar owners. Straight Up machines will of course be a hit anywhere women preen and primp: restaurants, gyms, shopping malls, office buildings...

What format do you prefer?

According to a survey conducted by Retail Forward, shoppers "in nearly all developing retail markets" prefer shopping in large format food stores such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Metro and Tesco. While shoppers wanted to support small mom-and-pop stores, the convenience of shopping in a one-stop format, where they could purchase all their needs was the main reason for their prefering large format food stores.
The Retail Forward research indicates that “the big hypermarket and supercenter formats at the forefront of global expansion by Wal-Mart and other leading food retailers continue to gain shoppers in most markets.” This is true in most countries, although Wal-Mart has encountered difficulty in Germany, “where the hard-discount format is well-established,” the report says.
Considering that I am from a retail background myself and have worked for a large format retailer such as K-Mart, I now do most of my shopping at my local kirana store due to the convenience of quick home delivery. I go to modern retail stores such as HyperCITY, Spencers and to a lesser extent Food Bazaar, only for more expensive and bulk items such as 5 kig rice, 5 ltr oil, washing powder and personal toiletry items. Retailers in India have a tough job on their hands to compete with small mom-and-pop stores, who excell in offering superb quality in terms of quick delivery, short term credit, personalized service and longer working hours.