Sunday, April 29, 2007

Contact form rules

I added a contact form on this blog over a month back and while I have got some interesting comments and enquiries, I have got plenty of wierdo spammy comments as well. Please do not bother filling it in if all you're going to do is promote yourself, your blog or invite me to Orkut. So sorry to break your heart, but that wasn't my intention of putting up a contact form. I'm not fond of Orkut and am not interested in being "your friend" as you put it.

If you have something to say about a specific post, please leave a comment at the post itself. I have got lots of people asking me about retail, which I welcome, since I have loads to say about it and even more to share. It's only thanks to some of these interesting and intelligent comments that I have received, that I have decided to keep my contact form on my blog.

Plumeria on my desk

I took this pic on my desk last week of some Plumeria I picked from the garden. They are one of my favorite flowers, for their symmetry, simplicity and beauty. The blue mini goblets were a set of six that were given to us a couple of years back by relatives and although I don't use them much for serving drinks, I absolutely adore them for displaying flowers. Colored glass is something that I love to collect, I prefer it to cut glass even, which is much more expensive but I find it too cold, whereas colored glass exudes a warmth and makes any corner of a home interesting and inviting.

Interlude

So, our travel plans got delayed. We were meant to fly out this morning at 530am but got a call from the airline at 130am saying that our flight had been rescheduled to 5pm. So now we suddenly have an extra half day to ourselves, to relax, to catch up with work that I am trying to cover for the week ahead and to sleep. Ah, blessed sleep, it seems that there isn't enough of you these days.

Disney vacations

My friend Kim from Phoenix is raving about her trip to Orlando last month, where she took her 5 year old son for the first time. What made it really fun, she said was that there were 6 of her family members who made the trip together which made a Disney vacation home so much more fun, since they got to spend a lot of time together. A hotel would have so boring and would have separted the group, but renting an entire house made the trip much more special than others.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shop, scan and bag groceries in the cart

Bloom, a chain of grocery stores owned by the Food Lion chain is offering a service to shoppers with their Bloom cards, giving them personal scanners to scan items and bag them in their carts as they shop. Springwise reports that at Bloom, the scanners keep track of what you are buying, so shoppers can keep track of their budgets. Scanners also relay messages on prescriptions of deli purchases that are ready to be picked up. The initiative have come up based on two years of research and analysis. Besides these self checkout carts, Bloom stores also have areas to download recipe ideas, learning about wine and much more. There are 52 Bloom stores in Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina.

Optimizing prices

So does a store really set the best price for a product? A price that will attract those looking for quality as well as a low price. The price optimization software from DemandTec Inc is meant to do just that by analyzing variables such as sales history and competitors prices. Price-optimization software can boost retail profits by a few percentage points. In a lot of cases store managers are already using the system to increase prices, but unless you know exactly how high you can go, you're actually going to end up losing all of the sales entirely.

St Michael's Manor, Scotland, MD

In my last post I wrote about St. Michael's Manor in Scotland, MD which is a really great place to stay, unwind, eat some superb local food such as crab cakes at places like Cafe des Artists, CD Cafe and Courtney's and completely forget about every trouble of yours. Here are a few pics of our stay there. Ignore the dates, they are all wrong. We were actually there in July 2006.


Finding a unique inn

When one is traveling a lot, hotels seem to lose their charm quite fast, right? I actually love to stay at a Bed and Breakfast, apartment hotels etc for a more comforting and welcoming environment. The charming bed and breakfast called St Michael's Manor where we stayed in Scotland, Maryland last July was something that we will remember forever, for the warmth of the welcome, for the uniqueness of the house and its history and vineyard, for its lovely hosts, Joe and Nancy Dick. Most of the time these bed and breakfasts can be hard to find on the Internet, but one such site that is really great at finding some for the best inns in beautiful locations is IloveInns.com, which is where I found St. Michael's Manor in Scotland, MD. The inn is located on Long Neck Creek, at the tip of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River and is a great place to vacation from the Washington DC and Baltimore area.

How do you decide to buy expensive products?

Word of mouth marketing for luxury goods has always been one of the most effective communication tools, but now is becoming even more so, with the use of online forums, customer ratings, reviews on blogs etc. According to The Luxury Institute, 84% if consumers who earn more than $150,000 a year, get information on products and services from sites with customer reviews and rate products and services. Of all the consumers, women between the ages of 45 and 54 are the most likely to base their decision on other users opinions.
“Across the luxury spectrum, nimble luxury firms understand the world has just become transparent and there is nowhere to hide,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, a research organization. “If you have rigid customer processes such as onerous return policies, confusing fees, conflicted endorsements, etc., fix them now and favor the customer. If you are not socially responsible, bet that consumers will gang up on you online.”

Campus concerts

As college students, we used to enjoy the concert series most of all, of all the campus events that were organized. Even in our large basketball court, Bramledge Coliseum tickets would sell out pretty quick. I remember the time that jimmy buffet tickets were all sold out in just a couple of hours, leaving a lot of disappointed fans, one of which was my good friend Sarah, who was a huge fan. The concert was such a success that another one was scheduled for later that year for all those who weren't able to see it.

Free envelopes with postage in exchange for watching ads by email

A new trend report on consumers being able to order envelopes with free postage mailing within The Netherlands, as reported by Springwise. There are two conditions though: there are advertisements printed on the back of five free envelopes per week and consumers must agree to receive ads by email for four weeks. My first thought to this was that not many consumers would go for it, but Gratis-Post actually ran out of envelopes in the first week, with 52,500 envelopes going in just a few hours after launch.

Golfing days

I atarted playing golf pretty early on, even though I just didn't have the paitence to play the game well. Living in a city that has produced some of the country's finest golfers though made us all take up the game with greater gusto, enrolling for lessons, playing regularly, reading golf magazines, practicing on a daily basis and so on. Golf Equipment stores were our favorite haunt at one time, and we could spend hours discussing the intricacies of the benefits of using a fairway wood or an iron and so on.

Are you targeting the right customers?

Retailers are placing greater importance on knowing their customer than ever before. While it is hard enough for regular brick and mortar retailers to target customers accurately, online retailers need to be even more specific in their need to decipher not only what kind of customer they are, but also to what kind of marketing they will respond to. According to Imad Mouline, CTO at Gomez Inc, web retailers must know how the customer reached their site, along with details of what their connection set up, including browser, ISP, operating system etc.
“You can’t just rely on Internet statistics that say, for example, that Internet Explorer has 85% of market share,” Mouline says. “You have to know if that’s really your customers.” The core audience of a consumer electronics retailer, for example, might tend toward a different browser, he says. Another way in which a site’s audience might differ from broader browser use statistics is when it has a large international component. For example, Mouline says, Gomez data across several verticals shows that in Germany, Firefox browsers might make up 50% or more of a site’s user base.

Where to eat in Phoenix

I love reading restaurant reviews written by regular consumers when I have to decide where to go out to eat. Phoenix DMA's Azcentral.com is a newspaper-affiliate that takes that very seriously and has a team of freelance contributors, who select a theme such as steakhouses or ice cream parlors and then visit three phoenix restaurants in the category to write about the food, the experience, the price, decor and pretty much everything else as well. The restaurant review section called Chow 'n'Tell are open to comments from readers who can add their own interpretations and experiences as well. Since February, Azcentral has been holding a competition called Azcentral's Best, where the restaurants are nominated by and voted on by the public. Results will come in on May 1st.

Rock Sugar: Cheesecake Factory's new endeavor

The Cheesecake Factory's first Rock Sugar pan Asian restaurant will be opening in Century City in Los Angeles in September. The concept is expected to be wildly successful and has been creating a lot of buzz in the market. Rock Sugar will be around 7,500 sq ft in space, with high-end decor, a large varied menu and an upscale but casual look and feel. Rock Sugar will feature Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian and East Indian food, bypassing Japanese and Chinese cuisines all together.

Amazon expanding its grip on the web world

Online retailer Amazon.com's founder and CEO, Jeffrey Bezos said that the company is expanding its Amazon Web Services program of allowing "independent sellers to use its network of distribution centers to store and ship their products". What this means is that you could get something that you bought on eBay shipped to you in an Amazon box. Amazon announced that it's revenue increased by 32% and it's stock rose by 40% in the past few days, but the company is constantly on the lookout for finding new ways of making money.
Participants in the program, which is still in the experimental phase, can sign up on Amazon’s Web site and print out stickers that they put on their goods. They then send their products to Amazon, which stores the items commingled with its own. Amazon ultimately ships them to customers when they are ordered online (and charges the seller a variable fee based partly on the weight of the item and the shipping cost).

Creating a professional website form

Did you know that a visitor to a website decides in less than 1 second if they want to stay or click to leave? So, less than one second is what you have to convice someone to stay and browse a bit. A site has to look professionally designed and be fast to load, which are the two main factors that affect the duration of a visit. If you're a small business owner and can't affor a design company to take care of it all for you, don't despair as with Forms4Free you can have a professional looking and working website for a fee of only $19.95. The company has created a formfile to add things such as email forms or contact forms in a simple and quick manner to a website. The formfile acts as a processing file that uploads to the website and processes the HTML form and emails, with the webmaster processing the site through their own server rather than a third party server. It's a great way to get a great looking website, at almost no cost at all.

What does the word retail mean?

Some interesting details on the history of the word "retail" and "retailer" that I found on IMAGINIF, a Belgian design agency. I like going into the history of words, I find it quite fascinating actually and intriguing. I think some of the best designed websites belong to retail design firms who have a real advantage of know about aspects of design as well as what the customer wants to see, whether in a website or in a store. Here's some detail on the word "retail":
Retail comes from the French “retailler“ it means buying in large quantities and selling smaller packages to the consumer.

"Office Ladies" of China are the perfect consumers

Marketers are targeting a segment called the “Office Ladies” in China, women who are young, unmarried and with a good income, most of it disposable which they relish spending on shopping and traveling. Retail is booming in China brought on by such consumers who are happy to finally be able to spend their money on fashionable western brands such as Zara. The Office Ladies trend started in Japan in the 1980s, has been seen in other Asian countries, and is now making it’s appearance in China.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Positive coaching

Sara Orem, a faculty member at Capella University has co-authored a book titled Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change, as a method to instill positive ways of coaching. The book uses the power of positive questions, mindfulness and several other tools to strengthen the positive aspects of a person and bring about change. Capella University is one of the leaders in online education and its option of getting a college degree online, has led to thousands of students benefiting from their high quality of teaching standards. The co-author of the book, Sara Orem is a full time faculty member of the university and is also a principal of her own coaching firm. This blog post was based on information provided by Blogitive. For more information, please visit Blogitive.com.

Travel plans

Well, we will be away for a week starting tomorrow to Dubai, my hubby on work and me on work and play. I've transited from the Dubai airport several times, but this will be my first trip to the city itself. We might go to Abu Dhabi too while we're there, which will be really nice, since they say it is the richest city in the world with its huge oil reserves. The new Emirates Palace Hotel that recently opened is said to be simply fabulous with tons of gold everywhere. Wonder if one will be allowed to take pics there?

Being your own boss

Home based businesses are never been a better option than these days. More and more consumers are switching to greater freedom at what they want to do for work and when they want to work. There are a lot of Internet Business Opportunity options available these days which are a great way to get started creating your own business. I have been working from home myself for the past couple of years and this is a really great way to get used to having my own home based business one day. Research and analysis is rising in demand, especially as companies expand their sphere of business and need information on companies, countries, policies and much more.

I found that good research is a great commodity and very much in demand, rising even from when I started a couple of years back with a research project for five provinces of China. At the present, I'm quite happy just working on a few projects at a time by myself, but I think there will come a time that I would like to take on a few people to expand my offerings for research and analysis. It's a business that could grow and specialize according to whatever was required as per the trends and economy, which is an important factor to be aware of.

74 new stores for Reliance Retail in Q4

Reliance Retail has had a busy fourth quarter, with 74 new store openings of its Reliance Fresh Brand. Reliance Retail now has a total of 135 stores located in 16 cities. The first Reliance Fresh store opened last December in Hyderabad and the company's first Reliance Digital store opened in a Delhi suburb this week. It’s stores cover a total area of 370,000 sq ft of space.

Las Vegas information

Las Vegas is no longer just a gambling town any more. It has made it self one of the top destinations of the world thanks to its creative mix of something for everyone attitude. With it's over the top and simply amazing architecture, the city of Las Vegas has carved a name for itself in the world of international travel and tourism that a lot of larger cities in the US haven't been able to do.

So, if you're thinking of a Las Vegas vacation, then head on over to the Las Vegas Vacations and Hotels blog, which has some great in depth knowledge on Las Vegas vacation information and how to plan a trip to the city, where to stay, what to do, where to shop and so on. One of the known high points of the city is of course the gambling. Everyone knows that hotel deals are often tied in with a gambling package, but most of these are usually only for the high rollers, but you're sure to find some great deals such as the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas which offers a great poker rate, where you have to spend at least 6 hours in the poker room, so it's a great option for serious poker players. It's such insightful tips like this that makes this a great site to bookmark for when you plan to take that trip to Las Vegas.

Carrefour postpones India plans

French retailer Carrefour announced that it has postponed it’s plans to open stores in India, due to “rising political opposition” for the entry of international retailers. According to Carrefour India head, Gerard Freiszmuth, “We will not be in a position to announce any concrete India entry plan till policy issues on FDI in retail are made clear.” Carrefour is also waiting to hear the decisions on the Wal-Mart-Bharti deal and will decide it's future in the country accordingly. The company is also awaiting for the results of the ICRIER study on the impact of large retailers, international and domestic companies, on the local mom-and-pop retailers.

Targeting the right consumers

Direct mailing is becoming all the more important these days as a method of showcasing products and services.It's not an easy task to compile and create a program to send out to hundreds or thousands of consumers of the right profile. Martin Communications' ResponseCom is one of those that has succeeded in breaking the mold, by combining US Response and US Consumer databases, to churn out results by over 100 specializations based on demographics and psychographic criteria. Mailing lists are not useful unless they are the right combination of right consumers and right products. With some really solid experience in tracking, compiling and optimizing databases into cohesive direct mail campaigns, ResponseCom has been able to get higher response rates, greater profitability and bigger and better opportunities in business.

Retailers up their loyalty incentives

Retailers such as Nordstom are going all out to attract the big spenders by offering them special incentives and even chances to win big, including trips, priviliged access to celebrity events, store openings and much more. Others like Saks have also increased special offers associated with their loyalty program. As the competition between retailers accelerates their offerings, it will be the consumers who will benefit from these endeavors.

Bid and win prizes at a reverse auction site.

I came across this site a few days back and have already become fascinated by the concept of it. Bid4prizes.com is a reverse bidding site, that awards prizes to its members who bid the lowest unique amount. So just by bidding the lowest is not any good, your bid has to be unique, that is no one else should have bid that amount. It's a simple concept, but requires a lot of guessing to figure out both aspects. There is no cost to join bid4prizes, so it's a fun game to try out and maybe even become an expert at it. The prizes themselves are pretty amazing such as a Toyota Scion, cell phones, a Samsung 50" Plasma TV, so besides the fun factor, they are a great reason to join as well. It would be pretty crazy to win something expensive like this, although if I won a plasma TV, I would set up a nice home entertainment centre at home and enjoy movies on it, so each time we watched something on it, we would remember Bid4prizes and in what an amazing manner we won it. Now only the winning remains...

Edited to add: Some readers have had a bad experience with Bid4prizes (when signing up for Photobucket...read the comments), that I was not aware of when I wrote the above post. I myself tried the concept and was not as fascinated about the site as I thought I would be. The concept is still good, but the way it is operated is not. So, try it at your own risk and be aware that you might have to pay something for it. Nothing in life is free, I guess.

Discount malls everywhere you look

Retailers and real estate developers in India are fascinated by the concept of discount malls, where branded goods are sold at 30-40% lower than the MRP. There an an estimated 50 discount malls coming up in the next two years, such as the Orchard Road Mall, which is being developed by Royal Palms, and will have major brand names such as Calvin Klein, Louis Phillipe, Adidas, Nike and many more. Real estate developer Akruti Nirman is also creating discount malls not only in Mumbai’s suburbs but also in tier II and III towns as well.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

LePlayer: video on demand

Did you know that you could use this new tool called LePlayer to watch videos on the web? That's not all, you can also use to search for video content, watch it and save anything you like to your computer, phone or other media device. The LePlayer streaming video player can be used to watch video on demand as well from anywhere in the world. I think it's a great way to select the focus of the video and be able to find exactly what you're looking for. So if you are interested in knowing about the weather in the far corners of the world, you can focus only on that and it will bring up those specific results for you. With it's "Float" option, you can even watch videos as you surf the web, read emails, work on word documents etc. Technology and entertainment have joined together for great results as usual.

Organized retail shaking things for fast food chains

Organized retail is causing a lot of concern for small fast food retail chain, due to people are moving across hierarchies, management structures and companies. One of the most popular coffee bar chains, Barista is working to create a system where it’s staff build their career with the company instead of constantly shifting jobs.

Partha Dattagupta, CEO of Barista Coffee Company says, “We won’t call it stemming attrition, rather fostering growth.” Domino’s has been hit hard by the churn, with 10-15% at the management level and 50% at the front end level. Ajay Kaul, CEO of Domino’s (Indian subcontinent) says that, “The threat from organised retail is clearly there, and we are constantly thinking of ways to retain talent, whether it is improving the work environment or empowering employees to grow further.” The main reasons why people join the larger retailers is to make more money, for the potential of the opportunity and to have access to more challenging assignments.

Yummy gifts for Mother's Day

Have you thought of what you're going to buy for Mother's Day? Here's a suggestion that will be an all round hit: chocolate covered berries!! Sounds delicious, right? I think I will need to order a couple for myself too, in addition to getting some Mothers Day chocolate covered strawberries. I am partial to chocolate covered strawberries, especially those have been double dipped in both dark and white chocolate. I loved the variety and combinations that Chocolate Covered Company had, such as the mint or butterscotch flavored dipped fruits. It's hard to decide what to get when each item seems more tempting than the last but these really would make great Mothers Day chocolate gifts. All fruit is of the best quality from California and once dipped are packed with great care in boxes of 1 dozen, 2 dozen or 9 pieces.

Louis Vuitton to buy 20% share of Hidesign


Global luxury brand LVMH is looking to take on competition from Japanese luxury bag makers and is buying Indian bag manufacturer Hidesign, to position its products against it's competitors in the Japanese market. The company use the Hidesign brand against Coach in the Japanese market, and will focus on creating a niche for it as an affordable luxury brand in department store. Dilip Kapur, president of Hidesign said that, “Our partnership with Louis Vuitton is at the operational, marketing and design front but all decision making will be ours. In addition to the equity stake, there is an understanding of mutual aid between the two brands.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Share of organized retail to rise to 20%

Industry body FICCI estimates that the organized retail sector will see a 30% growth by 2010. The total retail sector is expected to reach $430 billion, from its current $328 billion. The industry association has recommended several points to ensure that these figures are met, such as the opening up FDI restrictions, granting the retail sector industry status, tax rationalization and encouraging public-private initiatives so that required manpower can be trained. The report said that the organized sector will grow at a 50% rate and will be worth an estimated $90 billion by the year 2010. The organized sector has been growing at 35% in the past five years and currently accounts for 1.5% of the country’s GDP. Most of the growth will take place in metro cities.

Paynet Systems: a must for all retailers


A lot of small and medium retailers overlook the importance of having a professional company to take care of credit card processing services. It is the single most important thing a retailer can do to increase sales, brand loyalty and customer loyalty. Unless you have a system that customers feel comfortable using, it's no use having even the best of products.

One of the most reliable credit card processing companies is Paynet Systems that provides credit card processing services to retailers, wholesalers, mail order and e-Commerce companies. With their flexible set up, retailers can customize programs for their own business category. Paynet Systems advanced merchant accounts are priced very competitively, and you will see the return on value for their services. A Credit Card Merchant account or a low-cost merchant account can be approved in less than 24 hours, which makes it quick and easy to get started.

QuickBase offering online database downloads for free

Thanks to all the new business software products that are available now, one is able to do more work in less time and with less hassle. They way technology and business have combined has made a remarkable impact on the way we all work now. Take for example QuickBase from Intuit, an information and database management software, that enables workers to connect to a database from a central location to access information, while controlling who has access to the data.

QuickBase is offering a 30-day free trial so users can download the program and get a feel of how it works. There is no credit card required at all, and after sign up, users will be contacted by their sales representatives who will additionally give some free tutorial videos and will be available to answer any questions. QuickBase will also be sponsoring a video demo every Wednesday for those who sign up for the free trial. I first read about this Free Online Database from QuickBase at a site called Maven Mapper's Information, which is a great resource for learning about the business analytics, software and information management. The blog world is full of great reams of information and one just has to know where to look.

MIT uses blogs to attract students

Fast Company writes about blogs entering the world of college admissions, as being reported by the Boston Globe. MIT is using blogs to attract potential applicants, and has highlighted one of the bloggers Lulu Liu on their website. I think its a really great way to connect to potential students, since most people look for reviews and opinions on blogs anyway.
While information about parties and the academic standings of the schools are all over the Web, uncensored information about a college kid’s everyday life is not so prevalent. And that’s why these blogs work. The Globe said the blogs “were among the top three most useful” pieces of information when applicants were deciding whether to attend MIT or not.

What makes these blogs work is the latitude the admissions office gives the students to express their true feelings in the world of learning. If the blogs just talked about lunch at the Union and walks on the main square, then no applicant would read them.

Celebrity influences

There is just too much negative influence on young kids and adolescents these days on being thin and looking good. While it is important to be healthy, taking it to the extreme can lead to dangerous situations. The celebrity and media boom has lead to a huge surge in sales of Diet Pills, since people want to look like them, not realizing that there are no shortcuts to looking good. You have to eat healthy, exercise regularly and work hard to losing weight. For a lot of people with serious weight issues, these pills might be required but a lot of people just have them because they are lazy to do the work themselves and that is not a healthy way to deal with weight.

The Limited selling its apparel brands to focus on beauty and inner-wear segments

The Limited will reportedly be selling its apparel business to Schottenstein Stores Corp and Gordon Brothers Group. There is also talk about the current president of Limited's apparel group, Jay Margolis making a bid for something along the lines of a management buyout. Interestingly, what started out as an apparel company is now mostly making money from sales of innerwear and beauty products from Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, with its core apparel brands accounting for only 20% of revenues from Limited and Express. The price for the 658 Express and 260 Limited stores is said to be in the $1 billion range, but could also go to as low as $900 million and as high as $1.1 billion. Probably the sweetest part of the deal would be the company's real estate holdings which will be part of the deal.
As reported, executives at Limited Brands in recent investor meetings have said their future is Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. During a WWD Beauty Summit in 2006, Wexner said the "best is yet to come" in the beauty business. "The next 10 years is going to make the last 20 look like a slow walk," he said. In regard to his own company, Wexner added, "We think we are going to double our beauty and cosmetics business in the next five years in the lower 48 states. We're not really excited about Hawaii and even Alaska. We're Midwesterners, and that's where we think our growth is. We think the industry is going to grow enormously."

What your business card says about you?

I find it very interesting to decipher and delve into business cards. Some cards scream pricey right from the moment you see it, others are more basic in graphics as well as paper. It's an interesting way to judge a business, by seeing what is added to the card or not? I don't much care for the cards that are overloaded with information, since it becomes a sensory overload to deal with too much data. From a design perspective, good business cards have 2-3 colors, a clean or neutral background so the words and the graphics stand out and only the basic contact information, name and titles.

Lifeguard's chair at Varca Beach

I took this picture of a lifeguard's chair at Mahindra Resorts on Varca Beach in Goa last month. The chair was not on the public beach, but at the Dune Shack which is one of their restaurants overlooking the beach. There is a little stream that flows between the resort and the main beach and this chair was standing guard by the bridge to cross the stream, instead of the beach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sleep in a beer can? Yes you can!

I'm sure all the college guys are simply going to love this. Denmark's Smukkeste Festival has seen the launch of the Can Sleep, a mini house in an extra large beer can. Springwise reports that the project is a joint venture between the organizers at the festival and the Royal Unibrew. The Can Sleep are over 11 ft tall and have a diameter of over 7 ft and comes fully furnished with table, chairs, shelves, with a ladder going upstairs to a loft bed that can sleep two adults. All furnishings are provided by IKEA.
Reservations for the 121 Can Sleeps produced for the 2005 festival sold out in just 40 seconds over the internet. While Royal Unibrew has exclusive rights within Denmark, Can Sleep is available to other sponsors outside of the country. Each is priced at about USD 4,000 each (not including delivery charges), with a minimum order of 54 cans (9 six packs).

Could you handle working from home?

A lot of people are not able to work at home. Thankfully, I am not one of them. I love being able to work at my own timings, at my own speed and by my own rules. I do however set a guideline for the day and week ahead and stay pretty close to it, to ensure that I'm not getting sidetracked just because there isn't anyone looking over my shoulder. One of the ways that I have been able to be successful in working from home is web conferencing, which enables me to be in virtual touch with the office and with clients, who need not even know that I'm working off site. Working from home, means you have to be good at juggling and multi-tasking, much more than you even think.

Mom-and-pop retail Vs Organized retail

Lot of talk lately in the papers about Wade Rathke, strident Wal-Mart critic and protester, who is visiting India at present. While there have not been as many activities planned as was being suggested by the media, regular Wal-Mart opponents are always ready for a good drumming up of support for their pet cause.

The thing is that while some the larger retailers, Wal-Mart or others, are becoming too large for everybody else's good, the small mom-and-pop retailers that people are protesting on behalf of have their own negative qualities. There is no system to their stores, their labor is 99% illegal, they never ever pay taxes, they always charge the MRP, which stands for Maximum Retail Price, while all the organized retail stores, pass on their bulk discount to consumers. And the sad thing is that everyone is too busy "protesting" too really think of what the consumer wants, which is better service, better products, lower prices, ability to shop in better atmospheres, parking space and so on, all of which can only be given by organized retailers like HyperCITY, Spencers, Spinich, Subhiksha, Food Bazaar etc.

The first rule of business is to provide something of value to your customers, and the majority of mom-and-pop retailers have lost out on that. The sole advantage they have at the present is their superb delivery service, which is free and quick and the organized retailers have not been able to follow as yet. But it's only a question of time, till they do.

Special soaps from Hawaii

One of my favorite gifts is soap. I find something oldworldly and charming about it. But it can't be your boring old soap, and has to be interesting, aromatic, therapeutic, relaxing soap. I simply love a combination of honey and vanilla with is soothing and invigorating at the same time. While there are lots of regular scented soaps available, most have a synthetic and plastic smell. If you want the real deal, you have to try out something like the handmade soap available at Remember Maui, which have been created using only natural ingredients. There are 16 flavors of fruit and floral fragrances available such as Plumeria, Pikake, Tuberose, Olinda orchid, Hana rose, passion fruit, coconut mango, hana honey lime and many more.

Online shopping help

I found this rather interesting; LivePersonalShopper.com is a service that will offer advice to customers on ideas for buying gifts. Part of LivePerson Inc, which offers chat services to online retailers such as banks and mobile phone companies, the company is now heading into mainstream retail. So, the next time you can't think of what to buy your aunt for her birthday, log on and get some suggestions. The service will cover segments such as apparel, accessories, gifts, home furnishings, wine and cosmetics. According to CEO Robert LoCascio, LivePerson is driving traffic to this new shopping advice site, which is already getting 10,000 visitors a month. The company has 4.5 million chats a month of which 25% convert to sales.

The personal shoppers at LivePersonalShoppers.com can recommend any retailer, LoCascio says, although “they have a familiarity with our base of customers.” He says consumers who choose to use the chat service may want to deal with retailers the same way, and the personal shoppers can transfer a customer to one of LivePerson’s retail clients to continue the dialogue.

Movie theatres increasing their offerings to bring back customers

Movie theatres are working to bring back customers to watching movies in the theatre's again. According to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), attendance at movie theatres has been dropping in four of the past five years, from 1.6 billion viewers in 2002 generating $9.52 billion in sales. In 2006, attendance increased marginally to 1.45 billion and so far 2007 has been quite good as well, with an increase of 4.2 % in attendance so far.

Multiplexes are luring consumers back to the movie theaters with offering luxury and style, with their "dinner and a movie" themes. Theaters are increasing offering reserved seating sections where they serve alcoholic beverages, specially made dinners and relaxing leather seating.
In March, Movie Tavern signed to open a location in Williamsburg, Va., the latest in its plans to open eight locations by 2008 (giving it 20 in all). Studio Movie Grill earlier this month announced plans to open its fifth location in Arlington, Texas as it ramps up an effort to open 75 properties in the next five years. Meanwhile, Regal Cinemas recently unveiled its own Cinebarre concept and plans to open its first location in July.

The age of personalization

I'm always intrigued at the number of creative ways that are now available to create a customized gift. There is something rather special about getting a gift with your name or your initials engraved or embossed on it, it almost makes it an even more memorable occasion. Gifting personalized baby gifts is all the more meaningful, a gift that can be treasured for ever and something that is completely unique. The Baby Nest has some really beautiful and creative gifts that are sure to stand out from other gifts. I loved the silver plated yo yo which you can have engraved. I'm quite sure that's got to be the most unique and unusual baby gift ever.

Funny ads are ok, but those with utility and value are far better

Advertising campaigns that focus on offering value and branded service will be the winners according to Clark Kokich, aQuantive's Avenue A/Razorfish's worldwide president. While entertainment will play a role in future advertisements, the focus is to shift to utility and value instead, to have a lasting impact on the way consumers think.
Offering an example of his own doing, R/GA's Law pointed to the Nike Plus campaign, which he spearheaded last year. To build a closer relationship with the runners, Nike Plus gives them the ability to record workouts on their Apple iPod Nano using a chip in their Nike running shoes. Users can then instantly upload and view their workouts on an illustrated graph online.

Rent all the dvds you want from Blockbuster!

Nothing quite like getting movies delivered to your doorstep, right? I simply love the concept and have been able to catch up with a lot of the movies I have missed at the theatres. Blockbuster is offering a free trial to rent all the dvds you want, so it's a great way to see all the movies you want in the comfort and convenience of your home for just $9.99 for the first month and $17.99 a month afterwards. With some great features like no late charges, mail-in or in-store movie exchanges, one free rental coupon a month, completely free delivery and pick up from your home, Blockbuster's DVD rental deal is really great for any movie buff.

There are a lot of DVD subscription services, but I have found that most of them usually never have the movie you want to see, and can be quite a waste of time and money. Blockbuster on the other hand is known for its quality standards and I have found that their picture quality is way better than other DVD rental places. So, stock up on popcorn and drinks and start your free trial!

Time to renew antivirus

My McAfee antivirus program is expiring early next month and I know I need to renew my subscription or buy a new one, but my McAfee system for some reason keeps getting disabled each morning time I start my computer. Not sure if there is a bug or just McAfee's irritating way of sending reminders....renew your subscription or else!!! I have already decided to go with them for another year, and just need to figure out where I order or renew my subscription, since I bought it in Singaporean $ and the renewal is showing up in GBP. I sent them a query and they replied sending me the local email and telephone number to contact (which does not work), so lets see what happens. Might just have to switch to a different company after all.

Study SEO tactics in school

Interesting news this: Ohio State University is now offering a class on Electronic Marketing, which will cover all aspects of paid and organic search, search engine optimization, analytics for a website, and all other promotion and marketing tactics. The course will be taught by Laura Thieme, president of Bizresearch, a search engine marketing company. Even more interestingly, some companies have already shown interest in hiring students from the class.
Thieme says she is introducing the students to such web site terminology as page title and meta-tag, and teaching them to use such technology as the site analytic tools from Web Tracker and search engine optimization tool WebPosition Gold. “They have to be good at getting rankings,” Thieme says. “That’s why they have to understand the jargon to be able to interact with programmers and web site designers.”

Enhancing data security

Ever since I started working at home, I've had to ensure that I had everything that would create a system of consistent flow for information between the office and my home, so that the work would continue on smoothly. Since I do research there is usually a lot of files to be sent back and forth, bulky files with charts, graphics etc, that cannot be sent just as attachments to a mail in their regular format. When I did some research on the Internet, I found that www.securezip.com offers to secure email messages by protecting files that are being stored as well as being transferred, the system integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook, so you don't need to worry about setting it up.

A lot of the work I currently do is quite sensitive, especially since it is related to the timing of a new concept being launched, so it is critical for my data security to be at the absolute secure level. SecureZIP - The next generation of ZIP goes far beyond the old zip files that we already use to compact files before transferring them. SecureZIP is instead a comprehensive solution for taking care of your email security as well as securing your stored data on your hard drive, laptop or portable media. I really liked the features of SecureZIP, especially as it automatically protects email messages from your mailbox without being intrusive. At present the company is offering a limited time offer for consumers for its individual user licences, so you can download the complete software for free.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Marketing using tattoos

Agenda reports that even though tattoos are becoming more mainstream, they don't seem to be losing their marketability when it comes to certain edgy products. Scott Campbell is one such tattoo artist that created his own unique style which attracted marketers. He opened a boutique called Saved Tattoo in New York and in 2005 was asked by Gyro Worldwide to do some work for Camel cigarettes. Since then, he's done work for Nike, Volkswagen, ZZ Top and most recently for Comcast's new Fearnet channel.
The Camel campaign "opened my eyes," Campbell says. "I made phenomenal money watercoloring these same pictures I'd been tattooing on people."

Lately he has been applying his aesthetic to household objects by way of a laser-etching machine, and formed his own creative agency, Mama Tried, so he can work with new clients "from the concepting stage," consulting on a brand's entire image, rather than just doing illustrations
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Approach to cooking: Men Vs Women

Men and women perceive different tasks in very different ways. I for example usually always think of cooking as "work", even though I don't cook on a daily basis and have a cook who comes in everyday. Men on the other hand, think of cooking as a fun diversion to their regular routines, to their actual work and thoroughly enjoy the "experience" of it. The outcome of my food usually depends on how happy and relaxed I was feeling while I cooked it, while for men just cooking relaxes them.

My hubby cooked a simply Out-Of-This-World-Delicious lamb curry that was a beautiful (yes, I can assure you it was beautiful) mixture of Indian and European cuisines. Having studied in Switzerland, he has superb taste and an amazing ability to mix flavors to come up with incredible results. While he is up in the air concocting some sublime menu, I am sitting for hours on end to come up with an average run-of-the-mill menu. Granted, the mood to cook doesn't strike too often, but when it does, one is sure to be given a royal treat.

On promissory notes

Everyone knows just how much attention to detail one has to pay when signing important documents, whether they are pertaining to a mortgage or a business loan. It is important to fully understand what exactly is stated in promissory notes, which detail the agreement between two parties such as how and when the sum of money is to be returned. Promissory notes include details on the principal amount, applicable interest rate and the due date. One of my friends in Kansas City dealt with them at the real estate agency she worked at and felt that even though the US government considered certain promissory notes as negotiable instruments, they were not commonly known in average real estate dealings and mortgages. I personally feel that the world of real estate finance is probably just too complicated for the average buyer, who is only focused on finding a good and affordable place, which makes it even more essential for all paperwork and documents to be as straightforward and simple as possible. At ezcashnotesforu.biz, the average consumer as well as the worldwise investor can take advantage of using the company's worldwise services, making it a place any potential home buyer or business investor should visit.

Resources to start a new business

If you are starting a new business, you need to have all the resources that you can find that will assist you in getting where you want to be. I have found that Entrepreneur.com is one of the best reading material on pretty much everything to do with starting a business, finding the talent to run it, attracting clients, expanding a home start up, and so on. There are lots of basic tips as well as detailed stuff on how to get your business off the ground and turn it around into a success story. The ultimate goal is of course to be featured in the magazine itself.

Furniture shopping ahead

We have to do a lot of sorting out in the next couple of months, regarding what furniture we want to keep and take with us and what we want to sell or give away out here. It's going to be quite a hassle taking bulky items, especially furniture with us and the more we think about it, the more sense it seems to make that we make a fresh start in Dubai. We could get some nice new furniture there, something like I saw at Powell furniture, like the nice and practical cabinets and bedside tables. The items I am particularly attached to, I will hold on too, but thankfully they are all the smaller pieces.

Alternative accommodation: Bed Sharing

Springwise reports on a new way to take care of accommodation while you're traveling to Milan: Bed Sharing. The project was initiated to take care of the large number of visitors and designers that were coming to the city for the Salone del Mobile, the annual international furniture fair. Milan residents were asked to take part in the project to offer rooms to conference attendees, who had not been able to or could not afford hotel rooms.

It's a simple way to add a personal touch and human scale to massive conferences and events, while helping local professionals expand their networks by meeting colleagues from abroad. One to set up for every major conference? Since almost everything can be arranged online, coordination costs aren't high. And given most events’ very specific target audiences, sponsors should be easy to find.

Written inspiration or visual delight?

I've always loved subscribing to magazines, so I can read them at my leisure at home. I currently have subscriptions to 1 fashion magazine, 1 home decor magazine, 3 business magazines and the Readers Digest, which is a gift subscription. As hard as it is to keep up reading all my magazines, it is a great way to keep up with what is happening, in a medium other than the Internet. Magazines are increasing in their niche targets these days, but I still love to read a general all-round magazine as well.

With niche magazines, one can get too deep into only a single focus, instead of broadening one's focus, which is really the intention of all reading, right? But then a lot of magazines aren't about the reading any more; fashion photography has taken precedence in all fashion magazines, which is the case with a lot of other magazines as well. I'd have to say, I love a magazine with a bit of both, interesting articles as well as some fun photographs.

PVR at Nirmal Lifestyle Mall: don't bother going

I finally visited Nirmal Lifestyles Mall in Mulund this weekend, after having heard so much from so many people from it. The mall is sprawling in every direction and has a lot of mixed use space at it's centre, which is open to the sky, great in nice weather, but quite awful in the hot summer months. We had some spare time, so we headed straight to the movie theatre, to watch any passable movie starting in the next 20-30 minutes. Our first choice was Bheja Fry, but Namaste London was 35 minutes earlier, so we took tickets for it and headed inside. All in all a decent timepass type of movie, nothing serious at all, but a bit too loud I thought.

The best way to judge how much a mall developer and theatre company thinks of the customer is to judge them by where the exit of the theatre is, and the exit from PVR Cinema's at Nirmal Lifestyle Mall was worse than pathetic. After walking down a couple of flights you end up in a construction zone, walking on uneven ground, in the middle of bags of cement and drums of water. Oh and it gets much worse. You then have to walk through their garbage utility area, where the garbage truck is being loaded and something, not sure what, was being washed as there was lots of soapy water flowing along the road.

So, there you have it, that's what Nirmal Lifestyle and PVR think of their customers. I will definitely not be going back to see a movie there again, unless they clean up their act. C'mon people, this is the absolute basic stuff. At least show some respect to your customers, or they are not going to be your customers anymore. Like me!

Dealing with the hot summer

Summer is here and with it start the power cuts. Luckily we haven't had any so far although they are predicting that our area will also have some cuts since the amount of power supplied is much less than what is required. Last year, it wasn't too bad since they had invested in power supply repair equipment and we were out for a long vacation for most of the summer. This year, our long vacation will be later on in the year, since we're just too busy with work for the next couple of months at least.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

On reading and writing

I love to read and write, so here are some interesting and inspiring quotes about reading and writing.

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."
-James Bryce

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."
-G. K. Chesterton

“Too often I wait for the sentence to finish taking shape in my mind before setting it down. It is better to seize it by the end that first offers itself, head or foot, though not knowing the rest, then pull: the rest will follow along.”
-André Gide

All quotes from Quoteland.com

Living positively

Isn't there a saying that goes something like, there are no shortcuts in life? What is it that makes people think that they can use shortcuts in life? I strongly believe in karma or destiny, that one has to give to get anything back, and if one thinks that one can just keep taking without giving anything back to life, then you're sadly mistaken. For a lot of kids, it's just the thrill of doing something that they're not meant to, and drug rehab centres are full of kids who thought they could get away with it. I think these centres are rightfully doing a lot of work on changing the way people think and changing their attitude and motivation towards life.

Problems for Reliance Retail agriculture based retail program

Reliance Retail’s ambitions for setting up an agri-retail plan in the state of West Bengal is running into problems from top CPI-M leaders having voiced opposition to the project, even though it has been supported by the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. At the CPI-M's weekly meeting, Jyoti Basu said that, "We are opposed to the way it (the Reliance project) is being done. It has created a lot of problems between us and it needs to be discussed by the party Central Committee and Politburo before a decision is taken.”

Treasured timepieces

One of my fondest memories of living in the Providence and Bristol, RI area is going antiquing on Sundays. Some of the finest antiques are to be found in some of the smaller towns like Warren, along highways 103 and 114. On one of my weekly jaunts I found this beautiful and impressive looking grandfather clock, the kind that one always sees in home decor books. I didn't buy it then, since we were going to be moving soon, but I still haven't forgotten it and would love to buy one once we are a bit settled.

Pantaloon scales new heights

Pantaloon Retail reached new heights in sales figures. The company added some 450,000 sq ft of retail space in March 2007 alone. The new properties were 7 new Pantaloon stores, according to JP Morgan analysts Vijay Chugh and Latika Chopra. Their report states that Pantaloon retail’s sales grew to Rs 2.6 billion, up by 84%, while its value retail segment sales grew by 74%, lifestyle retailing grew by 24%, and home retailing grew by 10% at Rs 286 million.

Learning from books

Some time back I read a book in which the protagonist was a Death insurance salesman, but considering that the subject is usually portrayed as dark and sad, the book was actually quite an uplifting and overall positive book to read. Everything that begins has to end but the way it happens and the aftermath can be controlled and turned into something manageable. I feel, that reading is a great way to increase one's knowledge on pretty much every subject, and especially to give a new perspective.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Are you ready for made-to-measure menswear?

The next hotspot in retailing is mens luxury clothing or made-to-measure menswear. If you have money to spend on anything and everything, then get your self a tailor who will custom fit clothes for you. Agenda reports on this trend that is due to a lot of more popular luxury items becoming blase and this is one of the ways that the super rich try to distinguish themselves from the ordinary rich. As the men's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue states, "We are so inundated with luxury right now that the guy who once bought three Zegna suits is upgrading to something even more luxurious." The labels that are already into this market include Zegna, Hugo Boss, Brioni and Ralph Lauren, besides the super luxurious Kiton and Savile Row tailors who have catered to such clients for the longest time.
Last year Giorgio Armani introduced a couture collection of made-to-measure suits called Giorgio Armani Fatto a Mano su Misura (Handmade to Measure). And on April 12 on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Tom Ford opened his first namesake boutique, a 1930s-style haberdashery, where shoppers can find such luxuries as $5,000 bespoke three-piece suits, 18-karat-gold and ebony sunglasses, and dressing gowns cut from 19th century jacquard fabrics.

PHP training

Thanks to my curious mind, I get to learn something new constantly. My latest endeavor is to learn PHP, which is programming language created mostly for creating dynamic web pages. I already know html and other basics, so it's time to take it up a notch and increase my skill base. Interestingly and quite fittingly, I found a resource for learning PHP on the Internet, which is meant to be one of the best resources for PHP training.

Open Technology Group or OTG has been in the business for over a decade and have built up quite a name for themselves in developing and training others in IT solutions. To show you just how committed they are, they even have a "fly and learn" program specially designed for people who live in other areas. For the duration of the course, each student is given a computer for their use in their office in Morrisville, NC. The entire trip and class is priced together so all meals and a hotel room will be included in the price.

Starbucks applies again

Starbucks has revised its application and filed again at the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for permission to enter the country's retail market to open it's cafes in India under the single brand allowance in FDI. The Starbucks spokesperson said that the company was hoping that it would be able to open an outlet by later on this year located either in Delhi or Mumbai. Starbucks was one of 15 companies that applied for permission to open outlets in India, when the Indian government permitted FDI in single brand retailing last year. Of the 15 applications from that time, nine have been approved, three are pending and three have been rejected.

Online shopping

I've become quite a fan of online shopping with each new country that we've lived in. As one becomes accustomed to certain products, especially local products, when one moves it becomes hard to do without them, so ordering them online makes it really quite simple. So, that's how my online shopping started, but once it started, I've of course gone on to lots of other shopping. I am in retail after all, must 'test out' products and analyze their marketability, profitability and the rest of it all! One of the sites, that I've found to be a good and fun find is Am Online Shopping that specializes in sunglasses and watches, and offers a wide range of watch brands from Nixon to Casio to G-Shock, Seiko, Pierre Cardin, Timex Watches and the list goes on and on. With pretty realistic shipping rates, Am Online Shopping where I go to find presents for all my cousins birthdays.

Luxury cars fastest growing auto segment in China

China's luxury car market is booming. The country has surprised everyone by reporting a higher than expected first quarter GDP gain of 11.1% and that's great news just ahead of the 2007 Shanghai Auto Show that will open to the public on April 22nd this year. Agenda reports that China is the world's second largest auto market and is growing at 15% per year, with luxury cars as the fastest growing segment within the Chinese market.
In early April, DaimlerChrysler's (DCX) Mercedes-Benz unit started selling its high-performance AMG lineup on the mainland. These monsters aren't cheap. The S65 AMG is a high-octane production extension from the Mercedes S-Class lineup and costs about $385,000 in China.

For Chinese consumers interested a muscular V-8 engine and off-road capabilities in a luxury model, there is the Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG ($245,000) and the ML 63 AMG, a luxury SUV that starts at about $220,000. China is already the No. 2 market for Mercedes best-selling S-Class. And Ulrich Walker, DaimlerChrysler's chairman and chief executive officer of Northeast Asia, thinks the overall demand for luxury vehicles could double from about 150,000 units now by 2010 or so. Other analysts are even more bullish than that.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Future Group's Home Solutions ramps up retail plans

Future Group’s home focused venture, Home Solutions announced that it was planning to increase its stores and is targeting a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore by the year 2009-2010. Home Solutions stores cover 400,000 sq ft of retail space at present and have four brands; Collection-i focusing on furniture and furnishings, eZone focusing on consumer electronics, Home Town focusing on furniture, home improvement and consumer electronics and Furniture Bazaar focusing on furniture.

Gear up for summer

There's nothing quite like a new pair of sunglasses to start of the summer, right? How about a dozen new sunglasses? Well, that is a bit much, but if you get 12 pairs for $10-15, are you going to say no? I wouldn't either. CTS Wholesale Sunglasses offers a wide variety of Replica Wholesale Sunglasses for amazing prices. All the major brands, including designer brands, are available so you can look as stylish as you want and not wear the same pair of sunglasses for 12 days or give them as gifts to your friends and family, who will by the way love you even more for doing it. I usually have 2-3 pairs of sunglasses at a time, maybe the maximum was four pairs, but 12 pairs is pretty radical. My favorite pair of sunglasses right now has a really great glare reducer, along with the requisite UV-A and UV-B protection.

University IT depts. woo students with extras; teach "outsource proof" skills

With the rise of IT outsourcing, US universities have been affected by the number of admissions, as students are not keen in majoring in IT and MIS. The Information Systems and Decisions Science Department at the University of South Florida handed out 350 bachelor's and master's degrees earlier, it has now shrunk to 150. In reality, there is still a shortage of IT professionals in the US, with companies such as JPMorgan Chase ready to hire graduates immediately on graduation.

At other schools such as Florida State University, the departments are taking a proactive stance and offering movie nights with technology themes and giving out free popcorn, to keep students happy and teaching them skills that are "outsource-proof".
How many jobs are shifting overseas is a difficult and moving target. Last month, a prominent economist at Princeton University suggested that up to 29 percent of all jobs in the U.S. workforce will be potentially "offshoreable" in the next two decades (using 2004 workforce data). The economist, Alan Blinder, said those jobs may be at risk, but he didn't speculate how many jobs will be sent overseas.

Promote your products innovatively

As any retailer knows, marketing and promotion are the two key factors on finding success. No matter how good your product is, unless consumers don't find out about it, it's as good as non-existent. So, how do you go about promoting your products? One of the originators of the "talking sole", Neet Feet can teach a lot to those new to the game. Neet Feet has become famous for its die-cut flip-flops that work as walking billboards. They have been a really great hit with exclusive resorts, spas, hotel chain, movie and cable companies etc. Promotional Tradeshow Items such as these are one of the key ways to make your product known to a wider audience. The company has built up quite a reputation for its high quality products and has been in the business since 1987, so they are really experts at what they do.

Calvin Klein plans to enter Indian market for watches and jewelry

US based designer brand Calvin Klein will be opening up in the Indian market to sell its watch and jewelry brands. Stores are expected to open by the end of the month. The company plans to have at least 25 outlets in its first year in the country, in metro cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata

A great place to buy art online


One of my readers Beth who is an artist herself recommended this really great art and craft site called Etsy, which has turned out to be one of my favorite sites lately. The site functions as a meeting place for artists who want to collaborate or sell their works. I have found some simply brilliant works there and that too priced incredibly reasonably, although I haven't found out what the shipping costs would be. Even if you are not interested in buying right now, Etsy is a great source of inspiration to start doing something creative yourself. I sure want to pull out my craft stuff and start creating something or the other.

The artwork featured is titled Yellow Chrysanthemum and is by a Seattle based artist Amanda Kindregan and is priced at $12. Shipping varies from $3-6 depending on where you live and how much you order. Add a large matting and frame to that for $10 and you have an original art piece for your walls for less than $30. It's really not that expensive to bring art into your lives, you just have to know where to look.

On vacation planning

What is the best part of the vacation for you? The planning and excitement before or the actual trip? While I really love the anticipation of a impending trip, the trip itself is the high point of it all, of course. Lately, we've gone on a lot of vacations and our last one was to an all inclusive family resort, which was quite a fun experience. Vacations.net is the leader in these kinds of vacations, so if you are even kind of considering how to go about finding out about such as vacation, go to their site.

They recently upgraded their site to be more user friendly and easier to find results and I simply love the changes. The search function intuitively adds discounts and special offers like an extra night for free based on your variables and what they have available. I also really like being able to see the resort and boy, do they have good pictures of the resorts or what? Information on local activities, attractions, room configurations etc are all listed so you can go in for exactly the kind of vacation you want to.

Women’s wear segment experiencing rush

With the number of working women increasing, retailers who are selling ready-to-wear garments, especially western wear garments are seeing a rapid growth. Interestingly the growth is mostly for some of the smaller retailers such as W and Bizarre. W announced that it would be investing between Rs 300,000-500,000 per store to increase it’s total number of stores from 130 to 500 over the next four years. New stores would cover standalone stores, multi-branded outlets as well as department stores. Bizarre is targeting smaller tier II and III cities such as Agra and Chandigarh with its western wear and will be opening 6 stores this year and another 20 stores at a later stage.

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Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
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San Francisco makes it easier to be eco-friendly


California residents are said to be more eco-friendly than others, and here's a resource they have at hand. Springwise reports the launch of The Green Zebra Guide in San Francisco is a guide and coupon book that lists organic restaurants, shops, spas, yoga studios, independent bookstores etc in the local area. Consumers using this $25 coupon book can save up to $12,000 at over 250 locations. For a lot of consumers, making the effort to finding a eco-friendly place is the hardest part, and The Green Zebra Guide solves this problem.
The guide also features articles and tips on eco-friendly living, including a list of 20 steps you can take today for a greener tomorrow—all in all, a great reference for area residents who want to feel better about their impact on their community and environment. Currently, the Green Zebra Guide is limited to the San Francisco area, but as consumers everywhere become more environmentally conscious, this concept could gain popularity in almost any major city.

Vacations for a lifetime

The Timeshare concept is nothing new, but one seems to be hearing much more about it lately than ever before. If you're thinking of taking care of vacations for a lifetime or for the next 25 years at least, to places all across the world, without having to dish our large sums at fancy hotels, then a timeshare is for you. With a one time lump sum payment, you buy "points" or "weeks" which you can use annually. If you buy 2 weeks a year, that is what you will be able to use every year, although one can bank weeks and borrow weeks from the future in certain plans.

The cost also depends on what size you buy, from studio to two bedroom or even more. The timeshare concept is a great way for families to afford vacations, which other wise might not be possible. The standards of the hotels are closely monitored and some of the good ones are at par or even better than luxury hotels. United Vacation Network is the place to go to if you're interested in checking out some timeshares, maybe renting one from an owner at a discounted price. Having been in the business for a long time, they are experts at everything related to travel and holidays.

Does your job make it on the Most Satisfied Job list?

Is your job on the list of most satisfied jobs? I love my job and find that it's something that I love to wake up to each morning, which is really the best way to see if it's the right job you're doing. There are lots of more worthy jobs though, jobs where people serve others, jobs that score very high on the self-satisfied list. According to Tom Smith, the director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Centre, satisfying jobs are the ones which involve "caring for, teaching and protecting others and creative pursuits". So, my job doesn't make it to the list!
The 2006 General Social Survey is based on interviews with randomly selected people who collectively represent a cross section of Americans. In the current study, interviewers asked more than 27,000 people questions about job satisfaction and general happiness. Individuals' level of contentment affects their overall sense of happiness, Smith said. Across all occupations, on average 47 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs and 33 percent reported being very happy.

The Top 10 most gratifying jobs and the percentage of subjects who said they were very satisfied with the job:

* Clergy—87 percent percent
* Firefighters—80 percent percent
* Physical therapists—78 percent percent
* Authors—74 percent
* Special education teachers—70 percent
* Teachers—69 percent
* Education administrators—68 percent
* Painters and sculptors—67 percent
* Psychologists—67 percent
* Security and financial services salespersons—65 percent
* Operating engineers—64 percent
* Office supervisors—61 percent

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Learning language basics while you fly

This is a really great idea. Why didn't someone think of it earlier? Springwise reports that some air lines such as Air France have introduced in-flight language instruction on some of their flights this month. The audiovisual program has been developed by Berlitz and works on the regular in-flight programming, where passengers can learn some basic words relating to numbers, dates, words and dialogues in 23 languages. Other airlines who are also introducing the lessons are JAL, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. This is a really great example of companies going further to connect with customers, offering services that make them stand apart from all others.

Vacationing well


What makes a really great holiday? Is it the destination or the hotel, the pre-planned activities or the local attractions, the food or the shopping? It hard to pick any one aspect out, right? A perfect vacation is a combination of many different things, some fixed and unchangeable like the quality of the hotel and food, and some quite variable like the attractions, activities and location. For us, the main reason to take a vacation is to disconnect with our daily lives. To immerse ourselves into a completely different routine than what we lead at home. We managed to do just that on our recent vacation to Goa, where we didn't bother with any sightseeing or shopping, since we've done all of that several times before.

One of the successes of a good vacation is due to proper planning, which has become so much easier thanks to the Internet. When we traveled to the US last summer, we did all our reservations on the Internet, for cars, for hotels, for a tiny and off the beaten track bed and breakfast in Maryland, for a ferry crossing from Long Island to Connecticut and much more; it was all possible thanks to the Internet. One of the reliable sources of information on reservations for hotels, flights and cars is Hotel Reservations, where you can find information on pretty much everything related to travel.


I like staying at unique places and they can be really hard to find, but I manged to find some really great bed and breakfasts on their site, which are usually not even listed on reservation sites. Even better still, HotelReservations.com has lots of vacation rentals listed which are a really great option for the entire family. With discounts of up to 70%, there's really nothing not to like about the site!

Airport lounges: the last perk of air travel?

One of the remaining luxuries of air travel is to use the reserved lounges before getting on a long flight. We've been using the Gold lounge at the international airport in Delhi, where we usually connect for international flights. The lounge is open for anyone holding a gold MasterCard and is free, although you do have to show them your card and let them make a record of the card number. There are free snacks and drinks inside, access to Internet and best of all, clean loos! Since the check in and security takes so much longer now, one ends up spending anywhere from 2-3 hours at the airport just waiting to get on the plane and having access to a lounge can be a real bonus.

Opt for an apartment instead of a hotel room on your next vacation

While hotels can be a fun place to stay when on vacation, we prefer to stay at apartments when are on longer trips. My biggest grouse against hotels is that they all look alike, and are configured alike which makes it rather boring and wasteful to spend money on a place that doesn't really enhance the experience of traveling and being away from home. Most hotels have added little kitchenettes into the same rooms, making them seem even smaller and more cramped than before.

We spent 5 days in Goa last month and stayed at a one bedroom apartment which was a really nice way to add to the vacation experience. My hubby stays at an apartment hotel each time he travels on business, whether it is Bangalore or Dubai or anywhere else. Apartment hotels have all the extras such as DVD players, answer phones, broadband access, satellite TV etc that you have to pay extra for in a hotel room, which are just some of the reasons why Luxury Apartments are better than hotel rooms. The thing is that unless you actually try it out, you'll never realize just how luxurious it is to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel room.

Wal-Mart to measure its customers environmental awareness

Wal-Mart announced that it will be tracking consumer habits to test awareness on environmental issues. The company is launching this initiative as a way to attract upscale shoppers to its stores for products such as organic food. It's Live Better Index will be a "barometer of customer attitudes" and will be based on sales of items such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, organic milk and baby food, extended-life paper products and laundry detergents. According the the company, New Hampshire is the "greenest" state, while Connecticut, Rhode Island (Yay...my old state!), North Dakota and California fare quite well.

Where to stay in the UK

Well, we've been thinking and debating on where we should take a long vacation this year. We are only going to be able to take it later on in the year, so hopefully we will be able to find some great deals or off season rates in the UK and Scotland where we are keen on going. I think it would be great to spend 2-3 weeks in late September driving across the UK and spending 3-4 days at a time, which is enough time to explore the area but not too rushed either.

I've explored a lot of London already, but would love to visit some of the newer developments such as the Tate Modern which opened just after I was there. I was able to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, but one day there was nowhere near enough time. So, London is the place to start off the trip and then make our way up through Wales, the Lake District and to Scotland. My parents in fact spent a month in the UK last summer and drove a similar route, and thoroughly enjoyed their trip. The hardest part they found was Choosing a Hotel in the UK since there are just so many choices and all really great ones too.

When choosing a hotel in the UK, I find that one must get a feel of the local culture and if a hotel site is able to convey that, with pictures and write ups on the main display page, I find it much easier to select a hotel. The other thing I like to see on a hotel website is the reference to what facilities are available at or near the hotel. If a golf course was right next door or a good five miles away, I would like to know that before I selected the hotel. I personally like to go for hotels that offer some culture and history rather than a run of the mill chain, which thankfully are few and far between in the UK. The Paramount Angel Hotel in Cardiff is the kind of place that we are looking to stay at, something with loads of character, personality and local history.

Travel plans

We've been traveling a lot from the beginning of last year and have become quite organized and good at finding information, doing our booking, packing etc. Except for the time between January and May last year, we were able to take a vacation every month. While some were short weekend breaks, others lasted for 3-4 weeks, both of which were in the US and Canada. I guess, if one is going that far, might as well make it a lengthy trip, right? So far, we don't have any long vacation planned, but with our move to Dubai coming up next month, a long vacation will only happen later on this year.

North Cyprus is where to head to

Cyprus is one of the destinations that is a the top of our list of places we have to travel to. North Cyprus is one of the remaining peaceful spots of the Mediterranean, an area that has not been overrun by development as South Cyprus has been. The area still has a rural charm to it, and a slow pace of life which is a magnetic pull to us city dwellers. There is a lot of scope for apartments in Cyprus especially at North Cyprus Property, with tourism coming up in a big way in the area. North Cyprus is also a great place for a vacation home, which is what we ultimately would like to have.

Our next vacation?

It's been over a month since we returned from vacation from Goa and it feels like it's time for another one. This month has been unbelievably hectic, but in a really good way. The next month will be very hectic as well, as we move to Dubai, but we're thinking we'll take a couple of days off and head to Dubai ahead of our shift to relax and look at apartments. Just thinking of it makes me feel better already.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

JC Penney plans to open its first store in Manhattan

JC Penney is looking to open in New York City's Manhattan Mall, just a block away from the Macy flagship store. Interestingly, JC Penney has stores in all of New York's boroughs except for Manhattan and its store opening here will be part of a nationwide campaign to increase its stores by around 50 per year. Manhattan Mall covers 1 million sq ft of space, combining retail and office space on four levels. At present, the mall is occupied by 60 retailers, who do a combined total of $900-$1,000 in sales per sq ft.
Its sales per square foot make the mall more productive than some of the top centers in the U.S. Taubman Centers Inc.'s portfolio of malls registers the highest sales per square foot in the industry, averaging $508 in 2005, although that figure includes department store anchors, which generate lower sales and bring down the average. One of the most successful centers, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, generates sales of $1,400 per square foot.

Target plans to add 100 stores each year till 2011

One of the most inventive retail companies, Target announced that it would be opening around 500 stores in the next few years in the US alone. The company has big plans for expansion limited within the US and plans to increase it's total number of stores by 33% to 2,000. The company will also be opening its first stores in Hawaii and Alaska.

The company has shown very little interest in global expansion lately, especially when some of the largest and most powerful retailers are planing to focus on India and China for growth in the Asian markets. In contrast, Wal-Mart has almost a third of its 6,700 stores in foreign lands. At present the company has 1,502 stores and will be adding around a 100 stores each year within the US.

Cool mods for your Xbox

Before I started working from home, I used to pretty serious about computer and video games. Although, I never had the patience to get really good at them, surprisingly I found that I quite enjoyed playing them. The ultimate is of course the Xtreme Premodded Xbox 360, which comes with Xtreme Games and a Nintento Wii, now these are the games to play. Everything else pales in comparison to them. Available at ICEMODZ, the complete specialists in game consoles and modding, provide modding service for your console in less than 10 days, with all the latest accouterments of firmware etc.

How do you deal with bad service?

What do you do when meted out bad service? I simply refuse to have anything further to do with the establishment, and a lot of customers are doing the same thing too. With the Internet opening up so many choices, consumers don't find it much of a hardship taking their business elsewhere. According to a survey conducted on 1,000 consumers by a group at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, close to half the shoppers surveyed said they avoided stores where they a bad experience. While a happy customer might not tell too many people about good service, they will tell on average 4 people about bad service.
The most common complaints were a lack of convenient parking and having to wait to pay or be served. Other complaints included having a difficult time finding items in a cluttered store and rude or unhelpful employees.

On focusing on fitness again

Ever since I started working from home, my fitness routine has gone for a complete toss. I work with some clients in the UK and the US, so am usually working either early in the morning or late at night, besides working during the day of course, so predictably any form of exercise has taken last preference. Added to that, you can get anything and everything home delivered here, so you don't even need to walk to the grocery store or the convenience store. Besides food, even the laundry guys come to the house to pick up and drop off clothes! You want to drink fresh coconut water every morning, no problem, it will be delivered to your doorstep!

We have some really great parks in the neighbourhood, including one inside our apartment complex itself, but the weather is just so awful and muggy, that it completely saps you of all energy. So, we are now thinking a treadmill is the best alternative, not quite a full home gym, but at least one step closer. My cousin in Melbourne has been using Infiniti Treadmills and simply loves them and the freedom to exercise at any time and in any weather. It's time to get serious and start taking time out to work out a bit now.

Should advertising or food do the talking for a restaurant?

More on the fast food industry from this post.

While all fast food retailers keep increasing the amount they spend on advertising, the Chipotle Mexican Grill has kept its advertising spend at less than 1% of its annual revenue, most of which it allocates to billboards and radio advertisements. In comparison, Taco Bell and McDonald's spend around 4% of their revenues on advertising. Here's how they succeed.
"When Chipotle came to midtown Manhattan last July, it gave burritos away to 6,000 people, some of whom stood in line for two hours. The stunt cost $35,000, figures James W. Adams, Chipotle's marketing director. In return, the company landed 6,000 new spokespeople. 'You could spend that same amount on an ad in The New York Times and you wouldn't have that many people talking about you,' Adams points out."

Installing ecommerce software

For small and medium retailers just starting out, it is essential that they make use of every opportunity to turn browsers to customers regardless of the fact that the transaction could take place at a brick-and-mortar store or online. Research shows that a lot of customers conduct research on product features and price online before heading out to make a purchase. If a retailer has a great website with shopping cart software, it is one additional source of making a sale.

As a retail analyst, I have seen so many small retailers not bother about creating a great shopping environment on their website. It is usually one of the turning points in consumers minds on where to actually make the purchase. Ashop Commerce is one of the leading providers of shopping cart software that are easily installed and create a professional look to even the most home grown of retailers. Besides providing all the required ecommerce software, Ashop Commerce is search engine friendly and optimized for the best possible results for you.

When was the last time you bought a pizza without a coupon?

Due to all the competition between fast food retailers, coupons for free food are becoming quite common. A lot of fast food companies give free food coupons when they open, just to get people inside and take a liking to the food in the hope that they will return. Pizza chains are credited with starting the trend on coupons, with each company trying to outdo the other by offering lots of lots of deals, which are a hit with consumers but don't end up in increasing sales for the restaurants.
Elisabeth Gilster De Velazquez, associate professor of marketing at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., says issuing coupons, whether they're for free burritos or buy-one-get-one-free French fries, hasn't been successful for chains on a regular basis.

"In the long run it's going to hurt them if they keep doing it," Velazquez says. "If you keep using them over time, your consumers are not going to want to pay full price again. They're going to get used to the reduced prices or the free stuff. You're conditioning your consumers to conceive that your product doesn't have the same value as it would at full price."
I seriously can't remember when I bought a pizza at full price. All the local pizza retailers, Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa Johns continuously bombard us with ads, coupons, scratch cards etc.