5 products to wisely spend on

Saving is vitally important, but not at the expense of health, wellness or safety.  Is your health and well-being not worth a cold million?youtube-making-money-streaming-video

Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely.

Thomas Huxley

Below are 5 fundamental products/services that one should not be frugal on.  Research, and spend wisely on below while balancing on “social expenditures” i.e. booze, restaurants, or ‘want vs need’ shopping, for example.

1. Car Tires – Did you know that car tires have a shelf life of 4 years?  I’m not sure why people would do little research or not spend on something that is the interface between the car and the road.  A car is a 2+ ton vehicle moving at speeds in excess of 100km/hr (60 mi/hr).  Be safe and get good tires for your family.

2. Fresh Food – We are what we eat.  Ever put crappy gas in the car?  Food is our fuel.  Invest in learning how to cook fresh food and try to avoid processed foods (we are all too busy to read the long list of in-pronounceable ingredients in processed foods!).  I’m not saying buy Organic all the time but buy Fresh and make fresh sauces (avoid canned stuff with shelf life of 6 month-1 year, full of preservatives).  I’ve spent 10 years in the food industry and seen some nasty preservatives devised in laboratories but found in our grocery shelf.

3. Gym/Wellness – Investing in you is the best investment.   Stress is a killer –  yoga, walking, gym, etc are great ways to stay fit.  If you can’t look after yourself, you can’t look after someone else.  There’s no argument from the pundits on this one.

4. Mattress – We spend 33% of our lives or 8 hours/day on a bed.  A good night sleep is vital to health and mental acumen.  You can get good quality mattresses for $800-1000.  Don’t go cheap here…I’ve bought mattresses for a major retailer and understand the value – pocket coils are great and so are some foam types.

5. Shoes – Again, we spend hours on end on our feet.  Shoes are the interface between your lovely toes and the earth.  Invest in good shoes and your happy feet will love you.  I’m not saying develop a shoe fetish… but instead of having 20 pairs of shoes, think sensibly and get quality.

Don’t spend beyond your means, but do mean to spend wisely on core products to keep you safe and healthy.

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Creating a simple MINDSET, to maximize your valuable time & $$

My father is old school.  He does everything and anything around the house, to the car, or cottage, etc. to save a few bucks.  But does he really save?

No.   Just ask my mother.   mindset-for-achieving-goal

Like many of us, doing everything to save a penny can result in rework or hiring a pro to fix our ‘amateur’ work.  So not only do we not maximize our money saved, but also we’re not maximizing our most valuable asset: precious personal time!

This article is about creating a mindset that will maximize your ‘free-time’ and enjoy life and all its pleasures.  The quote below expounds on the notion above:

Know what you’re good at… and know what you’re not good at… and PAY for the difference!

Anonymous

Proactive people know what they are good at and YES your job is one! (i.e. things that make you money-if someone is willing to pay you, trust me you’re qualified and good at it).  But they also acknowledge the things that they are not good at.

We are all guilty of trying to fix or do things we are not good at – maybe for you it is plumbing, fixing the dock, painting, repairing a machine, ironing, landscaping, etc.  But if you are not good at it, know it, recognize it and maybe spend a little $….

Why?  Well look at it this way – you spend a minimum of 40 hours at work plus commute.  Why spend hours on end to fix the ‘plumbing’, etc if you are not qualified.  You may waste your VALUABLE time and likely will end up doing a poor job and becoming crotchety.   Love that word.

Pay the difference.  Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.

*Note the above implies that you are going to make more than you spend.   Decide which chores are ‘taxing’ to you and prioritize your ‘spend’.  It may mean you still have to wash your under garments, unfortunately.  If they are not white, hire a pro.  My $0.02.

More about Author http://about.me/davidbartolini

Price Wars – The only war when all consumers win

Hurray!  Price Wars are here to stay!  Well, at least for a while… Price-War2

You’ll be happy to know that food and general merchandise products will continue to experience retail deflation in North America (and especially in Ontario, Canada).

That’s good news if you are a consumer.  It is bad bad bad news for a retailer and even tougher for ‘mom and pop’ shops.

But overall, Price Wars are positive for everyone and are a result of increased retail competition.  Competition drives deflation (a decrease in the retail price) and in an economy where so many commodities and products are going up up up in $, it is nice to see the things we want and need are actually going down.   price-war

Major U.S. companies are heading North – the Canadian frontier – an untapped market.  For example, in Canada the implication of the USA-owned Target entering the retail stage has every retailer holding their breath.  This is the quiet, just before the storm.  With major retailers like Walmart, Loblaw, Sears,  Metro,The Bay, Sobeys, etc etc – the market is already supersaturated with supermarkets!

Most analysts believed that after Walmart’s entry, the retail industry was at capacity.   They were wrong. While profits have eroded, all major retailers still stand.  So far.  However, if and when interest rates start to rise, our consumer debt will drive a tighter money belt.

Right now our consumer asset to debt ratio is 150% (for every $100 we make, we owe $150!).  So we’ll see a crack in the mighty brick and mortars soon (interest rates can only rise from here).  Hang on tight, the ride will be a wild one.

Save your money and take advantage of the savings coming soon.

Consumer Marketing: Case example, Diamonds!

If  diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then what relationship does a man have with  this precious stone? diamond2

Consumer  marketing can be very influential and even precipitate change in consumer buying  behaviour and perceptions.  This  blog exposes the message behind the  marketing.

Consider three  effective consumer marketing examples below, and how they shaped buying patterns:

1.       Deodorant  vs Antiperspirant*.  There was a day when everyone wore  deodorant.  But a commercial many  decades back changed all that almost overnight.  The commercial ‘mocked’ a man in the  boardroom who raised his arm and embarrassedly noted sweat stains under his  armpits.  The Brand was powerful and  eventually influenced the masses to use Antiperspirant.  “Wet” underarms became synonymous  with bad hygiene.  Though now,  going the all-natural deodorant-route and letting pores breathe, is changing behaviour  again.

2.       Another,  more recent marketing campaign, targets human vanity and hygiene standards is Teeth Whitening.  For years, few cared about possessing “neon bright chicklets” and went to the dentist once/twice a year.  But now teeth whitening products are  fast becoming the best sellers in the Consumer Hygiene category….with huge  profits.

3.     Diamonds!  Diamonds are a fabulous consumer  marketing strategy.  Marketers have  struck gold here! (ok, well diamonds I guess…).  The primary marketing message around  buying Diamonds is to symbolize ‘everlasting love’.  But the secondary message preys on our  social consumerism and what Consumer Behaviourists describe as our perceived social statusThe bigger the diamond, the more ‘status’ some say…. 

I  never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you  get in a diamond. Mae West

Diamonds  have become so entrenched in our social fiber that men will spend upwards of  3-4 months’ salary to impress his beloved gal.  But the increased divorce rate is  playing havoc with the diamond market.  Men or women wishing to sell back their diamond on the market are  startled to find out it is only worth 25-30% of the original retail value (even  after only a year later)…

Many  practical (but perhaps single!) men  are now saying: ‘I love you.  I want  to marry you.  I want to give you an  early retirement or give great education to our children…than spend $10,000  now on a diamond.”

A  diamond is a symbol (albeit a very expensive one) and many couples are becoming  more practical.  With fluctuating  economic markets and increased divorce rates, many couples are asking: Is $10,000 today a good investment for  us?  Or… Is saving that $10K mean  $70,000-100,000 in just over a decade, if invested  properly…

Consider  the secondary marketing messages before spending on a huge purchase.  For most, a diamond is the second or  third biggest purchase behind a car or house.

This  blog was found in the rough, just like most diamonds.   Happy New  Year!

*Antiperspirants contain fragrance, but  they also contain chemical compounds that block the pores to stop the discharge  of perspiration. No sweat, no odor. Deodorant  allows the release of perspiration, but prevents odor by combating it with  antiseptic agents, which kill odor-causing bacteria.

2013 Emerging Skillset: Collaboration

The term ‘collaboration’ has arguably been dormant for years.  Yes of course it has always been there!   colloboartionBut arguably given lip-service and a banal expression synonymous with company-speak terms like synergize, teamwork, etc.  

However, recently, it was reinforced to me that this essential skill set is gaining momentum in the workforce and its resurgence means prospective employees must demonstrate this prerequisite skill.

What is the impetus for its resurgence?

Competition is becoming fiercer with barriers into new markets easing and thus, a new business paradigm is taking over.  In order to maintain profits, companies are becoming leaner (less senior layers specifically) and therefore looking for talent to demonstrate collaborative thinking to fill the gap.  

In this new paradigm, companies not only save payroll expenses, but also gain access to a lucrative pool of employees who demonstrate ‘group cohesiveness’ .  To this end, companies are now rewarding (ie bonus employees) on total company profits as well as qualitative metrics like ‘team spirit’, ‘coaching others’, ‘solution centred’.

Human Resource managers are actually filtering prospective employees against this skill set!  So, are you prepared to answer the question “Explain a situation where you worked collaboratively on a project to see it through to fruition”?

I hope so!

Lost Art of Networking (‘Proactivity’ Defined!)

In my opinion, the term Networking is truly misunderstood (and poorly utilized).  The word is used so often, it is now just lip service.  But I argue, Networking is an art.  It deserves one’s committment and one’s dedicated effort to that art.

First things first: Networking is being proactive, not reactive.  It is about expanding your circle of influence with friends, family, colleagues, etc and building your resource-base continually.  You will reap the fruits of your labour by genuinely and consistently making “deposits” into other’s emotional bank account.

Unfortunately, most people continually make “withdrawals” from this precious emotional account and don’t learn that keeping in touch with people is vital; BUT they learn this when they are vulnerable and ‘alone’ and forced to react (ie they just lost their job or can’t stand their boss).

 “Networking doesn’t stop when you have employment.  If fact, that is where it begins and continues compounding…”

Anonymous

So what is networking and how can it really help us?  Well perhaps the best way to review the term, is to review how it can hinder if one doesn’t  work toward it.

Almost all jobs these days are via “word of mouth” – some say as much as 90%!  A testimonial about you to a prospective employer instantly puts your name ahead of others.
Tips for BOTH employed/unemployed:
–       Start now!  Networking compounds (one contact will lead to another and another!).  So reach out to old bosses, friends, old colleagues!

–       Networking is not only email but also (and more effective methods) the old-fashioned telephone or face to face

–        Pay it forward when you’ve been helped.  Always. 
–        Use LinkedIn or some professional group
–        When someone leaves your corporation, don’t snub them or think you are better.  That thought is myopic, reactive and incorrect.  It is only in the moment.

If you haven’t been unemployed, well done.  But trust me, your time will likely come.  Networking is proactive.  It makes the transition from Unemployed to Employed much smoother, faster, and with less stress.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Consumer “Meal-Solution” Driven Ads…Please apply within.

Almost all FOOD weekly advertisements are the same old format.   Go ahead open up your newspaper this week and check them out.  There is a front page which has specials from several departments.  Inside pages have departments isolated from each other ie produce separated on one page, meat on another, a few pages of grocery and then a back page.

But why don’t retailers create MEAL SOLUTIONS for us worldly consumers? We are all time-starved; everyone is working hard these days.  And let’s face it, many don’t like or know how to cook ….but almost everyone loves to eat great food!  Simple creative culinary adventures should be available at our fingertips weekly!

When everyone is going in the same direction, there is opportunity to do something different

Anonymous

Majority of retailers do it all the same.  Yet they have hundreds of ‘foodies” with vast food recipe knowledge in-house.  Who knew baba ganoush went so well with a meatless BBQ burger, smothered with 2-year-old white aged cheese and fresh avocado?  (No need for ketchup!)   That a spicy Thai sauce goes oh so well with breaded butterfly shrimp!  

Please group these items together in weekly ads for the appropriate season!  Yet retailers continue to create Ads that works for them, in their department silos: grocery, produce, meat, natural value, seafood, deli, bakery, etc. 

Not sure why one retailer won’t create a solution to this opportunity. 

Always challenge the status quo. 

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Merchant Tip – Set yourself up for success!

One of my favourite mantra’s I expound to students at the University of Toronto is set yourself up for success.  But let me be clear from the onset: it’s not meant as a selfish act (ie looking after only number 1).  No, rather it is about thinking before jumping. 

Setting yourself up for success means enjoy the journey, not just the cheddar at the end of the frantic rat-race!  Specifically, for a Merchant, it is about developing programs, products, ads/promotions etc that have long-term sustainability and decrease the amount of stress in our lives. 

Proactivity: Many times in our careers we are conditioned to respond in a particular way to a particular stimulus (ie sometimes we react immediately when we have poor sales, low basket sales, beaten on a front page ad, etc).  Stephen Covey, renowned author of self-help books, defines ‘proactivity’ as:  having the awareness that between stimulus and response is our greatest power –  the freedom to choose!  There is a time lag so use imagination, self-awareness, introspection before you respond!  

Let’s take a practical example.  The all-to-familiar scenario: Sales are down.  Your boss is on you…his/her boss is on them.  Pressure is mounting, so, you are anxious to react.  Perhaps list new products and get immediate sales?!

 Sound familiar? 

But before you launch your program/products in every store – stop and think – think about the demographics, the scope of your product and of course, how can you set yourself up (and the products) for success. 

In my experience, sometimes it is prudent to just launch the program in a small area or a few stores and monitor.   Small launches allow Merchants the pleasure of the following:

–          Tweak your listings ie delist or list more, maybe different pack size?

–          Do the stores have the correct demographics?  Maybe target a specific area?

–          Get Operational or customer feedback

–          Adjust retails – not competitive?

–          Adjust Promotions – maybe invest in the program to see if it is successful to gain customer trail.  Incent them to buy it and try it!

You don’t have to make a killing on the first launch nor do you have to do a national launch every time.  Devoting merchandising shelf space is critical to your business…so, remember the following:

When it is a few stores, few people are watching.  When it is all stores, all eyes are watching.

So set yourself up for success.  Between stimulus and response, you have the time to think and choose before reacting.

Merchants vs Operators: The Retail Juggernauts

Merchandisers and Operators don’t always get along. Ok, seldom get along. There I said it. It’s out there. As Merchants scream “These guys can’t execute!”…. Operators are screaming “You can’t create a program for me to execute! You’ve never been on the “floor!””

But this difference in opinion (and occasional friction), is actually very healthy for retail business.

Merchandisers are typically the head office people and Operators are store managers/supervisors, etc. Operators are the front line with your customers. Merchandisers are the strategists behind the scenes.
While it is healthy for Merchants and Operators to delve deep into retail debates, a proactive Merchant will elicit Operator feedback before creating a program. Merchandisers: your programs are ONLY as good as the way in which they are seamlessly executed.

Merchandising TIP of the day
Merchants sometimes launch multiple products at the same time (example 10 plus flavours of ice cream). While it may seem intuitive to release all at once, it may not actually be the best strategy to employ. Too many products to choose from!  This is especially true for products with limited shelf life (very perishable), or products that are novel to the market place and thus riskier.

Merchants, put your Operator ‘hat’ on before launching too many!
– Operators are responsible for ordering. If a Merchant introduces 10+ skus (referred to as Stock Keeping Unit) on something new, Operators have no history on how to order.
– If they order incorrectly, they have too much on hand (not only taking up precious space in backroom) but it increases Shrink (product thrown out) which costs your program and the business $money.

INSTEAD…. introduce a responsible number of skus. Let the skus gain momentum. Have Operators begging you for more line extensions because consumers are buying.
MERCHANTS REMEMBER THIS: A PROGRAM IS MORE CREDIBLE IF YOU STRATEGICALLY ADD MORE SKUS THAN INTRODUCING TOO MANY AND THEN DELIST THEM!!

Both consumers and operators will lose faith in program. So set yourself up for success.

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