Archive for the 'Life' Category

08
Sep
11

Is The Era of Loyalty To Consumer Brands Over?

Consider this possibility: Imagine if our attraction to bargains have killed our sense of brand loyalty?

Darlene Quinn knows what it’s like to be loyal to a brand name.

Quinn is a former senior executive with the Bullocks Wilshire department store chain. “Some of our most recognized and best-loved brands are falling victim to an economy in which price is the paramount concern for consumers,” said Quinn, author of Webs of Fate, a novel about the retail fashion industry from Greenleaf Book Group (www.darlenequinn.net). “We’ve ended the era of the brand-loyal consumer, and entered the age of low prices.”

Quinn’s argument is that major national brands and some regional brands will soon watch their final sunsets as the hunt for low prices currently outweighs old-fashioned consumer brand loyalty.

“Brand loyalty used to mean something in the retail business,” Quinn said. “We are now hardwired to look at paying less than full price. The status symbol has become ‘how much did you save?’ Although there are many of us who are less than happy with the outcome and who are willing to pay more for quality and service, it will take a long time, if ever, for a reversal. I would love to see the return of brand loyalty, but with the economic outlook starting to dim again, I don’t see it happening.”

Brands recently targeted by the Wall Street Web site 24/7 for fading away include two great American traditions:

· A&W Grills – A&W Restaurants is owned by Yum! Brands, a fast food holding company that also owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s. A&W was originally founded in 1919, and the company helped introduce the “drive-in” fast food concept. It was so successful that they started selling their sodas in cans in 1971, a side of the business that was sold to Dr. Pepper/Snapple a decade later. After World War II, the chain had 450 franchised locations, which has since dwindled to 312 US stores by last year. In the era of the mega franchises, like Subway and McDonalds with about 35,000 locations each, A&W can’t survive. The brand has been for sale since January, and if a buyer isn’t found soon, the drive-in could be closed forever.

· Sears – Sears, officially named Sears, Roebuck and Co., is an American chain of department stores which was founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in the late 19th century. As Wal-Mart became the dominant department store during the 1990s and 2000s, Sears began to struggle, so the company merged with Kmart in early 2005, creating the Sears Holdings Corporation. The problem is that joining forces strengthened market share, but not revenues. Two dying giants who merge only create one larger dying giant. The competition between the two brands continued, simply under the same roof, with Sears losing the battle. Kmart reported a 1.6 percent decline in sales in the first quarter of 2011, while Sears dipped 5.2 percent. The end result? Look for New CEO Lou D’Ambrosio to shutter the lesser performing brand, Sears, and use the additional resources to bolster Kmart.

What do you think of this (frightening!) trend?

25
Jul
11

This is So Cute: Dogs Try to Drag Pool Indoors to Escape Heat

These dogs love their little kiddie pool, but they do not like this summer’s intense heat wave. (Who can blame them?!)

They are so smart that they decide the best thing to do is to bring the little pool indoors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out very well. You can see another video of one the dogs, named Gus, enjoying the little pool here.

19
Jul
11

The End of an Era: Borders to Shut Down

Coming from someone who looks for Borders to loiter in as I travel, this is quite a blow: Borders will be shutting down.

A lot of us saw it coming, they’ve been in trouble for a while — the company will sell itself to liquidators after failing to find a buyer for its remaining stores that wanted to keep the stores open.

Borders currently operates 399 stores and employs approximately 10,700 employees, and liqudation at the remaining stores is expected to begin for some stores as early as Friday, July 22. The program is expected to conclude by the end of September.

At the very least, there’s a silver lining — liquidation sales!!!

Blech.

12
Jul
11

Amazon Offers Unlimited Cloud Drive Storage for Music

Where is YOUR music living right now?

There’s a bunch of options to choose from – and a lot of those seem to be involving clouds.

For example, Amazon.com has announced it is offering unlimited storage for music on its Amazon Cloud Drive for subscribers who pay $20 per year. Customers get 5 GB of free Cloud Drive storage when they signup for the service.

Craig Pape, Director of Amazon Music, says, “Customers are already enjoying Cloud Drive and Cloud Player and now for just $20 a year, customers can get unlimited space for music. Additionally, we are adding free storage for all MP3s purchased from Amazon MP3, and support for the iPad. Our customers love Cloud Drive and Cloud Player and we’re excited to innovate these services on their behalf.”

Amazon says the unlimited storage for $20 offer will be available for a limited time, but still haven’t given what that date actually is.

06
Jul
11

Is Frugal the New Black?

Feeling the urge to splurge?

With longer days and stores looking to clear their racks of spring merchandise, the summer can be a tempting time to indulge. But given where account balances are today, you might want to consider cooling down your spending and heating up your savings instead. So rather than splurging on that designer purse, consider splurging on something that might be a little more worthwhile, like your savings.

President and CEO of Citibank’s Women & Co., Linda Descano, CFA, offers the following advice to help splurge on savings:

 

1.      Take a snapshot. Saving requires you to analyze, plan, organize and evaluate. But first, you should know the current state of your finances. Use this worksheet to help determine your net worth and cash flow.

 

2.      Set goals. View your savings needs as being either long-term (e.g., retirement) or short-term (e.g., home repairs) so you can better decide how to allocate your money.

3.      Make a “savings sacrifice.” Track your expenses for an entire month, then evaluate where your money is going. Recalibrate what you’ve come to view as a “must-have” versus a “nice-to-have.” You may have to make a “savings sacrifice” until you get back on track.

4.      Save something every month and build an “emergency” fund. Automatically put a set amount — no amount is too small — of every paycheck in your savings account. Aim to accumulate enough cash to cover 3 to 6 months of living expenses at a minimum, and set that aside for a bona fide household emergency. If you already have an “emergency” fund, it can’t hurt to keep adding to it, especially during a time of economic uncertainty.

5.      Pay down debt. It doesn’t make much sense to put money into emergency savings if you are carrying high-interest debt. Consider putting money toward paying down this debt first, while still adding as much as possible to your emergency fund.

 

24
Jun
11

Save Money This Summer: Simple Money-Saving Switches

Having a bad day? Just lost your job? Did your rent suddenly go up even though your land lord is barely visible and has never cleaned the floors of your building?

All of the above! No fear — life may suck, but you can find little ways to save money — if you are willing to do it.

Believe it or not, simple switches can have a major economic impact on households.
Use Rags, Not Paper Towels – I know, you think you are saving on laundry and time, but think again. Yes, paper towels can have many uses . We use them for everything from dusting to dinner napkins. But choosing this disposable product instead of opting for a reusable option could be costing you more than you think.
Use Generics, Not Brand Name – Unless you’re an extreme couponer — and we wont’ even GO there — you can probably save more money by switching to generics. Just on cereal alone you can save up to $3 a box by opting for the store brand.
Use Cold Water, Not Hot – Using cold water to wash your clothes gets them just as clean, but doesn’t use as much energy. That’s because your water heater requires gas or electricity to heat up water for each load. By making this simple switch you’ll save more than $100 a year, according to experts.
Use Movie Rental Kiosks, Not Stores – Renting a new release movie from a Blockbuster video store can cost more than $4. Find a Redbox or Blockbuster Express kiosk in your area and you’ll get to see the same movies for just $1 a night.
Use Filtered, Not Bottled – If you fill reusable water bottles with filtered tap water instead of buying bottles from the grocery store you’ll save more than $800 a year. Plus you’ll be saving about 30 pounds of plastic from ending up at the dump.
Use Online Bill Pay, Not Stamps – Most banks offer free online bill paying options. This means you don’t have to pay for stamps which are currently $.44 a pop. Depending on how many bills you mail each month that could equal out to about a $50 annual savings.
Use CFLs, Not Traditional Bulbs – According to EnergyStar.gov, if every American home replaced just one light with a light that’s earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year and save about $600 million in annual energy costs. How does that translate for your household? One bulb swapped out can save about $40 in electricity over its lifetime. Crazy, right?

Do you know any other money-saving tips? Tweet me!

 

19
Jun
11

Apple Launches Back to School Mac Program

Hey kids: The Apple store has launched a Back to School offer:  If you buy a Mac for college you will get a $100 Back to School Card.

The card can be used on the Mac App Store, the App Store, the iTunes Store, and the iBookstore. Some of the Macs are discounted as well. You can find the offer here on Apple.com.




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