Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Top Growth Opportunities for Restaurants
NPD Report Shows Healthful Menu Options, Demands from Growing, Diverse Consumer Groups Will Drive Industry
Shifting consumer preferences for more healthful menu choices and changing demographics will shape the restaurant industry's growth in the year ahead, according to a new report from The NPD Group.
Consumer demand for meals and snacks prepared at restaurants is expected to rise slightly above 2011 levels in the coming year, and restaurants likely will feel the need to improve the health perceptions of their food. Restaurants also may look to ratchet up flavor profiles for customers in booming segments of the population, the report found.
"We're forecasting a continued slow recovery for the restaurant industry in 2012," Bonnie Riggs, the NPD Group's foodservice industry analyst, said in a statement. "Still, there will be pockets of real growth, behaviors supporting traffic that will outpace overall demand. To tap into that growth, however, operators need to understand what influences will affect consumer behavior and drive traffic in the next 12 months."
The key opportunities on restaurant menus in the coming year are healthfulness and flavors targeted to fast-growing groups of people, the company said.
Healthful options abound
The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm's CREST service found that sales of healthful foods have outpaced more indulgent or fattening items during the past few years -- and that trend is expected to intensify in 2012. As a result of ongoing legislative activity and publicity campaigns aimed at the restaurant industry, children under 13 years old have been consuming more fruit, cereal, non-fried chicken and wrap sandwiches in restaurants, NPD found.
That healthful focus is widespread in January, when consumers are more mindful of their eating habits because of New Year's resolutions. Chains including Applebee's, The Cheesecake Factory and Denny's have put their marketing dollars behind low-calorie menus in the early part of the year.
Luby's, Tony Roma's, Chick-fil-A and TCBY also rolled out new menu items with a greater emphasis on healthfulness recently. Copeland's of New Orleans and Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro also debuted "Lite" menus. Each restaurant now offers six new entrees with 550 or fewer calories, as well as two low-calorie desserts.
Consumer demographics influence offerings
Demand from consumers in fast-growing demographic groups, like Hispanics and Asian-Americans, as well as the changing tastes of baby boomers and Millennials, are influencing the restaurant industry.
Hispanics and Asian-Americans are expected to drive demand not only for foods suited to the diverse American population, NPD found, but also for flavors that are bolder and spicier. Such trends could play out in individual menu items -- such as the Doritos Locos Taco that Taco Bell tested through the end of 2011, or the new Santa Fe Turkey Burger being tested at Carl's Jr. -- or in new restaurant brands. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, plans to open a second location of its fast-casual ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.
Other industry trends for brands to consider in 2012 include increased competition from outside retailers like convenience stores and grocery stores, and social media's loyalty program capabilities.
The research firm also expects more recovery in the lunch daypart, as economic indicators like unemployment and consumer confidence have improved in recent months. Many casual-dining brands tried to drive midday traffic during the recession and the following slow recovery with aggressive deals, like Olive Garden's $6.95 Half Panini Lunch and Applebee's Pick 'N Pair Lunch combos, starting at $6.99.
NPD also anticipated food cost pressures for beef, chicken and coffee in 2012, necessitating many chains to favor less costly dishes. At quick-service restaurants in particular, NPD said, specialty beverages present an opportunity to build incremental sales, meaning the segment is likely to promote beverage loyalty programs, late-night and happy-hour promotions for specialty drinks, and growth in noncarbonated drinks.
(Source: Nation's Restaurant News, 01/17/12)
||Jewelry Retailers Reveal Their 2012 Wish Lists
What's on jewelers' wish lists for 2012? Yellow gold, platinum bridal designs, more custom work, and "lots and lots" of colored stones. Oh, plus a little help from the economy, thank you very much.
Volatile stock markets, high unemployment, and soaring metal costs continued to plague jewelry retailers nationwide in 2011, motivating owners to fine-tune their product assortments in preparation for the new year. JCK informally polled establishments from Maine to California and found that boutique owners watched stones and metals carefully this past year, chose designers prudently, and paid more attention to service, marketing events, and store renovations.
Turning the corner into 2012, yellow gold and colored stones showed momentum. In a macroeconomic sense, however, the most significant trend appears to be the widening disparity between middle-of-the-road and affluent consumers. The 1 percent is driving quite a bit of business, indeed.
Retailers across the board decried competition on the Internet and looked for ways to differentiate themselves. Some had begun sinking money into their own websites. Those carrying higher-ticket items said customers still feel more comfortable purchasing in person.
"Right now, it's still the great unknown," says Margarita Szekely-Lusso, co-owner of Servis & Taylor in Los Angeles. For now, Szekely-Lusso continues to promote features that are unique to her store, including the recycled metals and fair trade, conflict-free stones she uses in her custom business.
Overall, stores reported solid sales, ranging from flat to record bottom lines -- a far cry from the darkest days of the economic crisis. Still, others said their staffs are working harder to reach sales goals.
Gail Friedman, co-owner of Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers in Los Angeles, packed her calendar full of in-store events and trunk shows to help drive traffic to her Westside boutique. "We're not complaining because we're busy all the time, but we work way harder for where we are," she says.
While there wasn't one big product or specific metal that stood out in 2011, Friedman says despite the cost, gold was outpacing silver. In the store's core bridal business, average diamond sizes bounced back to the 1–2 ct. range, raising the average diamond ring sale to $12,000–$15,000. In 2012, Friedman says she will make small adjustments, like paring back trunk shows to only the traffic builders like Tacori and Simon G, and will rein in the bead business based on her customers' lukewarm response.
Jim Rosenheim, owner of the Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C., also reports strong sell-throughs of yellow gold and increasingly larger diamond sales. "I had the best bottom line in my 80-year history," he says, attributing the impressive results to maintaining better control over his revenue streams and keeping expenses down. "While my top line isn't where it was in 2006, my bottom line is way better."
Fashion jewelry from designers such as Alex Sepkus and Marco Bicego and "lots and lots" of colored stones gained traction, as did custom work, Rosenheim says. In fact, the custom business was so strong, the store was often forced to push back delivery dates. "If anything, I was probably oversupplied in the middle market with silver items," Rosenheim says, noting that people marginalized by the economy in 2008 haven't returned. He also faced difficulty keeping pace with the demand for gold watches, thanks to the industry's short supply of the costly metal.
For Michael C. Fina in New York City, platinum has always outperformed gold in the bridal business -- "We've seen little change in bridal," says social media and communications coordinator Sarah Oldfield -- but in the store's burgeoning fashion business, gold has also made a comeback. The store has been pushing fashion the past few years to broaden its clientele and appeal to a younger demographic, stocking up on designers such as Temple St. Clair, Penny Preville, and Mikimoto. New Yorkers have also been asking for cocktail rings, bigger necklaces, and brighter stones.
"The very wealthy are feeling more confident," says Wayne Addessi, president and owner of Addessi Jewelers in Ridgefield, Conn. And he knows firsthand -- having recently closed a deal on a pair of custom-made ocean-blue Paraiba earrings priced in the six figures. White gold and diamonds are the dominant combination in his bridal business -- supplied by trusted vendors such as Asch/Grossbardt -- but silver offers the price-point diversity he needs.
"In this economy, you're either a Tiffany or a Target," Addessi says, adding that his sales are either $16,000 or higher or scarcely more than $500. "The consensus is you've got to get to either side. The middle of the road is out of the question."
Shannon Hartigan, store manager of Brown Goldsmiths & Co., in Freeport, Maine, has also seen folks gravitate toward the upper echelons of her inventory. "I have sold more pieces over $10,000 in the last five months than I did in all of 2010," Hartigan says. However, she says she's still hedging her bets with lower-priced materials like silver and vermeil.
By all accounts, demand for fancy shaped diamonds and more substantial jewels has returned. (Hartigan, for example, recently sold two 3 ct. yellow diamonds.) But there's a downside: In order to woo the clients, retailers need to have higher-ticket items on hand. "The pieces have to be in the store," Hartigan says. "The young brides with the lighter-weight halos -- they don't necessarily have to have it in front of them. But in the $20,000 to $30,000 (range), they have to put it on and fall in love with it."
Leigh Jewelers, in Vero Beach, Fla., is located in a resort area and caters to an older clientele, selling diamonds 2 cts. or larger by brands such as Julius Klein and Norman G. Silver. In 2011, owner Mark Leigh expanded his offerings, adding silver and Pandora beads to eliminate threshold resistance and entice younger customers. He also hired a goldsmith in order to make his store a full-service destination.
"Between the silver and the service, it has created more business and exposure," he says. He's also invested heavily in a storewide renovation to hang on to one of his strongest vendors, Rolex, a business he expects will only increase. (Rolex reportedly dropped a number of dealers this year for failing to upgrade dingy stores.)
Marshall Varon, owner of Morgan's Jewelers Inc., with two stores in California, is also a believer in the Swiss watch business, having doubled the space of his Rolex shop-in-shop. "The watch industry has exploded," he says, naming Breitling, Chopard, Carl Bucherer, and Montblanc among the biggest draws. "I'm optimistic in general (about business), but I pray that the economy turns around. The whole world's a mess."
If JCK's informal poll is any indication, most jewelers did much better than just okay in 2011. Aside from putting together a spot-on assortment of inventory for 2012, however, many agreed they would like one more thing: a little help from the economy. "We have half the sales staff and have gotten back to full capacity," Hartigan says. "We're just working our tails off, to be quite honest with you."
(Source: Jewelers' Circular Keystone Online, 01/23/12)
||Household Appliances, Devices Making All the Right Connections
Is your refrigerator running? If you don't know, just ask it.
A vision of the future is taking shape that will allow communication with the ever-increasing number of gadgets in people's homes: A refrigerator suggests recipes based on its contents and keeps track of when the milk is going to expire. A wall-mounted sensor detects when a person leaves the house and turns down the temperature to a preset level. A homeowner who forgets to close the garage door can do so from across town via a smartphone application.
All of these capabilities are available now and were on display here at the recent 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, where companies were trying harder than ever to advance their vision of a truly connected home that encompasses entertainment devices, appliances, energy and security.
"Last year there was a lot of trialing" around the idea of home-control systems, said John Burke, general manager of converged experiences at Libertyville-based Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., which builds this technology for cable operators and other service providers. "This year, it's more of a mainstay core staple service. There's a lot of runway ahead of it."
Companies at CES say mainstream adoption of connected home technology is gaining momentum, aided by several broader shifts in the consumer technology industry, but still several years away. For starters, an increasing number of devices come with built-in Wi-Fi capability, allowing an easy link with the Internet and with each other. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group, shipments of Wi-Fi devices hit almost 1.1 billion in 2011 and will double by 2015. These gadgets include not just TVs and gaming consoles, but also smart meters and home automation products.
"The home is the first place where you have a truly wirelessly connected environment," said Sachin Lawande, chief technology officer of audio company Harman International.
The increasing primacy of the smartphone and tablet computer also are driving the connected home movement. Because consumers have these powerful mobile computers with them at all times, the gadgets can act as a central and portable control panel for managing a wide range of machines.
"The smartphone has been the linchpin of much of this connectivity," said Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America. At CES, Samsung showed off a washing machine that can be controlled and monitored remotely with a smartphone application.
A tablet, meanwhile, can be mounted on the wall or carried around the home, providing another way for consumers to adjust the thermostat or track how much electricity their washing machine is using, all from one device that is familiar and easy to use.
"We believe it's important to get integrated with the screens that are in consumers' homes," said Jason Few, president of Reliant Energy, a Houston-based electricity services provider that had a smart energy monitor and related technology on display at CES. "We don't believe a thermostat is going to be a screen in a person's home. If we make it complicated, people won't use it, and we're in a category where we're trying to get people to use it for the first time."
One smart home technology company, Massachusetts-based Savant, has built its entire product line around Apple products. Homeowners can use an iPad to pipe music through the house, dim the lights or raise window shades.
"Apple has taught the masses how to use a touch screen," said Craig Spinner, Savant's director of marketing. "We're trying to ride the coattails of what Apple's done."
Price remains a hurdle, Spinner acknowledged. Installing the company's system in a three-bedroom home can cost between $10,000 and $12,000. But Spinner pointed to big service providers such as Comcast Corp. and ADT that are starting to offer smart home automation.
Parks Associates, a consumer technology research firm, estimates that more than 10 million U.S. households will have a remote monitoring and control system by 2014.
Motorola Mobility's Burke, who counts operators such as Comcast and Verizon Wireless as customers, said he believes consumers will embrace new services if they come bundled with existing subscriptions because they can sign up for one package.
"We've seen all the major operators in the Americas putting home security, control and monitoring in their offerings," Burke said.
Among big technology companies at CES, LG showed off a new smart refrigerator that has a small screen on the front and also has a smartphone app. Using a phone's camera, one can scan a grocery receipt or product, and the fridge then keeps a record of its contents, including when an item was bought and, thus, when it is likely to expire. Members of a household can also input personal health information such as age, blood pressure and allergies, and the refrigerator suggests daily and weekly meal plans customized to each person.
On the more affordable end of the smart home spectrum, Sears Holding Corp.'s Craftsman brand recently launched a two-way garage door opener that connects with a homeowner's smartphone. The product starts at $289.99 and comes with a small unit that plugs into a wireless router with an Ethernet cable. A pass code-protected smartphone app calls up information on whether the garage door is open and how long it's been open. Swiping a finger across the screen controls the door.
Kris Malkoski, vice president and general manager of Craftsman, said she believes the industry is three to five years away from reaching consensus on technology standards that will enable true interoperability between connected home devices. Craftsman's focus will be on products that are accessible, both in terms of usage and price, she said. The company plans to incorporate its AssureLink technology, which powers the new garage door opener, into other gadgets and tools for the home.
"We're seeing momentum and we're leading, but not with some isolated product," Malkoski said.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who appeared at CES, said gadgets are yearning to talk to each other. In his view, the ability to automate a refrigerator or control lights remotely is simply how consumer technology should behave.
"Computing devices that are not on a network are lonely," Schmidt said.
(Source: Chicago Tribune, 01/12/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Actions to Control Your Sales Success
Have you planned how you're going to make successful sales? If you haven't, it isn't too late -- but you're already behind the eight ball. Here are 7 actions you must take and take now if you want to control your own destiny:
1. Flush Out All of the Tail-Chasing "Prospects" in Your System.
We all have "prospects" in our pipeline that take up time and energy but that we know in our hearts will never buy. Get them out of your system now. Don't spend any more of your precious time on them. Concentrate on real prospects, not the "hope someday." Vow not to spend any more time chasing your tail.
2. Get Organized.
Most of us spend as much or more time "organizing" each day as we do working. Take a day or two and get yourself organized and then 30 minutes each evening getting ready for the next day. Don't waste time "getting ready" to sell.
3. Know Who a Real Prospect Is.
If you haven't already defined your ideal prospect(s) in detail, do so now. Many salespeople waste a great deal of time chasing unqualified prospects because they haven't taken the time to define for themselves exactly who their real prospects are.
4. Focus Only on Real Prospects.
Even many who have defined in-detail who their real prospects are, find themselves chasing after those who don't qualify. Commit yourself to staying on track. Defining your prospect doesn't do any good if you allow yourself to wander.
5. Eliminate the Success-Killing Busy Work.
If what you do isn't directly involved with finding qualified prospects, making sales presentations and closing sales, or getting a sale completed, it's busy work. Busy work may make you feel like you're accomplishing something but it isn't making you a dime. If it doesn't make you money, don't do it.
6. Learn to Generate Referrals.
Referrals are the best, most cost-effective prospecting and marketing method there is. Nothing can beat referrals in terms of ROI, close ratio, and client loyalty. Yet, few salespeople generate many quality referrals. Less than 15% of all salespeople generate enough quality referrals to impact their business. Learn the process that really generates a large number of high-quality referrals and turn your clients into your marketing platform.
7. Create a Consistent Client Communication Campaign.
If you don't already have a consistent communication campaign for your clients and prospects, create one now. You should be touching each of your clients and long-term prospects 12 to 16 times a year. Use a combination of media -- calls, emails, newsletters, letters, postcards, etc. Make sure each of your communications brings value to your client. The key question to ask yourself before making any contact is "does this benefit the client or only me?" If it doesn't benefit the client, don't send it or don't call. Never waste your client's time.
Time is short. But implementing these 7 "musts" will get your sales on track.
Source: Paul McCord, President of McCord and Associates