Thursday, January 26, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||More States Betting on Casino Gambling for Jobs, Revenue
The competition for Americans' gambling dollars is heating up, as several states eye major casino projects in a bid to reverse their fortunes in a tough economic climate.
And if approved, the projects could pose a threat to Las Vegas, long the nation's mecca for casino gambling.
These come on the heels of a new Massachusetts law that authorizes up to three resort-style casinos and one slots parlor, with one possibly in Boston.
- In Florida, a state Senate panel this month approved a bill that would pave the way for up to three casinos, including one possibly in Miami.
- In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding casino operations at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City's Borough of Queens and called for a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling across the state.
- And lawmakers in Illinois are trying to revive an effort to bring a casino to Chicago.
Authorizing casino gambling is "easy politically right now," says Douglas Walker, associate professor of economics at South Carolina's College of Charleston and author of The Economics of Casino Gambling. "People want jobs and they don't want higher taxes. Legalizing casinos can be argued to create jobs and tax revenues."
Never mind that some gambling analysts say that gambling doesn't help the long-term financial stability of a state.
"States see an uptick in revenues when they expand gambling," says Robert Ward, deputy director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. "That does not mean they become more fiscally stable."
The potential expansion of casino operations across the country -- especially in major cities like New York, Miami and Boston -- has Las Vegas on edge, just as it's pulling itself out of a three-year-long rut.
Florida casinos could pose threat
The 41 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have seen an uptick in gambling revenue in recent months. Although they reported a combined $2.2 billion in operating losses from mid-2010 through June 30 of last year, it's less than the $2.57 billion lost in the 12 months before that.
Through November, there were 35.97 million visitors, a 4.4% increase from the first 11 months of 2010, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The hotel occupancy rate in the first 11 months of last year was 84.8%, up 3.7 percentage points from the previous 11 months.
The upscale casinos and accompanying entertainment and dining options that developers envision in cities such as New York and Miami could cut into that, some analysts say.
"They're a much more competitive threat than an Indian casino in Oklahoma," says William Eadington, a gambling industry expert at the University of Nevada at Reno. "The world is not going to collapse next year, but it's not great news (for Vegas) over the next five or 10 years."
Of all the states considering gambling, analysts say Florida could be the most successful at drawing tourists from Las Vegas.
The bill in its Legislature that would pave the way for casinos isn't a done deal. It faces opposition from the likes of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Walt Disney World.
But the Malaysia-based Genting Group, one of the world's largest gambling corporations, already has planned a $3.8 billion waterfront complex in Miami with a casino, shopping mall and restaurants.
"I'm not sure how many more people are going to go to New York or Massachusetts just because they have casinos now," Walker says. "But among 'beach options,' Miami might look a lot more attractive now because it's one additional amenity the city would offer if it had casinos."
The Genting Group also is behind the proposed Aqueduct Racetrack project in New York, which would include the country's largest convention center.
Plans there call for three hotels with 3,000 rooms total, an entertainment facility and an expansion of a casino that began operating at the racetrack in October.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has made the Aqueduct project the crux of his job-creation strategy.
Las Vegas has other appeal
Some analysts and industry leaders say they're not so worried about Las Vegas' future.
The introduction of regional casinos in states such as Connecticut and Pennsylvania hurt neighboring places like Atlantic City, but didn't make much of a dent on Las Vegas.
And today, gambling makes up less than 40% of Las Vegas' visitor revenue, down from the more than 60% it used to represent. It's the 13th consecutive year that gambling has made up less than half the Strip's revenue, and the lowest percentage ever recorded, says Michael Lawton, senior research analyst at the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
"It's the concentration of first-rate hotels, the shows, the shopping that bring people to Nevada," says Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association.
Or as David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, puts it: "When you stop having movies like The Hangover made, that's when Las Vegas is going to be in a lot of trouble."
(Source: USA Today, 01/23/12)
||Report by Nation's Largest Furniture Seller Lists Top 10 Trends of 2012
Sectionals and storage beds lead a list of the top 10 furniture trends of 2012, according to Ashley Furniture HomeStores.
The retail division of Ashley Furniture, the nation's largest furniture retailer, said the popularity of certain items relates to the Americans' changing lifestyles.
"Decisions about how and where to live have never been more critical," said Kris Woodcock, vice president of merchandising. "With older consumers wanting to stay put as long as possible, graduating children returning home after college and adult children inviting their parents to live with them, our houses are requiring smarter choices, better use of space and more long-term planning rather than resale considerations."
Here is Ashley's top 10:
1. Sectionals. Thanks to family rooms, more entertaining at home, and fashion-forward, younger shoppers, sectionals are going to be big. Durable, high performance fabrics and leathers make sectionals appealing in 2012, along with versatile pieces, such as a chaise ottoman that can flip to either end.
2. Storage beds. They're not just for kids' rooms anymore. Bedroom furniture pieces with storage are entering master bedroom suites in a big way, with sleek designs inspired by elegant platform beds. For 2012, many of them will include enough storage to reduce the need for both a chest and dresser, or add much-needed extra storage for shoes, off-season clothing, linens and more.
3. Better mattresses. Ever since hotels began replacing their mattresses with more heavenly versions, consumers have been upgrading their own homes with better mattresses and pillows. For 2012, look for a move away from plush pillow-tops to streamlined, flatter beds.
4. Console seating. Once a luxury product in need of a designated home theater room, theater seating today is going anywhere there's a big-screen TV. And the console loveseat is the rising star. Perfect for small spaces and budgets, it's as fully loaded as home theater sofas and sectionals, including cup holders, storage console, plush arms, headrest and chaise-style ottomans, multiple comfort positions and power.
5. TV consoles. Flat-screen TVs are cheaper, bigger and better, and are making their way into every room in the house. In 2012, the vast majority of those TVs will be housed in or on furniture rather than hung on the wall. Look for better-designed, better-quality TV stands (that look like real furniture), along with clever places to store components -- and taller, multi-purpose versions that double as a drawer chest.
6. Servers. The growing trend to hosting buffets rather than sit-down dinners explains the growing popularity of servers and sideboards. Easy access to cords for warming trays and blenders, less fancy china to display (younger consumers are opting out of rarely used dinnerware) and smaller homes all add to their popularity. For 2012, look for servers with as many drawers as doors, integrated power bars or moisture-resistant tops.
7. Writing desks. Laptop computers and wireless networks are changing our concept of a home office. A single "official" work area is being joined, or replaced, by multiple workstations that can go anywhere. For 2012, it's all about compact workstations, with a simple table in a bedroom, hallway or behind the sofa. Look for warmer styles that blend with other furniture pieces.
8. Bigger coffee tables. Many people opt to eat dinner on the sofa rather than at the kitchen table, explaining the trend to bigger and better coffee tables. Harking back to the 1960s conversation pit, a larger coffee table is a magnet for gathering. For 2012, look for pop-up coffee tables for eating or working in front of the TV, storage drawers or shelves and deeper sizes scaled for sectionals.
9. Gathering tables. The kitchen may be the emotional and physical center of the home, but it's the eating area that's becoming the hub -- especially when it's designed to be a comfortable, live-in gathering place. Higher-height gathering tables or pub tables are the perfect choice, able to house a crowd, double as a workstation or extra cooking surface, or act as space divider between the kitchen and living room (with enough height to see over the sofa to the TV). For 2012, look for unique, transitional styles that bridge more stylish kitchens and less formal living areas.
10. Accent furniture. Stand-alone accent furniture will add storage, flexibility, and plenty of character in 2012 -- satiating our appetite for something fresh, new or daring when budgets don't allow a full room makeover. Accent chairs, small tables, ottomans, shelves, drawer chests and screens will bring designer-style décor home, with a range of exotic or antiqued finishes, reclaimed woods or hand-painted pieces that look acquired from an antique store or exotic trip.
(Source: Furniture Today, 01/23/12)>
||Today's Youth a Tough Sell for Automakers
Automakers have a problem. The kids of America do not want cars.
At least not as much as they used to.
According to research conducted by General Motors Co., 30 percent of them got their driver's license when they turned 16.
For their parents, a car represented freedom -- the ability to escape from parents and go where they wanted without anyone looking over their shoulder.
Today, young people find that freedom online. GM says more than half of those surveyed said they would actually rather meet up with their friends in cyberspace than face to face.
"There's simply new and better and, frankly, more efficient alternatives to communication and getting that freedom that they used to rely on the auto industry to provide," said John McFarland, senior manager for global marketing at Chevrolet, one of GM's divisions.
Just ask Christopher Elkins, a 22-year-old engineering student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has a 2002 Ford Focus. But now that he has a place of his own, going out is less important than it used to be.
Last year, Elkins drove his car to school every day. But he decided it was too much of a hassle. So, this year, he takes the bus. Elkins said he uses his car only about once a week to get groceries.
"I would prefer to bike or walk, especially in Ann Arbor," he said.
But automakers cannot write off a whole generation.
According to GM, there are 80 million millennials -- a group it defines as 18- to 24-year-olds -- in the United States. And they already wield a trillion dollars in spending power. Unfortunately for Detroit, they are spending little of that money on cars.
Ever since Toyota Motor Corp. launched its youth-oriented Scion brand in 2002, automakers have been trying to convince kids that cars in general -- and their cars in particular -- are cool. Scion has had some success. The median age of a Scion buyer is 29, the lowest in the industry, according to Toyota. "We don't really think that any brands today are doing it right," McFarland said. "We don't think anyone quite 'gets' this group."
And that includes Chevy.
Talking about life
But McFarland and his team are trying to change that. They started by changing the way they did market research. Instead of getting a group of kids together in a room and asking them to describe their ideal car, GM's designers sat down with them and talked about life -- what they wanted out of it and how they live theirs. GM found that what they really value is their friends and doing things with them. When they did start talking about cars, the designers discovered that, instead of the sporty compacts and cute hatchbacks they thought kids wanted, what they really desire is "a car to do things with."
In other words, they want basic transportation, not performance.
They also found out that these younger consumers are more realistic than they imagined. Sure, their dream car is still a Lamborghini, but what they really want is a car that can take their friends places. They want it to look cool, but they really do not care how fast it is.
So GM began work on a series of Chevy concepts that it hopes will finally strike the right chord with the youth of America -- or at least a significant number of them.
Chevy recently unveiled two of them at the North American International Auto Show, and more are in the works. One is a mini-muscle car; the other looks like a baby exotic. Both are powered by modest motors that promise more fuel economy than speed.
They are "more poseur than doer," said Clay Dean, director of advanced design at GM, who said the company this year will show them and other concepts to young people at auto shows all over the country.
Other automakers also are trying a new approach to attracting younger car buyers. Chrysler Group LLC put some of its youngest designers in charge of the Dodge Dart program in an effort to channel the zeitgeist of Generation Y, according to Ralph Gilles, head of design at the Auburn Hills, Mich. automaker.
"I want you drawing the car you would drive," Gilles told them.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said they got it right, adding that the Dart will be "key" to bringing millennials into Dodge showrooms.
"I think the car has all the requisites to get it done," he said, adding that technology is a big attraction for younger car buyers, which is why there is so much of it in the Dart. "There's no car that's this evolved."
'Smartphone on wheels'
Dodge's focus on technology makes sense, at least according to the results of a recent survey by Deloitte and Michigan State University's Broad College of Business. They talked to 1,500 consumers of all ages in the United States, as well as 250 Gen Y consumers in China and 300 Gen Y consumers in Western Europe, and found most 19- to 31-year-olds want "a smartphone on wheels."
Tasnim Rahman, 19, said that while fuel economy and looks are important to her, what the University of Michigan student really wants in a car is "a lot of modern technology because we need it today. We are very tech savvy, so we need a car that's tech savvy, too."
Nearly 60 percent of the young people surveyed by Deloitte said in-dash technology is the most important part of a vehicle's interior, while 73 percent said they wanted touch-screen interfaces. Most also want to be able to use smartphone applications.
Fortunately for Dodge, the new Dart offers all of that. So do many of Ford Motor Co.'s new small cars.
Moray Callum, Ford's director of design for the Americas, says his research has revealed the same thing as GM's.
"Having a car is not the same priority anymore for young people," he said. "Adults are worried about texting being a disturbance while driving. A lot of kids think that driving is a disturbance to texting."
Ford, too, has concluded that image is more important than performance to younger customers.
"They're all about the arrival," Callum said, adding that this is why Ford has focused so much on styling in cars like the Fiesta. "They still think the car says something about them."
(Source: The Detroit News, 01/16/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Manipulation or Persuasion?
Manipulation is getting prospects or customers to do something for your benefit. Persuasion is getting them to do something for your mutual benefit.
What's the difference? Manipulation is usually bad. It's done to serve your own interests without any regard to what you're doing for the prospect or customer.
Persuasion is good because it's done for the best interests of you and the prospect or customer. Here are some tips that may increase your persuasive powers:
Persisting. Persuaders realize that 80% of sales are made on the fifth call or later. They recognize that one of their most persuasive abilities is the refusal to give up. They understand that more than 75% of salespeople quit after calling on a prospect three times. Persuaders are in the elite 20% of the sales force that close 80% of the sales.
Personalizing. Persuaders recognize that a prospect wants to know one thing: "What's in it for me?" They add persuasion by personalizing every part of their presentation to meet prospects' own personal needs and wants.
Proving. Facts and testimonials are very persuasive. Persuaders recognize that third-party endorsements go a long way to building credibility. They're prepared to prove every claim they make with hard data, test results and performance records.
Positive. The best persuaders are positive about themselves, the company they represent, the products or services they're selling, and the prospects they're attempting to persuade. Enthusiasm is contagious. They persuade with power because they get customers and prospects feeling the same way.
Source: Adapted from Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want, by sales trainer/consultant David Lakhani.