Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Retailers Brace for ‘Thanksgivingukkah’
Never mind that we've barely bid farewell to swimsuit season. Retailers are already looking ahead to the all-important holiday shopping season. And this year, that means they're looking ahead to..."Thanksgivingukkah?"
That's the made-up name some are giving to a very real and remarkable coincidence of the calendar -- namely, the fact that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that normally starts close to Christmas, fall on the same date in 2013 (November 28, to be exact).
You'd have to go all the way back to 1918 to find any intersection of the two holidays (keeping in mind Hanukkah's week-plus span), according to researchers. And you'd have to look all the way ahead to 2070 to find another such instance. And ahead another 70,000 years to find another Thankgiving-first day of Hanukkah mash-up.
The coincidence has to do with how the Jewish calendar, which follows a lunar cycle, dovetails with the familiar 12-month Gregorian (or Christian) calendar, which follows a solar one. And it's this same pattern of dates shifting earlier that's resulted in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starting on September 5, a rare early-September occurrence.
But the curiosities of the calendar aside, there's the conundrum posed by the fact that a chunk of holiday shoppers -- the modern-day Hanukkah tradition is to give gifts on each of the eight nights -- will be buying presents well in advance of the usual post-Thanksgiving Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales push. Could that result in weaker overall holiday sales at a time when retailers are hoping for their strongest season since the Great Recession? Or could it actually be a boon in disguise, since it will give stores all the reason they need to extend the season earlier than ever?
Retail experts are more inclined to see Thanksgivingukkah as a positive, saying it will accelerate the trend of recent years to jump start the shopping calendar in an effort to boost the bottom line. (Remember the big holiday story of 2012? It was the decision by such chains as Target and Walmart to open stores on Thanksgiving itself.) And given that Thanksgiving already falls late this year, resulting in a tight 27-day time frame from turkey day to Christmas, merchants "will take any opportunity available to them," says Greg Maloney, president of Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm that manages malls throughout the United Sates.
"If they can do two Black Fridays, they will do it," Maloney adds.
As it turns out, at least one ecommerce firm is already planning on doing an early Cyber Monday promotion. ScanMyPhotos.com, an Irvine, Calif., company that specializes in photo transfer services, has decided to make October 21 its "Hanukkah-friendly" Cyber Monday, saying it would hate to shut the virtual door on Jewish shoppers who can't wait until the formal Cyber Monday of December 2.
"We're all looking for ways to attract attention and make customers happy," says ScanMyPhotos.com CEO Mitch Goldstone.
On the other hand, some experts say any attempts to push things too early -- especially into October -- could backfire. That's because it could result in shopping season fatigue. "There's a limit to how early you can go," says Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com, a retail coupon site.
Merchants also run the risk of trivializing Hanukkah in an effort to generate sales, experts say. That's especially true given that Hanukkah, in its purest form, is not a holiday rooted in a tradition of gift-giving: The eight days of presents evolved as a contemporary practice aimed at giving Hanukkah its place in the winter-season pantheon.
"The best retailers are going to be those that aren't looking at overly commercializing Hanukkah," says Paul Rand, founder of the Zocalo Group, a Chicago-based marketing agency.
Of course, some even question how important Hanukkah is from a national retail standpoint, given that the Jewish population (around 6.7 million) accounts for just about 2% of the overall U.S. population, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. But retail pros note such a statistic doesn't take into account that in some key metro areas -- particularly, in New York, Florida and California -- the population can be much more significant. For example, in Palm Beach County, Fl., Jewish residents constitute 20% of the countywide population, according to a study by two Jewish federations in the area.
Another important factor that experts say to keep in mind is that the Jewish population is a relatively affluent one: The Pew Research Center reports that 46% of the Jewish population has a household of income of $100,000-plus, compared with 18% of the total U.S. population.
Still, just because there may be an earlier push for holiday shopping -- and a push that targets a small but affluent group -- does it actually equate to bigger holiday numbers? Experts say all that an expanded, Hanukkah-friendly shopping season may accomplish is a spreading out of the shopping frenzy, not an actual increase in the dollars spent. And for retailers, it could ultimately result in lower profit margins, since more shopping days also translate into greater expenses.
"They have to do more promotions as the season goes along," says Steven Kramer, an executive vice president with Hybris, a software company that works with retailers.
But that's not to say Thanksgivingukkah doesn't offer some unique retail possibilities. Already, entrepreneurs are bringing products to the market to celebrate the calendar coincidence. Asher Weintraub, a nine-year-old Jewish New Yorker, recently launched a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund his "Menurkey" concept (think a menorah -- the Hanukkah candelabra -- shaped like a turkey); to date, he's raised more than $35,000 (contributors who pledge at least $36 get their very own Menurkey). And ModernTribe, an online retailer that bills itself as a "hip Jewish gift shop," has come out with a line of Thanksgivingukkah T-shirts. As the company says on its website, "Don't miss this once-in-an-eon opportunity to celebrate all that is Jewish and American: Thanksgivingukkah!"
(Source: MarketWatch, 09/04/13)
||Wireless Carriers Command Consumer Loyalty
When it comes to telecommunications loyalty, it's carrier, followed by operating system, followed by handset brand.
According to new research from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 85% of phone buyers keep the same carrier when shopping for a new phone, compared with 63% who stick with the operating system and 41% who are smartphone-brand loyal.
"There's a lot that goes into having more loyalty -- how I feel about the carrier overall, how much I like them. I have a feeling it has to do with the difficulty in switching," Michael Levin, co-founder and partner at CIRP, told Marketing Daily.
A greater affinity for consumers to operating systems over brands helps explain recent activity linking operating systems much more closely with a particular handset brand, Levin says. Apple has always been tied closely with its iOS system, but Microsoft's recent purchase of Nokia's devices and services business and Google's 2011 purchase of Motorola Mobility links the handset brands very closely with their operating systems.
"The operating system has more to do with learning," Levin says. "Once you learn an operating system, it's harder to switch."
The strategy has obviously worked well for Apple, which has the highest percentage of repeat purchasers. On the other hand, Levin notes, BlackBerry's handsets are linked to their own operating system, and the company -- which once dominated the market -- is struggling.
"There's positives and negatives with having a partner and going alone," Levin says. "Android didn't have a hardware partner, and it's doing fabulously. (Similarly), Samsung and LG have done well without a software lineup."
(Source: Marketing Daily, 09/06/13)
||Choices Give New Meaning to ‘Home, Sweet Home’
After Isidore Monblatt, a retired controller who had worked at Lehman Brothers, had a series of minor strokes and falls in the mid-1990s, he and his wife, Nancy, a homemaker, realized that they could no longer stay in their two-story Brooklyn house. But they were not sure of what they needed.
"Something that didn't feel like a nursing home," recalled Cathy Monblatt, 56, an information technology manager and one of their three children. "Something where they could feel independent, but they could get meals and some assistance."
Another daughter found an apartment in an elderly-only building near her home in Alexandria, Va. It had a full kitchen and washer-dryer, along with dining-hall service, regular bingo games and a nursing-care floor.
Nancy Monblatt liked the setup, Cathy recalled. Nevertheless, she missed her old neighborhood up until the time she died in 2007 at age 91, five years after her husband.
Until recently, the Monblatts' experience might have seemed typical. Today the couple would have far more options. There are group homes that try to be familylike, and "villages" of individual households. Homes can be remodeled with a special certification.
As millions of baby boomers reach retirement age (and in many cases care for elderly parents), families and the retirement industry have reworked old lifestyle formats and created hybrids.
"We used to think that a person lived in their own home, and if they got frail they moved in with a relative or to a nursing home," said Jon Pynoos, a professor of gerontology, policy and planning at the University of Southern California. "People need more choices."
The first choice of most people, like Nancy Monblatt, is to stay put. When AARP surveyed 2,000 Americans in late 1999, 89 percent of those age 55 and older said they would prefer not to leave their current residences.
But staying put no longer means staying with the same living arrangement.
Amy Goyer, the home and family expert at AARP, recommends that a geriatric case manager, social worker or other professional analyze the older person's needs to find the best option. AARP and the National Association of Home Builders in 2002 developed "aging in place" certification for home modifications, to teach contractors how to adapt homes. Among typical improvements are widened doorways for wheelchair access and safety features like grab bars in bathrooms.
Still, some houses cannot be realistically remodeled. The biggest problem, said Dan Bawden, owner of Legal Eagle Contractors in Houston, who helped write the certification, is not having a full bathroom or usable bedroom space on the ground floor.
But if such drawbacks are not an issue, almost anything can be brought to an existing home. The number of health workers who make house calls has been rising steadily since 2005, and about 3,000 primary care physicians and other health practitioners now make house calls full time, typically charging about 12 percent more than for office visits, according to the American Academy of Home Care Physicians, a Maryland-based professional association. Meals on Wheels programs are widely available, with fees based on a sliding scale and averaging $6.50 for a daily meal.
At first, home health aides are usually hired for a few hours a day to provide companionship and run errands, experts say. Older people then move on to more intensive assistance, if needed, with bathing, dressing and, where it is permitted, basic nursing care.
Emma Dickison, president of Home Helpers, based in Cincinnati, said she would replace an aide if the personalities did not click, or even for something as simple as: "Does the caregiver make the toast the way the client likes it?" However, she urged clients to give their aides a couple of weeks.
Increasingly, machines can keep electronic tabs on people at home, and the elderly apparently are not bothered by the idea. A 2011 AARP study predicted that around one-fourth to almost one-half of those over age 65 "may be willing to use" electronic devices that remind them to take medicine, check blood pressure or alert caregivers if they are not following their normal routines.
"The cohorts who are moving into their 60s and 70s are used to smartphones and Skype," said Melissa Hardy, a professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.
In a new approach, called villages, neighbors band together to arrange support services like transportation and home repairs, often hiring a manager to coordinate things. According to Lori Simon-Rusinowitz, interim director of the University of Maryland's Center on Aging, about 80 villages have been established nationwide since 2002 and at least 120 more are planned, "primarily in white, middle-class communities."
Eventually, such home-based arrangements may need to be rethought. "What usually shakes up the family is a health crisis," said Larry Minnix, chief executive of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of services to the aging, based in Washington.
Moreover, the ties that bind people to their homes weaken. "Your friends can leave, or die. Your doctor can retire," pointed out Professor Pynoos of U.S.C.
For Sharon Goldzweig, that moment arrived five years ago, when her mother, Shirley Shulman, now 92, was found to have Alzheimer's disease. Ms. Shulman left her Boston apartment to live with her daughter and twin granddaughters, now age 16, in New York.
"The parts I love are when we sit in front of the TV together," said Ms. Goldzweig, 59, a benefits lawyer.
Not everyone can take parents in. But for those who worry that group housing arrangements are cold, experts say they can actually be more nurturing, "When people move into a community, they thrive," Mr. Minnix said.
The dividing lines between types of living arrangements can be amorphous, but at the youngest end are so-called active adult communities that typically set minimum age limits of 55 or so. They may offer swimming pools, classes, excursions and meals, but little medical support.
For more care, the next step is usually an assisted-living facility. Aides and nurses help with basic functions but do not provide 24-hour nursing. Residents -- generally in their 80s -- are mobile enough to eat in the dining hall and join activities.
Moving into a skilled nursing home usually means that constant monitoring is required. The person may be on a respirator or need to be fed.
The Green House Project, started in 2003 and now in 32 states, tries to create a "familylike" version of nursing homes. About a dozen people live in a house, with private bedrooms and bathrooms but shared meals.
Many of these choices are brought together in continuing-care retirement communities. In a single location, residents can transfer among independent living homes, assisted-living homes and nursing homes. A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office found over 1,860 such communities.
If it seems impossible to pick among this variety, one deciding factor is usually cost. But staying at home is not cheap. Widening a door costs about $2,500, and a full bathroom renovation might run $20,000, Mr. Bawden, the contractor, said. Some federal tax breaks are available.
Some of the special villages charge annual fees of a few hundred dollars. Then an older person might pay around $2,200 a month for an aide for four hours daily, according to Genworth Financial, an insurance provider.
By contrast, Genworth reported, the average monthly cost is $3,450 for assisted living and $6,210 for skilled nursing. The continuing-care facilities studied by the G.A.O. charged entrance fees of $80,000 to $750,000 plus monthly rent starting at $1,300.
Long-term care insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs benefits cover only some of these charges.
Beyond price and their health needs, people should consider the weather, the locale, how much socialization they want, the availability of family and transportation, experts say.
Finally, Ms. Goyer of AARP said: "Be flexible. Just when you thought you've got it all figured out, it changes."
(Source: The New York Times, 09/09/13)
Daily Sales Tip: The 'Third-Party Selling' Technique
If you've done your homework, you can bring specific examples to your sales calls. Whether you are a brand new salesperson, or a 20-year veteran working with a brand new prospect, a proven way to establish credibility is to reference success with other clients.
"Third-party selling" is the process of strategically describing the successful implementation of your product/service with other customers in similar situations. When using those "third-party" examples, you need to be specific and detailed. A good story will put your prospect in the shoes of another customer and help them to see the possibilities for your product in their own situation. It will also subliminally communicate your competence and your credentials, eliminating some of the psychological barriers to making a purchasing decision in your favor.
Past success builds credibility.
Source: Kelly Riggs, founder and president of Vmax Performance Group