Manufacturing In America?

This month just some fodder to think about. Since the election of our president (twice!) there was a good deal of talk about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The idea is great and it stirs up a lot of cheers from the crowd. But the reality of doing this really is quite different that the concept.

If you are talking about very high end goods like cars, then yes, manufacturing can be done in the USA. The product has enough margin to sustain localized manufacturing. How many people do you know who build cars? The talk was about all types of manufacturing to get our factories buzzing again. That is a much harder scenario.

When it comes to wholesale merchandise, do we really think that we will be able to manufacture here as opposed to overseas? The conundrum is that dollar store merchandise made here in the USA would be considered $5 store. Because citizens of the USA are trained on bargains and deals, it’s very unlikely that they will pay double or triple for a product because it is USA-made. The concept of USA-made gets a lot of cheers until consumers need to open their wallets to pay for it.

The other end of that is the manufacturing itself. How many people do you know will want to work on a factory assembly line making minimum wage to assemble widgets? Even if a factory could employ American workers for minimum wage, that is still double, triple or beyond what they pay their counterparts in other countries.

So, we have a double edge problem. We really should manufacture here but we really can’t afford to either make it, or buy it after it’s made. And unless the product is a high margin one, companies will not consider cutting into their own margins.

By the way, and I never understand why the millennials never take offense to Apple when they are “Occupying Wall Street.” Here is a company that employees poorly paid workers in China – exploits themand charges $600 for a cell phone here in the USA. This is a great example where we CAN manufacture here in the USAand maybe instead of costing $5 to make an iPhone it would take $10 – still leaving a big margin and allowing American workers the opportunity of employment.

I often think of the Apple scenario and wonder why our President hasn’t reached out to the mega tech gurus over there … then I realized that he’s a Blackberry guy! And we all know what’s happened to Blackberry!

Your thoughts?  Please share.

Economic Woes Continue – Antacid Sales Skyrocket!

Well, there is no doubt that the recent economic woes caused by the Government shut down and idiocy on  Capital Hill have created anxiety for small retailers and merchandise suppliers, I found the following interesting news worth sharing with you.

The latest issue of MMR ran a large article on drugs and their increases in the industry. Loand behold one of the largest growth markets has been the Antacid market which has grown to over $93 million in sales with some brands showing as much as a 74% increase in growth!

Could this be related to the economy? Like a bad sit-com where the boss is swigging Pepto at his desk, there could certainly be a correlation to these numbers and reality. Let’s look further – the personal adult market has decreased over 6% but sleeping aids are up over 28%. Do the math. The country’s population is suffering from indigestion, having less sexual activity and having trouble sleeping!

Thank you, Mr. President and all our favorite Congresspeople. The takeaway from this article is that your store should be stocking up on Tums and Gas X to keep your cash registers ringing.

Just some things to consider from the leading magazine for Retailers Forum. Thanks for reading and hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little insight.

How Is Your Store Doing?

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Well, we are getting set for the last quarter and that is the time that all retailers look forward to, as they do a bulk of their business at this time. The reports in the news and trades show that the economy has improved somewhat and that consumers have been going through spending spurts.

The holiday season has always been successful for retailers, regardless of the economic climate. While the large mega-stores get upset by not posting gains, the small independent retailer is happy to clear their shelves and move inventory for the last quarter. All that the retailer wants to see is profits at the end of the year and this is the time that with proper marketing  he will be able to see that!

Your merchandise mix is extremely important to your sales success. Having the right blend of merchandise at the right prices is going to dictate how you do this season. Many retailers have been using our wholesale merchandise magazine, Retailers Forum, to find merchandise, as well as visiting all the popular trade shows.

Now is the time of the year to start your holiday marketing programs and promotions. The more you promote your store the more sales you will have. Make sure you take full advantage of the inexpensive social marketing that you can be doing for your business. This is a good time to update your customers mailing list info, email addresses, twitter accounts or whatever to get the word out…. We’re here and ready for business!

Here’s What Grinds My Gears…

The news for the retail industry has been discouraging since prior to last Christmas season. We read now that many established stores will be closing down this year. I read that it is estimated that over 40,000 retail stores will close this year. Now, some of them deserve to close as they were mismanaged and honestly I never understood how they even stayed around in the first place.

Also, remember when you read the doom and gloom news that stores like Steve & Barry’s and Mervyn’s have closed down through bankruptcy that perhaps this was a pre-meditated move. I recently read an article about the founder of Mervyn’s who sold the chain to an investment group thinking that they would carry on the name and promote the business. The article showed that the investors seemed more interested in the sum of its parts (real estate, real estate, real estate!) Same with Steve & Barry’s? Also saw National Wholesale Liquidators decided to liquidate themselves stating the tough economy hurt them. Hurt them? They sell CLOSEOUTS for goodness sake. The dollar and discounters are doing great when times get tough. Instead, I think they found a way out of their unsuccessful locations and a way to STIFF their suppliers. It was really interesting how some of the family members of the chain BOUGHT BACK their own stores in the bankruptcy auctions! They cherry-picked the profitable locations and cleared the liabilities to get a fresh start.

As a small business we’re not going to get the investor speculators to throw money at us. If we independents don’t step up and work harder and smarter we only end up going out of business. No fanfare. No front page in the Times or on Bloomberg’s news site. We simply have a clearance liquidation sale where people in the community who never bothered to stop into the store come in and feign sympathy as they buy for 75% off the dollar. My favorite line at these closing sales are “Oh, what a great store, it’s too bad.” This, coming from people who never bothered to stop in. And another local small store hits the dust. More community blight as downtown areas turn to ghost towns and property values dwindle down.

The small business is the backbone of our country and our economy. I can only hope that the new administration realizes this and steps up to assist our struggling businesses by emphasizing the need for communities to embrace their small businesses. These are your neighbors, sharing their love and concern for your community. The big box stores don’t care – they will take your money and put NOTHING back, sending their profits to their headquarters eons away from your hometown.

As small businesses we need to PROMOTE LOCAL SHOPPING with signs like “Support Your Local Merchants” and programs to encourage shoppers to stay local. We’re all in this together, as neighbors.

Well, that’s what Grinding My Gears this week!

VIRTUAL SPENDING… WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?

The economy is starting to chug along again, although lately the stock market has had such big ups and downs. Many fellow retailers have been having a hard time selling merchandise at their stores and are looking forward to a better year mid-year 2010. When I say retailers I mean real stores with real merchandise that buyers can touch and feel.

WHY do I expound on “real” merchandise you ask? Well, let me share this with you and maybe you’ll be as crazed as I was after I heard this…

Social games have become a new trend on the internet. This new industry is sucking in staggering amounts of money. In one recent 30-day span, Playfish, a creator of social games sold for $400 million. Playdom, another game company raised $43 million in financing, while another, Zynga raised $180 million. Many are equating this trend to something larger than the dot com trend back in the 90’s.

Companies like Playfish can develop a game for under $100,000 and complete it in just a few weeks. These virtual games don’t even have to fight for shelf space. What makes me insane is where the bulk of the social-gaming revenue comes from: the sale of virtual goods. The virtual goods are digital stuff that doesn’t actually exist.

While the games are free, users have countless opportunities to buy stuff: Playfish says it sells 60 million items a day, from $14 engagement rings to bacon sandwiches that cost a few cents. The goodies make it easier to advance in the game.

Imagine that…people are shopping and they are spending… ON MAKE-BELIEVE MERCHANDISE! How sad is that? Well, sad to the tune of $75 million in sales for 2009 that could double this year! For fake bacon sandwiches and engagement rings for a game!!

Is it just me? Have I gone insane? How tempting would it be for us retailers to post signs in our stores offering “virtual” jewelry — just $29.95 for a pretend ring! And here we have these venture capitalists chasing these gaming companies to throw money into them. Then you have the players willing to spend real dollars for birthday parties for a digital pussycat! Can you say $75 million? I think we’re in the wrong business!

Have you heard of this? Are you a gamer? A retailer? Blog with me and let me know what you think.