The Week of March 4th in Review

By Paul Pannone

The week of March 4th deals with small businesses and their fight to stay alive. Vendors in every category find themselves in a fight for survival, including small, independent florists. But despite the tenacious nature of independent operators in every category an ongoing poll shows 76% of responses so-far feel they cannot win against big box operators (35%) while 41% say small operators need to start thinking like good business people– not good people in a business. eWedNewz continues our investigation into this story and welcomes your thoughts.

Similar poll result says manufacturers should not sell direct to the public , yet businesses continue to support those manufacturers that engage in direct sales to consumers via the Internet or by opening their own stores. eWedNewz continues to look at the disconnect between poll results and the actions of small businesses.

 

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Technology– or lack of– Identified as the Root of Small Business Troubles

By Paul Pannone

In an ongoing investigation into why small businesses are succumbing to larger, more advanced operators, we didn’t have to go far to understand why. Many small business owners are so wrapped up in the daily challenges of running their business. Most do not have cutting-edge websites and even less have software inventory tracking systems to help decide what’s selling, what’s stagnant and what’s dead. According to experts most do not know if they made money or lost money last quarter; flying by the seat of their pants in most cases.

 

Is the bubble about to burst for small automotive shops and businesses that haven’t heard about the Internet?

 

In response to the vanishing small business entrepreneurs the inability or unwillingness to embrace technology was most often identified why larger companies will run away with the ball in the years to come.

According to James Simpson , “The lack of forward motion with mobile, smartphone marketing and more is affecting the failure rates of local jewelry stores, service providers…even pizza operators. In the twelve months ending in in May of this year, more than 25 independent pizza operators went out of business where I live, which national chains grabbed more market share. Not one of them had online/mobile ordering in place while all the national and many regional chains are seeing 10%-!5%+ of sales coming from mobile devices that didn’t exist only 3 years ago. I call on locals and I’m in my late 50’s calling on business owners of all types that are (generally) my age and they’re uninformed, unwilling to take action, afraid of online reviews (Yelp), etc., aren’t optimizing social media out of ignorance and trepidation and the stats say that only 59% of local business has websites (!). Yikes. Your article hit the nail on the head…we’re going to see big, organized and well-funded businesses gaining more ground.

Why does that have to be so when new technologies now allow these local businesses to catch up, jump ahead and to thrive based on their local access to traffic and shopper conversion? I believe they simply don’t have the will to succeed or learn how to change. Sad, but after hundreds of conversations with maybe a dozen or so that really “get it”, I see no other answer.”

In our ongoing investigation we’ve spoken to dozens of small business owners, particularly in the automotive industry, who have no idea of the internet and the (negative) impact it’s having on their business. One small business owner who is into his second generation of business ownership in the New York area– a place where you would think people are current with such matters– revealed how a competitor slandered his business.

“I had no clue what people were talking about when they told me about some of the stories online,” said “Tony“.

According to Tony a nearby competitor was putting people up to writing negative reviews and talking about scenarios that never happened. When we asked why he wasn’t online or why he wasn’t defending himself he shrugged his shoulders and said;

“I don’t know how to do it.”

Similar instances in all parts of the country, including Tucson, AZ, where customers that had a bad experience after getting their transmission serviced were allowed to slander the small business without any rebuttal. The events hurt the company’s reputation and makes it difficult to run by today’s standards.

Even tech-savvy companies say it’s difficult to keep pace with the wild west and often dubious practices of the internet. Cutting Edge DJs in Philadelphia told eWedNewz of their troubles with Yelp and the uphill battled they continue to fight against their bully tactics online.

Christine Boulton explains it this way;

“One of the problems I see with many small businesses is a lack of understanding of social media. They either, as you said, pawn the task off on a low-level employee or try to farm it out to a third-party. It is virtually impossible to do a company’s social media well if you aren’t on-site and in the thick of it. Social media at it’s best comes from the middle of the fray. It is personal and of the moment.”

eWedNewz examines why companies that know they need to get on-board with technology and Social Media chooses to pay a minimum salary to non-experts and then dismisses the results.

Are you up to speed with technology and Social Media?

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2012

The Week of October 8th in Review

 

 

By Paul Pannone

Consumers looking online for wedding dresses drove up the story questioning how wedding dresses are marketed. According to insiders in the printed bridal magazine business brides are shown the sizzle and not the steak, hoping to get them to spend more money than the national average price of a wedding dress that hovers around $1,400 dollars.

The struggles of printed magazines are clear, as major companies including Conde’ Nast announce further cuts than originally planned. In breaking newZ Conde’ admitted to job cuts, after omitting them from earlier published reports.

Small, independent business owners find it increasingly difficult to compete against larger, well-run competitors. Meanwhile suppliers abandon the smaller stores in the interest of their own survival.

 

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The First Week of May, 2012, in Review

 

By Paul Pannone

The wedding business looks to a strong fall while experiencing a moderate spring and peak wedding season. After several abysmal years since the 2008 economic collapse, the wedding business slowly adjusts to more prudent, less emotional spending on wedding events.

Part of the change includes smarter spending decisions by couples planning their wedding who look for direction from trusted sources, not opinions from self-proclaimed experts who spout their personal thoughts.  But tenacious independent retailers are not easily silenced. Many small business owners are vocal against Big-box operators , feeling they offer better value and personal service than chain-store, corporate stores.

A United Way event in New Jersey made newZ, using the Celebrity and draw power of Planner, Samantha Goldberg. The sometimes controversial but always entertaining Goldberg continues to cause waves for organizations she feels operate unjustly. eWedNewz continues our coverage of the story in the weeks ahead.

 

 

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Little Guys Pissed Over Big-Box Growth and Promotion

 

By Paul Pannone

An ongoing story involving the takeover of America splinters off into many paths, as confused Citizens of the United States– some of which are good people in business, not good business people– cry foul over many aspects of reality.   Average consumers and businesses feel they’re being squeezed out in favor of Big-box stores;  incensed by suppliers that run to them. The facts are sad, but they’re true.

According to About.com small business — firms with fewer than 500 employees — drives the U.S. economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s private workforce. According to a quote in their story;

“Small business drives the American economy,” said Dr. Chad Moutray, Chief Economist for the Office of Advocacy in a press release. “Main Street provides the jobs and spurs our economic growth. American entrepreneurs are creative and productive, and these numbers prove it.”

All true; small business owners are creative, tenacious, innovative, even cunning. But the reality is, most do not have the basic 101 skills to run successful businesses. You can re-read this statement as many times as you like; it won’t change the facts.

eWedNewz investigates why this is so and finds most business owners are driven by emotion, love for the product and see their business as an enemy to their lives, not a part of their life. Through the economic downturn that started in 2008, many have closed their business, replaced by people who lost their job and now see how difficult it is to be a business owner.

eWedNewz coverage of the China issues shows the disconnect of what Americans say and what they really do. A current poll shows only 16% of respondents so far say it doesn’t matter– or they don’t care– where products are produced, leaving 84% saying they do care and would support American products if they were competitively priced. If the poll was 100% reversed it would still show Americans feel the effect of offshore production and the slow but steady loss of American clout and prestige that affects us all. Yet Americans continue to buy products made elsewhere, spending less for the items but many are finding they’ve sacrificed a greater percentage of value, while putting American companies– and workers– out of business.

What you’ve so-far read is background to the real point of this story. In both their personal and business life, most Americans say one thing and do another. For this story we’ll focus on business decisions that should be universally standard across all channels but are not. With the affordability and ubiquitous availability of software, digital, social media, etc., most businesses stay stuck in neutral, letting competitors– especially Big-box operators– take market-share away from them, leading to eroded profit and exhausted patience.

Public exchange of some of the frustration is shown from eWedNewz stories that feature a divide between manufacturers and retailers that should be partnering together, instead of fighting each other. eWedNewz watches all sectors of business politely listening to laments and excuses of why small stores cannot compete. The conclusion; save for true market leading independent stores, the stay local campaign will face major challenges in the near future.

In the flower business websites like flowercomplaint.com urges the use of local shops. But support for convenience, brand recognition and decades of service, consumers still use the FTD network. If you watch and read what the complaint says, which way would you go? Do the names Home Depot and Wal-Mart mean anything? The very existence of Big-box stores named is contradictory to the high demand for service and quality American consumers ask for– but really comes down to the price they’re willing to pay.

In the dress business David’s Bridal is everyone’s enemy; anyone that makes or sells wedding dresses. Chat rooms and message boards are filled with horror stories– but so are complaints against little stores. Check the court docket; they’re filled with consumer cases– big and small.

According to sources the nation and the world are undergoing enormous change. But the desire for respect, value, expectation for and excellent experience never changes. However, human nature goes against the grain of business; big business. In the new order manufacturer say they’re tired of the overhead of dealing with smaller stores and look for one thing: the order.

Sources say Big-box stores can order goods fast and sell them even them faster. In a numbers game (that’s all it is) Big-box stores and manufacturers that can produce large sums of product somehow find each other. Big orders requires huge, up-front commitments on the part of the manufacturer. But as big business goes, from the moment they complete a deal they’re looking for someone cheaper, faster and able to deliver a better product; they only stick with each other because they cannot be replaced.

Several recent eWedNewz stories involving piracy and the success of larger operations struck a nerve, generating mostly private response. We’ll share one case for each story.

Christina DiBlase, owner of A. Bridal Co. & formal in New Jersey gave her opinion of what can be done to help the problems involving Chinese piracy. In response to the story, Jim Duhe responded:

“If manufacturers deleted all design images from their web sites and discontinued all advertising, their fate would be entirely in the hands of independent bridal retailers.  Unfortunately, most retailers aren’t nearly sophisticated enough to compete with big box stores or the brand name recognition of J.Crew, BHLDN, Nicole Miller, Bebe, and an ever growing number of national entities that are gaining prominence in the bridal marketplace.  The solution to Chinese  knock-offs may not be insurmountable but it certainly isn’t as simple as Christine DiBlase suspects.”

In repsonse to the comment, DiBlase fired back;

“Well, well I saw the article today and I guess good ol’ Jim Duhe thinks I’m a simpleton. I don’t see him offering a better solution. Wonder how’d he fix it. Apparently, we retailers are all so unsophisticated when it comes to advertising and branding that God only knows how we have survived so long in this economy. Our methods would most certainly be the demise of all those vendor who know so much more than us.”

Duhe’s turn:

“If retailers had a clue about marketing, they wouldn’t have paved the way for big box stores to walk off with more than 1/3 of all bridal gown sales in the country.  If bridal retailers had even a little marketing savvy, they would have developed multi-media ad campaigns that promote the benefits of shopping at an independent bridal salon.  Instead, the vast majority select not to advertise.  Brilliant.   I’m not saying that all bridal retailers are unsophisticated fools.  In fact, there are some brilliant retailers in the business.  However, as a group, they lack leadership and direction to address any problem that is industry-wide.  There has never been a successful national organization of  bridal retailers in America — EVER.

When big box stores began opening stores throughout the country, bridal retailers selected to move across town rather than maintain a location next to this new competitor.  The net result . . . most of the stores who moved away to escape the taint of David’s went out of business. Those who were “stuck” with locations near big box stores prospered.  Gee.  I wonder why?

When big box retailers began advertising in print, independent retailers decided that they wouldn’t advertise in any magazines that accepted big box store ads.  The net result . . . big box stores grew more quickly business of advertising exclusivity.  Brilliant move.

When the internet began to gain prominence, bridal retailers thought that their marketing problems were solved.  They believed that email blasts were the answer.  They believed that The Knot was the answer.  They believed that Wedding Wire was the answer.  The vast majority are willing to latch on to anything except logic to solve their problems.

Expecting the manufacturers to leave marketing is unrealistic and naive at best.  Don’t take my word for it.  Ask any manufacturer of any product with national distribution if this seems like a rational suggestion.  Do you think that Flow would select not to promote or advertise products on a web site?”

Duhe and other members of the Wedding Water Cooler mention FLOW and has consistently commented and applauded the formal wear manufacturer’s decision to break out of a mold (moldy) format that has not worked for decades. Onlookers that don’t understand basic business 101 passed on new programs and marketing ideas and found themselves  out of luck.

Not everyone sees it that way.

“Yes, by all means lets continue to send men to MW Tux…the store that treats the customer like cattle and charges them highway robbery prices to do it. There are however some brides who are wising up and seeking alternatives. Small local stores and chains can offer better prices, service and selection.

The new styles are falling short to deliver on all this grandiose marketing is claiming. I rented a Tony Bowls to a young man for prom this past week. I charged him the going rate “based” off all the hype and the slim fitted look. Just as MW tux would do for the Vera Wang items. The tux did not deliver one bit on its look and hype…it was so bad that the mother paid $75 more to have an old After Six La Strada shipped in! (only reason I did not give her a refund or cover the cost is the fact I advised her against renting the Tony Bowls.)

Marketing is good for any industry, but keep in mind it must be kept as honest as possible…fitted or slim fit rentals are a pipe dream. That is why they are rentals, if you want fitted try and convince your customer to buy the tuxedo and have it tailored as needed. Don’t over promise then under-deliver,” according to Stephen D. Schaffer, proprietor.

 

The owner of  tux2u.com charged $75 more to have an old After Six La Strada shipped in; another verification why tuxedo stores are losing credibility, renting old garments made over a decade ago. Please visit www.tux2u.com they have a good choice of cigars; and their watches aren’t bad either.

We won’t waste your time with more of Mr. Schaffer’s assertions; laughably about censorship. If you’re interested, you can see it here.

“That’s what’s wrong with a lot of the smaller operators that don’t get the bigger picture. They’re too stuck in running their store to update websites, get into Social Media and do all the things their competitors are doing right. Then they sit and cry about how bad business is,” says Christine Boulton, business adviser and creator of the Wedding Water Cooler.

 

What do you say? We promise not to censor you.

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2012