Monday, October 29, 2012

Federated Prepares to Absorb May Department Stores

The American retailing industry is witnessing the absorption of The May Department Stores Company ["May"] into the Federated Department Store group of companies. Pending federal approval, Federated will sell off as many as 68 May stores after the upcoming holiday season is complete. How this plan will affect shoppers is only beginning to now be realized.
When Federated announced their interest in acquiring May earlier this year, not too many people were surprised. Yes, the size of the acquisition is huge and some wondered aloud how Federated would fit May into the fold, especially with a huge overlap of store brands and locations. Still, Federated was looking at the merger as an opportunity to expand their venerable Macy's name to areas of the country not served by the chain.
With the pending acquistion we know the following:
  • All 330 May's stores will be converted to the Macy's brand.

  • Long time brand names such as Filene's, Hecht's, and Kaufmann's will disappear.

  • Lord and Taylor, with 58 stores, will remain a brand and could be expanded, as well as Marshall Fields which has 60 stores.

  • The 243 David's Bridal stores, 453 After Hours Formalwear stores, and 11 Priscilla of Boston stores compromising May's Bridal Group will probably be left alone.Analysts are concerned that the bigger Macy's brand may run into some difficulty. Long accustomed to serving a higher end clientele, Macy's may find it difficult selling their wares in stores throughout the heartland that is currently dominated by the likes of Target and WalMart. Income levels in many of these served areas are far lower than the major metropolitan areas where Macy's dominates. Some are wondering if the Macy's name will have to "drop down" to accommodate the new markets.
    It has been forecast that federal approval will given by the end of the third quarter, just in time for the big holiday shopping season. Federated's present to itself this Christmas season will be a bigger retail family to support; time will tell if consumers "buy into" the expanded retail giant or go elsewhere in search of other opportunities, especially in the heartland where the Macy's brand is currently unavailable.
    Regardless, 2006 will shape up as a year of change with recognized store brand names such as Filene's disappearing and with the Macy's name expanding. Let's see how the American consumer reacts!

  • Monday, October 22, 2012

    Virtual Pbx Levels the Playing Field Between Small Business and Fortune 500

    Technology, some people fear it, some resist it, and others embrace it. As a small business owner, it could be the best thing that ever happened to your company. With the technology available today, small businesses are increasingly leveling the playing field between themselves and big companies. With toll free virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) telephone systems, small businesses are combining today's technology with traditional customer service to take their business to the next level.
    Only Fortune 500 companies with hundreds of employees and 10- story office buildings can afford and maintain a traditional PBX telephone system. Now, with toll free virtual PBX services, anyone with a telephone can reap the benefits of this powerful communications tool. A virtual PBX has all the advantages of a traditional PBX and more without the hassle, hardware and expense.
    A virtual PBX allows small businesses to:
    • Project a professional, more established company image
    • Have one unified number for office phone, cell phone, and fax
    • Make information available to their customers 24/7
    • Automate order taking and pre-qualifying processes
    • Have web-based, real time access to their system
    Small and home-based businesses are using all of these features of their toll free virtual PBX systems to sound and operate like a Fortune 500 company everyday.
    Project a Professional, More Established Company Image
    Right or wrong, consumers assume a company with a toll free number is a more established and secure company. When a toll free number is attached to a virtual PBX with an automated attendant, that powerful image is perpetuated. An automated attendant will answer all incoming calls with the same professional and courteous message every time, day or night. Professional greetings can be recorded by the business owner themselves, or even by a voice talent, and customized for the needs of the business. It doesn't matter if the business is operated out of a home office or the Oval Office. The caller hears a professional greeting each and every time they call.
    Unified Voice and Messaging System
    With a toll free virtual PBX system, small businesses only need one telephone number. This number can be an office phone, cell phone, fax, and pager all in one. Gone are the days of having to put 3 or 4 different numbers on business cards. Now the virtual PBX toll free number replaces them all. When a call comes into the toll free number, it can be routed to any local number. It can even be programmed to route to different numbers at different times of the day or even different days of the week. A call never has to be missed again. That kind of flexibility is unheard of with a traditional toll free number or a hardwired PBX. If the call is not answered, or is sent to voicemail, the virtual PBX system can even notify the user know that there is a message waiting for them. The toll free number also acts as the fax number. When a fax is sent, the system recognizes it as a fax and can store it in the fax mailbox for later retrieval, forward the faxed document to a local fax machine, or even send the fax to an email address as an attachment. The unified messaging feature unchains small business owners from the home or small office and allows them the flexibility to get out and build their business while still being available to their customers.
    Powerful Automation
    No matter how efficient a small or home-based business is, they simply cannot be available to their customers all the time - unless they have a toll free virtual PBX system. If a caller has questions they want the answers now. If they don't get those answers when they call, chances are they'll look some place else. Making sure information is available, even when a live person isn't, can be the difference between someone becoming a customer or moving on to the competition. A toll free virtual PBX allows the storage of an unlimited amount of information for callers to retrieve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Menus broken down into what kinds of information a caller might need, make it easy for them to navigate the system and get what they are looking for. Faxes can even be attached so the caller can request an automated fax back. For a business that needs to pre-qualify their callers, or would just like to get some information about them, can take advantage of question and answer voice mailboxes. A set of pre-recorded questions can be asked of the caller and the voice responses then saved in the system and emailed as a sound file. These automated processes not only save time, but they also make sure callers can get the information they need when no one is available.
    Web Based System Access
    A toll free virtual PBX is just that, virtual. What that means for a small business owner is that one, there is no hardware to maintain or software to buy, and two, that they can access their system from anywhere they can get online. Online system access is one of the most popular features of a virtual PBX system. Web-based system access allows users to check their voice and fax messages over the internet or have the messages delivered directly to an email address. Of course, messages can still be checked from any touch-tone phone, anywhere.
    A small business owner has administrative access to check the call logs of all incoming calls to their toll free number and use the call capture feature to not only capture the phone number of the person calling, but also their name and address. It also allows a user to run reports based on different criteria chosen. For example, reports could be run to show when the busiest time of the week is for customer service or if the call volume increased after a specific ad campaign was released. The applications are endless.
    With all these powerful features, and most times more, it's amazing that toll free virtual PBX systems can be found at a reasonable price. Most systems offered are between $10.00 and $50.00 depending on the capabilities and size of the system. Many will offer a varying number of voice mail boxes, features, and minute plans. A good toll free virtual PBX service provider can also customize systems if needed.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Find Your Niche in the Business World

    Who am I and what do I love to do? Well, isn't this the twenty million dollar question! A more appropriate question might be "Who was I and what did I love to do?"
    As you search to find yourself, and what it is you love to do, you may find the task harder than you thought it would be. Try to think about your childhood. Can you remember what thrilled you as a child? Like many people you've probably forgotten what brought try joy and excitment to your essence.
    Children instinctively just "know" what they love. We quickly forget what makes us happy as we grow into adults. External influences eventually diminish the thought of actually "doing what we love to do."
    When I was a child I vaguely remember wanting to be a stewardess, a mother of 8 (don't know why it had to be 8, sounds rather ambitious in today's world), and a musician.
    Well, didn't every little girl who grew up in my world want to be a stewardess? It seemed so. Or, could it have been a clue to what really was the essence of me? Maybe I longed to travel and this was what society offered at the time.
    I did have a musical inclination. I seemed to learn to play clarinet fast, and was quite good for a beginner. Never got past the beginning, victim of circumstances, but that's another long story. I could pick a tune on the piano by ear and dreamed of being able to sit down and flawlessly play the most beautiful of compositions. But, that didn't happen.
    The mom thing? Don't know where that came from. Maybe the caring side of me. Maybe just that period most little girls go through where they emulate their mother and "play house." Who knows?
    But, I did grow up to be the mother of four. I quickly learned that 8 was really ambitious. Some days, I don't know how I survive the four. I'm far from super mom status, but I guess I don't do too bad.
    I've found recently, through self searching and pondering, that the question of "who am I?" becomes increasingly difficult with age and life's interference. Yes, life interference can be very damaging to our happiness. Our experiences tend to mold us into the person we are today. By the way, that isn't necessarily who we were meant to be.
    Have you ever longed to be able to do something you are passionate about and truly loved as a child. Maybe it's some form of art; painting, drawing, crafting, dancing, or singing. Maybe you enjoyed building things or, taking things apart and putting them back together. Or, were you the mathematical genius in the class? Did you love to play school and teach real or imaginary children?
    Childhood is innocence. As children we accept our true essence without question and pursue it daily in our real and imaginary play. It is life and life's external influences that re-route us away from what we love to do. We are too quickly discouraged from the pursuit of happiness.
    It is apparent in many happy, successful, adults that there is often a common denominator. Most extremely successful people really love doing what they do. They live their work. They strive to be better and better at it. They never dread going to work and are always thinking about new ways to improve. They simply love the work. They "live to work" not "work to live."
    America's most famous billionaire, Malcolm Forbes, reflected this same belief, that you should do what you love to do to be successful, in several of his statements:
  • "Success follows doing what you want to do. There is no other way to be successful."

  • "When what we are is what we want to be, that's happiness."

  • "The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy."
  • These quotes from Malcolm Forbes pretty much sum up the importance of doing what you love to do. Everyone should pursue what they love to do. Then work at doing what they love. You may say "It's too late."
    It's never too late to rediscover your childhood passions. It's certainly never too late to start getting some satisfaction and enjoyment out of life. If only for your own pleasure, you should pursue what you love to do.
    Whatever it is you feel you would love to do, go for it. Take an art, singing, dancing, literature, accounting, computer, home decorating ,or mechanic class. Invest in yourself and your happiness. You may find that through pursuing what you love, you will find your best work. Share your knowledge, passion, or talent with others. You will see yourself become confident and successful at what you love to do.
    I found that my favorite thing to do is to simply be a housewife and mother. Maybe it's not "just being a mom." Rather, it's doing the things required to be a housewife and mom. It's not a glamorous career. But, it does require quite a few skills. Moms are usually very talented in more than a few areas; art, organization, accounting, negotiating, and decorating are just a few that come to mind.
    My favorite task is saving money. A family of six makes saving money pretty much a requirement of my job but, I've found that I Love IT! I get great satisfaction in getting the most for my money, getting things for free, and managing a household on a very limited income. So, in order to expand on my happiness, I decided to share my knowledge with others. I actually have fun sharing my ideas and money saving tips. And, I enjoy researching and finding more money saving tips for myself and others.
    Sometimes, it seems like I can't pull myself away from my work. That's because I love it so much. I love it, I am passionate about it, and I believe in it! Enthusiasm is contagious. If I can get others excited about saving money, then I am happy.

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Business Stress and its Causes

    What is Business Stress?
    Business stress is felt during times of conflict, pressure, loss, illness or anxiety. It describes the frantic pace of business life. Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people can cope and take it in their stride; others find the pressure too much and buckle under. Much of the stress, anxiety, and the sense of overload that people carry is because they feel their lives are out of control. Stress seems to come from the perception that our life feels overloaded.
    In medical terms, stress is your body's physical reactions to change, which is not always bad. It is said that a little bit of stress is good for our well-being and exercises our faculties. However today's stress caused by business activity can have a detrimental, psychological or emotional effect on our health.
    What Causes Stress?
    Business stress is a common result of fear - fear of uncertainty and insecurity. When working within a large company your fear may come from dealing with your boss, or from handling requests from management. It may arise from the uncertainty about your job and what performance expectations are required of you. It manifests itself in the feelings of insecurities that your job may not even exist tomorrow.
    Many people experience business stress in large organisations. Often they will look at going into business on their own account, to reduce this workplace stress. Before you can free yourself from workplace-induced stress, you need to identify the source of the stress and explore ways of dealing with it. You cannot attribute stress to the fact that you have a difficult boss or that management do not understand the needs of workers.
    Workplace induced stress arises from 2 sources:
    1. Psychological. It is often said that some people are just born worriers and it would be fair to say that there are many people with experience and skills who simply do not fit into the category of true entrepreneurs. That is, they should not be self-employed because their makeup may not handle the stress of looking after their own destiny in business. Some people simply sail through the challenges and pressures that come with being self employed, while others already have chronic fears, insecurities and other anxieties and should seek professional assistance in some areas of their business, or make a decision to get out all together.
    2. External. This comes from the very nature of a competitive global environment. There is no room for mediocre performance and in some industries it is definitely the strong that survive. Stress that comes from within a business organisation may arise from conflicts between employees or from reaction to challenges to the authority of a superior, or it could arise from the lack of cash to pay the bills, or the loss of a contract that a business was depending on.

    Do we need Stress in our Lives?The experts tell us that we all need a certain amount of stress in our lives and that the benefit is psychological, mental and physical. This may surprise most of us but they say it is quite true. When you think about it, without stress life would be quite dull and unexciting. Stress adds a bit of flavour, as well as a challenge, and gives one the opportunity to excel, or push beyond the normal limit.
    The problem arises when there is too much stress. This can seriously affect the well being of the person involved. The trick is to ensure that whatever stress exists in a business environment, it should be moulded to be beneficial rather than detrimental.
    We cannot avoid stress; it is with us from the time we get up in the morning, to the time we sleep at night. As humans, we are involved in activities during the day, which will affect our emotions or wear down our mental or physical abilities.
    Stress is unique and personal to each person. What one person finds stressful another finds relaxing. Some people have a very high stress level and perform well under pressure cooker conditions, while others cannot endure even a small amount of pressure.
    Excess stress causes physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and other types of ailments. One of the best ways to help stress in our lives is to ensure that the body gets sufficient physical exercise, rest, and discipline in the amount and type of foods eaten.