A blog for all things retail and licensing.

Merchandise Monday: Pit Barrel Cooker Co.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and families everywhere are planning their turkey day meals. Pit Barrel Cooker Co. wants to make the holidays a lot easier with not only its cooker product, but also a variety of other cooking accessories, specifically its new turkey hangers.

Founded by former Navy corpsman Noah Glanville, Pit Barrel Cooker Co. is a unique concept because it combines the best qualities of smokers, slow cookers and grills into a single product. Additionally, a portion of sales of each cooker is contributed to the Folds of Honor, an organization that provides scholarships to families of those killed or disabled in war. “I’m proud of the hard work we have put in to grow this business and excited for where the future will take us,” Glanville says. “We’re honored to offer an American-made product that can help people create great meals and great memories.”

This holiday season, customers can support a good cause while also feeding their family a delicious turkey dinner. Read more about Pit Barrel Cooker Co. in the Nov./Dec. issue of RM. And see the best products it has to offer below.

Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Includes everything you need to cook some of the best food you’ve ever tasted, let alone cooked yourself. Simple to use, durable, portable and extremely versatile, the Pit Barrel Cooker produces perfectly cooked meals every time.


PBC Turkey Hangers

The holidays just got a lot easier and more delicious. Stainless steel hangers are easy to use and place your birds in the optimal position for cooking. You’ll never fry or put them in the oven again!




PBC Custom Fit Cover

Protect your PBC from the elements and keep it looking like new all year round. Also provides great security during transport.



PBC Hinged Grill Grate

Hang meat on one side of the PBC and grill food on the other with the Hinged Grill Grate, made of durable steel. Flip the grate over to use the entire grilling surface.


PBC Pit Grips

Designed for maximum comfort and dexterity, the custom PBC Pit Grips are heat-resistant up to 350* C and 662* F. The gloves are sold as a pair.


PBC Pit Rubs

Use the Pit Rubs to bring out the best flavors of your food. The All-Purpose Rub works great with poultry, pork and seafood, while the Beef & Game Rub is a perfect complement to beef, game, salmon and vegetables.


Attachable Ash Pan

Wash your hands of ashes forever. The stainless steel Ash Pan easily attaches to new and original coal baskets, catching the ashes after each cook and making cleanup easier than ever.




See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

Singles’ Day 2015 Debrief: Opportunities Abound for Western Brands

By Charles Whiteman, SVP Client Services, MotionPoint

The biggest online shopping day of the year — November 11, China’s Singles’ Day — has come and gone, and the results practically defy the imagination.

Indeed, most Western shoppers can’t comprehend the scale of this e-commerce sales event. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are bargain-crazy bonanzas for U.S. retailers; last year, those days generated a combined $4 billion in sales.

On November 11th, more than $1 billion of products were sold during Singles’ Day’s first eight minutes. About an hour after that, sales cracked $5 billion.

By day’s end, sales had eclipsed $14.3 billion — and that was solely on online marketplaces owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Additional billions generated at competing sites, like JD.com, weren’t included in the total.

What’s behind this shopping phenomenon? Bargain basement deals. On Singles’ Day, prices drop by 50% or more, for products ranging from televisions to toilet paper. Consumers buy most of these products at Alibaba-owned sites, such as Tmall.com.

Last year, these online malls generated $9.3 billion in Singles’ Day-related sales, a 60% increase over 2013. This year’s sales represented another 60% year-over-year increase.

Chinese brands used to dominate Singles’ Day sales. Not anymore; Western companies are expanding into the market, and getting a piece of the action.

This year, more than 15,000 global companies participated in Singles’ Day. Most sold their products in virtual marketplaces like Tmall. A who’s who of brands were on hand, including Macy’s, Estée Lauder, Nike, Apple, P&G, Unilever, and others. European companies also contributed, including Zara (a Spanish fashion retailer), luxury store Burberry, and many more.

Not all Western companies sell on Tmall, however. Many operate e-commerce websites, localized for the Chinese market.

Some of these companies are MotionPoint clients. Based on our analysis, these sites also saw surges of traffic and transactions on Singles’ Day, too. We noted these, and other, significant increases on November 11, compared to the YTD average:

  • Traffic grew by an average 92%, compared to 82% in 2014
  • Conversion rates increased 122%, compared to 10% in 2014
  • Sales skyrocketed 1,384%

Our Chinese market experts suggest that several product sectors will become increasingly popular on upcoming Singles’ Days. This includes the mother and baby product categories.

China recently rescinded its “one-child rule,” allowing families to have two children legally. This will soon result in an ongoing surge of maternity and childcare product sales especially among Western brands, which Chinese consumers prefer. (In fact, Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies products were top-sellers during Singles’ Day 2014.) This represents a growth opportunity for savvy maternity and baby brands.

This move might take some pressure off existing regional brands. Australians are currently experiencing a Singles’ Day baby formula shortage, since millions of Chinese consumers purchased an Aussie-made formula en masse.

Western brands may be experiencing a Singles’ Day sales lift in China, but stateside retailers, hungry to generate U.S. interest in the shopping holiday, aren’t faring so well.

Despite support from such retail powerhouses as Walmart, American consumers don’t seem to care about Singles’ Day. In the U.S., November 11 sales totaled $1.4 billion, a 14% increase from 2014 to 2015. That’s not bad, but it’s well below the $3 billion analysts project Cyber Monday will deliver this year.

We have a unique perspective on U.S. Singles’ Day celebrants. We operate a localized Chinese website for a U.S.-based retailer that promoted Singles’ Day 2015. While its promotions generated a relative increase in U.S. sales, the lift couldn’t compare to the impact we saw on sites on mainland China sites.

We also operate a localized Spanish site for another retailer that promoted Singles’ Day to U.S. Hispanics. The site didn’t see an increase in sales at all. This trend may change, but for now, we believe Singles’ Day is a uniquely Chinese e-commerce event, resonating with shoppers from some cultures more than others.

While it may seem that Singles’ Day is a formal holiday, it isn’t. The day was created by 1990s Chinese college students, who celebrated it as a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day. In 2009, Alibaba branded the day as “Double 11,” and offered tantalizing online shopping deals, targeted at single. The rest is a marketing success story.

This year, Chinese anticipation for Singles’ Day was higher than ever. The hashtag #Double11  trended on Chinese social network Weibo for more than a month before November 11, generating billions of impressions.

This year, 80% of all Chinese online shoppers participated in Singles’ Day. They generated an astonishing 120,000 of orders every minute. According to Alibaba, nearly 70% of those orders were placed on mobile devices, compared to about 40% in 2014.

And while Singles’ Day’s $14+ billion windfall is certainly jaw-dropping, it still represents a mere fraction China’s online buying power. Last year, Chinese consumers spent more than $450 billion online. By 2018, annual spending will grow to $1 trillion.


Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform. He may be reached at cwhiteman@motionpoint.com.

REI Urges Customers to #OptOutside for Black Friday

By Stephanie Crets

In a surprising turn this holiday shopping season, many stores are opting out of Black Friday altogether, even though it can be the biggest shopping day of the year for some retailers. But with Black Friday edging earlier and earlier every year – some on Thanksgiving evening, some even starting on Wednesday – it’s rather refreshing to see so many stores shutting the door for the day. Plus, some retailers have actually noticed a decline in sales on Black Friday with forces like Cyber Monday on its tails. Some consumers want to skip the mad dash to the store and wait to see what e-commerce deals they can score a few days later.

REI led the charge for closing on Black Friday, instead urging its customers to spend the day outside. Given the nature of its brand and the type of products it sells, #OptOutside makes perfect, strategic sense for the company. In a statement on its website, REI says, “REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That’s why this Black Friday, we’re closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.” Following in its footsteps, 49 of California’s state parks are offering free admission on Black Friday to encourage people to get outside and explore nature.

Andrew Billings, senior manager of retail and consumer products at North Highland, shares his thoughts on Black Friday and REI.

What are the forces behind the overall decline of Black Friday?

According to research firm ShopperTrak, just over $9 billion was spent at stores on Black Friday last year, a 7 percent drop compared to the previous year. This decrease is largely due to competition from online retailers such as Amazon and subsequent rise of Cyber Monday. As retailers continue to adopt an omni-channel approach (with a specific focus on digital), consumers are seeing less incentive to make the trek into the store. Given these headwinds, brick-and-mortar retailers are feeling intense pressure to attract shoppers on Black Friday. The result is store openings as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, which has only seemed to generate pushback from consumers wishing to preserve the holiday. Over the past few years, many shoppers have joined in petitions asking retailers to remain closed on Thanksgiving.

Given the importance of cultivating an authentic, consistent brand, why is REI’s demonstration of humanity having such an impact?

In many ways, REI is raising the cultural bar and sending a very different message than its competitors. One must also consider REI’s nature-focused brand image and target customer. This kind of announcement will resonate much more than a buy-one-get-one-free promotion with REI’s customers, who are relatively young and looking for a brand experience that extends beyond the merchandise on the shelf. While REI’s stance initially seems very expensive, the cost of closing on Black Friday will be recouped in employee productivity, loyalty and positive brand messaging.

What is the impact of REI’s Black Friday move on loyal fans, general consumers and the retail industry at large?

Clearly this announcement appeals to the store associates first and foremost, building employee morale and loyalty far more than a $0.50 raise, even though an across-the-board raise would likely cost REI more money in the long run. The way a company treats its workforce is especially significant to younger customers, a core demographic for REI. According to a recent survey by TBWA/Worldwide and TakePart, “4 in 5 millennials said they’d be more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause they care about, and 3 in 4 would think more highly of a company that supports a social cause.” (Editor’s Note: This ties directly into our earlier coverage about marketing to millennials, which you can read here.)

From a consumer perspective, this move has almost universal appeal, and many may choose to support a company moving in this direction. There will certainly be a few shoppers who are focused on scoring a Black Friday deal, but those individuals are typically not brand-loyal, year-round shoppers. REI has built a loyal customer base – not by having the lowest price, but by providing a best-in-class customer shopping experience through knowledgeable associates, an innovative store environment and top-notch customer service. Customers who align to this value proposition will be most likely to applaud REI’s decision to give employees an extra day with family and friends.

Given REI’s co-op ownership model, two-year double digit sales growth, low promotion reliance and strong brand image, this bold move makes long-term strategic sense. REI’s competitors and retailers at-large, especially those with low reliance on promotional sales, will undoubtedly be monitoring REI’s performance in the fourth quarter to determine financial implications of remaining closed on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Can This Holiday Be Saved? Retail Distress in the 2015 Buying Season

By Sara L. Chenetz and John D. Penn of Perkins Coie

In the ramp up to this holiday season, the record number of retail and mall closures and bankruptcies should put retailers and their vendors on alert. Several retail icons have sought or considered bankruptcy protection. Some retail debtors have emerged from bankruptcy as healthier, more prosperous businesses, leaving behind obsolete operations and debts. Others have sold assets or operations, getting top dollar for what was sold. Other financially troubled retailers restructured their debts and operations, without the need to file for bankruptcy or shut down.

The traditional advice to troubled retailers had been to wait until after the holidays to file for protection in the hopes of achieving maximum liquidity. That is no longer true. As holiday spending continues to gravitate to online retailers, the end-of-year sales surge and post-holiday cash surplus are no longer a predictable seasonal fixture.

Suppliers, vendors, landlords, employees and mall operators are all impacted by a retailer’s distress. For healthier retailers, related bankruptcies and liquidations –even those involving fellow retailers — can create new and inviting opportunities, such as well-priced real property and intellectually property acquisitions.

Retailers in Financial Distress

Amid this atmosphere, retailers finding themselves debt laden or short on cash should consider several different steps, as shared below. Retailers should explore Chapter 11 and other restructuring options as an opportunity to achieve favorable results, such as these:

  • Reject burdensome leases and other executory agreements;
  • Obtain improved credit and supply terms;
  • Establish critical vendor programs to keep important suppliers delivering their goods and keep them happy to continuing to do so;
  • Discharge pre-filing debts and deleverage the balance sheet;
  • Effectively address reclamation and similar claims and issues;
  • Retain important employees at the company, consider employee retention programs;
  • Find new and creative sources of financing;
  • Sell obsolete inventory at the best possible prices;
  • Close underperforming stores, limiting resulting claims;
  • Conduct going-out-of-business sales, despite lease prohibitions;
  • Monetize little-used intangible and other property;
  • Obtain new capital free of existing encumbrances;
  • Implement improved rental terms;
  • Structure consignment and revenue sharing agreements to improve cash flow and limit risk; and
  • Avoid cash draining COD and adequate assurance demands.

When a Retailer’s Landlord, Vendor or Supplier Is in Trouble

Retailers are not alone in finding themselves in financial distress. A retailer’s financial wherewithal can be harmed by the troubles of its vendors, landlords and licensors. Given the recent wave of retail bankruptcies, some vendors lost important customers and some landlords have much vacant space, resulting in reduced revenues and increased obligations.

Retailers can limit the risks they suffer as a result of the financial problems of others. Retailers should consider the following:

  • Assess risks of specific supplier, licensor, licensee and landlord bankruptcies and other financial troubles;
  • Identify and modify, as needed, key contracts that might be impacted by the contracting party’s bankruptcy, through assumption, assignment, rejection and otherwise;
  • Enforce and seek to amend delivery, payment, default, cure and termination terms in existing contracts;
  • Carefully craft delivery, payment, default, cure and termination terms in contracts under negotiation;
  • Create and enforce rights in connection with goods in transit;
  • Review and amend a supplier’s ability to assume and assign a contract, over the retailer’s objection — regardless of what a contract may say — in the event of the supplier’s bankruptcy;
  • Enhance the ability to terminate purchase and supply agreements in the event of, and in advance of, a supplier bankruptcy or other financial distress;
  • Establish technology escrows with intellectual property licensors;
  • Structure new and improved consignment and revenue-sharing terms;
  • Create, enforce and improve setoff, recoupment, default and termination rights, before a bankruptcy filing by a vendor; and
  • Review and potentially revise or craft consignment and similar contracts.

Can This Holiday Be Saved?

This holiday season will once again be a do-or-die scenario for certain retailers. While nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news while the world is filled with merriment, the likelihood of holiday shoppers delivering year-end salvation decreases as the traditional retail model becomes less tolerant and margins grow thinner. By considering the above issues and seeking counsel from experienced professionals at an early stage, retailers can act to halt downward spirals, and retailers that are financially strong can position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities presented in the current retail flux.


About the Authors

Sara L. Chenetz is a partner at Perkins Coie in the Bankruptcy & Restructuring practice and represents clients with varied interests and perspectives in bankruptcy, restructuring, workout and litigation matters. She has served as first chair in multiple trials, arbitrations and mediations, in addition to having served as a court-appointed Chapter 11 trustee and mediator in bankruptcy cases in New York and California.

John D. Penn is a partner at Perkins Coie in the Bankruptcy & Restructuring practice focusing on bankruptcy, restructuring, workouts and related litigation. He has represented secured and unsecured creditors, debtors, trustees and unsecured creditor committees in major and high-profile reorganizations and insolvency proceedings. John is a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy and past president of the American Bankruptcy Institute.

This article first appeared in Perkins Coie’s Wrapping Paper Series. This series of updates contains information regarding issues and trends facing the retail industry during the holiday season.



Foodstirs: Healthy Baking Through E-Commerce

By Stephanie Crets

Foodstirs is a lifestyle culinary brand that is all about making meaningful experiences through cooking for families, adults and anyone who wants to enjoy that time while also using healthier, premium ingredients, according to one of its founders Sarah Michelle Gellar.

You may know Gellar as Buffy Summers, where she slayed vampires on the popular cult hit television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for seven years. But she’s taking a bit of a break from the world of acting, save for some voice acting on this season’s Star Wars Rebels, to spend more time with her children and teach them all about healthy eating and encouraging them to spend more time in the kitchen through baking.

RM sat down with Gellar at SheKnows Media’s #BlogHerFood15 conference in Chicago to discuss Foodstirs, and her enthusiasm for her new venture was insanely contagious.

Gellar and her two friends, Galit Laibow and Gia Russo, created Foodstirs about two years ago with the mission to offer better quality, convenient and delicious products to help families create memorable experiences in the kitchen. But Gellar emphasizes that it’s not just for parents; anyone can use Foodstirs and she encourages everyone to give it a try.

“The initial concept was definitely inspired by our children and seeing what it did for them,” Gellar says. “And then just watching it grow to adults with people that write to us and say, ‘I don’t have children but I’ve always wanted to bake and I’ve been scared and I was successful, or I brought it to my office party.’ The idea of families is our jumping off point, it’s our inspiration, but baking is universal. And also being intimidated by baking is universal, so we’re trying to break that stereotype and break that barrier down. “

Gellar and the Foodstirs team believe that getting back into the kitchen is valuable for everyone, especially given how crunched for time everyone is these days. We’re always in a hurry and taking the time to cook a meal with better ingredients, let alone baking with better ingredients, can feel like an impossible task. But Foodstirs just wants to make your life easier and bring back the joy of baking to everyone’s kitchen.

“All the ingredients you need are there, so you can just make it,” Gellar explains. “I think that’s part of the hurdle… And I think the hardest thing, too, with baking is that you need really small amounts, so you may not use that [item] again. So, we send you those small amounts so you don’t feel like you’re being wasteful. While it is available to have dye-free and preservative-free [products], it’s not easy to source. So by taking that out, we’re giving you your time and experience back. We’re all time-impoverished…and time is of the essence. Anything you can do to get that experience, but make the act of that easier is important.”

Foodstirs launched its e-commerce business in early October and Gellar promises an abundance of surprises and new items to come. But for now you can order treats to bake such as the Cupcake Cone Kit, Brownie Popsicle Kit and, the newest item, the Autumn Loaf Kit. Every kit includes all the items you could possibly need, save for perishables like milk and eggs, and even a card full of fun facts. And each kit comes with only the best ingredients, including organic, preservative-free and dye-free items with unbleached flour and non-GMO ingredients. This means that not only do you receive a fun project to bake with kids (or your significant other or your cat, depending on your situation), but you can also feel a little bit better about enjoying that cookie or brownie.

The most remarkable part of Foodstirs is that everyone involved is extremely passionate about its cause to educate people, especially children, about healthy lifestyles and to encourage people spend more meaningful time with your family through baking and cooking. And Gellar really wants people to know that this isn’t just something she’s slapped her name on for publicity’s sake. This is her passion. She’s seen the process work with her two young children and believes other families will find success and their own passion for baking through Foodstirs.

“I feel extremely fortunate we’re in the position to share our idea,” Gellar says. “I want people to know that this is a true passion. I believe in this product, the concept, what we’re doing, that we have something important to say. Know that this is something I’ve experienced and I’ve seen the success with my family, the connection it brings, the pride and confidence that it builds. I hope they understand this is some thing I want to share with them. This is much more than a vanity project, this is my blood, sweat and tears.”


Photo courtesy of #BlogHerFood15.

Social Media: Always Break the Rules

By Stephanie Crets

If you’re running any kind of business, odds are you rely on social media to create brand awareness, connect with customers and promote your products. While social media isn’t an exact science, there are some ways to help boost engagement and drive more business, no matter how successful or unsuccessful your social media presence currently is.

RM spoke to Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker at SheKnows Media’s #BlogHerFood15 conference about her experience with social media, and also attended her Social Media Bootcamp panel, where she offered tips and tricks for better utilizing your Facebook and Instagram accounts.

“Social media is the most effective way to advertise,” Rettke says. “It is easily accessible to all, so no matter how small or big your blog is, we all have access to the same people and can reach the same people, depending on how were using it. So, I think it’s hugely important and you’ll find that people who are new to the industry and know that going in grow fast and huge because it’s a powerful tool.”

Rettke believes that any engagement is good and that bloggers, businesses and brands shouldn’t follow any specific rules. What works for Pepsi might not work for Coca-Cola and vice versa in terms of engagement, but that’s where your insights come in. “Everyone has the potential to study and engage with your insights,” she explains. “Absorb it and utilize it because everyone has potential to have a really successful Facebook page.”

Rettke had extremely low expectations when she launched her own social media channels. And after several years of studying her insights and practicing different methods, she now has more than 892,000 followers, so she must be doing something right. “Any following was a huge following to me,” she says. “Any little bit of growth was just a bonus.”

Some of her suggestions on boosting engagement include:

  • Follow the pages you want to be like.
  • Use power words in your posts to engage your audience: best, perfect, ultimate, secret, tips and tricks, shorthand words etc.
  • Tag your business in similar companies’ photos so that its fans will notice you and your business will come to the top of their timeline.
  • Pin your most popular posts to the top of your page to create even more engagement with that post.
  • Love what you do and want to share it with others.

The Facebook audience tends to be an older crowd (whereas something like SnapChat is mainly filled with teenagers), so Rettke has found that advertising there can actually work because you can specifically target your audience and whom you want to sell to. But with other social platform, like Instagram, you’re at the mercy of your photos and hashtags.

For Instagram, Rettke had several suggestions:

  • You don’t always have to use photos taken with your smartphone, use your “hero” shots.
  • Run a giveaway.
  • Use at least 11 hashtags to create the most engagement as studies have shown this creates the highest interaction.
  • Make sure your captions are just as good as your photos, and don’t be afraid for shameless promotion, such as “Double-tap if you love this,” or “Tag a friend who also does this.”
  • Be consistent.

While Rettke doesn’t follow any rules herself, she knows this works well for some of her fellow bloggers and small business owners. But the takeaway of our chat is to always engage with your engagement. Figure out what works best for you, your brand, business and/or blog and use social media to your advantage.

How to Get Ready for the Holiday Rush

By Kendall Reed, Solution Marketing Specialist, NCR Counterpoint POS

Experts at the National Retail Federation predict average shoppers this holiday season will spend slightly more than $800 on gifts for others — and themselves. Regardless of what you sell, all retailers have an opportunity to capture some of the holiday shopping frenzy — provided you plan how you’ll attract and serve holiday shoppers well before the season begins.

Here are a few simple ways to get ready for the holiday rush:

Connect with your customers before they’re bombarded. It can be tough to compete with holiday media chatter created by larger advertisers when the holiday season is underway, but you can work to establish a connection with customers and prospects before the “noise” begins. Leverage inexpensive tools like social media to stand out: Consider holding exclusive private shopping events for your social media fans, sweepstakes for a holiday-themed promotional giveaway or special discounts throughout the season for customers who opt in to your email list before the holiday rush.

Predict their needs. E-commerce websites have empowered customers to compare prices and research product reviews before they decide to buy, but the holiday season remains a time when customers want to personally experience a product and leave the store with the item in hand. Prepare for the holiday rush by stocking up on the products your target customers are most likely to want, based on past purchase behavior, current trends and your promotional calendar. In addition to streamlining checkout processes, a point-of-sale system — whether fixed or mobile — can simplify the process of managing inventory (including purchase order issuance, fulfillment and replenishment) to ensure you have products in stock based on the optimal levels for your business and customers.

Merchandise strategically. Holiday shoppers may find themselves facing pressures they don’t have at other times of the year, including crowds, shopping for specific needs on a gift list and budget constraints. Consider whether your current merchandising strategy is developed with the holiday customer in mind. Are items featured in window displays easy to locate on the sales floor? Is merchandise organized in an order and location that is accessible for customers? Have you placed gift-worthy add-on items near the point of sale that will help customers tackle their holiday shopping list? Keeping your customers’ needs in mind as you set up merchandise can help reduce stress and enhance their shopping experience.

Empower your staff to serve. The holiday rush demands you have adequate sales staff in place to meet customer needs. This quality service should motivate customers to return to your business and recommend it to others. In addition to recruiting, hiring and training enough employees to support your holiday customers well before the “rush” is underway, consider how you can make the most of their service. For example, empowering your sales staff with the ability to accept credit or debit cards via mobile point-of-sales can help you give customers a more convenient checkout experience, while maximizing the “return on investment” attained from temporary holiday staff.

The holiday rush is a prime opportunity for retailers of all sizes to capture additional sales, and ideally, form relationships with new customers that will last for years to come. Make these simple but impactful shifts to your business strategy to ensure you capture all the benefits of the holiday shopping season.


Kendall is a key contributor in planning and executing marketing initiatives for NCR’s Retail SMB solutions. In this role, she is responsible for strategy, creative conceptualization and delivery, and measurement of programs to drive both awareness and growth. Her experience includes creating digital strategies to benefit the SMB merchant in both the hospitality and retail space.


Merchandise Monday: #BlogHerFood15 Sponsors

I attended #BlogHerFood15 this past weekend in Chicago. Presented by SheKnows Media, BlogHer is an organization that brings together women content creators across social media, video and photography platforms and blogging to facilitate networking and personal growth, which is what the events are all about – only in person. These events are made possible by the brands and sponsors that support BlogHer by bringing their products, prizes and connections to the blogging community. Attendees had the opportunity to meet with brand ambassadors for the possibility of working with them on future blogging endeavors, while also sampling things like peanut butter smoothies from Jamba Juice, cinnamon rum ‘orchata by Chila ‘Orchata and many more below.


Otis Spunkmeyer

Otis Spunkmeyer spends its days baking, experimenting, testing and talking about delicious baked goods. Its goal is to keep improving by creating better treats out of fewer, better ingredients. No high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors and colors. I sampled the chocolate mini muffins and iced lemon loaf cake – both were outstanding.


Heluva Good 

Heluva Good creates delicious dips to satisfy any cheese-loving palate. At the conference, the company had a booth where attendees pulled a lever to win a prize. Prizes ranged from an insulated cooler bag, branded t-shirt, lifetime supply of dip and much more. I won a branded bag clip/bottle opener. One attendee tried desperately to win the cooler bag that after several tries, Heluva Good finally just gave it to her.


Harvest Trail by Atkins

Atkins has launched a new line of bars called Harvest Trail. They are a simple and nutritious blend of nuts, fruits and flavoring, depending on the bar. Bar choices are Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, Dark Chocolate Cherry and Nuts, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and, my personal favorite, Vanilla Fruit and Nut bar. These bars provides the goodness of protein and fiber while keeping net carbs and sugars in check.



I ditched my chai latte for the weekend and instead opted for Energems, a chocolate/caffeine energy supplement. These chocolate discs come in packages of three – so you can decide how energized you want to be – in dark chocolate, mint dark chocolate and berry flavored dark chocolate. Each piece combines the right amount of caffeine along with vitamins B and D to keep you going through any conference or just you average day in the office.


Ninja Coffee Bar

The Ninja Coffee Bar brewer changes the game, bringing rich flavor home—turning your favorite ground coffee into anything-but-basic black. Not to mention all of the refreshing over-ice drinks and frothy, flavorful specialty beverages you can whip up at the touch of a button with its concentrated coffee. Some flavors offered at the conference included cinnamon dulce and pumpkin spice, both delicious.

See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

Using the Brand Packaging Restage to Fend off the M&A Beast

Bruce Levinson, VP Client Engagement, SGK

CPG companies have it tough these days. While they have been wrestling with brand shifting, changing demographics, new media and technology, mining terabytes of big data and navigating an emerging retail scene, a new challenge has formed. That is the specter of being acquired by a competitor or by private equity. The near-zero Federal Funds Rate not only enables companies to invest in their own growth, it also makes it much easier for companies to buy scale through acquisition. Surely this is a huge boon for some. But many CPGs prefer to go it alone rather than see their brands taken over and possibly sold off for parts. To remain independent enterprises, CPGs must perform in the short term, getting the most value possible out of their brands, but in a way that is sustainable and fits with the equity.

This dynamic is bringing new relevance and urgency to the brand packaging restage. As the majority of the largest CPG brands have lost market share in the past year, there is a critical need for a fresh approach. Sometimes considered a “half measure,” the brand restage hasn’t always been thought of with the same degree of seriousness or appeal as, say, launching an all-new brand or product. But change is in the air because breakthrough brand packaging design offers CPGs an attractive mix of benefits today if done in a thoughtful way.

Refreshed packaging doesn’t rely on inventing a magic molecule or investing in any other product formulation change. The packaging itself brings “news” to the shelf without necessarily incurring slotting fees or negotiating incremental space at retail. Brand packaging is an “always-on” communication channel to reinforce positioning or launch a new claim; consumer permission is not needed to show it. Perhaps the single most critical opportunity with packaging, however, is to bring a meaningful new reason to select your brand and to select it over and over again.

Functional or structural packaging innovation can drive ease of use, facilitate new usage occasions, support sustainability, and bring efficiencies to the supply chain (including yours and that of your retail customers.) Taking the time to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive creative brief is key. Work with your agencies to consider the role of packaging in your consumers’ life, from quickly identifying the brand to selecting it on the physical or virtual shelf, to how they use and ultimately discard the packaging. Work across categories to find inspiration in, say, specialty food while working on personal care products. Taking this example further, you must also consider if the transparency trend in food packaging should translate to other categories or is even relevant to your brand’s equity.

In doing so, brands may find new routes to brand relevance that aren’t long-shot new product innovations (most of which fail, remember), but are thoughtful, tangible packaging and design solutions that can be achieved in much less time. Restaging the brand portfolio can also serve as a signal to the outside world, demonstrating that even the stodgiest of brands is being cared for, managed actively not passively, no matter if you are trying to attract or repel potential M&A suitors.


Bruce Levinson is Vice President, Client Engagement at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment provider that drives brand performance. Bruce is a passionate architect of brand strategy and is highly experienced in translating consumer insights and client needs. His experience helps clients meet market and regulatory demands while driving brand initiatives domestically and internationally. His previous positions include director-level marketing roles at Unilever in the US and UK, and as an advertising account executive. http://www.sgkinc.com

Merchandise Monday: Costume Trends

Halloween may be over for this year, but even during the celebration, I heard people planning their costumes for next year. We can’t predict what will be popular next year, as it generally depends on the hottest movies and video games among children and teens, but the trends likely won’t change too much. Superheroes, princesses and Star Wars are always trusty favorites, along with the stereotypically spooky witches, ghosts and vampires.

Surprisingly, however, according to a National Federation Retail report, Batman character costumes beat out Star Wars character costumes in the Top 5 Adult Costumes for 2015. And that might even be the case next year with the release of Batman v. Superman next March. Suicide Squad doesn’t even come out until next August, but Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the top trend in costume searches, according to Google’s Frightgeist. I’m sure her popularity will only continue to grow. The new Joker style from the same movie, however, was only No. 9 on most searched costumes.

Google says that more than three billion searches take place every day and Google Trends gives users an unparalleled look at what the world is searching for. With Frightgeist, you can see what costumes trended both nationally and locally. Perhaps next year you can find something more unique or enjoy going with the popular trends. There are benefits and negatives to both. With a trendy costume, you’ll be more recognizable, but you will be one of many while a unique costume might not be very recognizable, but you might really turn heads.

Here are some of the most popular costumes by Rubies Costumes.


See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets