A blog for all things retail and licensing.

How to Protect Your Business from Shoplifters

Shoplifting is a crime that really doesn’t need an introduction. Thirty-eight percent of Inventory Shrink in 2014, which cost U.S. retailers $44 billion, was due to shoplifting. All retailers battle shoplifting and its associated losses and these increased costs, unfortunately, are passed to the customers. This, of course, hurts businesses, especially small retailers. You will never eliminate shoplifting. However, there are several methods retailers can use to combat shoplifting, many of which are easy (and affordable) to implement.

Security Cameras

Installing security cameras is the very first thing any business should do to curtail shoplifting. Shoplifters are less likely to target your store when they know there is a security system in place. Lorex has a number of great security camera systems for businesses. The money you’ll save will offset the cost. Just make sure to monitor the system, and never put cameras in dressing rooms or bathrooms. You will need to adhere to all local laws pertaining to retail surveillance.


Once you have security cameras in place, post signs that warn shoplifters they are being watched and that you will prosecute them if they steal from your business. Do not underestimate the power of signage. It works.

Plain Clothes Loss Prevention Staff

During busier shopping days, have staff members roam the store in plain clothes. They should be armed with a two-way radio to communicate to managers. This isn’t an ideal method for all stores, and it can have drawbacks if you don’t properly train these staff members. Still, it is worth considering as part of your loss prevention plan.

Schedule Adequate Staff for Each Shift

Shoplifters often work in teams and try to distract staff members. This method is easily stopped when you have enough staff members working. Calculate the costs, and you’ll see that having extra staff will actually save you money in the long run.

Encourage Staff Members to Wander the Store

Obviously, you don’t want your staff to wander aimlessly. Assign sectors for each member to cover. You’ve already scheduled enough staff so this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Your honest customers will appreciate the extra staff, too.

Employee Code Words

If an employee suspects someone is shoplifting, your entire staff needs to be on alert. However, calling over the intercom could scare customers and could bring up legal implications by accusing a customer in public. A quick fix: Create code words employees can use over the intercom that will alert the staff. One company, which asked to remain anonymous, uses the following phrase: “Mr. Sandman, you have a call on line one.” You can use any code words. Just be sure that your employees are aware of the phrase and the procedure to follow when they hear it.

Prosecute All Thieves

You need to send a message to thieves by doing everything in your power to make them pay for their crime against your business. Fail to do so, and you will continue to be victimized. You may not get a conviction, but shoplifters will know that your store does not tolerate thieves. You aren’t running a charity. Protect your livelihood.

For more tips on shoplifting prevention in your small business, check out this Shopify article.

Millennial Women: Not Such a Mystery

By Stephanie Crets

This may come as a shock to many readers, but – brace yourselves – I’m a millennial. And because I’m one, the world has to treat me differently and give me special attention, right? Well, maybe not completely, but it’s been said time and again that millennials look at the world a little differently. And if a retailer wants a millennial like me to purchase its products and become a loyal customer, they have to move on from some of the tried-and-true ways used in the past, updating their strategies to address their newest wave of customers.

Marketing to the Millennial Woman by Ann Arnof Fishman is a guide that offers insight into the complicated (but actually not-so-complicated) minds of millennial women and how to garner their trust and support as customers. “They’re unlike any generation of women we’ve seen in the past 100 years, and there’s almost 40 million of them,” Fishman says. “If you understand what makes this generation unique, it will present opportunities for all retailers.”

While not all millennial women are cookie-cutter identical, they do all share some similar characteristics that can make reaching out to them as a retailer a little easier. They tend to be:

  1. Civic minded.

Fishman’s research found that many millennial women want to change the world in some way through causes for people in need, animal rescues, bettering the environment and more. By making a cause part of the business, retailers can connect with their customers who want to do good for the world. For example, Whole Foods focuses on putting salad bars into school systems and Starbucks uses recyclable cups.

  1. Globally connected.

Millennial women are talking to each other across oceans and continents through e-mail, text messages, social media and more, which means retailers are competing with a 24/7 international market. One way to combat this is through e-commerce with a well-designed website and social media, so products are constantly available to the always plugged-in millennials and the company has a bit of a personality through its social media channels.

  1. Physically strong.

Millennial women are the first generation to reap the benefits of Title IX, the federal legislation that guarantees equal funding for sports to both women and men in colleges and other institutions that receive public funding. This lends itself to more women wanting to empower themselves physically. Retailers can target the sportier millennial women by supporting and sponsoring local athletic teams.

  1. Media influenced.

Many millennial women grew when some of the strongest female characters were predominant in the media. From Xena to Hermione Granger to Dana Scully and Buffy Summers (my personal favorite), these women rocked the fictional worlds they inhabited, proving to other generations that they could do anything, including saving the world time and again. Even real women, such as Princess Diana and Mother Theresa, influenced the millennial generation with all the good they did in the world and all the causes they supported. These fictional and real women even tie into both of the other traits of being civic minded and physically strong. By promoting a product or business through a strong female spokeswoman or supporting a specific cause that ties into the ideals shown by these women, retailers can better reach millennial women.

  1. Initially suspicious.

Millennial women don’t like to be manipulated, especially when making a purchase. They recognize unnecessary hype and will only spend money on items they truly want, which is why every interaction – in-store or online – is important in establishing that relationship. Millennials also talk to each other – in person and online – which could make or break a retailer’s business. If a millennial woman has an excellent buying experience, she may rave about it on Facebook or tell her friends over coffee about the great pair of boots she just bought from such and such store. On the contrary, if she has a terrible experience, that can be a nightmare for a business. “This generation can be your dream come true or your worst nightmare,” Fishman says.

Fishman has been studying generational trends for a long time, thanks to her training with the U.S. Senate, where she received fellowships for these studies. She realized that to understand one generation, you have to understand all of them. Therefore, she studies and focuses on six generations, including the millennial generation and how the other generations influence it and vice versa.

Retailers don’t have the time to research how to get their products into the hands of each and every generation. But Fishman suggests training employees on how to interact with millennials will be part of the dream-versus-nightmare scenario. From her research, Fishman argues that there are rational reasons that millennial women do what they do, as noted above, and that there are pluses and minuses in every category. “If you know the pluses, you run with it,” she says. “If you know the minuses, you figure out how to work around it.”

Additionally, hiring a millennial to monitor trends in the specific industry can be a great asset to a business. For example, if a business sells jewelry, it will want to hire someone attuned to all the blogs, Pinterest boards and popular websites to track trends in what people are wanting, chatting about and buying.

“The people who get it today are the ones who are going to be successful,” Fishman says. “If they don’t try, they won’t be successful and will never understand why.”

3 Ways to Eliminate ‘No’ From the Sale

By Kevin Cundiff, VP of Retail for Fortegra

In sales, we’re told early and often never to take ‘no’ for an answer. But in practice, we all know it’s not that simple. Overcoming objections is one thing; ignoring what your customers are saying is just bad business.

This challenge means customer service professionals walk a tightrope every day. They need to make the sale, but if they approach a sale too aggressively the customer’s experience will suffer. And since 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, a careful approach is critical.

Today’s information-driven world has changed the game, too. Sales staff also need to be prepared to dazzle (and sometimes debate) customers who are savvy, informed and armed with extensive pre-purchase research before setting foot in the store.

The good news? The right strategy can help you minimize these challenges and eliminate ‘no’ from the sale. It’s all a matter of controlled customer engagement: by asking the right questions – again, early and often – at different points throughout the sale process, you can eliminate the risk of getting shut down at closing.

Apply these three tips to help take ‘no’ out of your sales equation:

#1: Build a dialogue based on multiple asks.

To get a sale, you’ve got to ask. And I don’t mean a cold, one-time ask: you’ll have the best chance at success if you ask early and often. Plus, your potential for a ‘yes’ is even greater if you establish a framework for your asks.

Like most success stories, a positive customer outcome begins with a plan. This proactive preparation allows you to build your ask brick-by-brick through a series of carefully planned and orchestrated interactions.

First, break your sales process into sections. For example, a smartphone sales model might include the following steps: close plan, close phone, close accessories, and then close the full sale. Once you’ve identified the key touch points in the process, create specific asks for each segment. Present opportunities for upgrades in a structured way that showcases options and provides multiple routes to ‘yes.’

By offering a variety of options, your odds for a positive response get a nice boost. There are always several shades of gray you can explore to find the right fit for a customer.

#2: Get a commitment early.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to push hard out of the gate, it’s always best to secure a clear commitment as early in the sale dialogue as possible. Why? Because it helps build confidence and momentum. Once you’ve checked off the first ‘yes’ it’s easier to earn a customer’s full buy-in.

Again, taking a measured approach to securing approval is also key. Work through the steps of your sales process, confirming the ‘yes’ at each stage. Once you’ve found a plan that meets the buyer’s needs, you can check it off your list (even if it’s only a mental checklist). Next, move on to the phone, and so on. By using a systematic approach, you can listen for emerging objections and provide solutions or other options at the problem point.

This is also a great way to deploy special offers. For example, let’s say you’ve come to a consensus on a plan and phone. However, the customer begins to show signs of indecision or uncertainty when you start talking accessories. Overcome that potential ‘no’ by proactively offering a coupon for an accessory purchase. Coupons are great tools to incite add-on purchases. In fact, 57 percent of buyers who used a digital coupon said they wouldn’t have purchased the item without a discount.

#3: Revisit touch points to reinforce the sale and isolate objections.

What are the six most dreaded words in sales? ‘I need to think about it.’ It’s not quite a ‘no’, but it’s definitely not a ‘yes,’ either. If your potential buyer suddenly needs to ponder their purchase, don’t panic. Go back to your checklist – it’s an important tool to help you reassure customers. Revisit each section and review the reasons why they made their selection.

Finally, take this opportunity to connect the customer’s purchase decisions to their personal needs. For example: ‘You went with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 so you can write by hand, and you got that Mophie battery case so you can stay juiced up on the go. Nice work.’ By isolating problem points, you can address them individually without risking the overall sale.


About Kevin Cundiff
Kevin Cundiff is Vice President of Retail for Fortegra, a subsidiary of Tiptree Financial Inc. (NASDAQ: TIPT). Fortegra is a single source insurance services company that, through a network of preferred partners, through a network of preferred partners, offers a range of consumer protection options including credit insurance, warranty products, automotive solutions, and specialty underwriting programs. Delivering multi-faceted coverage with an unmatched service experience for both resellers and their customers, Fortegra solves immediate, everyday needs, empowering consumers to worry less and Experience More.



Best Practices for Harnessing Offline Data

By Mani Gopalaratnam of Xchanging

There has been an explosion of data from consumer buying and non-buying habits with e-commerce becoming ever-more dominant in retail. It’s largely leading a major transformation in the retail industry whereby retailers are facing greater competition than ever before. To remain competitive, the traditional brick-and-mortar sector has to embrace technology with the intensity that’s been powering e-commerce businesses.

To keep a robust supply chain and improve the customer experience, technology plays a key role in remaining competitive for the offline world. A retailer must embrace tools to understand customer buying behavior. The one universal tool that empowers retailers with this knowledge is data analytics. Companies that are agile and open to the power of data are more likely to stay afloat despite the e-commerce wave by offering superior customer satisfaction. Those that take a data-driven approach to decision making will thrive.

Sources and Implications of Offline Data
Retailers should start harnessing offline data by studying customer choices: Why does a customer prefer to turn left as soon as they enter the store? Why pause at an item and not the other? How much time is spent considering a purchase, which is then not purchased? What goes in a typical shopping cart? How often does the individual shop? What are the general color preferences of products in the basket?

Data comes in many formats. Take Wi-Fi hotspots, for example. By shoppers simply keeping their Wi-Fi on, retailers can read the digital footprint of a customer. One of Xchanging’s studies in the United States found that 62 percent of shoppers keep their Wi-Fi switched on while walking into a store. All of this can be used to map customer behavior. Is the right side of your outlet seeing weak traffic? What’s the demographic of shoppers visiting your store? Can you make it mandatory for shoppers to pass through the right side to arrive at the product that sees the most traffic? Thus, data gives scope to make smart and informed decisions.

All of these – and other – details are captured as unstructured data either by camera footage, sensors in baskets or detecting the volume of products on the shelves with the help of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With analytics, this raw, indecipherable data is mined and analyzed. It’s then structured in an understandable format, which can be used to cater to the kind of patterns that are prevalent to that geographical area.

Grocery stores are a good example. Residents of a particular locale may be more likely to stock up on perishable products because the closest super-market is far away. A retailer would want to ensure it has perishable commodities that have a longer shelf-life. To break this down further, the retailer can arrange its supply chain in a manner that allows it to sell ripe mangoes at one store and unripened mangoes at another. This data-driven insight allows companies to make smarter decisions based on offline buying behaviors.

Making Data the Centerpiece of Strategy
In the past, the information retailers deemed important was all about purchases, but never about the journey taken to arrive at the buying decision. That should be the domain of data – giving insight into what motivated a customer to buy the product, or not. Understanding why a customer chose not to buy is all the more valuable, because despite your precise targeting, the demographic is not responding favorably to the product. This has a direct impact on the retailer’s marketing, merchandising and product strategy.

With retailers vying for customer footfalls and eyeballs, being able to give a customer a fulfilling and personalized experience gives the extra edge to companies. Only technology and digital data can help the marketing team achieve this task. It’s ironic really – to serve the best offline experience, you have to take it online first. It’s no surprise that data management platforms are so highly sought after but are yet to unleash their greatest potential.

Integrating offline and online is still an unconquered frontier. Since so much data is being captured and monitored, companies have to build trust with their customers, and everything starts with having a robust security framework. But the one thing that’s definitive for any organization is that data can make or break a business.

About the Author: Mani Gopalaratnam is global head of innovation and technology for Xchanging, a global, publicly held business technology and services provider. Learn more at www.xchanging.com.


Retail Success at Any Age

By Stephanie Crets

Entrepreneurs come in all forms…and ages. For Max of MAX’IS Creations, he started his business when he was just eight years old. He wanted to put a basketball hoop on a mug he was crafting in his art class at school because he believes “the world would be a better place if you could play with your food.” He simply wanted to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while throwing marshmallows into the hoop.

“The Mug with a Hoop” was such a hit among his classmates and teachers that he got a 3D prototype made of his creation to show even more people. Max was then invited to present his idea at The Blank Center for Entrepreneurship in Wellesley, Mass. He then entered the Product Pitch at Fenway contest and was picked as one of ten finalists from a pool of 145, eventually winning the fan-favorite vote on Facebook.

Max soon realized that he wanted his idea to reach a wider audience and to make a profit from his unique idea, while also bringing attention to a learning disability that he suffers from: dyslexia. This language-based disability can make leaning and participating in school more difficult, but Max believes it is a gift that gave him the idea to create his mug. And with October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, his cause is more important than ever.

Max and his parents set up an Indiegogo to raise $5,000 for initial start-up costs for design and production; to test the market and determine interest and support for manufacturing and distributing the product more widely; and to leverage the Indiegogo platform to feature and celebrate the upside of dyslexia and promote awareness and support for dyslexia research. Thanks to the support of contributors, Max raised a little more than $6,000 to launch his business.

Big-name retailers like Nordstrom, Amazon.com and UncommonGoods took on his product and sold more than 18,000 mugs during the 2014 holiday season. But the profit wasn’t and still isn’t for him alone. He donates five percent of every sale to dyslexia-related charities and nonprofit organizations such as Understood.org.

Max isn’t stopping at The Mug with a Hoop; he recently launched other sports-themed mugs, including The Mug with a Glove, The Mug with a Goalpost, The Soccer Mug with a Goal and The Hockey Mug with a Net. Nothing can stop this young entrepreneur and businessman from taking over the dining ware business world.

A Retailer’s Secret Weapon

By Stephanie Crets

InnerWorkings makes marketing happen. It helps companies execute their big ideas into something tangible, acting as a liaison between the corporate/brand/procurement level and the individual stores. From retail environments, print management, events, branded merchandise, product packaging and much more, InnerWorkings solves the complexities associated with attempting to execute a global marketing plan.

“The agencies are good at big ideas, while we’re the sweet spot in between,” Chief Marketing Officer Leigh Segall says. “We apply those ideas to real-life scenarios.”

To bring these solutions to life, InnerWorkings utilizes a technology called VALO. The company is able to put specs in for any job, from display to quality to price and much more. The system will then put these specs out for a bid to InnerWorkings’ more than 10,000 vetted suppliers in the system.Through this program, there is total transparency of business for the company and supplier. Before VALO, dealing with suppliers was a cloaked process, but this technology platform allows InnerWorkings to value-engineer a marketing solution for any client.

“There was no visibility with suppliers,” Segall says. “Now clients know exactly what they’re paying for.”

As a global company with 65 offices around the world, InnerWorkings has developed integrated solutions for top brands such as Levi’s, Party City and Callaway. One of its top offerings is creating retail environments for brands’ retail locations. This includes fixtures, displays, signage, window clings, promotional materials and more. While InnerWorkings takes care of how to merchandise each location – some brands might have 6,000 different locations around the world to design – the brand is allowed to focus on other aspects of its campaign.

“We focus on the executional elements that clients don’t always want to think about, but it’s also the make or break for your campaign,” Segall says.

One new trend is the idea of a “neighborhood store,” which allows a brand to localize a physical location with merchandise and displays that best resonate with consumers in that city.

At InnerWorkings’ headquarters, prospective clients can experience an example of one of its neighborhood stores. You can walk inside and feel like you’re in a brand’s store, as it is outfitted with displays, merchandise and signage representing a successful merchandising experience for the client.

“I spend a lot of time working with clients and prospective clients, understanding their challenges,” Segall explains. “I hear the same realities and challenges over and over again. There’s an execution gap that people haven’t solved, and it’s our team’s job to figure it out with them.”

Many companies refer to InnerWorkings as their “secret weapon,” thus no one knows who’s really working to execute these marketing solutions.

“When we sit down with a marketer or visual merchandiser to talk about the impact we’re having across the portfolio of brands we support, there’s a high degree of interest,” Segall says. “I don’t want to be a secret weapon. I want to be a known entity. But I love that our brands feel like we’re driving impact in innovation and helping them to create the right experience.”

Luxury E-Commerce: 3 Hot Emerging Markets

By Charles Whiteman
SVP Client Services, MotionPoint

Compared to retail sectors such as consumer electronics, books and entertainment, the luxury sector is a relative newcomer to e-commerce. Even today, with global online retail sales increasing 17% annually, “about 40% of high-end brands don’t sell via the web,” Bloomberg recently reported.

Despite the thriving growth opportunity, the industry’s prudence isn’t misguided. For some of these prestige brands, e-commerce represents the antithesis of a luxury retail offering – it’s a mass-market approach that lacks exclusivity, and an intimate sales experience.

But change has been on the wind in recent years. Why? Luxury brands learned they needed to cater to a new generation of luxury customers. These consumers are younger, digital-savvy, pressed for time and very practical.

As a recent business feature in The New York Times put it, luxury retailers “believe in the primacy of the customer experience … in touch, and talk. They also, however, have come to believe that the future of their business and a route to global expansion lie online.”

This pivot is paying off. According to a McKinsey report, luxury e-commerce sales are expected to reach $21 billion in the next five years. Furthermore, the luxury e-commerce industry is seeing much larger growth than many other e-commerce sectors. “E-commerce has been described as the ‘next China’ for luxury in terms of opportunity,” worldwide director of JWT Intelligence Lucie Greene recently said.

It’s clear luxury brands are starting to win big online. But those brands that are launching e-commerce sites in international markets stand to win even more. Indeed, global e-commerce is on track to hit $2.3 trillion by 2018, and most of that robust growth is hailing from overseas consumers.

But where to expand? Here are three hot markets for luxury e-commerce. They’re largely untapped by competitors, have strong economies and a demonstrated appetite for online shopping:


Cheap oil prices might have deflated the economies of many BRIC nations in recent months, but not India’s. Low fuel costs have actually positively impacted inflation and growth. That bodes well for consumer spending, especially in luxury e-commerce.

India’s population of 300 million Internet users is mobile-savvy; smartphone and tablet online use represents about 70% of the country’s Internet connections. E-commerce thrives here. In India, the luxury e-commerce market will grow to $25 billion by 2016, according to one report, with a compounded growth of 25% annually.

Research indicates high-end apparel, accessories, watches and electronics is where most of the luxury e-commerce action will happen.

Better still, the Indian online luxury market isn’t very competitive right now, which can prove profitable for first movers. Of the 500 leading international luxury brands, only 30% have a presence in India (compare that to China, which has 70% of these top brands present). Thanks to the country’s blooming economy, rising middle class and favorable regulatory environment and FDI rules, India is an ideal market for luxury e-commerce.


Thailand is Southeast Asia’s largest luxury goods market. Last year, its luxury expenditures reached $2.5 billion.

Relatively low housing costs help spur luxury spending here, as does plenty of consumer disposable income: the largest share of Thailand’s population (20.5%) is between 30 to 34 years old and earns over $150,000 annually. Residents 35 to 39 years old account for 18.6% of the population and are also increasingly affluent.

Internet penetration in Thailand is robust (54%), and mobile adoption is through the roof (150%). Our research indicates Thailand is poised to become one of the biggest m-commerce markets in Southeast Asia. In fact, some analysts believe m-commerce is the “last explosive sales channel” for luxury retailers.

We believe huge potential exists for luxury goods players, especially those that can persuade the many smartphone users who aren’t yet shopping online to hop onto the m-commerce bandwagon.


While other countries are struggling with economic recessions, Poland entered 2015 walking tall. According to Brookings, its “GDP per capita based on purchasing power exceeded $24,000 and reached 65% of the Western European (eurozone) level of income.”

Next year, Poland’s spending in the luxury market will be estimated at around $3.4 billion. Interestingly, its e-commerce spending will grow to $12 billion during the same time frame, suggesting clear overlapping opportunities for luxury e-commerce. At 67%, Poland’s Internet adoption rate is very good, too.

The Polish market provides an ideal frontier for clients who wish to enter an economically stable and safe central European market.

Should Luxury Forget BRIC?

With such stability and growth happening far from the borders of the much-touted BRIC growth nations, should luxury brands permanently abandon e-commerce expansions to BRIC? We advise against this.

Even though Brazil, Russia and China are presently facing recessions, this economic turbulence will eventually pass. Further, shoppers in these countries embrace unconventional buying practices, which can generate revenue.

For instance: We’ve found that a considerable number of savvy Brazilian customers shop for luxury fashion products on Portuguese-language websites operated by non-Brazilian companies. Why? They do this to enjoy a better selection, and avoid high domestic luxury taxes.

And while the Russian market isn’t as strong as in years past, its neighboring Commonwealth of Independent States nations are. Shoppers living here speak Russian, and shop on Russian e-commerce sites. As noted in our recent report on Russian e-commerce, one of our client’s Russian e-commerce sites has generated over $8 million in revenue so far this year – not from Russia, but from customers in the Ukraine.

In light of its current economic and political struggles, China is a different story. Chinese customers are shopping outside China via e-commerce sites, and this applies especially so to luxury goods. Many Chinese are now buying their luxury products in South Korea. In 2020, Chinese luxury consumers will spend $29 billion at South Korea luxury retailers.

Wrapping Up

Now’s the time for luxury brands to take their e-commerce efforts to the next level and expand internationally. With global Internet and smartphone adoption skyrocketing, and B2C e-commerce sales hitting stratospheric heights year after year, luxury brands can ill-afford to sit on the sidelines.

Engaging these thriving emerging markets, especially in their languages of choice, is a bold step in ensuring new customers and revenue streams, and immediate and sustained sales growth.

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. MotionPoint is headquartered in Coconut Creek, Fla.


Petco’s “Bootique” is Ready for Halloween

By Stephanie Crets

It’s finally October, which means it’s Halloween month! I’d rather celebrate the whole month than just one day, wouldn’t you? And if your pets could talk, they would probably agree. Well…maybe not, depending on how compliant they are. When I put my cat’s fairy wings costume on, she tends to just fall over onto her back until I remove them. Or she does the classic cat move of backing up until she can wiggle free.

Regardless of how your pet feels about getting dressed up, according to a survey conducted by Petco, pet participation in Halloween festivities has climbed with 50 percent of respondents planning to dress up their pet this year. This number is up 11 percent from past years. Of these respondents, 84 percent noted that their dog will be the pet joining in on the trick-or-treat fun. Cats are much less cooperative, as is their way.

To help your pets celebrate, Petco has launched a new collection of Halloween costumes, available now at Petco stores nationwide. And with the rise of Star Wars merchandise, you can count on dressing your pup or cat up as an Ewok, an X-wing pilot or Princess Leia with a hair bun headpiece. Some other new costumes include pumpkin hats, devil capes, superhero costumes and more.

But it’s not all about costumes, as your not-so-furry children know. You must have treats, too. That’s why 68 percent of respondents confirmed they plan to purchase a special Halloween treat or toy for their pet. Some of the Halloween-themed toys and treats include a rope dog toy covered in candy corn, a spider chew toy and a dog treat bar made with a blend of pumpkin, cinnamon and clovers. Even the dogs get in on the fall pumpkin spice action!

Petco will also be offering a number of Halloween-themed events throughout the month of October, both in store and online. Events in store include:

  • Paw Impressions: On Saturday, Oct. 10, pet owners can bring their dog in to create an imprint of their paw as a fun family keepsake.
  • Reptile Rally: On Saturday, Oct. 17, head to your nearest Petco for the Reptile Rally – a celebration of reptiles, arachnids and amphibians. A “Reptile Meet and Greet” will take place for families to get to know these fascinating companions and learn useful care tips from knowledgeable Petco partners. Enjoy cool giveaways and a “Most BOOtiful Reptile Costume Contest.”
  • Petco’s Halloween Pet Costume Contest: On Saturday, Oct. 24, bring your pet into Petco for the Halloween costume contest. Prizes and treats will be awarded, with a grand prize including a free mini make-rover.

Beginning Oct. 1, Petco is also offering an Instagram contest. If you plan to dress your pet up in a creative costume this year, you can participate in the “Make a Scene” photo content. All you need to do is take a photo of your costumed creature in a scene that matches the costume and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #MakeASceneContest. You could win a $5,000 grand prize! You can see the adorable past participants here.

By treating your pet to Halloween festivities, you’re also treating yourself to some guaranteed laughs and fun. I know I will have fun trying to put a costume on my cat this year. What are your pet(s) costume plans this year?

A Credit Waterfall

By Kevin Lawrence

It’s no secret most big ticket retailers – those offering home furnishings, flooring, jewelry and automotive accessories – count on credit to drive sales and profits. Credit sales have become the norm as consumers require assistance to afford these large purchases.

The most successful retailers are taking steps to ensure additional credit is both readily and easily available to their shoppers. Ideally, credit opportunities should be available at both a retailer’s physical locations and online store — as is often the case. But so-called brick-and-mortar stores can gain a competitive edge by offering an in-store credit experience that can’t be matched online.

Here’s a look at the potential shortcomings of applying for credit through a retailer’s online site:

Many retailers use online services to pre-qualify a potential customer for credit. If the credit application is denied, the customer not only won’t be able to make a purchase, but also may not return to the site or visit the physical store. That’s a lost customer.

A lack of a secure network or the inability to verify the applicant’s identity may also lead to lower amounts of approved credit. Less credit equates to smaller purchases and lower profits. Then, too, there is no way the retailer can assist the consumer to make the best credit choices or be available to answer questions during the application process.

Fortunately, there is an in-store solution offering many of the benefits of online credit, yet with consistently improved outcomes for both consumers and retailers.

A self-service credit solution allows consumers to enter their application data into a kiosk-based touchscreen located in the store. Shoppers can choose to keep the process entirely private – saving embarrassment should the application be denied. Yet store personnel is available to answer questions and help point applicants to the lending solution that best fits their needs.

Instead of offering only a single lender, the kiosks offer a solution that instantly sends applications denied by a primary lender cascading to secondary lending sources. This helps retailers reduce credit denials by up to 40 percent. The solution can even be configured with a no-credit check rent/lease-to-own option.

The highly secure direct link between lenders and the kiosks generally return decisions in seconds while delivering an average of $4,000 in credit. Those are results likely to win customer loyalty.

There are still more benefits. Once store associates see an approved line of credit, they can direct customers to merchandise within that range. Often that provides an opportunity to sell more than the customer may have originally planned to spend. Since most consumers choose to use the kiosks alone, sales associates are largely removed from the credit process – allowing them to assist other shoppers. And the kiosks leave nothing for the retailer to protect. Retailers never see their customers’ sensitive financial information and no data is stored on the kiosks.

The solution generates more applications, returns more approvals and generates larger transactions. Both retailers and consumers win. And it’s one more customer-friendly option physical stores can offer that online sites can’t match.

Kevin Lawrence is vice president, sales and marketing for Versatile Credit, the leading provider of in-store, self-service credit application solutions.

NYCWFF: Fall Favorite

By Janice Hoppe

The crisp air has blown in and the smell of pumpkin is everywhere – from your morning latte to the incense in the office – and that can only mean fall has arrived. The new season begins, bringing with it the highly anticipated annual New York City Wine & Food Festival, one of the largest wine and food festivals in the United States.

“We are excited to unveil our 2015 event lineup, which includes the return of festival fan favorite events and a variety of new experiences for our passionate attendees,” says Lee Brian Schrager, festival founder and vice president of corporate communications and national events for Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc. “Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to see their favorite chefs and culinary personalities, including both veteran and new faces from the Food Network & Cooking Channel, plus interact with leading winemakers and spirits producers from the Southern Wine & Spirits of New York portfolio.”

The eighth-annual Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival will take place Oct.15-18, 2015. The festival attracts more than 50,000 attendees, world-renowned chefs, winemakers, spirits producers and culinary personalities for a weekend filled with unique experiences.

Favorites and Firsts

Last year’s festival offered more than 100 events throughout New York City, including intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs such as Beldium’s Kobe Desramaults, Italy’s Dario Cecchini, England’s Yotam Ottolenghi, Mexico’s Enrigque Olvera and France’s Philippe Baranes, Christophe Boucher and Gregory Marchand. It also offered late night parties, educational seminars and panel discussions.

Pier 94 hosted New York City Wine and Food Festival’s Grand Tasting where guests sampled dishes from the city’s best restaurants, enjoyed tastings from suppliers of the Southern Wine and Spirits of New York portfolio and interacted with top culinary and lifestyle brands. More than 20 Food Network, Cooking Channel and other celebrity culinary personalities hosted demonstrations on the KitchenAid Culinary Demonstration stages.

This year, the festival will feature favorite events like the Italian-themed feast hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, Chicken Coupe hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Rock ’n Roll Sushi hosted by Masaharu Morimoto, Meatopia hosted by Michael Symon and Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray – plus the return of her Feedback™: Chefs & Cocktails party.

There are also plenty of new fêtes to keep everyone’s taste buds tantalized at the 2015 festival, including brunches hosted by Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart and Geoffrey Zakarian, a Harlem-inspired midnight Jazz breakfast and a celebration of ramen with Chrissy Teigen and Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt. A new signature Art of Tiki: Cocktail Showdown, intimate dinners and seminars with celebrated chefs and beverage personalities will also tempt attendees.

A Worthy Cause

The 2014 New York Wine & Food Festival drew a crowd of about 55,000 and raised $1 million for the nation’s leading hunger-relief organizations. “Eradicating hunger, both here in New York and across the country, is something we know we can always count on our talent and fans to support,” President of the Food Network & Cooking Channel Brooke Johnson said last year.

The festival has raised $8.5 million for the Food Bank for New York City and the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli attends both the New York and South Beach Wine & Food festivals regularly and says she teamed up with the No Kid Hungry campaign because she is a chef and a mother raising a child in America.

“My daughter goes to public school and I can see the impact breakfast – or lack thereof – has on children in starting their day right,” she told us last year. “It affects, ultimately, their chances for starting their life right and working towards a bright future – a future where everyone eats breakfast and starts off the day with great energy for learning.”

Guarnaschelli believes people in the food and beverage industry still have a great deal to learn about the fight to end hunger and the New York City Wine and Food Festival helps take a step in that direction. “We are a community infused in food that works better when we pool our efforts and effectively, ‘share our strength,’” she adds. “Tag lines like ‘eat, drink, end hunger’ sends the message loud and clear. They delineate the problem clearly and I believe it inspires people to join the cause.”


Photo credit: Getty Images