Category: Shopping

Reusable Shopping Bags

One hot product today is the reusable shopping bag. Currently the most popular accessory sold in the US, these bags are just gaining regular use in the US, with the west coast and northeast leading the way. While most shoppers use the bags to help save 1000 plastic bags from the landfill each year, many have switched due to municipal bans or taxes on plastic bags. As more and more towns and cities try to solve the plastic bag dilemma, reusable shopping and grocery bags sales will continue to grow.   This growth in reusable bags makes selling these bags an ideal fundraiser.

Not only is the group making money to fund projects, but they are helping the environment at the same time.   Currently, less than 2% of plastic bags are being recycled, so almost 100 billion plastic bags make there way to our landfills or pollute our environment.  When littered, it has been estimated that over a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are injured or killed by the bags.

When looking for a reusable shopping bag for a fundraiser, it is recommended that the group chooses a bag which folds into a self-storing pocket. These work best for consumers because they can store the bags in a purse or pocket so they don’t have to worry about leaving the bags in the car, which is the biggest problem  reusable bag adaptation. It is also good to choose a bag that is easy to clean. Some bags can be imprinted with the group logo or event name.

Whenever possible, try to locate a bag that is truly recyclable. The common inexpensive nonwoven polypropylene bags (which looks like a waxy fabric) that are sold in many supermarkets are resin code 5, which few municipalities recycle, so they are not the best environmental choice. A better bet is a PET bag with resin code 1.

Reusable shopping bags make an excellent eco-friendly way for groups to raise money during these tough times.

Bargain Shop for Used Clothes

  • Step 1: Search for second hand stores, thrift stores, resale shops, garage sales, flea markets and estate sales. These are some of the best places to find great bargains. You can search in your local newspaper, in online classifieds for your area, your online search engine, your local Yellow pages and by asking for referrals from your network of friends and family.
  • Step 2: Plan your day of shopping. Make a map and a schedule to maximize your time. Be sure to include the store’s phone numbers in case you get lost.
  • Step 3: Make sure that you have room in your car for any purchases that you make. Nothing is worse than finding things that you want to purchase and not having the room in your car.
  • Step 4: When you are at each location, search immediately for the sale items. They are typically at the back of a store or are separated in a specific area at a garage sale. You can find some really great deals on used clothing items of all kinds. When you are at each location, also ask the sales people when the best time of the month or week is to find great bargains, or if there are any upcoming sales.
  • Step 5: If you are looking for a particular item, brand of clothing or style, call ahead to see if the location has it available.
  • Step 6: When you are at the clothing store, be sure to try all of the clothing on to ensure that you have the proper fit. If you cannot try the clothing on, use your best judgement to see if the garment will fit. You should also review the clothing for any stains, missing buttons, broken zippers or missing adornments. If it cannot be fixed, you should consider buying something else. If it is something that you can easily fix, ask for a bigger discount and then fix the item yourself.
  • Step 7: When you are at a flea market or thrift store, see if there is an opportunity to talk down the price. Most things are negotiable if you ask.
  • Step 8: If you have exhausted all of the local stores, start to shop for used clothingonline. You can search in consignment stores and in online auctions. Online auctions allow you to bid on items, where the used clothing is awarded to the highest bidder. If you have the time to watch and you use strategies, you can often find some great deals. Online consignment shops list other people’s clothing at a discount. Consignment shops are great ways to find name brands, designers and newer clothing at a discount.

Alternative Shopping in NYC

Thrifting has always been a shopping favorite for those who shun mainstream consumerism, but recently this has taken a turn. With such an upscale donor base, NYC thrift shops have become coveted for their designer options year-round. The cast-offs of the rich and famous land in popular shops like Housing Works (which has 11 locations around the city), and beloved Brooklyn staple Beacon’s Closet. Each area offers a varied supply of designer and well-kept clothing, at basement prices (six dollar skirts and ten dollar dresses abound). Especially if you can catch one of these venues while they are hosting sales, the savings are immense in comparison to NYC prices.

Most notably, a few times a year Housing Works has warehouse sales where $20 will get you an empty bag, and whatever you can fit into it, you get to take. With endless opportunities (new donations appear daily), and unimaginable savings, a little thrifting can go a long way.

For those who need the department store feel, discount designer stores like Loehmann’s, Filene’s Basement, and Century 21 have taken over the city. Loehmann’s website tout’s itself as an “off-price specialty retailer,” which gets its brand-name items straight off the racks of 5th Avenue favorites. The stores are almost overwhelming with how much clothing they can fit into the store per square foot, and caters to shoppers of any price-range: from lesser-known brands whose prices are slashed in half and then on sale, to designer haute couture pieces whose prices are also slashed, yet at a much higher cost. These stores still feel like traditional shopping, while offering brand-name, new clothing much cheaper than department store prices.

The most en vogue alternative shopping trend today, however, is the sample sale: both online and off. Formerly the means of the high society of NYC to purchase (at full price) designer couture lines before anyone else, this elite tradition has fallen prey to the economy as well.

Now, sample sales are advertised as ways to get designer clothing at bargain prices, often in pop-up stores or showrooms around the city. Sketchy signs and flyers are posted surreptitiously around the fashion district for smaller designers. But this phenomenon has taken hold with the same brands sold at Bloomingdale’s or Saks: numerous websites like NYMag.com chart the sample sales of designers like Tory Burch or Stella McCartney – any given day has an array of designers peddling their expensive fashions from 50-75% off.

In the same vein, the online market has taken the idea and run with it. Websites like Gilt, Ideeli and Rue La La offer what they call “sample sales” – almost whole designer collections available for purchase online, at fractions of the cost. Gilt offers not only their high-fashion wares, but also cheaper lines on Gilt Fuse, and is entering into other markets by starting Gilt Home and Gilt Jetsetter.

Just today, Gilt is offering sales on Alice + Olivia, Zac Posen, and Oscar de la Renta – in demand fashions by highly valued labels. These sites make an attempt at the exclusivity of real sample sales (the sites are invitation only), but attaining an invitation on the web is not difficult.

Grocery Bags Get Greener

I just made my weekly pilgrimage to the local Publix, the dominant grocery chain in my neck of the woods (which happens to be Florida) to be greeted by – at long last – reusable fabric grocery bags for sale at a mere 99 cents each. I selected four bags and put them in my empty cart. They were not only incredibly roomy, but well constructed and even fairly attractive. It was such a small act, but it felt like deliverance.

You see, my husband’s been complaining about plastic grocery bags for years now. He’s become more vocal about it since the EU and later San Francisco banned them last year. He works for a French company and travels to Europe several times a year. After every trip to the home office I have to hear about our wasteful American ways, and the inevitable commentary on all those plastic grocery bags we use comes up. Despite the fact that most grocery stores offer plastic bag recycling bins, and that we use them, he remains on his soap box. But not for long.

I agree with him, and have long contemplated pulling out the seemingly self-propagating pile of canvas promotional bags and beach tote bags we’ve accumulated over the years and bringing those with me on my weekly grocery shopping trips. Yet I inevitably forget. Or the bags aren’t wide enough. Or some other lame excuse. Unlike fashionable celebrities, we’re not in the income bracket to afford $300 Coach or $1,000 Hermes bags (nor are we supportive of raising and killing more cows to produce them). So I’ve been patiently waiting for someone to corner the market on reusable shopping bags.

Apparently they have. The tiny tags on the bags I purchased from Publix say they’re from http://www.greenbags.info. The Green Bag company is literally in good company, with other firms like Sage Green (www.environmentbags.com) creating mass market solutions for the cost-conscious and lazy of us. I applaud them. Make it effortless and practically free to ditch the petroleum based, sea turtle-suffocating plastic bags we mindlessly use and who wouldn’t switch?

Lest you’ve read this far and are still not convinced to switch, let me share my astonishment at how my four new reusable fabric bags somehow held the same amount of groceries normally contained in nine or ten plastic bags. Even heavy juice bottles, glass wine bottles, cans and cleaning products fit nicely and safely into the new bags. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came when I quickly realized how much easier it was to carry four – heavy through they were – rather than ten bags from the car into the house. Finally, somehow with fewer bags the groceries seemed to put themselves away faster as well. Who would have guessed?

Last week I was on my way out of a Midwestern city waiting for my flight in a quiet airport terminal when my snack bar neighbor, with whom I enjoyed a meager airport dinner, pointed to the bar TV. The channel was airing a news story about the harm plastic bags do to our oceans and sea creatures. I mentioned most of Europe and now China – yes, even those environmental despoilers – had just banned them. I cited the facts my husband had oft-quoted, that in the United States (which has less than one-quarter of China’s 1.3 billion people,) the Sierra Club estimates almost 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out each year. That if just every one of New York City’s 8 million people used one less grocery bag per year, it would reduce waste by about 5 million pounds.

“What the hell is our problem then?” she asked. I had no answer, but she had a great idea. To all of you sales and marketing types out there like me, stop ordering your usual imprinted trade show tote bags and order re-usable grocery bags as promotional give-aways instead. Then we’ll really be making some progress.

Like I said, I bought four re-usable fabric shopping bags today for a grand total of $3.96 plus tax. It was a pittance to pay for an earth-conscious decision that will reap dividends for years to come and furthermore had me thinking about bringing my own shopping bags with me anywhere I go. It was a small thing, in so many ways, but it felt amazingly grand. It was something anyone could do, anywhere in this country, right now. It was something that very soon, we can ALL do. And that we all should.

Use Custom Logoed Shopping Bags

If you’re an experienced entrepreneur or sales person you’re probably used to seeing different kinds of promotional products used for sales pitches. They serve as the prime attraction for any trade show ever straightened. Logo printed shopping bags can now be considered as one of those seemingly regular goods that actually hold a lot of hyping potential.

To find out how these customized shopping bags can forge a difference in a certain vending campaign, take a look at some of their benefits:

Highly Reusable Items – These bags are formed to be used over and over again so they really do deliver great purpose to the user. As the advertiser, you can be persuaded that your recipients will be able to enjoy that detailed benefit that these bags give.
Comes in Lots of Bag Breeds – They are made from different materials like plastic, paper, and even cardboard that offer array for businesses who wish to see a lot of available alternatives for their marketing tools.

If you’re willing to take a stab at capitalizing customized shopping bags fore your next advertising progress, here are a few simple guidelines that can hopefully help you kick off in the planning process:

Pinpoint Your Audience – Knowing your audience’s profile will really help you implement the planning process accurately. Find out the exigencies of your target audience and do your best in trying to meet those exigencies.
Maximize Layout Space – Aside from your group name and logo, place additional information like company website which would be useful to your market.

Abandoned Shopping Cart

Pop-up Messages

You can create strategic messages that pop up either when the customer first abandons his cart or the next time he enters your site. In the first case, you can include offers such as shopping discounts either online or in-store, an offer for a print catalog, or email opt-ins that will encourage him to complete the sale or shop with you later. If you want the pop-up to appear the next time the customer visits your site, you can include a link to his previous cart contents, a discount on the items he previously placed in his cart, or a summary of deals on similar items or cross- and up-sells.

Email Follow-Ups

If the customer has previously opted in to receive emails from you, send him an email that lists his cart contents along with targeted messaging that will encourage him to complete the sale. You can also send an email several days before his cart contents expire, reminding him of the abandoned shopping cart and letting him know how much time he has to complete the sale. If an item goes on sale or a current sale is about to end, create urgency by letting the customer know the price is about to change and you’ll increase web sales.

Special Discounts

Discount offers can be incorporated in any follow-up method, but use them carefully. Don’t train your customers to abandon their carts in hopes of receiving a special discount. Instead small discounts interspersed with other motivational techniques to encourage sale completion.

Save Cart Contents

If your site can save the information in the abandoned shopping cart, let the customer know that either by email or the next time he visits. Displaying previously selected items may jog his memory about items of interest and may encourage him to go ahead and complete the sale.

Shopping Diet

In fact, a diet is the perfect example for how we can shop smart. When we want to lose weight and get healthy, we don’t just stop eating. We eat better. We eat more moderate portions, we take in less calories. If you’re trying to save money, but you consider fashion and style up there in your list of passions, there’s no reason you have to stop shopping. Just shop smart, and you can have both that savings account and a great wardrobe. All it takes is a bit more organization. Try to move away from the thought of shopping as being such a spontaneous activity. Sorry, but just like you can’t finish the pint of Ben & Jerry’s, you can’t just frolic from store to store on a buying spree.

  • Take inventory of your pre-existing wardrobe. I know, it sounds really boring, but there are some perks. As in, you’ll probably rediscover some things you forgot you had, and that’s like getting something new – that’s why they call it “shopping your closet!” So, write down everything you own, in categories: pants, jeans, sweaters, tanks, blazers, blouses, skirts, sundresses, cocktail dresses – you get the idea. Now remember this list. Laminate and wear it around your neck if you must, sort of like a medical bracelet – then when you’re shopping other people can see it and intervene: “Hey! Put that black baby doll dress down, it says right there you already have one!” Even if you don’t go to that extreme, just keep this list somewhere accessible. So much of the money you spend shopping ends up being on items that you already have quite similar versions of – what a waste!
  • Look to designers for inspiration, not purchases. It’s okay to splurge every now and then on a Marc by Marc Jacobs cardigan, because, let’s face it. The quality is a bit better than average retail brands. But that cheat should be made about as often as your cheesecake cheat on your diet. You should budget your splurges. Your actual M.O. should be looking at designer lines – the runway shows, the Vogue editorials, their own websites – for inspiration. Learn to be able to pull trend ideas from these high end lines. I promise you, if a high end designer puts out a great piece, lower priced brands will be producing very similar pieces in no time. You just have to translate the designer look. For example, Balenciaga’s Spring 2009 runway saw models in knee-high, tough gladiator sandals. The cost of those shoes was astronomical. But it gave a new surge to the gladiator trend, and women were able to snag gladiators for costs as low as $30.00 and $40.00 from other brands – so, still trendy, but not poverty-stricken after the purchase.

Have fun browsing your favorite luxury brands, and then you can challenge yourself by finding those looks at more affordable stores. See how your spending goes for a few months. If you’re doing really, really well, you can splurge. Shoot for two splurges a year. It will give you something to look forward to, but will allow you to still save. Just remember to buy more timeless pieces when you splurge. Don’t buy something super trendy, because it will go out of style, and then you’ll have something you spent a lot of money on that you can’t wear. When you want something that’s sort of a fad, look to more affordable, fashion forward stores like H&M. When you want to splurge, opt for things like handbags, classic pumps or boots, cashmere sweaters, or Little Black Dresses – you get the idea.

  • Make a list of the things you want each season. I’ve been doing this for a few seasons now, and I cannot tell you how much it helps. For example, I made a list for this spring, 2010. It has items like a trench coat, a great floral dress, a chiffon draped skirt, a white cropped boucle jacket, and open-toed booties. Your next step is to search for these items, which is most easily done online. Find out how cheap you can find these items. I did some research, looked at about ten different sites, and concluded I could get a beautiful trench coat for as low as $50.00. Now, when you find these prices online, you don’t necessarily have to buy the item from that site. But the list does two things to help you save: it is a reminder of the things you want, so before you spontaneously drop a large sum on an impulse buy, remember that you had budgeted money aside for things you truly want, and if you buy this impulse piece, you’re going to have to cross something off the list. The list also helps remind you of the low prices you can find the items for. So, now that I know I can find the trench coat for $50.00, if I see it somewhere for $75.00, I’m not going to buy it because I know I can do better.
  • This one’s obvious: shop sales and shop around. What’s not obvious, though, is how well you can do. This is where online shopping really trumps in-person shopping for saving money. When you see something you really want, make sure you can’t find it anywhere else first. I was doing a lot of shopping on a Certain Site, where the dresses were in the $80.00 to $150.00 range. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a site selling the same exact dresses – same brand, everything – for less than half the prices. It’s so important to research your buys.

As far as sales, the way to really save is join some private/sample sale websites. The best are ShopItToMe.com, GiltGroupe.com, RueLaLa.com, Ideeli.com, and HauteLook.com. On these sites, you don’t have to wait until what you want is last season. I won’t mention brands, but I once passed up some amazing – new – items in a department store because of the price tag. The very next week, ShopItToMe sent me my twice-weekly report of all my favorite designer items on sale that day, and there were the items that were sitting in the department store for full price – and on this site, they were half off. A word of caution, don’t join too many of these sites, or else you will have things to spend on daily!

Smart Shoe Shopping

Custom websites have been designed to make our shopping easy, simple and most of all, affordable. We have made it our mission to keep up with the hottest trends whether it’s chic, feminine or urban. Shoe websites now carry top rated shoe collections with the most vibrant hues, patterns and colors. It is now very common for most girls to be constantly drowned with flattering compliments on their gorgeous heels that can be sparkly, shiny, and or even jeweled. What more can a girl ask for? It’s safe to say that some shoe companies have perfected their style with nothing but the best. With glamorous pumps to classy wedges, ladies are guaranteed the spotlight on their night out!

For all the knock- out Fashionistas- Rocking the hottest shoes has never been this easy. With access to online shoe sites you cannot go wrong. There is an endless variety of what you can find online. Whether you are in need of sexy pumps, comfortable flats, sandals or the hottest wedges, online access gives you nothing but the best shoe options. Shoe companies have been coming out with fabulous trends season after season and even have Facebook pages sharing their newest arrivals. They know we ladies have whole lotta downtown desires, and are inspired to fulfill our daring cravings. The best money and time saver is online shopping these days since you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. We call that smart shopping. With just a click away you can shop for the sexiest boots, chic flats or gorgeous heels. Whether you are intrigued by strappy heels, nautical stripes, polka dot, bow pumps or fierce stilettos- the options are endless! The shoe industry is fiercely competitive when it comes to online shopping. The websites get more and more user friendly, better looking graphics, great product descriptions and displays. Also since you don’t need to waste your time coming in and out of stores, shoe websites can offer you the best prices. Therefore, you as well as the merchandiser save on time and money to maximize the bang in your buck! Now that’s called smart shopping.

Mystery Shopping the Competition

Brand loyalty

A manufacturer was concerned that sales were dropping for their products in several retail stores. Mystery shoppers were used to visit the retail stores and “shop” for the manufacturer’s product. The manufacturer was able to determine if sales associates were leading customers away from their brand, and what was being said about their brand. Taking it a step further, a scenario was designed in which mystery shoppers would be interested in two products — one of the manufacturer’s and another of a competitor. Posing as undecided between the two, mystery shoppers would ask the associate for their recommendation. This allowed the manufacturer to determine which brand was being recommended and why, and how this impacted their sales at the retail level.

Breaking into a new market

A contractor service was ready to expand their business into a new market and sought out two potential markets of interest. Before making a decision, the company utilized mystery shoppers to glean competitor information. Mystery shoppers would contact similar services that already existed in each market, posing as a potential customer. Shoppers would listen to the sales presentation, gather pricing, and document policies and service procedures. Data was collected for each competitor in each of the two markets for further analysis. The contractor service was able to compile this information along with the other market analysis they had performed to ultimately decide which market would be most beneficial to break into. Further, they were able to create methods to present their services that would be unique and different from their competition, giving them an edge when breaking into the new market.

Offering a new product or service

One retail company was preparing to launch a new service. Before doing so, they wanted to seek out information on their competitors who offered a similar service. Specifically, they wanted to find out their competitor’s cost for the service and how it was promoted to potential customers. Mystery shoppers were utilized to contact the competitors across different markets to inquire about this service. They were responsible for documenting the cost involved, as well as the features and benefits of the service. Once this information was gathered, the company was able to set a competitive price point and create a marketing plan to promote this new service in a way that would differentiate themselves from the competition. This resulted in a strong marketing campaign, and the new service performed very well with strong, consistent sales.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

Abandonment is Part of the Shopping Process

Generally speaking, a company should see an abandoned shopping cart as part of the buying process. It is probably just a stepping stone in the ever complex series of actions a consumer has to take before finally making a purchase. It can also be seen as a strong indicator of consumer interest in a product or a brand. The technology that allows retailers collect and leverage online shopping cart data is going to be a worthwhile investment.

Abandoners are Still Great Sales Leads

According to data from SeeWhy, three-fourths of shoppers who have abandoned shopping carts say that they plan to return to the retailer’s website to make a purchase. Online-only retailers often face the disadvantage as they do not have multiple channels to recover the lost sales.

Re-targeting is Effective

If they want, retailers can reduce the rate of shopping cart abandonment and increase conversions. They need to streamline the checkout process and retarget shoppers with emails and calls after they’ve left the website. According to Listrak, initial emails, sent three hours after a consumer abandons a cart, average a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate.