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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blackberry offering iPhone users a big pay-out to switch to the Passport

By  Alex Viall

Blackberry Passport
The Blackberry Passport has a functional keyboard
Just as the Nokia 3210 once dominated the pockets of people all around the world, the iPhone is now sitting happy amidst some of the best-selling phones in the world. Back when Nokias were big though, the hardware and software was updated less frequently and it was easier for them to stay at the top of the game. Once smartphones made an appearance, and once Apple and HTC made their break through, Nokia struggled to retain its place as one of the world’s greatest mobile phone manufacturers.

Blackberry is having similar problems. While other companies have chosen to adapt their phones to be all but fully touch screen, Blackberry retains its miniature keyboard (yes, the one that makes your thumbs feel fat), and a pokey little screen. It seems Blackberry simply isn’t keeping up with the times, and its tactics betray its struggle.

Cold hard cash

If someone told you that, if you bought a holiday to Disneyland Paris, they would reimburse you for your devalued holiday to DisneyWorld Florida, I imagine you’d soon tell them where to go. But all the same, that seems to be what Blackberry is offering iPhone and Android users – if you buy their new Blackberry Passport, they will take your current smart phone and reimburse you, up to $550, depending on how well you’ve looked after it.

Blackberry sent out an open letter prior to this tactic asking Blackberry users to remain loyal, a letter that perhaps betrayed some desperation. John Chen, Blackberry’s CEO said ‘there’s something to be said for the old adage – if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.’ Sadly for John, it seems he wasn’t aware that just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

It is quite a bleak outlook really, for a phone that perhaps deserves a little more credit than its company is perhaps giving it. After all, these aren’t the tactics of someone that is fully confident in their product. That isn’t to say, however, that this isn’t a good deal.

Making the swap

The new Blackberry Passport isn’t a bad phone, and a cash offering for an old phone, although crude, isn’t such a bad deal. Effectively you can swap in your old phone, and get a significant reduction on the price of a brand new one. With a payback of $550, a new Blackberry Passport would only cost you $49 in the US.

With a wider screen (and potentially smaller keyboard than before), the Passport is, for lack of a better word, unique. And perhaps its marketing campaign is quite apt in that respect. It looks a little awkward and it doesn’t really look like something you want, but once you’ve done it, it might very well have been the right choice for you. With Android app capability, the Passport looks past the Blackberry’s comparatively bleak app shop and the BB hub is quite good at keeping you organised. Ultimately you just have to decide if this unusual deal and square smartphone are for you.

About the author: Alex Viall is the Director for London’s leading IT support companies for SME’s – Mustard IT.

Image: Maurizio Pesce, "Blackberry Passport", CC BY  2.0

Financial news: December 18, 2014

CNBC/FT: USD appreciation is likely in '15 as large economic monetary policies diverge
Bloomberg: U.S. new home sales to rise 16% to 510,000 in '15 per economist & analyst survey
BI: Further oil price declines could increase market volatility over the next 2 weeks
Fox: GE seeks to boost annual profit margin by .5%; '15 earnings forecast $1.70-$1.80/share
Reuters: Fed Ex ground & freight results fell short in its Q2, '15 guidance low
MarketWatch: U.S.-Cuba money-transfer restrictions to be lowered with new trade relations
NYT: Formerly attractive emerging market energy bonds are losing luster amid oil price drop
BBC: Apple, Inc. halted online retail sales in Russia due to currency volatility
DoL: Jobless claims Dec. 13, 289K, down 6K; average 298,750K, down 750
BLS: Consumer costs fell .3% in Nov. on energy, commodities & auto price drops per CPI
BEA: A drop in secondary income increased the Nov. U.S. trade deficit by $1.9B to $100.3B
CNN: Russia has sold its foreign currency reserves to protect the ruble from declining further
Zero Hedge: Chinese economic policy to put downward pressure oil demand growth

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Opening a retail store: 5 things to know and remember

By David Woodburn

So you have developed and marketed a new widget and things are taking off. You have been building your own business out of your home office or your garage or basement or whatever. And maybe your marketing has been highly successful where your widgets can’t stay on your shelves and your house and neighborhood are being inundated with traffic of enthusiastic customers.

At this point, you could well be thinking, this can be a good time for me to find a retail space to sell my widgets. And you could be right, but you can’t just spontaneously call up a commercial real-estate agent and have them immediately find you a space to lease so you can clear out your garage and thin out the neighborhood traffic in the next month. Opening a retail store is a big decision and there has to be a lot of things to consider, think about, research and understand. You do not want to go into this kind of operation blind or ignorant. That alone will cost you the business before you even open the doors for the first time.  Since you are supported in your efforts, here are some things for you to consider and keep in mind not only as you open your store but also to keep your store profitable.

Have a plan

Retail business startup tips
Category management streamlines operational efficiency
1. OK, if you’re smart (and if you have a business, you are definitely not stupid), you already have a business plan. And it’s possible that a retail space was featured somewhere in that plan. Well, now you have to not only review the plan as a whole, but you should also create a plan inside the plan that deals specifically with the retail space. This includes doing some market research to determine if your desired market can support a retail space for your widget. This will also include looking at the demographics of your market and seeing whether your widget can get some penetration in the market according to the desired or target demographic.

Know your customers

2. This isn’t just on first-name basis. This is about knowing their backgrounds, spending habits, why they buy your widget and why they come back, and also knowing their age, location of residence and other key marketing information. Knowing as much as you can about your customers will help you market more effectively, and ultimately can help you with the fourth thing on this list – you can make more sales if you are closer to your customer base.

Start slowly

3. This is more of a reminder for you. You likely started slow in the first place – that is why you made your widgets in your garage. Moving into a retail space does not mean it’s full speed ahead. You should probably dial back your expectations and think of your retail space as another “garage.” Build slowly and don’t bite off more than you can afford to chew, if you get the drift. 

Location, location, location

4. Especially if you are opening only one retail space, picking the right real estate could make or break your operation regardless if all other factors are in place. The keys are to know where your customers generally come from and find a location that is as central to that group as possible, and it’s probably a good idea to find a space that is along a visible and well-traveled roadway to increase visibility. You can also determine in your business plan whether it will make sense to lease or buy an existing space, expand or build out a space or to build a new store.  Of course, which you choose will likely have a bearing on the permits and licenses you need in order to operate, so that should be put into the equation as well. The most visible you are, especially with signage like that from Industrial Sign Installations, the better you will be in the long run.

Find the right people

5. Once you have your plan and your site ready to go, you will likely have to hire some people to run the store with you. And really, no matter what role each person has in the store, good customer service will go a long way toward your success. It’s one thing to hire people with the best skills for the job you want to fill, but if that person does not know how to handle customers and meet their needs, those great skills will be on the streets when you shutter your doors.  And when you find the right mix of skill and personality to meet your customers’ needs, you will have to have considerations about the salaries you offer and if you offer benefits. You will be in competition for the workers just like you are for customers, so you have to make sure you can compete with other businesses in the compensation area. On the other side, you need to make sure to develop a strong and thorough interview process so you find the truly good people, and not just able, breathing bodies. There needs to be a fit between you and the candidate not just in terms of how the candidate is better at a skill than you, but that he or she gets along with you and the culture you want to project in your retail space. 

About the author: David Woodburn has been working in retail for the past several years and has a lot of knowledge when it comes to finding your perfect retail space.

Image: GifTagger, US-PD

Financial news: December 17, 2014

NYT: A class-action lawsuit against Walmart won $188 M for reduced staff breaks 
CNN: FATCA requires global financial firms to report U.S. owned accounts to the IRS
CNBC: Robo-advisors are unable to provide nuanced financial services advice
Zero Hedge: Investment grade credit yields have risen in response to falling oil prices
Bloomberg: U.S. manufacturing grew in Dec., but growth slowed to an 11-month low
DoC: New residential home construction fell 1.6% to 1.028,000 in November
MW: Russia key interest rate increase to 17% did little to stop its currency price decline
Business Insider: The Russian Interbank lending market is unsustainable at current rates
BBC: Chinese provincial economic data contradicts national growth statistics
Fox: Global economic reality and data is reflected in the decline in oil prices