TJX Is Wildly Successful on a Global Scale

800px-T.J._MaxxTJX is the parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and other big name stores worldwide.

“The 2015 annual report of the TJX Companies says it all. Net sales for the past fiscal year were $29.1 Billion which is greater than Macy’s report of $28.1 Billion. In the past year sales increased 6.2% reflecting customer demand for value fashion. Comparable sales increased 2%. It is significant that in the fourth quarter net earnings jumped 15%. Today the TJX Companies Inc. is the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in the United States and world-wide.”

Read the full article at Forbes.

Rebranding Dress Barn

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr cc

Its emphasis on value is longstanding. Now Dress Barn reemphasizes design to resurrect its reputation for fashionable, affordable wear.

“Since joining Dress Barn two years ago, chief marketing officer Lori Wagner and her team have been quietly working on revamping the brand. How do you take a strip-mall, value-oriented chain and believably refresh its image as a chic-yet-affordable option for women in the 35- to 45-year-old set?

You focus on the dress, according to Wagner. And that’s exactly what the 53-year-old brand has done. This week, it’s rolling out several design collaborations for its dress section, or Dressbar, as the brand calls it.”

Read the full article at Ad Week.

Americans Pour Billions Into Caring for Their Pets

Photo Credit: binary-stocks via Deviant Art cc

Photo Credit: binary-stocks via Deviant Art cc

How can we do otherwise, the devoted pet owner will ask?

“We feed them, groom them, clothe them and otherwise shell out the big bucks to protect and pamper our pets. 

The American Pet Products Association’s annual report on pet industry spending says Americans spent $58 billion in 2014 on their 397 million pets, which range from freshwater fish and reptiles to cats and dogs.”

Read the full article at Yahoo News.

Target Refuses to Be Pressured Into Raising Wages

Photo Credit: Marlith via Wikimedia Commons cc

Photo Credit: Marlith via Wikimedia Commons cc

Target sticks to its guns, and to its customary wage evaluation and adjustment system.

“Target isn’t following in the footsteps of its biggest competitor when it comes to wages.

Just days after Walmart announced to much fanfare that it would raise its starting wage to $9 an hour in April, Target is continuing with its policy of constantly assessing wages and making changes as necessary, forgoing a giant, public pay raise for now.”

Read the full article at The Huffington Post.

Costco Is Winning Where Walmart Is Losing

Costco is blowing Walmart and Target away in the “stock wars,” and Costco has good feeling among consumers on its side.

“The giant wholesale retailer is incredibly popular with consumers … and investors.

Shares of Costco (COST) rose as high as 2.5% Thursday after the company reported that its latest quarterly earnings estimates easily topped forecasts. People are shopping and same-store sales are up.
The stock is now up nearly 10% this year and more than 30% over the past 12 months — much more than Sam’s Club owner Walmart (WMT), its biggest rival.”

Read the full article at CNN Money.

Kroger Is Shaping Up to Be Whole Foods’ Biggest Competitor

Photo Credit: mcsquishee via Wikimedia Commons cc

Photo Credit: mcsquishee via Wikimedia Commons cc

45 great quarters leaves little doubt: Kroger is a serious competitor in the grocery space, set to edge out Whole Foods within two years, and so become the largest seller of organic and natural foods in the nation.

“Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are often praised for reinventing the grocery business. 

But Kroger is thriving in a difficult market for grocery stores. 

The supermarket chain has reported positive comparable-store sales for 45 straight quarters. 

Kroger is also expected to surpass Whole Foods Market within two years and become the nation’s top seller of organic and natural food, according to a recent report by JPMorgan Chase.”

Read the full article at Business Insider.

3D Pen: Cool Ink Only Enhances Its Cool Factor

d9a21710314f97a65a04ad4a60f2c1e8_largeIt has been some time since I wrote about a 3D pen. None of the novelty has worn off. To draw a picture in the air still appeals to my imagination. I’d just rather not be maimed doing it.

Most 3D pens use hot ink that solidifies on contact with cooler air – and, it is to be assumed, on contact with your cooler skin. These are little more than artistic hot glue guns.

No parts of Polyes Q1 are hot. Its ink is cool and hardens under LED light.

Another variety of a cool 3D pen uses UV light to harden the ink, but this kind of light can hurt the eyes over time in a sort of “eye sunburn.” Polyes uses LED light, and then takes eye protection a step further. The child safety switch and level sensor turn off the LED light when it is lifted from a surface, preventing an incautious child from pointing the beam in his own or a friend’s eyes.

bc1a6ffc9de14c7c86c0cb6dcee07eb4_largeMost things this safe are no fun, but we’re discussing 3D pens here. How many ways could you customize any given piece of furniture armed with one of these? What could you build? My mind reverts to the old house-flowers-and-sunshine scene I drew so many times in my 2D youth. Anything that can be drawn on paper can be built from the ground up out of cool ink.

More varieties of cool ink are on the way. Some inks smell like flowers, others glow in the dark, some are transparent (I would draw The Invisible Man, right away). They come in all the colors of the rainbow.

Supereats: Snack of Champions

Chips_Kale_Chia_Photo_2_grandeWe’ve all heard of power foods: açaí berries, kale, quinoa, chia seeds, the list goes on. We find ways to incorporate them into our diets, but we often make our changes too drastic, focusing on a complete lifestyle makeover rather than small, simple changes and modifications. As anyone who has ever made a New Year resolution will tell you, large changes are rarely sustainable: small substitutions and adjustments are the way to go.

Supereats makes these small modifications easy by changing the way we snack. Instead of making chips based off of starches like potatoes and corn, Supereats makes chips out of kale and chia seeds, two of the healthiest foods out there. Supereats chips are available in flavors that satisfy any craving, ranging from chili lime to tomato basil, from cheddar to good old sea salt. While you consume the snack you love, you also nourish your body.

Gluten free, vegan, and kosher, Supereats is the snack for anybody, whatever their lifestyle or convictions. Packed with fiber and Vitamin A and C, these chips have all the benefits of kale and chia seeds in a form you are actually likely to eat.

The New Force of Private Label

Abigail Kiefer Co-Founder & CEO Red Clay DesignIf you’ve ever found yourself debating whether to spend a little more on Q-tips instead of the Up & Up brand cotton swabs at Target, you’ve experienced the power of private labels at work.

Private labels — commonly called “generic brands” — are a line of products developed and released by retail brands instead of national brands. Once considered a cheap but bland alternative to name-brand products, private labels have stepped up their game to become true competitors on store shelves and in online assortments.

In 2014, private labels accounted for 18.3% of consumer packaged goods spending in U.S. grocery stores — and 22% of units sold. At Walmart alone, private label products amounted to $49.3 billion dollars of sales in 2013 — only about 10% of total sales, but still a lot of money.

Needless to say, private label goods are important to retailers. Not only are they a source of revenue, they drive traffic to stores and cement brand loyalty.

Private labels are also critical for budget-conscious shoppers, especially in an uneven economy. You would think this would lead to a race to the bottom for price — and a dip in quality; yet, the opposite is happening. Retail companies are making a conscious effort to provide better private label products, and consumers are noticing.

Here’s an example: back in December, Amazon launched a line of baby products called Elements, which created real competition for incumbents in the baby space. Amazon was selling diapers online for about 19 cents less per pack than its premium competitors, and it already had a built-in subscription and distribution model. For new parents, especially those cash-strapped and overwhelmed, the convenience and price of Elements diapers could have been a steal.

Yet on January 22, less than two months after the launch, Amazon pulled its “Soft and Cozy” diapers due to “early customer feedback” (the baby wipes are still available). The reviews were neither great nor bad, averaging 3.5 stars out of five. Yet Amazon is offering early customers $25 in credit and a promise that they are improving diapers to be sold in the near future.

Amazon’s decision to pull diapers with 3.5-star ratings — hardly a flop — speaks to the importance of quality private labels for retail brands. Not long ago, private labels were just a cheap alternative to national brand products. Today, with so many store options, and price competition between stores for every kind of product (name-brand or not), creating the least expensive item is no longer a surefire way to ensure sales of a private label item. We now live in a new era of fantastic private label products going head-to-head with national brands on quality.

So what does all of this mean? Retail brands must carefully maintain the balance between price and quality for their private label products, and have a clear view of how these goods will meet the needs of each shopper segment. National brands must prove that their products sell well, create a healthy margin and attract customers to the store. For other companies that work with retailers, it means assessing their competitive risk with private labels in mind and strategizing accordingly.

And for consumers, it means new options, lower prices for higher quality goods, and new reasons to reach for those “generic” brand q-tips.


Abigail Kiefer is the Cofounder of Red Clay, a platform built to design exceptional products. It gives any company, from a startup to global enterprise, access to hundreds of vetted freelance designers and provides software to manage an entire design process to go from concept to prototyping within weeks.​

Instagram Is Growing at Breakneck Speed

60% growth in a year is quite a jump. Instagram will pass 100 million users by 2018.

“The number of US Instagram users increased nearly 60% in 2014, bringing the social network’s US monthly user base to 64.2 million people, according to new figures from eMarketer.

By 2018, Instagram’s US user base will top 100 million—reaching 106.2 million that year—when growth finally begins to taper off and dips into single digits for the first time.”

Read the full article at eMarketer.

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