Would You Like Berber Carpets For Your Home?

Berber carpets are something that have gained in popularity and we tend to hear quite a bit about them these days. The Berber carpet got its name from bulky handmade wool that was very textured and used by tribe's people in the north of Africa. The name of the tribe was the Berber tribe, which is obviously why the carpet is called Berber.

Berber Carpets Today

The Berber carpet today takes a lot of the tradition from the Tribe by using flecked bulky yarns that help to create the great looking carpets. The advantages to having Berber carpet far outweigh anything else and here are some reasons as to why buying Berber carpet is a good idea: –

o Uniqueness – This carpet is truly unique and by using the flecked loop yarns, it helps to provide these unique and stylish carpets and they are instantly recognizable.

o Variations of loop sizes – The great thing is that there are various loop sizes available when it comes to getting Berber carpets, so it can help to fit any sized room in the house. You can get a few different designs including the cut and loop, multi leveled loop and also the level loops which give you a great selection to choose from

o Great for allergy sufferers – If anyone in your household suffers from allergies, usually you may have to use hardwood flooring. However, with Berber carpets you get to have the carpet which has so many benefits and it is hypo-allergenic which makes this perfect for allergy sufferers. It is made from wool which is non toxic and it is non allergenic, as well as being able to stop any growth of bacteria straight in its tracks.

o Pure comfort – Because the wool loops have been created in the carpet, this creates millions of air pockets and that in turn causes it to feel cushiony when you walk over it.

o Affordable – The weird thing behind this type of carpet is that it is good quality wool and yet it can be cheaper than nylon, olefin and other man made products. What is also strange is that Berber can outlast all of these materials as well, so it does not make much sense why it could be cheaper.

o Choice of color – There is a wide range of mixed and varied colors that you can select from, including neutral, pastel and darker colors.

o Economical – It is a great and economic carpet to have installed into your home because it is easy to lay it down. You will also find that installation will be less per square foot than other carpets on the market.

With these great benefits it is not very hard to see why Berber carpets are popular with many people out there. They help to bring quality and richness to the home, as well as being affordable at the same time.

How Do You Choose Between a 14′ Trampoline Versus a 15′ Trampoline?

Trampolines can bring hours of fun and exercise for your family. Many trampolines are on the market today and can range in price from $200 and up. Sizes also range from a small personal two foot wide trampoline to larger sizes big enough for a small group to jump on. When deciding between a 14′ and 15′ trampoline, you should take several things into consideration.

1. The size of the space you have available is an important factor. While there is only a foot difference between the fourteen and fifteen feet trampolines, you need to take into account space around the trampoline to move around it and be able to enter and exit safely. If you have younger ones in your family that cannot get on the trampoline by themselves, you will also need space to place a small footstool or step for easy access. Ladders are also available to attach to the side of the trampoline, but space to access the ladder is still needed. A foot and a half, or eighteen inches, all the way around the trampoline is also needed so that when a jumper lands against the enclosure, enough room will be available for the jumper to fall against it without being hurt.

2. Safety. When you are looking for a 14′ or 15′ trampoline, you must also look at the safety accessories available for them. Pick a trampoline that you can easily find and purchase a safety enclosure and spring covers that will fit. A safety enclosure is necessary to protect the jumper from falling off. A spring cover not only keeps jumpers from falling through the springs, but also protects the springs from weather conditions that can cause them to deteriorate faster. An anchor kit is also a good investment, especially if you live in an area prone to high winds. The anchor will secure the trampoline in the ground so that is not lifted away during windy weather.

3. Look at the quality of the trampoline. The joints should be smooth and not have any rough edges or sharp points. Springs should be tight and, at first, have very little give. They will eventually stretch out as they are used. The larger trampoline, 15′, may have more springs than the 14′. If you have young ones who are not heavy, more springs will also keep the trampoline from being too bouncy or loose.

4. Check the weight limits of both the 14′ and 15′ trampolines. Take into account your family members and what weight limits they may fall into when choosing the appropriate size trampoline. The size of the trampoline does not always factor into weight limits.

5. Price can vary according to size. It is not always the bigger trampoline that is the most expensive. The quality and manufacturer make a difference as well. When looking at the price and the budget that you want to work within, make sure to include the cost of the accessories that you will need as well.

Taking into consideration these various factors when choosing a trampoline will ensure that you pick the one that is best for your space, budget, and family.

Retailing, a New Luminary & Cynosure of Business a Corporate Outlook

DEFINITION AND SCOPE OF RETAILING

The word ‘retail’ is derived from the French word ‘retailer’ meaning ‘to cut a piece off’ or ‘to break bulk’. In simple terms, it implies a first-hand transaction with the customer.Retailing involves a direct interface with the customer and the coordination of business activities from end to end – right from the concept or design stage of a product or offering, to its delivery and post-delivery service to the customer. The industry has contributed to the economic growth of many countries and is undoubtedly one of the fastest changing and dynamic industries in the world today.

Retailing and the Marketing Mix

Retailing forms an integral part of the marketing mix and includes elements like product, place, price, people, presentation and promotion. Place relates to the distribution and availability of products in various locations. Customers are first introduced to the product at the retail store. Organizations sell their products and services through these retail outlets and get feedback on the performance of their products and customers’ expectations about them. Retail stores serve as communication hubs for customers. Commonly known as the Point of Sale (POS)’ or the Point of Purchase (POP), retail stores transmit information to the customers through advertisements and displays. Hence, the role of retailing in the marketing mix is very significant.

GLOBAL OVERVIEW OF RETAILING

With total sales of US$ 6.6 trillion, retailing is the world’s largest private industry, ahead of finance (US$ 5.1 trillion) and engineering (US$ 3.2 trillion). Some of the world’s largest companies are in this sector: over 50 Fortune 500 companies and around 25 of the Asian Top 200 firms are retailers. Wal-Mart, the world’s second largest retailer, has a turnover of US$ 260 billion, almost one-third India’s GDP. As many as 10% of the world’s billionaires are retailers. The industry accounts for over 8% of GDP in western countries, and is one of the largest employers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 22 million Americans are employed in the retailing industry in over 2 million retail stores.

KEY DRIVERS OF RETAILING IN INDIA

In the pre-liberalization supply-led market, the power rested clearly with the manufacturers. In today’s demand-led market, it’s the consumer who calls the shots. Over the last decade, there has been a significant evolution in the Indian consumer, mainly due to the liberalization of the consumer goods industry that was initiated in the mid-eighties and accelerated through the nineties, combined with a growing consumerism driven by the media, new opportunities and increasing wealth. Although this change is most noticeable in the metros, it has affected consumers in smaller towns as well. Many retail organizations have customer relationship management (CRM) programmers that help find out about their customers’ purchase patterns. This also enables them to design a comprehensive benefit package for them. Retail organizations like Shoppers’ Stop have used customer loyalty programmers with success, increasing their active base of consumers and delivering innovative benefit plans for them. They also focus on getting a larger share of sales from the loyal base of consumers.

Recent Format Developments

New retail formats have begun to supersede conventional ones. Independent big-box multi-brand department stores have started selling footwear as a category, especially in metros and cities. Malls are another new shopping format that is growing rapidly in the metros. Many upcoming footwear retailers are obtaining space inside the mails as mall partners to take advantage of the ready footfalls available. For the existing independent Bobcat stores it is expensive now to run campaigns and promotions to attain the required footfalls and expected conversion.

Merchandise Presentation and Visual Merchandising.

Bobcat pioneered the concept of show window displays in India with a style that was unique to the company. It was professionally managed, with an exclusive team handling the motif and the design. Every moth the direction to decorate the show windows were given by a mailer prepared by special decorators. Sales personnel in each store were trained to be window decorators too. Recently, these windows had to be done away with because the company thought that they should follow the contemporary practice of free-access retailing, where all merchandise pairs are displayed in open shelves to enable customers to help themselves. Remember, in India footwear is always tried on a footstool and bought after considerable service extended by the sales person personally. Free-access retailing may work when there is adequate space inside a store to move around. The effect of such ‘pigeon-hole’ free access is that they give an impression that they are Bobcat’s R-Pair outlets.

STORE DESIGN AND THE RETAILING IMAGE MIX THE SPACE MIX

For the retailer space is money. The store has to be planned in such a way that it optimizes the selling area and minimizes the non-selling parts. The selling area is used to present the merchandise and the non-selling part is account for by circulation space, aisles, staircases, lifts, facilities, the back area, etc. The area in a typical department store is: selling area about 60%, circulation area 15% and back area 25%.If the store has any extra area, it is given to concessionaires to complement the store offering mix and to de-risk space. Examples are Planet M in Shoppers’ Stop, Planet Sports in Pyramid and Ways in Lifestyle.In a garment retail store, planning the size of the customer segment is intercepted and there wardrobe mix of garments and accessories mapped. This then determines the number of styles and the range width of the category. Then a business plan is made based on the integration with space.

The selling space is then configured in terms of size and location of goods based on the mix of staple, convenience and impulse merchandise Staple Goods are the core USP of the store. These constitute about 55% of the store offering and are4 kept at the central and deeper ends of the store. This enhances visibility, since the customer has to pass through the entire store to reach them. The shirts and trousers section in department stores form the staple merchandise. Similarly, grains and sugar are the staples in a supermarket. Convenience goods are no-fuss basic merchandise that constitute about 30% of the store and are bought in multiple units. These need to be in convenient locations in the store to ensure conversions. Undergarments and white basic cotton T-shirt in a department store are convenience merchandise.Impulse purchase merchandise-which usually constitutes about 15% of the store and has the highest of sale-is given maximum exposure in order to tempt the customer into buying them. Candies in a supermarket and socks and hair accessories in a fashion store are impulse purchase items and are kept near the cash counters and entrances/exits. The customer picks them up after shopping for convenience and staple merchandise. The locations of various goods are chosen carefully to ensure that the customer is exposing to the entire store, thus increasing the possibility of a purchase.Talking about space management and optimization in a retail store, Ajay Mehta, COO of Times Retail (Planet M) says: “Space management does not end with just optimization, but has a much larger opportunity for merchandise promotion and display which not only can profit for a retail organization but entertain and delight customers too”.

EFFECTIVE RETAIL SPACE MANAGEMENT

The sight of a good retail store with attractive windows and an enticing entrance induce the customer into entering. The customer enters the store and often keeps walking inside following the walkway wherever it leads, or sometimes takes a while to look for directions within the store. Sometimes the customer’s attention is drawn to certain displays and merchandise presentation before he move on. To reach his destination inside the store, the customer tends to follow directions to reach there, especially in a big-box format. Seldom does he realize that subconsciously he is directed to ‘walk’ the entire store and thus exposing him to all that the store has to offer. This is achieved through a well thought-out and laid-out retail floor design.Effective retail floor space management is critical to the successful operation of a retail store, as more and more sales from the same space would lead to increased margins for the organization. According to R. Siam, CEO of Crossword: “Space planning is integral to the success of any retail store since the biggest investment in retail is in space”.

Let us now look at the ground rules for effective floor space planning and management. At the same time, let us get an insight into the customers’ physical and emotional needs that contribute to store design conceptualization and space planning.

STORE LAYOUT: THE CIRCULATION PLANT (THE “SILENT GUIDE”)

Once inside the store, the customer needs to be guided silently to where he/she wants to go and also expose him/her to the offering. This can be achieved by planning the circulation and the location of the merchandise.

FLOOR SPACE MANAGEMENT

One of the common problems in retail floor management in India is lack of attention paid to space productivity. Usually space productivity. Usually space productivity does not figure in the Key Result Areas of either the Store Operations or Buying and Merchandising departments. But ideally both should pay attention to this area. Store Operations, since it is responsible for reorders and replenishment, and Buying and Merchandising because it is accountable fro the Gross Profit Return (GPR) on the space occupied by the merchandise.

Parameters to Judge Space Performance

How the space performs can be judge by:

-The sales output and the ensuing margins.

-The inventory holding that leads to sales and the ensuing margins.

In a nutshell the performance parameters are sales and margins and their direct relationship to the stock holding on the retail floor.

Sales per square foot, or top-line plan (sales): Here, space productivity is measured by sales volumes and value achieved per square foot per day.

Margins per square foot or bottom-line plan (gross margin returns on footage, or GMROF): Here, space productivity is determined by the average inventory holding per square foot per day and how it measures against the ideal level of stock holding planned for a designed space in the store. Stock-turns in such designated space play a vital role in earning good revenue returns on the space occupied when they are optimized.This space performance measurement can be done for any of the rungs in the SKU hierarchy: a department/division, a category/class, a sub-category/ sub-class, a brand and even for any style or size options.Says G.S.M. Ghana, former Senior Vice-President (Retain) at Bata India Ltd: “One must analysis statistics of the value of merchandise and margins broken down to the space occupied by micro-groups of merchandise in the store. This will help retailers develop a blueprint for profitable deployment of especially in chain store operations. In addition, not only should merchandise categories be placed in the right locations that will maximize profitability but such placement should help attain uniformity for comfortable shopping by customers.”

Space Audit: Non-treaded and Black Holes.Any successful retail store audits its space productivity from time to time. This audit looks at the various retail functions and activities for which space is employed and analyses returns in order to optimize them. It compares the performance of each function or activity with others in relation to space occupied.Hot Spot Analysis: Hot spots are areas where the off take or merchandise is the highest. Similarly, there are warm spots and cold spots, where merchandise sales are lower. An analysis of these hot spot, warm spots and cold spots is made periodically and steps taken to convert cold spots to warm spots and warm spots to hot spots while retaining the best sales and the stock-turns of the spots.Such audits reveal non-treaded space, where there in no customer traffic, and less treaded space which ha slow traffic. The possible reasons for these are analysis and hurdles and bottlenecks identified and removed to ensure that there are no non-treaded and black hole areas.

Efficiency of Selling Space to Non-selling Space: The utilization of selling and non-selling spaces-back area, facilities area, etc.-are periodically monitored for there efficiency in deliveries. A good retailer always aims to optimize selling space to improve the bottom-line, while taking care not to compromise on the efficiency of deliveries of the non-selling space.

Ground Rules for Successful Space and Layout Management

Remember the golden rule of the retail floor space planning and management game-the convenience of the customer comes first.Provide the greatest opportunity for the customer to walk around the stores and browse through all the merchandise displayed, for it is the browsers who turn into buyers-buyers of a large basket size.Optimize the trading space to achieve maximum sales, while not neglected the non-trading area for customer convenience/concessions in order to ensure that they spend a longer time store and increase revenues.Make the right floor space management decisions after every space audit, effecting the necessary course-corrections on time as space costs a good deal of money.

Appeal to all the five senses of the customer by creating an aesthetic and functionally effective ambience (which should eventually become the credo of a successful store) so that you can cling to the mind-space of the customer and Bering him back to the store again and again. Remember, a retail floor designed, planned and managed well with the target customer in mind helps to make an emotional connection with the buyer.

Retail Merchandising

The term ‘merchandising’ is unique and exclusive to the retail industry. It refers to the entire process of inventory planning and management in a retail organization. Merchandising, when done properly, leads to an increase in the return on investment (ROI). The greater the ROI, more the profitability.

Merchandise Planning

For a retailer, the objective of merchandise planning is clear: achieving the following seven ‘RIGHTS’

– The Right Product

– The Right Place

– The Right Quantity

– The Right Quality

– The Right Price

– The Right Mix or Assortment

– The Right Time

In order to satisfy every customer’s needs, the retail store must have the right product in the right place, in the right quantity, with the right quality, at the right price, with the right mix of sizes or variants and at the right time. The function of merchandising is to achieve all these ‘rights’ so that sales are high with an ideal level of inventory holding and thus more profits.

Merchandise Hierarchy.While planning the merchandise mix, a retail organization has to start with a clear definition of its merchandise hierarchy. The merchandise hierarchy is a disciplined way of grouping the merchandise mix at different levels, starting from a high-level grouping to the lowest level of the stock-keeping unit (SKU).The merchandise hierarchy forms the platform needed to create the store’s merchandise mix. The merchandising for the store dictates the different divisions and the lower rungs that the store must have in the hierarchy.

Building the store’s merchandise mix by following the concept of merchandise hierarchy has its advantages:

(a) One can define in terms of ratios the mix of elements at each level of the hierarchy.

(b) One can analyze and drill down through the rungs of the hierarchy to the problem areas, if any up to SKU level.

(c) One can remove or add elements following security escalations.

This means if the store’s merchandise decisions have to be taken based on the performance, say, of the millions of SKUs contributing to the formation of the merchandise pyramid for the store – the peak being the divisions – decisions at the lower rungs can be taken by front-line personnel. Those at the higher levels, which would impact the merchandise proposition / image of the store, can be taken by the higher-ups.

SKU: To use an example (see Fig. 12), a 410-size white shirt of solid design at the price-point of Rs. 750 (all options in the last level) having a button-down collar of the Arrow brand in the full sleeves sub-category or sub-class of the shirts category belonging to the men’s department of the apparel division in a organization is an SKU. The levels in the merchandise hierarchy may be different for various products categories. For instance, in a supermarket, the levels may be:

Divisions: Food

Department: Packaged Food

Category: Sauces

Sub-category: Tomato

Brands: Magi

Options: 250g, 500g, 1kg.

Range Planning:

The first step in the process of range planning is merchandise assortment planning. This is a mix in percentage terms at every rung of the store’s merchandise hierarchy.The first element in the merchandise plan is the Strategic Plan. This is normally taken at the high level and used to set out the critical success factors for merchandising in terms of sales, margins and stocks.A category-level margin plan is also created to plan the gross margins that each level (up to the SKU level) contributes to the store. The definition of the merchandise and the assortment planning based on the hierarchy levels help in analyzing weekly sales, stock and intake plan etc. at the category, sub-category, brand or SKU levels. With this, one can also identify any problems in sales or inventory holding at any levels and take corrective action. It is here that Open to buy (see ‘The Buying Function’ below) is planned in the process of buying. This is normally the first significant success factor in the implementation of the planning process.

Example of an assortment of shirt 20 pieces in stock:

Small / 2, Medium / 6, large / 7, Extra Large / 4, Extra Large / 1 = 20 pieces

Such an assortment plan helps replenish items to the store stock after they are sold by establishing minimum and maximum levels of stocking units. For instance, in the above example if the assortment ratio is planned as per the planned stock-turn for the store as 20 pieces, then the maximum stocks that are available in the SKU can only be 20. The replenishment trigger can be planned so that it is set off when the stock reaches a minimum specified level after sales. Another way of planning replenishment – which is done generally in high-turnover categories – is to trigger off reorders as and when the merchandise is sold with a cap on the maximum stock holding.

Pangram: There is another type of Assortment plan that is emerging now. It is a graphical range plan called the pangram. This short of plan moves away from the purely numerical type of planning that has been used until now and allows the range to be put together in a visual way. Typically digitally stored images are manipulated into collage-type storyboards. Space planning software packages like that of AC Nielsen support such graphic base stock mapping, which helps in easy replenishment planning and effective store space utilization.

Thus merchandise assortment planning and base stock – numerical and visual-numerical methods respectively – enable one to take account of the space utilization in a store by calculating the Return on Space Employed or Returns on Footage.

THE BUYING FUNCTION

Buying for a retail organization is a critical function of merchandising. The process begins with the preparation of the buying plan, called ‘Open To buy’ or OTB. It is helps retailers project and control future buying so that the flow of merchandise in the store matches anticipated sales at desired stock turn rates to give a positive cash flow.For organized buying one need to follow the OTB planning, since it prevents over-buying, eliminates confusion and enables the organization to make more profits.

So what exactly is OTB? OTB refers to merchandise budgets for purchase during a certain period of time for which the stocks have not yet been ordered. It is also the process of forecasting sales and purchases. OTB is a planning tool that assists in setting budgets for sales and merchandise inventory levels and in monitoring the current status of the OTB amount, which is the amount remaining to be ordered to meet the budget.Every retailer needs to use an OTB plan, as most tend to overstock when sales increase and under stock when they are low. Often a small increase in sales leads to excessive buying that ultimately affects the retailer fix the ideal amount of stock that should be on hand at the beginning of any given month and the quantum of new merchandise to be received during the month.

Ann efficient OTB plan has the following elements:Forward Sales Planning (Sales Forecast): The sales plan ought to be prepared for the entire year with month-wise details of planned sales. A good OTB plan helps one to react to variations in sales plans (as the current month comes to an end), reschedule deliveries and cancel or alter purchase orders for future deliveries, as the case may be.

Forward Cover: This is based on the planned stock turns for the retail out fit. Form instance, if the planned stock turns for the store is four times in a year, and then the ideal stock holding at any point in time should be equivalent to three months’ stock cover.

Stock Required: This is based on the forward cover planned month is month 1, then the stock required will be the sum of the planned/forecast sales of months 2, 3 and 4.

Opening Stock: The value of the opening stock is a flow calculation. In OTB planning, the first entry is an estimate. From the second month onwards, the opening stock is the closing figure of the previous month.

Intake Requirement: This is the difference between the required stock and the opening stock.

On Order: These are stocks that have been already ordered and due for delivery during the relevant period.

Open to Receive: This figure is arrived at by deducting the stock on order, if any, from the intake requirement. This figure indicates the OTB quantity.

Closing Stock: To arrive at this figure, one needs to take the opening stock, subtract the sales, and add the on-order and open-to-receive quantities.

Advantage of an Open to Buy Plan

The OTB plan enables retailers to estimate in advance the amount

It helps ensure the right inventory level to support planned sales and to attain the best Gross Margin Return on Inventory (GMROI).The OTB plan places restraints on merchandise commitments so that the stock receives the right merchandise at the right time and not before or after.

It enables a continuous flow of fresh merchandise into the store month after month during the seasons.

The OTB plan establishes goals so that the actual performance can be compared with the plan and corrective action taken inn the required areas.Above all, an efficient OTB plan provides the organization more opportunity for profit.Retailers who follow a well-formulated POTB plan are successful in their merchandising and buying efforts. The merchandise management system employed in the organization generally support such statistical techniques in the OTB plan, but it is the buyer’s insight and decision-making capability that help deliver best result.

MARKUPS AND MARKDOWNS IN MERCHANDISE MANAGEMENT

Markup is the percentage amount (calculated on cost) added to cost in order to arrive at the maximum retail price for a product. Hence,

Markup = percentage of margin calculated on cost added to arrive at the maximum retail price.

Cost = Maximum Retail Price – Margin

Margin = Maximum Retail Price – Cost

Maximum Retail Price = Cost + Markup

Markup is based on cost and is expressed in percentage terms.

Problem: What is the markup percentage for a dress that cost Rs. 200 and retails for Rs. 400?

Markup % = Difference between MRP and cost (Rs.400 – Rs.200) ÷ Cost (Rs.200) x 100

= Rs.200 ÷ Rs. 200 x 100

= 100%

Sometimes the retailer needs to look at the cost of an item and determine what that item should retail for It is fixed if the target customer is willing to pay that price. Markdown is the amount reduced from the maximum retail to arrive at the new retail price. Markdown is calculated as a percentage of MRP. Problem: What is the markdown percentage for a dress whose original MRP is Rs. 400 and the new retail price after markdown is Rs.200?

Markdown % = Difference between old MRP and new MRP after markdown (Rs.400 – Rs. 200) ÷ old MRP (Rs. 400) x 100

= Rs. 200 ÷ Rs. 400 x 100

= 50%

Markdowns are done when product sales low are or when the season draws to a close and the product line needs to be cleared from the shelves. Merchandise is also marked down when inventories are high, when saleable merchandise is shop-soiled or when certain price-off promotions are done. Markdowns are also affected when products that have manufacturing defects but are still saleable are found at the floor level. It is essential that the markdown percentage is kept at the lowest, as it directly affects the returns on gross margins in a retail store.

The Current Scenario in India

Retailing in India is plagued by weak gross margins compared to those in global retailing. While apparel retailers manage to get gross margins of 30-33% after struggling a great deal with vendors and brand markets the food sector has to settle for just 15-19%.

The lifestyle garments and related accessory retailer Shoppers’ Stop has four in-store private label brands that contributed approximately 25% to its turnover, growing 5% over the previous year. The private label of a Delhi-based apparel retailer Robyn Retail contributed approximately 21% to total sales last year.

I grocery, Food world’s private label brands account fro around 21% of total sales. It is reported that the company plants to increase the share of its store brands to 27% of total sales by the time the first phase of the private label initiative is over. Food World expects to extend its private label brand to 38 sub-categories from the 22 it currently has.

West-side, the apparel retailing initiative from the house of Tatars, is a success story with a strategic approach to private brand retailing (approximately 80% to 85% of the merchandise retailed comprises its own brands). The store is said to be struggling in the area of men’s apparel, which is truly brand-led, and is said to be contemplating accommodating a few ‘must have’ men’s brands in its outlets in addition to its core private labels.

References:

1) fibre2fashion.com/…/impact-of-retail-management-in-the-growth-of-indian-economy1.asp

2) fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/free-retail-industry-article

Top Ten Most Popular Christian Art Prints

Christian Art can encompass a multitude of creations. There is no way to pick the best, however, the following 10 offers are varied forms of Christian Art. Some of these pieces are quite substantial, some are simple others multifaceted – combining the modern with the ancient. This list is only an artistic impression and opinion and a minuscule part of the great collections of Christian Art. The order in which they are given is not necessarily of importance.

The Body of Christ – Danny Hahlbohm
This is an extraordinary rendition of what Christ is. A body composed of the gathering of souls from every walk-of-life are encompassed within one magnificent spirit, depicting the accumulation of souls making up the superlative Body of Christ.

Gethsemane – A Print
A print depicting Christ getting comforted by an Angel, having a significant impact that relates to how Angels hold a significant role in the caring and comforting of souls, no matter what role you play in this life.

Stairway to Heaven – Jim Warren
A modern rendition of an important route to the heavens and what awaits you there. This simplistic piece of art leads you to wonder what exactly is at the top of that beautiful stairway. It's natural beginnings from ocean to sky and the promise of what could be there. Just follow the dove that awaits at the bottom of the stairway.

Footprints
Probably among the most Christian pieces of art ever produced. The single trail of footprints depicting person that needs help and is supported by that invisible substantiation although only one set of feet are visible, and the words that accompaniment this art speak volumes, it is an extremely positive and popular portrait of Christian Art.

The Last Supper – Gebhard Fugel
Of all the various paintings of this most famous subject, The Last Supper by Gebhard Fugel, offers an un-glorified rendition, indicating that in fact, glory, gold and richness were not necessarily present when the Last Supper took place.

Noah's Ark – Edward Hicks
This is a superb painting of Noah's Ark. Having been instructed to do so by God Noah built an ark in order to save all the animals. The arc is a realistic size, enough to house the animals as they file in two by two. The more you look the more detail you find and this artist captured the story perfectly.

The Head of God – Michelangelo Buonarroti
Is not God supposed to be full of strength, enough to carry the Universe? Well, in this painting the strength and power behind the sharp eyes and determined features are depicted perfectly.

The Holy Face – The Volto Santo
This paiting conjures up the sadness and uncertainty of Christ. Crowned with thorns and with pleading eyes and a perplexed frown Christ truly has taken on the sins of the world. His eyes will unquestionably hold your gaze.

Madonna of the Poor – Feruzzi
This could be any time anywhere. A young mother cradling her sleeping baby, a baby that is oblivious to the angry world and sleeps peacefully inside her mothers embrace, not yet aware of the poverty or riches it has been endowed with. Despite the rain the Mother has a definite calmness about her.

Angels, Details of the Sistine Madonna – Raphael
This wonderful portrait of two angels verifies that cherubs are no less mischievous than our own cherubs are. Just trying so hard to look innocent yet, wondering what mischief they can get into next, these two fantastic little angels tell all. Displaying the fact that even artists of the Renaissance had a sense of humor.

These Christian Art choices are simply an artistic opinion about getting away from the normal, very intense and warrior laden pictures depicting Christian Art. There is such a peaceful and spiritual feeling depicted in these paintings.

How to Make a Music Studio With Metal Buildings

Are you part of a music group or band looking for a great place to practice your music out of the earshot of your family or the general community? Maybe you have outgrown your parent’s garage and need something a little more roomy or soundproof? A steel building may be the perfect solution for you then.

Steel buildings are great as music studios because they are both economical and easy to build, with many options for soundproofing. Steel buildings can be added to existing structures our located at a distance from your home or other buildings, like your neighbors’ homes or commercial offices. They come in many different plans and budgets so you are sure to find one that will work for you. Steel buildings are perfect to use as music studios because they have a great deal of interior space and they can be temperature controlled for safe instrument storage. They also allow room for musicians to spread out and they are great for acoustics for recording or live performance purposes.

If you are considering building a steel building for your band or organization, here are some ways you can design yours to be the perfect music studio and avoid any potential problems in the process.

Decide where you should put the steel building

If you live in a medium to large-sized town, you will need to check with local zoning boards to determine if you can build within town limits for a music studio. You may have to stay away from heavily populated areas to reduce noise disturbances. If you have an existing structure that you want to add on to, be sure to get the proper permits before building your new steel building music studio.

The building’s purpose

If you are just adding a space onto your home to become a small recording studio, obviously you won’t need as large of a steel building as you would if you are planning on holding concerts there. You also want to think about how you will access the building, what security needs you may have and what components you will need to ensure it is a climate controlled, sound proof environment. What size air conditioners or heating systems you may need can impact what size building you should build based on cost. Also, do you need to accommodate the general public and if so, what safety issues or accommodations are needed, let’s say for example possible handicapped people?

Additional features of the music studio

A music studio is going to require a lot of soundproofing and airtight recording areas for the best sound quality when using it. You will want to find out about wall coverings or sound barriers that will work within the structure of the steel building. Keep in mind that the walls of the steel building are thin enough that sound will bounce off the interior, but it will also pass through if you do not insulate it enough. There are many choices when it comes to soundproofing options, so be sure to determine what will work best for you.

If you plan ahead and take into consideration the unique features that a steel building can afford you with your plans as musicians, you will find that a steel building is the perfect solution for an affordable music studio.

Wide Availability of Plastic Packaging Materials

With the advent of flexible packaging materials and lamination, it has become easy to pack all the food materials, take- away and preservation of many other edible items. Whether it is liquid or oil, they are enormously used in packing such stuffs so that they can bear the various transports during their deliverance. We can also throw more light in their availability and usage in the market.

Packaging supplies

The packaging materials are available in different forms and in different materials. These packaging products are:

  • Packaging films
  • Sealed pouch
  • Flexible laminates rolls
  • Stretch films
  • Plastic pouches
  • Shrink films
  • Laminated pouches.

Benefits of using plastic pouches and packaging sacks

Nowadays plastic pouches and zipper pouches are extensively used in homes. You can find many varieties of plastic films that are used to cover the dish bowl in order to keep the food inside fresh and free from bugs and insects. The zipper pouches have their great usage in packing lunch for your kids or packing snacks for picnic and take away. These plastic packaging provide a hygienic and easy to carry packaging products to ensure the health quotient of your family. Packaging material caters to several industries including food industry where the food and beverages are packed and sealed.

Be it a ready made food items like biscuits, candies, cakes, noodles, sandwiches and many more, plastic packing can be seen in many departmental stores. Even the spices and other staple grains like rice and wheat flour are marketed in these packing materials. Apart from the plastic packaging bags, plastic are immensely used as a bottles and tubes for cosmetics, edible oils, containers and jars. One can see the amazing usage of pet bottles when it was launched containing many cold drinks. Although they are not entirely recyclable, but plastic packaging products has enveloped the market with their versatility and competency.

Quality definition of plastic packaging supplies

The packaging companies ensure the quality and the material used for the packing of the food items. It certainly has to be dust and heat resistant, bacteria free and likely to keep the content fresh as long as it can. Since the food content depends on the quality of the plastic used, it becomes imperative to use the best raw materials especially for food packaging. A good plant material cellulous is used to develop the plastic and then the various forms takes place. You can find them as bubble warp, packaging tapes, plastics sheets, films, packaging bags, pouches, bottles, cans, plastic boxes, mugs and many more. Even you can avail these plastic pouches and zipper bags in many packaging stores that give you widest range for food articles packaging.

These packaging products have lessened the daily burden of handling things and have cast its spell on the market in the record time. One can get his fresh meal or a morsel of food ready and packed in such hygienic and healthy plastic packaging products.

How to Spot Fake UGG Boots

Christmas is just around the corner, and gift-buying season beckons (that is, if it hasn’t already started in earnest in your locality yet)! So start thinking and looking for gifts now, or else you’ll end up doing 11th-hour Christmas shopping, just when prices have already gone up!

Thinking of buying shoes as gifts for Christmas? Sheepskin boots would make for an ideal gift at this time of the year, because of the ice-cool temperatures brought about by winter. And if you and me are on the same “wavelength”, what better sheepskin boots to give than a pair of genuine, honest-to-goodness “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots, right? As they say, “give nothing but the best!” But the problem is, where should you look for authentic “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots? Sure, you might say that ‘there are actually lots of stores in my area selling authentic “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots, but are you sure that they are, indeed, authentic “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots? And are you even remotely aware of the “controversy” or””dispute” between Australian bootmakers and the American company that makes the authentic “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots? If you are not aware of this so-called “controversy or “dispute”, then check out the Wikipedia article about UGG Boots.

Now that you have spent some time educating yourself about the American and Australian “interpretation” of the word “UGGs” and the background behind the “UGG Australia” controversy, let’s move forward as I show you the ways by which you can distinguish a pair of genuine “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots from fake ones. Let me begin, however, by saying that all of my “hints”, “pointers”, notes and remarks that follow are applicable ONLY to “UGG Australia” boots found in an “actual” store and not a “virtual” one (such as those “online” stores and/or “retailers”), okey? For purposes of conciseness or brevity, I”ll talk about spotting fake UGGs among “virtual” or “online” stores in another discussion.

Let’s start the ball rolling by talking about the PRICE. Genuine “UGG Australia” sheepskin boots are quite expensive. I won’t mention any figures, because prices vary and change from time to time. But here’s what I sUGGest you can do to “root out” obvious fakes: if there are several stores offering UGGs in your area, check out each and everyone’s prices. If they”re all bunched together within a small range, that means 1.) Either they are all selling genuine UGGs, which is good; or 2.) They are all selling fakes, which is too bad. My point is, if one store offers a price that is significantly much, much lower than the others, then, in any language, that’s a giveaway that that store is selling fake UGGs.

Now, suppose they all indeed sell UGGs in a tightly-bunched price range. What should you do next? Check out their LOOKS. Here are several visible ‘telltale signs” that give away fakes:

  • If one or all of a particular boot’s labels (both outside and inside) show “Made in Australia” or “Made in New Zealand”, then those definitely are fakes. Because Deckers has been manufacturing them in China for quite some time now.
  • If the quality of the stitching is very bad, then it’s a fake. Of course, it might be difficult to distinguish “very bad” from “bad” and from “good”, but if it is obviously very bad, then the boots are fakes.
  • Look at the store’s black-colored UGGs. Geniune black-colored UGGs have black-colored soles and black labels with the “UGG” logo in white, whereas fake “black” UGGs have tan-colored soles and brown (or non-black) labels.
  • Ask for the “Nightfall” model. If the “Nightfall” presented to you is any other color but Chestnut, it is a fake. Deckers only makes “Nightfall” in Chestnut.
  • Ask for a “Sundance” model. If you see a “Sundance” in any other color but Chestnut Sand or Chocolate, it is a fake. Deckers has stopped making it in Black. There may be old stock around, but anyone selling large amounts of them is probably selling fakes.
  • While still on the subject of boot color, take note that there are no “camel”-colored UGGgs. So if someone offers you one, bingo!
  • In a genuine UGG, the sheepskin fur around the boot matches the colour of the boot but the sheepskin fur at the bottom of the boot, where your foot sits, is always natural (or “cream”) in color.
  • The sole of a genuine UGG is about a half-inch or more, while the soles of fakes are very thin, like maybe ΒΌ-inch.
  • Now try looking at the “size” label of their women’s and kid’s UGGs, if they have any. All the Euro, UK, and US sizes are shown on a kid’s UGG, whereas the women’s UGG only shows the US size on it.
  • If a blue card or a brown “leather” pinned-on tag (some of these might say “Made by CGM Co. Ltd.”), or a dust bag in a light brown or beige colour saying “UGG” or sometimes “Snow Boots” goes with the pair of UGGs, then it’s a fake. Most “innocent” purchasers are fooled by this seeming “attention to detail” or “extra touches”. The truth is that no pair of genuine “UGG Australia” boot has a pinned-on label (or with “sample fur” attached) or comes with a dust/protection bag or shopping bag!
  • If you happen to bring with you (or wear) a pair of genuine UGGs, or one of your companions brought with him his genuine UGGs, try to compare your genuine UGGs with a fake side-by-side; a fake one that is the same “model” as your genuine UGGs either will be taller or shorter than yours.
  • Also, while still on the subject of side-by-side comparison, the “UGG” label on the rear of the boots is higher up on a fake and the lettering is different from the genuine UGG. The letters may have gaps between them in the fake, while in the real, they are overlapping. Lastly, the word “australia” on the “UGG Australia” logo is in a bolder font on the fake than on a genuine UGG.

Now, suppose that the counterfeiters have exceedingly gotten better, and, so far, the UGGs you are looking at have passed all the “visual” tests above. There are yet some more ‘tests” that you can do to “root out” the fakes. For instance, try this FIT TEST: If you know your boot size, try asking for a pair of UGGs whose size is higher up by one “notch” than your size, then try wearing them. If they are genuine UGGs, they should fit snugly, or they should even be a little loose-fitting. Fake UGGs, on the other hand, are notoriously ill-fitting!

Want more ‘tests”? Try these simple FUR TESTS: Look at the boot’s interior fur. Genuine UGG fur are fluffy-looking and thick, and they should have a rich cream color. Fake UGG fur, on the other hand, are synthetic and are thin- and delicate-looking, and they are “greyish” or “white”, instead of being cream-colored. Now “feel” the fur with your hands. They should “feel” very soft. Next, try rubbing your fingers against them. You could tell the fakes because bits of them would “come off” or “come away” even with just a slight “rubbing.” Lastly, smell the boot’s interior and the fur. If there’s even just a slight paint or “lacquer” smell to them, then that’s your indication that the boots are fake. Genuine UGG fur don’t have even just a slight hint of that “lacquery” smell, because genuine fur doesn’t have to be dyed to “pass” it off as the “real thing”.

Let’s try a “new” approach to these ‘tests”; instead of testing the boots, let’s TEST THE SELLER. Here are some ways by which it can be done:

  1. Strike up a conversation with the seller about UGGs and where they are made. If he/she mentions that the genuine ones are made in Australia and/or New Zealand, then he/she is selling fakes. Likewise, if the seller fails to mention the Deckers Outdoor Corporation (or Deckers, Inc.) as the “parent” company, then that’s another sign that he/she is selling fakes.
  2. Try “feigning” a slight disappointment with the “model” or boot size that was presented to you, like perhaps it’s just not what you want. If the seller says, “Take your time choosing. I have lots of different “models” and sizes for you to choose from.”, then, chances are, he/she is selling fakes, because UGGs are, by the very nature of their “raw” materials, scarce or in limited supplies. Anyone who has a truckload of them at this time of the year is highly suspicious!
  3. Next, look around the place and try mentioning a “model” that isn’t there, asking him/her if he can “order” it, how many days it will take, and from where does he/she get it. If the seller mentions getting it directly from his supplier in China, then he/she is selling fakes. While it is true that all of Deckers” UGGs are manufactured in China, a seller/reseller doesn’t get them directly from China.

That’s it. I have already covered the bases here. By no means this is a “comprehensive” list of ‘tips” on discerning a genuine UGG from a fake one; in fact, a fake UGG may pass all of the “visual” telltale signs which I mentioned above (perhaps because the counterfeiters themselves have “wised up”), but, for sure, a lot of fake UGGs fail the “FIT TEST” and the “FUR TESTS” mentioned above, while a lot of their sellers fail the ‘tEST THE SELLER” tests.

Gable, Shed or Flat – How To Choose a Roof Type?

When we were building our house in Europe I wanted a flat roof. I’ve lived in India for a while in a house with 200 square meters flat roof and it was really amazing. You can go on it and walk and look at the sleeping city in the night. Lovely.

But we did not build a flat roof.

Apparently, roof types have their specifics and will not always fit your construction project, your weather or geographic location, or your budget. In this article I’ll draw your attention to the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular roof types – gable, shed or flat roof.

The gable roof consists of two equal sloped surfaces places in front of each other. There are two flat surfaces on the other two sides and often they are just sequels of the house wall. Usually the front entrance of the house is at the same side with one of these flat surfaces. The typical pith of such roofs is between 4/12 and 10/12. More than this means a really steep gable roof.

It is most popular in the Western countries and in the entire Europe. There are reasons for this. In these areas with temperate weather the roof must serve as insulation both from heat and from cold. Gable roof is good for this because it ensures a lot of air between the sloped surfaces and the actual ceiling of the house. Many houses allow using of this intermediate space either for storing stuff or for building small garrets.

Gable roof is also good for areas which have snow. The sloped surfaces fully cover the top of the house so now snow remains on it for long which reduces the problems with moisture.

Another advantage of the gable roof is that it is relatively simple to build and rather affordable. No surprise it’s so popular!

Don’t build gable roof if you live in a very windy area. These roofs get easily damaged from hurricanes.

The flat roof, like I already said earlier is very, very cool. It’s great for the hot season when you can use it as a huge terrace. You can have a play area on it or even a small pool (be careful with pools however as you don’t want water pouring in your house). In the recent years the green roofs become very popular, and essentially they are flat roofs as well.

In areas with heavy rains and snow this roof type may require a bit more investments in insulation and drainage system. Insulation will be fairly important if you live in a very hot area as well because there is no much air between the roof and your ceiling. One option is to build a ceiling under the roof allowing a meter or so but this means more money.

If you have a lot of sun out there think about installing solar panels on your roof – they’ll pay off long-term.

Finally, the shed roof is a very simple roof with a single sloped surface. It solves the problem with snow and drainage and provides some insulation area. For most houses the shed roof (known also as lean-to roof) looks a bit strange that’s why it’s typically used in garden buildings like sheds and garages. Some houses, especially mountain huts may look good with such roof.

There are also many other roof types you may want to check out before deciding what to choose: gambrel, mansard, hip, bonnet, cross gabled and more.

What Colors To Wear To A Job Interview

We all know that dressing professionally for a job interview can leave a good first impression with the employer, but what about the color of your attire? Have you ever wondered why doctors wear white or police officers wear blue? Or why black represents power and red implies passion?

Different colors influence people in different ways, emotions from trust to aloof and everything in between. Color psychologists and scientists have been studying the impact of colors for years and how people respond to different colors listed below. Keep this in mind when choosing what colors to wear to the job interview.

Black: Represents authority, power, and drama. Black can also make you appear unapproachable and overpowering. So avoid it when interviewing, unless in small amounts or as an accent color.

White: Symbolizes of purity, chastity, and cleanliness. White is a neutral color that goes with everything. It’s usually worn in shirts and blouses year round.

Blue: Signifies tranquility, authority, trust, and loyalty. It’s the best-selling color globally, and the one with the biggest success rate in job interviews. Blue is the ultimate “power color”.

Brown: Addresses credibility and stability. It’s the color of the earth and abundant in nature. Brown creates a neutral environment for open discussion.

Beige and tan: Similar to brown, are calming, stress reducing, earthy colors that invite communication. These colors are perceived as nonassertive and passive.

Gray: Denotes neutrality and sophistication. After blue, it’s the second most popular color to wear to a job interview. If you want to look confident without being overpowering in black, go for gray.

Red; Implies heat, danger, power, passion, and strength. The most emotionally intense color, red can stimulate a faster heartbeat and breathing. Use red as an accent color to motivate people to make quick decisions and increase expectations. It can also increase emotions during job interviews, so avoid wearing large amounts of red.

Orange: Like red, can stimulate strong emotions. Related to warmth and autumn, individuals who wear orange are perceived as having a strong personality. Bright orange, like bright red, will attract attention and induce intense emotions, so wear moderately in job interviews.

Yellow: Promotes a wide range of emotions, from cheer and goodwill to caution, and jealousy. However, people lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms than in rooms of other colors. It is the most difficult color for the eye to absorb, so it can be unbearable if overused. Wear in small doses in job interviews.

Green: Indicates nature, success, wealth, and security. A calming, refreshing color, green is the easiest color on the eye and most relaxing. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. People will feel comfortable with you without standing out in a job interview.

Purple: Symbolizes royalty, richness, power and sensitivity. It’s also the color of passion and love. Purple is often viewed as a “feminine” color, so avoid wearing purple when attending a job interview with a strong gender bias.

Pink: Inspires a variety of emotions, from fun and excitement to calm and low energy. Pink is viewed as a feminine color, and, like purple, should be worn with discretion in job interviews.

Odorless Paint and Its Advantages

Paint odors are not at the top of our list of concerns when embarking on a redecoration or home repaint job, however they can become a very unpleasant after-effect, and one potentially very harmful to human health. The unpleasant smell we usually associate with fresh paint comes from the so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC), organic chemical compounds which are found in very high concentrations in traditional solvents, paints and protective coatings in particular.

Paints with large amounts of VOCs have been proven to cause significant side-effects, particularly indoors. It is therefore essential to consider this aspect before embarking on a repaint project which may leave you unable to enter your house without getting a headache. One option in such cases – and one more readily available nowadays due to the rapidly-advancing technology – is to go for odorless paints, products which have a low concentration of VOCs and have the advantage of being water-based rather than petroleum-based.

Of course, you will have to manage your expectations a little bit: odorless paint is by no means completely stink-free, although its lack of solvents or else ammonia will make it considerably easier on the nose than traditional paint. However, odorless paint will smell differently – a sweeter, non-lingering smell which has the added advantage of being easily removed using good ventilation. Odorless paint is best suited for painting interior walls, all the more so since its durability typically will not match that of a traditional oil-based paint.

There are several types of odorless paints – the most common three categories are clay-based paint, milk-based and limestone-based paints. The latter type – also known as lime wash – may be used for exterior walls as well. Odorless paint has many other advantages. Its low VOCs concentration makes it the best choice for children nurseries and rooms, as well as for rooms used by people who have asthma and are sensitive to chemical agents which can irritate the upper respiratory tract.

In addition to being less chemically dangerous than traditional paints, odorless paints are also ideal for people looking to paint their walls in natural, earth tones. They are also environmentally friendly and less harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer. On the whole, a very good, Eco-friendly choice for most of us!

Common Pressure Washing Injuries

Many people underestimate the power of a pressure washing machine. Serious and even fatal injuries can result when using pressure washers improperly or if basic safety measures are ignored. The two main types of pressure washing machines are electric and gas. Electric machines emit water at pressures exceeding 1,000 pounds per square inch (PSI). Many gas pressure washers exceed 2.000 PSI and are capable of reaching pressures as high as 4,000 PSI on industrial units. Higher pressure is obviously a faster and more effective cleaning tool… but with the greater pressure, comes the greater chance for serious injury.

Serious injuries from a pressure washer may include abrasions, slip and falls, blindness, and high-pressure injection. The sheer pressure of water alone is powerful enough to cause an injury, but using chemicals during the cleaning process can make a bad situation even worse. Injuries and wounds sustained while pressure washing can appear deceptively benign but should always be examined and treated by a doctor or qualified emergency care provider.

Abrasions are a common injury associated with pressure washing. To reduce the risk of getting abrasions, wear protective clothing including gloves, closed shoes and long pants. Avoid pointing the pressure washer at yourself, other people and pets. Do not depress the trigger until you are sure of where the gun is pointing and use care not to spray your hands, feet or legs.

Slips and falls can lead to hospitalization or death. Wet surfaces will be more slippery and ice can form rapidly in cold climates. Using a pressure washer on a ladder or other elevated surface is dangerous due to the backward force of a pressure washing gun, which can easily throw a person off balance. Understand your work area and how water will affect the surface. Use appropriate safety harnesses when operating a pressure washer from a ladder, lift, or crane.

Blindness and other eye injuries can occur not only from being sprayed directly in the eye, but from foreign objects or chemicals flying through the air. The power of water at high pressure can send rocks, nails, glass, and other harmful debris hurtling through the air at damaging speeds. Chemicals and detergents can also splash up from the surface. Always wear shock resistant and splash resistant safety glasses or goggles when operating a pressure washer. In the event of a chemical-related eye injury, seek immediate medical help and be sure to take the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or label explaining the chemical’s properties for the physicians’ review.

High-pressure injection (HPI) occurs when water and other debris/chemical penetrates the skin and causes deep tissue damage. Serious infections are highly likely with HPI and may ultimately lead to permanent disability or amputation of the affected body parts. To lessen the risk of HPI, use wide angle or fan nozzles to disburse the pressure over a wider area. Solid stream nozzles can do more harm and should be avoided whenever possible. As with abrasions, wear protective clothing and never point the pressure washing wand at yourself or another person.

Special concerns for each specific type of machine should also be considered. With electric pressure washers (as with any electrical tool around water) there is the risk of electric shock. Use of gas-powered pressure washers can lead to asphyxiation by carbon monoxide inhalation when used without proper ventilation. Gas units are also loud and may result in hearing loss – hearing protection should be worn at all times. Misuse of hot-water and steam pressure washers may result in serious burns that could likely require medical attention. When operating any pressure washer be sure to read and understand its operation manual, paying special attention to all safety precautions.

Do not be one of the thousands of individuals each year that underestimate the power of a pressure washer and ultimately require hospitalization for their injuries. Give the machine the respect it deserves and use necessary safety measures for each particular situation. If you have any doubts about operating a machine, consider hiring a mobile pressure washing service to complete your project. A quick Internet search for “pressure washing in (your city)” will likely result in dozens of professional companies that would be happy to give you a free estimate.

Time for a Strategic Planning Makeover

Are you still doing traditional strategic planning?

If so, the time has come to put that sacred cow out to pasture and focus on strategic thinking. Otherwise, your business may not have the agility to keep up with today’s volatile markets.

Back when the world moved a lot slower and markets didn’t change overnight, the traditional strategic planning model served us quite well. But as we all know, the world has changed dramatically since this planning model was first introduced. We still need to plan. In fact, planning is probably more important than ever. What needs to change is why we plan and how we go about implementing our plans.

Traditional strategic planning looks out three to five years, predicts where your industry will be, and sets a firm course in that direction. It tends to be static rather than dynamic. So when the plan gets off track, as every plan does, management typically adopts a wait-and-see attitude, preferring to ride out any bumps in the plan rather than make any “unnecessary” adjustments. The end result is a business that struggles to achieve its goals. And one in which most employees have no clue where the organization is headed or how it will get there.

The new strategic planning model is much more fluid and flexible. You still set a target destination, but one that doesn’t look nearly as far into the future. And you still set intermediate goals and action steps to help you reach your destination. But instead of expecting the plan to unfold exactly as written, you focus on monitoring and measuring the plan on a regular basis and making adjustments in response to changing market conditions.

Here’s a quick comparison between the old strategic planning model and the new:

Old model: Plan three to five years out.

New model: Plan 12 to 18 months out.

Old model: Look at last year’s numbers and set this year’s goal three to five percent higher.

New model: Set this year’s target based on the opportunities available in the market, on what achieving excellence in a new (and constantly evolving) game looks like, not on what happened last year.

Old model: Set a firm target and a firm route for getting there.

New model: Set a firm destination and build in plenty of flexibility for how you will get there. Enable those closest to the work to make day-to-day decisions based on getting to the destination.

Old model: Announce the plan at the beginning of the year and then never say a word about it beyond sporadic management meetings.

New model: Constantly communicate the plan to all employees, using a variety of methods and media. Continuously address “here is why we will still win,” even when markets and conditions shift or plans unfold unexpectedly.

Old model: Put the plan on shelf to collect dust.

New model: Review the plan on a regular basis. Ideally, once a month. Once a quarter at minimum.

Old model: Invest a lot of time and energy in creating the plan. Then hope it happens.

New model: Make implementing the plan a priority. Keep it in front of yourself and everyone involved. Talk about it, measure it, and modify it as needed. This includes making quick mid-course corrections based on changes in your markets and customer needs.

Our business world moves far too quickly to waste time and resources crafting rigid strategic plans that become obsolete before we get halfway through. Success in today’s volatile markets requires moving from strategic planning to strategic thinking.

What’s the difference?

Traditional strategic planning involves a process of analysis. You do some research into what is and what is possible. You define a goal, break that goal down into manageable steps, and determine how to implement them while identifying the expected consequences of each step. It’s a logical, straightforward process designed to sequentially move the organization from where you are now to where you want to go.

Strategic thinking engages other parts of our brain in synthesizing. It uses intuition, creativity and “what if?” questioning to pull together an integrated perspective from a wide variety of data sources and create a vision of where the organization needs to go.

Strategic planning has a beginning and an end. Strategic thinking never ends. It becomes an integral part of how the organization conducts its business, and needs to be practiced by employees at all levels.

To develop the skill of strategic thinking in your organization:

Focus on a target. Start by getting very clear on what winning looks like for your organization (division, team, project, etc.). Then communicate your picture of winning over and over until everyone gets it.

Ask the right questions. When you can’t have all the data, the only alternative is to ask the right questions. Good questions get people to look at the same data differently, so that you get many different perspectives on any given issue. They also shift the energy so that people look to find what willinstead of what won’t.

Balance the big picture and the details along the way. With strategic planning, you set a firm course and stick to it as much as possible, making allowances for some deviation from the plan. Strategic thinking remains focused on the target (big picture) while staying open and flexible to changing what it takes to get there (the details).

Explore new channels. Broaden your horizons and expand your data gathering efforts beyond traditional sources. What’s happening beyond the walls of your business and your industry? Where else can you look to learn? How can you develop new ways of communicating and connecting with key stakeholders?

Teach strategic thinking skills. Teach people at all levels to anticipate opportunities and threats while managing their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Give them the training, coaching and mentoring to become more responsive to changing customer needs. Develop their creative problem solving skills, and help them understand how their decisions and actions impact the business in the future as well as today.

Focus on your vision of winning every day. How will you keep the right things in front of you to direct your attention, energy, and thoughts on winning? How can you get them in front of others? How will you stay clear on winning when major challenges and obstacles arise?

Strategic thinking involves a delicate balancing act between holding fast to your vision of winning while adjusting to the constant upheavals in the world around you. It also requires the development of new skills and ways of thinking. The ultimate goal is to develop strategic agility — the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions without losing focus on your vision of winning.

If you’re still doing strategic planning the old way, when the next big change hits your market or industry, don’t be surprised to find that you’re the one who gets left behind.

Top 5 Reasons Your Algae Eaters Are Dying

A lot of people are under the common misconception that they do not have to provide any food for their algae-eating crew. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth and results in a lot of fish casualties along the way. Here are a few tips that may help you keep your next pleco alive.

1. Offer them a varied diet of fresh greens and veggies.

There are many different types of algae that grow in the aquarium, and not all plecos will eat every single kind. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find an algae-eating fish that will show interest in species of algae outside of their specialty. For this reason, it is important to supplement their diet with various greens and veggies to keep them from starving. This also applies to snails, otocinclus, and any other algae-eating critter you’ve got in your tank.

2. Don’t keep multiple algae eating fish together.

Make sure that you don’t go overboard on fish and invertebrates that specialize in eating algae. If you do, there will be too much competition for a food source that simply cannot sustain all of them. Common plecos are also notorious for becoming territorial with their own kind as they mature, so eventually you may end up having problems keeping more than one in your fish tank set up.

3. Ditch the aquarium salt.

Many species of plecostomus are very sensitive to salt, so if you are adding aquarium salt to your tank you will have to decide between the pleco or the salt! The best thing you can do is research the species that you have purchased so that you can learn about its ideal environment.

4. Only purchase babies that have a well-rounded stomach.

This is a very important tip that is often overlooked. Don’t be afraid of asking for a specific pleco at the pet store – they may be fast but they are not impossible to catch! You do not want to bring home a baby that has a very sunken in stomach because this is a very good indication that it is not a healthy fish.

5. Research your chosen species before you purchase it.

Taking the time to learn about your fish is a huge part of keeping them alive. Many species of pleco and other algae eating fish have very specific care requirements that you will have to meet. For instance, some plecos rely heavily on a diet that contains drift wood, and some so-called algae eaters are not herbivores at all! Rather, they prefer a very meaty diet that usually results in them taking chunks out of your other peaceful community fish.

It’s very important to remember that your pleco (or other algae eating fish/snail) is not going to do the whole job for you. If you are having difficulty controlling excessive algae growth in your fish tank set up then you will need to figure out what the root cause is.

How To Get Out Of A Lease On Credit Card Equipment

A Leasing Nightmare

Leasing can be a very frustrating experience. I once called on a merchant who had 3 different leases and he wasn’t even sure what they were for. Upon examining his business checking account statement I was able to help him identify who the leases were to and what they were attached to.

It turns out he had a lease for his terminal, another separate lease for a pin pad, and a third lease of $89 a month which he’d been paying for 6 years and wasn’t even sure what it was for. This particular lease had expired after 5 years, but he was still unsuccessful getting the leasing company to stop taking money out of his checking account.

How can this be, you ask?

That’s a good question, one you’ll be able to answer by the time you’ve read all of this post.

Your Processor Is Not Your Leasing Company

Many merchants are surprised to learn that the credit card processor and the leasing company which owns the leasing contract a merchant signs are two entirely different business entities.

This means you are free to switch processors at any time (unless your card processor has you locked into one of those manipulative “Early Termination Fee” contracts I often rail against), and it will have no bearing whatsoever on your credit card terminal. Your new processor will simply download new software into your existing terminal.

Why Leases Are So Hard To Get Out Of

Something merchants don’t stop to consider when signing a merchant agreement (especially for the first time), is the lease they are signing is non-cancellable, with very few exceptions. What this means is you WILL make the payments for the full amount of the term, unless you violate the contract or negotiate your way out of it.

Why?

One reason is because the leasing company has already paid an upfront commission, which can be as high as $1,000+, to the salesperson who got you to sign a lease. So they’re definitely going to recoup what they’ve paid. But it goes beyond that.

Another reason it’s so hard is because they have a recording of your voice over the phone agreeing to the contract terms, before you can get the equipment.

I hate leases. Yes, I’d make a great upfront commission. But if I did that I’d also be forcing my merchant to pay as much as 10 x’s the value of the equipment by the time the lease expires. Forget that. I still want to be my clients friend 5 years down the road.

The Eternal Lease

Not only will you pay for the full term you agreed on for your lease, but the majority of leases will never end unless YOU STOP THEM. This is true even after the initial term of the lease has expired.

How can this be?

Simple.

The contract usually states it will remain if effect for ____ number of years, and continue beyond that until either party stops it. Often, they’ll insert a clause stating it will automatically renew itself in 1 year increments, unless the merchant stops it, in writing, at least 30 days prior to the expiration date. Meaning the contract will perpetually renew itself, until the merchant ends it..

This means that unless you have read your contract and written down when it ends you can end up being “eternally bound” to it. (What an ugly way to do business).

How To Legally Get Out Of The Lease

To end the lease you will need to know the terms and exactly what’s written in the contract. Here are 4 ways most of the leases I’ve encountered are structured to release you from further obligation – from “good” to worst.

  1. A $1.00 buyout. This means when the lease expires you can get out of it by paying $1.00 and you now own the equipment. As far as leases go this is the one that’s the most fair (other than outright owning it, which a few rare contracts allow)
  2. Fair market value This is saying that at the end of the lease term the leasing company will determine the current market value and require you to pay it to keep the equipment and end the lease.
  3. Send it back. I find this one particularly disgusting. After paying possibly 10 x’s the value of the machine over a 4 or 5 year period the leasing company demands you return the equipment to them or they’ll continue to debit your checking account – “eternally”.
  4. Lease buyout This is where they want you to pay for the remaining months of the contract and then the lease is over. I’ve listed this as the worst, but it’s only the worst if you’ve just started the lease, meaning it can potentially cost thousands of dollars, and again – at up to 10 x’s (or more) of the value of the terminal.

In Summary

With options like those listed above it’s no wonder they make sure to get your voice on record over the phone agreeing to the terms they state before you get the equipment. Unfortunately, they don’t disclose all the facts. If they did you probably wouldn’t go through with it.

Basically, they only get you to verbally commit to a “non-cancellable” lease, at “x” amount of dollars, for “x” number of months.

My suggestion? If I was obligated to an equipment lease I would immediately get out my contract and do the following:

  • Understand the terms of ending it… i.e., $1 buyout?, fair market value?, return equipment? etc.
  • I would find the exact month the lease was scheduled to expire – and
  • I’d get out my calendar and mark it for 60 days before the expiration date, upon which time I’d –
  • Send a certified letter stating that I want out of the lease on the expiration date

NOTE: Something most merchants don’t understand is that in the majority of cases the lease WILL NOT END UNLESS YOU TAKE ACTION. That means even if it’s called a “36 month” or “5 year” lease the timeline is only to state when you are eligible to end it – not when it will end.

Just writing about how these companies do business is almost enough to make my blood boil. And it should be enough for you to proceed with caution when leasing credit card equipment!

Guide to Portable Oxygen Tanks and Portable Oxygen Cylinders

Portable oxygen is a necessity for many people around the world. Primarily for those who suffer from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) which in simple terms means that their lungs are not absorbing and processing sufficient of it. As we all know we must be able to breathe to survive. Portable containers are also a standard piece of equipment for emergency services – ambulances, clinics, hospitals, firemen. Other sports related activities such as high altitude mountaineers or scuba divers also require these.

Although these tanks and cylinders come in different sizes, with different amounts of oxygen, and are made by different manufacturers there is a difference between a cylinder and a tank relating to the state (liquid or gas) and this difference means that there are variations, specially regarding durability, but also in the refilling process.

Many times the two terms are used to refer to either of these oxygen containers, but in actual fact one refers to a container that holds it in liquid form and the other to compressed oxygen.

The other important aspect is the portable side of the name. This means that the container is not a stationary structure and therefore can be moved around comfortably. There are also mobile tanks and cylinders and this restricts the size and weight as a user must be able to carry it comfortably. A portable tank or cylinder may be pulled along on a trolley for example, as its weight and size reduces the patients carrying ability – but it is still portable, and an excellent means of supplying oxygen while practicing many activities.

Portable Oxygen Tanks:

These are containers that hold liquid oxygen. The main advantage is you can store much more liquid oxygen than compressed oxygen gas, in the same volume of space. The oxygen relationship is approximately 860 to 1. In other words one liter of liquid oxygen is equivalent to 860 liters of compressed oxygen. One thing to note though, is that liquid oxygen does evaporate and therefore a certain amount is lost. Having said that it lasts much longer. Another aspect that is important is that the refilling process is not as simple and must be done by a professional supplier.

Portable Oxygen Cylinders.

These by default store compressed oxygen in its gaseous state. They hold less oxygen but now days with flow meter and regulators they are now more practical as much less oxygen is wasted than when flow is constant. From the point of view of the refilling side, it is much easier. The options are through a professional supplier or by connecting them to a home stationary oxygen concentrator (the third type of portable oxygen unit).

Both these options are practical and provide increased mobility.