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|June 26, 2012||6 Mo Ago
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|10 Year Treasury Bond Yield||1.63%||2.01%||2.93%||5.10%|
The Evolution of Shopping
In the late 19th century, it was considered morally unacceptable for women to appear in public on their own. Those that ventured out to engage in controversial activity, like shopping or restaurant dining, were mistaken for prostitutes.
Credit Marshall Field for changing the role of women in society. Add the rise of middle class America to his credit as well.
Field grew up on a Massachusetts farm and realized at a young age that the world offered far more than tilling the soil.
He took a job as a clerk at a local store and was fired after just two weeks. The owner felt he was incompetent to handle such tasks.
Undaunted, he moved to a nearby town where he clerked at general store. But he grew restless. general store. But he grew restless.
At 21, Field moved to Chicago and quickly found work as a clerk for Cooley, Wadsworth & Co. Working 18 hour days and sleeping in the store to save money paid off. His rise to general manager and partner was swift.
Yet Field had greater vision. In 1865, he formed Field, Palmer, Leiter & Co., which became Marshall Field's by 1881.
Chicago was a booming town at the time. And he was, in part, responsible for the city's growth.
Field quickly learned what people needed in a changing country. By operating as a cash business, he had no debt during hard economic times. He bought goods for cash and sold on 30 or 60 day terms rather than giving customers all the time they needed to repay.
He was the first to institute a no-questions-asked return policy. His motto was "The customer is always right."
Perhaps Field's greatest instinct was knowing what women wanted. He added a restaurant, tearoom and salon to his store, and hired female clerks to make women feel comfortable shopping for personal items. The shopping district became the place where women could go in public without compromising their reputation.
The Chicago fire in 1871 destroyed most of the town, including Field's store. Despite losing about $3.5 million, $64.5 billion in today's money, he started over by building the world's largest store.
Those were the glory days of the retail industry. You would walk into a store and be taken in by the grandeur of the architecture and ambiance. Touch the merchandise, feel its quality, try it on for size.
Stroll the sidewalks during the holiday season to peer into artfully crafted window displays. Despite best efforts, you can't get the same effect gazing at an artfully designed website window.
After 140 successful years, Field's became part of the Macy's chain in 2006. Macy's itself is struggling to survive in this online shopping world.
But unlike Circuit City and Borders, Macy's is one of the few retailers who have found a way to compete. No small feat when you consider all the obstacles the Internet has thrown into their path.
Today's shopper merely walks into a brick and mortar establishment to see if it holds items of their fancy. If it does, they look for the same item online to see where it can be found cheaper. The store owner, who had to purchase inventory for display as well as maintain overhead, serves as nothing more than a place to escape the sun or mall crowd.
Unless the store holds something that can't be found online. Something unique or distinctive. And that's exactly what Macy's, Coach, Nordstrom but very few others have done.
By offering proprietary or exclusive items on their shelves or on their own website, the retailers are guaranteed the customer will buy from them. Certain items may be found on Amazon or eBay, but they merely serve as a teaser. If you want to browse the full range of offerings, you have to visit the retailer either in person or online.
Macy's is introducing Internet-enabled cash registers that help sales people find out-of-stock inventory that may be available at a different store or on their website. They're also tailoring their goods by region and at the store level based on local customer need.
Coach offers a limited supply of their luxury handbags on websites like Amazon. But for an insider's view of their full line of products, you have to visit their store or their own website. They've begun to offer laptops or iPads at certain stores to allow customers to browse their catalog online and purchase in-store.
Online customers can select a Coach store for pickup, where it will be ready and waiting within an hour.
Nordstrom launches free online shipping in September, in time for the busy holiday shopping season. They offer an app for the iPhone and Google Android phones, and upgraded their website and mobile site for ease of use and improved delivery speed.
Marshall Field observed that the man who learned the quickest fared the best. He'd be proud of how these three retail giants have withstood the challenges of a rapidly-changing industry.
|On The World Wide Web
It may be summer but hunger doesn't take a vacation. Angels of God Clothing Closet offers a Summer Snack Bag program for lower income families to help parents struggling to keep food on the table while burdened with extra child care costs when the kids aren't in school. The program runs from July 1st through August 31st. Find out how you can help.
Congratulations to Pilots 'N Paws volunteer Jeff Bennett on his 1,000th animal rescue. You first read about Jeff here when I shared the story of our journey to adopt our own furry family member. Now read the story of his milestone 1,000th rescue.
Which foods contain the most pesticides and which boast the lowest? Learn which items to buy organic.
Making Charitable Donations
If you are like many Americans, you donate funds to local charities, causes close to your heart, or other worthwhile foundations or organizations. Charities perform many vital services in our communities and around the world. Services provided by charities can vary widely, anything from providing basic necessities such as food, water, or clothing to financial support, medical care, scholarships, event tickets, preserving artwork or historical buildings, protecting the environment, defending the downtrodden, safeguarding animals, or even making wishes come true.
When you give money to a charity, you expect that your funds will be used to benefit the cause you have chosen. What you don't expect is to lose your money to a charlatan operating a sham charity. These days, you can't be too careful. There seem to be more and more charities popping up every day, making it hard to distinguish the worthwhile from the fraudulent. So, how can you be sure that you are giving to a bona fide organization that will use your funds as you have intended? The following are some tips to help you avoid bogus charities.
There are several warning signs to look for that may signify the charity you are dealing with may be bogus. Warning signs include charities that:
- ask for donations in cash. Cash is cash. Once it's gone, it's gone. For security and tax reasons, always pay by check made payable to the charity (not a telemarketer or solicitor).
- use a name that closely resembles another well-known organization. The American Red Crossed is not the same as The American Red Cross. Know to whom you are giving your money.
- refuse to give you information about itself, such as a street address (not a PO Box), phone number, mission statement, or how your donation will be used.
- put pressure on you to make a decision right away, especially over the phone.
- tell you they can not send you information in the mail or can not send you information in the mail unless you make a donation.
- guarantee you sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation.
- thank you for a donation that you do not remember making. Fraudsters know that it is easier to obtain a donation if the victim thinks that they have already given in the past.
- open up overnight in connection with natural disasters. Give to established organizations that have the infrastructure to get your contribution to the affected area.
If you are unsure about an organization, do a little research before you give. The following are a few of the free resources available that will provide you information about legitimate charities. Please note however, that many small, new or local charities may not be rated or listed, such as police and firefighter groups.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance: 703-276-0100
American Institute of Philanthropy: 773-529-2300
Another thing you can do to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate charity is to check with officials at the office that regulates charitable organizations for your state to learn if the one you are considering must be registered. If registration is required, confirm that it is. A list of state offices that regulate charitable contributions is available on the website for the National Association of State Charity Officials.
For more information on avoiding charity fraud, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. If you think you have been a victim of charity fraud, you can also file a complaint on the FTC website (or call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP), or contact your state Attorney General or your local consumer protection agency. Contact information for your state's Attorney General is available on the National Association of Attorneys General website. A listing of local consumer protection agencies is available on the USA.gov website.
Tip of the Week
Facebook launched its own email service in 2010. Did you notice? Not many people did. But everyone knew it this week when they assigned all site users an @facebook.com address and assigned it as default to appear on your timeline. This is different than the address used to send messages within the service. If you prefer your friends see your personal email address rather than the one assigned by Facebook, there's an easy fix. Click About on your profile and scroll to your email addresses. Choose Edit. From there you can choose which addresses appear on your timeline. Don't forget to save the page.
ASSET ALLOCATION: An investment portfolio that divides assets among major asset categories - bonds, stocks and cash.
For the purpose of asset allocation, there are three major asset classes: stocks, bonds and cash. Stocks, which represent a share of ownership in a business, are essential to long-term investment planning because historically, they increase in value. Traditionally, bonds have been seen as fixed-income producing investments because the interest they pay is typically fixed. Bonds also play an important role in balancing movement in the stock market and in providing a cushion against stock market volatility. Cash and cash equivalents, such as U.S. Treasury bills and bank certificates of deposit, offer safety and liquidity for money that might be needed within a relatively short time frame. Since each of these three types of assets responds differently to shifts in the economy and markets, spreading money among stocks, bonds and cash equivalents can help investors ride out market uncertainty.
The terms "asset allocation" and "diversification" are commonly confused. While asset allocation refers to the different asset classes (stocks, bonds and cash), diversification refers to the process of further dividing your investment dollars within each of the three asset classes. Allocating a portion of your investments in each asset class to appropriate subcategories can further reduce risk and enhance return. Diversification is not just a good strategy; it's a key to successful investing. We all have heard about the bad experiences of putting all our eggs in one basket, so by mixing things up, i.e. diversifying, you can go a long way toward protecting yourself from becoming dependent on any one sector of the market.
How to allocate your assets depends on a number of factors including your financial goals, age, tolerance for risk, current and long-term income needs and even your tax situation. As you move through different stages in your life, your best asset allocation scenario is likely to change. Younger individuals with a longer time horizon should invest a higher proportion in stocks, the best investment for growth. However, as you get closer to the time when you will need the money you have invested, you should adopt a more conservative strategy and gradually begin reducing the amount invested in stocks and increasing the portion of your investment allocated to bonds and cash. This reallocation may become particularly important as you approach retirement.
Over time, as different asset classes increase or decrease in value with shifting market conditions, the mix of assets in your portfolio may become inconsistent with your planned asset allocation strategy. When that happens, you need to reallocate or rebalance your assets to bring your portfolio back to the proper allocation. If one asset class has surpassed your planned percentage, you should reinvest the proceeds in a class of assets that has under-performed. For example, if stock prices rise and your portfolio becomes weighted toward stocks, you can return your portfolio to the right mix by selling some stock and increasing your investment in bonds. This method has the added benefit of forcing you to employ a "sell high, buy low" strategy as you take profits out of assets whose prices have gone up and reinvest that money in assets that are cheap.
"Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy." - Marshall Field
Today in History
1848 - The first pure food law is enacted in the U.S.
Marshall Field died at age 71 from pneumonia contracted while playing golf on New Year's Day with Abraham Lincoln's oldest son.
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