Posts Tagged ‘business’

99 Cents Only: The real impact of the “price hike” to 99.99 cents

August 31, 2010

In September 2008, 99 Cents Only Stores (NYSE: NDN) across the states of California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada raised their top prices for the first time in 26 years  to 99.99 cents “in response to dramatically rising costs and inflation”, according to Chief Executive Officer Eric Schiffer.  As you can see in excerpts of the news conference, major television stations in Southern California such as ABC7 and NBC4, as well as the satellite and cable television business news channel, CNBC, were on hand to broadcast the unprecedented announcement locally as well as nationally and internationally.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.I remember watching the news conference in 2008 with great interest, especially because one my classes in graduate school covered a lengthy case study about 99 Cents Only.  The economy was in better shape when I took that class, so the thought of any price increases was unheard-of at the time, but we know better now.  It seems that the extra $12 million from the price increase would make a minimal impact on the total sales of $1.2 billion that 99 Cents Only reported in the year that ended in March 2008.  However, with a net income of $2.89 million, measures such as the price increase were necessary to make sure that the company’s net income remains stable.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.The news that the company was recently hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices surprised me, as did Schiffer, who said, “We changed all the signs, we have a large poster in the window of every store explaining the increase, we put it in our ads in the newspaper, we put it on the radio.”  The coverage about the price increase in Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Reuters was, apparently, not enough to inform the public.

How much are the 99 Cents Only Stores’ customers being “gouged” as a result of the price increase?  Let’s use an example, years apart:

In 2006, a family decides that they want to donate 150 cans of soup to a local food bank.  They buy all 150 cans at a 99 Cents Only Store in Los Angeles.

150 cans * $0.99/can = $148.50
$148.50 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $160.75

Four years later in 2010, the same family decides to donate another 150 cans of soup to another food bank.  They buy the soup from the same 99 Cents Only Store.  For the sake of comparison, I left the tax the same.

150 cans * $0.9999/can = $149.99
$149.99 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $162.36

However, the sales tax in Los Angeles County went up from 8.25% to 9.75% in 2009, so this is how much the family is really paying:

$149.99 * (1 + 9.75% tax) = $164.61

Difference in subtotals between 2006 and 2010:
$149.99 – 148.50 = $1.49

Difference in final totals (if the sales tax remained the same)
$162.36 – 160.75 = $1.61

Actual difference in final totals
$164.61 – 160.75 = $3.86

When comparing the subtotals, you can see that the price increase added a mere $1.49 to the subtotal and, if the same sales tax was used, the final total went up $1.61.  However, the updated sales tax must be used instead, so the actual difference between the final totals is $3.86.  In Los Angeles County, at least, the sales tax was the reason for higher prices.

Do you think the accusations against 99 Cents Only are justified or unfounded?  Post your comments below.

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Francis M. Unson

Welding Explained

March 9, 2010
Rick Montoya, Welding Aluminum Forging

Rick Montoya, Welding Aluminum Forging

Rick Montoya, president of Valencia Welding, Inc., has worked at Santa Clarita Valley’s Industrial Park for almost 30 years and has done welding with a variety of metals during that time span, from steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and even titanium alloys in aerospace applications.  Unbeknown to me, a non-welding techie, it turns out that there are many, many ways to stick two pieces of metal together.  I won’t give you the earful that Rick gave me, but a small primer about what holds your copper pipes together as well as the titanium tubes in the B-2 Bomber, is forthcoming.

Please retweetWelding has come a long way in a very short time span.  Even as recently as the end of the 1800s, welding consisted of one process alone: forge welding, the process in which blacksmiths joined metals together by heating and hammering them.  However, by the start of World War I, a demand for reliable and inexpensive joining methods brought forth new arc welding and related processes.  The Space Age in the 1950s demanded precision, giving birth to laser beam and electron beam welding. By the turn of the 21st century, the industry had a wide array of welding processes at their disposal.

I alluded to a specific type of welding, but generally speaking, what is welding?  It is a fabrication process that joins materials, such as metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence and is usually done by melting the parts with a filler material, forming a pool of molten material that, when cool, becomes a strong joint, depending on the metals used.  On the other hand, the titanium welds that Rick has performed were done in a Spacetron Vacuum Chamber at Spacetron Metal Bellows, a provider of complex, titanium bellows and precision-welded titanium structures for the aerospace industry, where Rick is Chief Operating Officer (COO).

If I didn’t drink so much coffee, I’d have the steady welder’s hand that he has.

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Francis M. Unson

Brainstorming before writing

March 5, 2010

Sometimes, I must take a step back, take a pen and pad, and start mapping out what to write.  When my blog entries concern current events or topics I have considerable knowledge in, however, I can make do writing off the top of my head.  I am a techie at heart, so I can write about a wide arrange of tech-related topics, but based on my wide range of interests, I can write about any of those, as well.

The challenge I face with my clients, then, is writing quality blog entries about their businesses and discussing relevant topics about the business or industry.  I have turned to the trusty “spider diagram”, a brainstorming tool, and have found general topics I can expand upon.  Some industries are known by name alone by the public, and I hope I can unlock the air of mystery that surrounds them.

What brainstorming activities do you do prior to writing a blog, essay, or paper?

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Francis M. Unson

How to organize a successful yard sale

February 1, 2010

Why would you have a yard sale? Two reasons come to mind: to get rid of your excess clutter and, of course, to make money.  After all, “a person’s junk is another person’s treasure.”  In order to have a successful yard sale, follow these tips:

  • Follow these steps if you want to organize a successful yard sale.Gather your inventory.  If you haven’t used it, worn it, or it has sat in an obscure corner of your living room or closet for over a year, it becomes inventory.  Don’t give the item a second look; you didn’t give it a second look in a long time, anyway.
  • Do your homework.  No price gouging!  Visit a yard sale or two (or more) and do price comparisons.  Furthermore, depending on where you live, you may need a permit.  Know the rules!
  • Set the date.  Don’t overlook this detail.  Setting a date for the yard sale forces you to manage your time more effectively; you will not decide halfheartedly to do a yard sale “sometime in the spring”.
  • Advertise! Post BIG signs at the entrances of your neighborhood.  Set up a Facebook Fan Page.  Tweet about the yard sale.  Just get the word out!  The more foot traffic you can direct (or divert) to your yard sale, the more successful it will be.
  • Prep and price.  In order to save yourself a lot of time and energy during the yard sale, price every item you intend to sell.  Use masking tape or adhesive stickers.  Bundling will give shoppers added value.  Selling a dozen candlesticks for $10 will go faster than selling each candlestick for $1.
  • Setup shop.  Use your front yard, driveway, or garage.  Make sure that would-be shoppers can see the yard sale from the road.  Set up your wares on foldout tables, plywood, or old rubs.  Use a money-box or even a muffin tray if you are going to make change.  Keep a watchful eye over your inventory.
  • Sell, sell, sell! Just don’t sit there waiting for the customers to come to you.  Walk around, interact with the customers, and talk to them.  Share lots of information about the items.  The more information you give them, the less questions they will ask.  Offer free coffee and sell donuts.  If they’re eating, they’re staying–and if they’re staying, they’re buying, right?
  • Following the sale.  Box the unsold inventory and donate them to charity.  Go around the neighborhood and remove all the signs you put up.  Send a thank-you Tweet on Twitter for peoples’ participation.  And finally, take out the family to well-earned dinner.

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Francis M. Unson

Twitter: The anatomy of a Tweet for SMB promotion

January 25, 2010

Please retweetDisclosure: Valencia Welding, Inc. is a client.

Twitter has much promise in promoting small and medium businesses (SMB), which can use as much promoting and marketing across a widespread social media network as possible. How, then, should SMB’s produce compact, yet effective, messages, or Tweets, to promote themselves?

Example Tweet Unlabeled

Example Tweet Unlabeled

The Tweet, above, is one of a variety of Tweets that I use to promote my client, Valencia Welding, Inc. in Santa Clarita, California. To the untrained eye, the Tweet is intimidating, but if you befriend, or “follow”, other Twitter users that are very well-versed and knowledgeable in the use of Twitter (I recommend @TweetSmarter or @anthonystevens4), you will learn a lot about the medium. Below, I break down each part of the Tweet and why it is important.

Anatomy of a Tweet for SMB promotion

Anatomy of a Tweet for SMB promotion

“Client’s business name as a hashtag.” A hashtag is a word or phrase, preceded by a pound (#) sign, that allows it to be seen in Twitter’s public timeline. Furthermore, hashtags effectively index the word or phrase and allow it to be searched easily. Note that #ValenciaWelding is contained within a single hashtag with no spaces. If I attempted to create a hashtag in the following manner (#Valencia Welding, with a space in between), the hashtag would apply to “Valencia” but not “Welding”.

“City where business is located.” This is self-explanatory. I used up to five hashtags for the location of the client’s business because Valencia Welding is located in the community of Valencia, within the city limits of Santa Clarita Valley, CA. Locally, the city is referred to as “SCV”.

“Promoting the client as a Small and Medium Business.” This is also self-explanatory.

“Link to a blog with more information about the client.” The number of characters allowed for Tweets is limited to 140 characters, making Twitter a great medium for generating buzz. Like reading a newspaper, Tweets serve as attention-grabbing headlines, and a blog is the best place to give more information about the client.

“Twitter username of the social media company promoting the client.” My company’s username, @FlowerBlossoms, serves as a signature at the end of the Tweet.

Lastly, notice that I circled the number “33” at the upper right corner of the text box. That is the remaining number of characters allowed for the Tweet out of 140 characters. It is important that your Tweets are no more than 120 characters in length so that other people can forward, or “Re-Tweet”, your message to their followers.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please drop me a line.

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Francis M. Unson

Valencia Welding: Interview with Rick Montoya, President (part 3)

January 22, 2010
  1. Please retweetAre you looking to hire in the coming year?
    Yes, I would like to start hiring once students graduate from the welding program at COC.  They will join the Valencia Welding team to do welding and fabricating services and make repairs on site at local restaurants.  Also, we were invited to participate in the second annual business expo/job fair, which will be held at the OLPH campus in Santa Clarita.
  2. Going the extra mile for our customers.
    On one occasion, I was clear across the Santa Clarita Valley when one of our customers called and needed a weld repair on a critical stainless steel mold.  Without this weld repair, they would not be able to proceed with the production of their products.  Plus, the customer was at their facilities waiting to see the production of their product get back online.  So I got a call at 7:00AM in the morning and had to go across town and be at my customer’s facility within the hour to perform the weld repair.  I arrived within the hour, completed the weld repair, and my customer and their customer were very happy with the results and the production went back on track.

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Francis M. Unson

Valencia Welding: Interview with Rick Montoya, President (part 2)

January 21, 2010
  1. Please retweetWhat niche are you serving with your business?
    The niche of Valencia Welding is a quick turnaround to work closely with our customers to get their product completed.
  2. What products and/or services do you offer?
    We offer welding and fabricating services.
  3. What kind of promotions do you have?
    N/A
  4. What do you like about working in the Santa Clarita Valley?
    I love working in the Santa Clarita Valley.  The people and businesses are great.  We are like a big family.
  5. In terms of your business, what are you looking forward to in the coming year?
    I am looking forward to expanding the business into the Antelope and San Fernando Valleys as well as working together with the Welding Department at the College of the Canyons (COC) to train welders for this type of welding.

    (to be continued…)

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Francis M. Unson

Local Business Promotion Through Foursquare

January 21, 2010

Please retweetI have seen an increasing number of Tweets from people advertising the address of where they are as well as the badges earned for frequenting a place.  It turns out that many of these people are using Foursquare, a mobile application that combines elements from Facebook and Twitter into a social networking tool that lets users find each other via mobile posts and join up at popular places.  The application encourages people to explore the cities in which they live and promote local businesses such as restaurants and movie theaters.  Read more

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Francis M. Unson

Valencia Welding: Interview with Rick Montoya, President (part 1)

January 20, 2010
  1. Please retweetWhat is your name?
    Rick Montoya.
  2. What is the name of your business?
    Valencia Welding, Inc. (VWI)
  3. What year did you establish your business?
    1994
  4. How did you go about getting your business started?
    I saw a need for commercial welding services in the Santa Clarita Valley, so I launched Valencia Welding to serve machine shops and manufacturing companies in Valencia’s industrial parks.  We started off doing repairs on aluminum injection molds, welding hardware for our customer’s products and fabricating steel tables and storage racks.Now, VWI has launched a new service, specializing in restaurant weld repairs, fabrication and installation of stainless steel and aluminum kitchen equipment.

    (to be continued…)

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Francis M. Unson

How to Build a Rainwater Collection System

January 19, 2010

Given the amount of rain that has arrived so far from the storm systems that are hitting Southern California, it brings to mind how desert dwellers (and Santa Clarita is near a desert region) make the most of the rainfall.  In order to collect as much of that rainfall as possible, people have built into their houses or businesses a rainwater collector.  While the water isn’t potable for human consumption, the water collected can be used for watering the plants or for the bathroom.  Read more

The following YouTube video, by bsntechdotcom, discusses what materials are needed to create an elevated rainwater collection system.

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Francis M. Unson

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