Craft shops: Moving from the Stall to the Online Store

Craft

When a retail giant like Penny’s, whose market strategy has traditionally been pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap, suddenly takes a leap into the eCommerce arena, you know there has to be something to this online retailing.

From Tesco to Amazon, these massive retailers have recognised a shift in consumer behaviour. Customers no longer have the luxury of an hour for lunch with which to wander around the shops or time after work with which to do the grocery shopping. Nowadays lunch invariably consists of a hastily inhaled sandwich while manning the phone-lines and absorbing the latest updates through social media platforms, while grocery shopping is ordered sitting in traffic dreaming of dinner but making your way to the gym instead. Retailers have to fit into this new fast paced world to prosper. The manner with which they do this will be the difference between making enough to put bread on the table, or, making so much they manage to give the whole family gout.

A company could be fortunate, like An Post, where this tidal wave of change carries them from one era to another seamlessly; as snail-mail dies a death, parcel delivery from online purchasing has increased dramatically, and looks set to continue into the future. Postmen are no longer shoving unwanted bills into spider infested post-boxes, but rather are more akin to Santa’s elves asking people to sign for little parcels of joy.

However, if you are not so fortunate, you must then be a little creative.

Online shopping offers the small and agile retailer a chance to reach the hearts and minds of their customers, and through that, their wallets. There have been leaders in this charge; C&A allowing the number of virtual likes to be shown above the product in their physical stores, Urban Hitlon Weiner giving credit to customers for posting selfies, Kate Spade creating a digital storefront.  These strategies take advantage of activities in which their customers are already engaged and capitalise on them. They convert product interaction into purchase opportunity, turning the passive consumer into an engaged advocate.

All around us the traditional tools of retail are being adapted and modernised. “Customers who purchase this item also purchased…” has become the online version of sweets at the till. “Share this purchase” is the online equivalent of parading the bargain you picked up at lunch to your co-workers. “What other customers are looking at right now..” induces the same panic of a half empty shelf holding this Christmas’ must-have item.

Communication is moving forward, and retail is moving with it. The new era holds untold opportunity to those who embrace it, ask HMV what happens to those who don’t.

Long Read – Women against Pregnant Women

women against pregnant women

 

This post was conceived as an impassioned plea on behalf of new fathers to receive more assistance from society (via the government) to allow them the time to bond with their children. But after an incident in a local hair salon* it has become a rant against women.

(*As a side note – any politician who wants to know what the pressing issues are for their female constituents needs to get their arse into a hair dressers or beautician’s chair. I don’t care if your hair is only an inch long and in perfect condition, this is where women talk to women, and where women chatter, issues are aired.)

Let me take a step back and set the scene. I was sitting in a hairdressers chair flicking thought the latest OK Magazine, gossiping about Kate Middleton’s maternity style (ok, sometimes when women chatter nothing meaningful is discussed, but stick with me) when the girl dying my hair told me she was pregnant. I was so excited for her I think I may have squealed aloud. I don’t know what it is about pregnancies and engagements – they just excite and delight everyone even if they are random strangers – or so I thought. However the girl (perhaps a little overwhelmed by my excitement wondering if I thought I was going to be made godmother or something) informed me that no, in fact not everyone was excited about pregnancies, and proceeded to tell me that she had told several of her regular clients that she was pregnant, and far from congratulating her, they were actually very put out. The manners their Mamma taught them made them grind out an ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ through gritted teeth and then straight away ask ‘when will you be gone and more importantly when will you be back’ – words which if said in an office would evoke the same sort of shocked silence a racist slur would arouse, so absolutely known is it that that is not the correct response to happy news.

But not here. Everyone surrounding waits for this young girls reply. She hesitantly admits (admits!) that she is due December 23rd, so she is finishing up December 8th, two weeks before her due date as set out in the legislation, (bearing in mind that her profession requires her to stand all day long, when I know that at 8 months it was a problem for me to sit all day long, so as far as I’m concerned she is cutting it fine, but there you have it.) ‘So you will be gone for Christmas? So I’ll need to find someone else to do my hair?’ is spat back at her with a scowl that could sour milk ‘Can you not work until Christmas, surely that would be better, a little cash for you going into Christmas.’

At this point I would like to interject with a little context. This is a conversation between two women, two women who know each other, albeit casually, for more than five years. One is an older lady with children, the client, and the other is a younger first time mother who relies on repeat regular clients for her livelihood. In essence this is a conversation between an employer and employee.

And I would like to take this one step further. Let’s take the words of the client and put them into a balding, sweating, middle-aged male business owner and replay the situation; girl tells boss that she is pregnant – boss aggressively questions her plans for leave during the busy season and implies there will be no job for her when she returns to work …. And let it percolate… And now let’s speculate how long (and I mean in terms of minutes) do you think it would take that girl to find a solicitor ready to sue that boss for unfair dismissal on grounds of pregnancy. Not only would the case not take long, and her success guaranteed, but so protected are pregnant women in employment law that I assume she would win big. Even if only a supervisor or colleague had said it I assume that there would be more than pregnancy weight filling out her back pocket.

Now let’s step back into the salon. Is the hairdresser able to sue? No, she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs. Is she able to say she is unhappy with the client’s reaction and that it is upsetting to her? Again, no, because she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs, who knows that she is about to lose a lot of regular customers because she dared have a personal life and a family life. So instead she has to try and laugh it off, pray that she doesn’t go into labour early and try to imply without committing that actually she will probably be only gone for a short period of time, and will probably be back to work on Saturdays really quickly, probably within the month.

The double standard at play here is mind boggling to me. How some women safe in regulated office jobs are treated so completely different to those who dared branch out on their own to be self-employed, not by the law, but by the women that surround them.

When I sat down to write this post I was thinking about the Dads. I was thinking how unfair it is that women get several months paid maternity leave and Dads are not even entitled to one day. I was looking to the Danish and Swedish models and thinking why can’t we be more like them? But actually, after the above incident, I have realised that we are actually much further apart than I could have realised. Far from supporting fathers (who are important and I’ll cover that again) we need to start supporting mothers.

Pregnancy, particularly unexpected pregnancies, can cause huge dramatic changes in a person’s life. We as a society need to be assuring young women that of all the things that will change, one thing that will remain secure is their employment. This is not something that a government can change or a law can change, we need to change. We need to stop being so selfish and self-centred and look beyond a minor inconvenience to see the bigger picture, a miracle growing before your eyes. There is going to be a new life, a new person in the world, who will fundamentally change all those around them. And although you might be only witnessing this as a stranger on the outside, the very least you can do is cause no harm. Don’t stress a young mother unnecessarily. Don’t be nasty and let her hear the branch creak below her. Support her. Say honestly and openly ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ – no strings attached. When she is gone, make other arrangements and when she is ready, and her child is ready, and her family are ready, for her to return to work, let her do so, in the same way as is afforded every other woman in the state.

What bothered me most about this incident is that it was woman to woman; mother to mother. As a society we have already decided that it is in our combined interest to protect women and allow them to have children and then return to the workplace. That is why we have such strong laws in the area. But as individuals we have somehow forgotten why our predecessors fought so hard for those laws. It’s not the male dominated culture of the board room, or the non-family-friendly policies of faceless big business, or any of the other excuses that are trotted out by HR journals, at work here. It’s just plain stupidity, ignorance and selfishness. Sometimes that’s more toxic.

 

Please note the details of this post have been altered to protect the identities of those involved.

Web Awards 2014: We made it to the Quarter Finals

web awards 2014

Like a plucky New York ladies football team trying for the Sam Maguire Cup, we are at dazzling heights of success here, having reached the Quarter Finals stage of the Web Awards 2014. For a team that would have been delighted with mid-table obscurity, to achieve this much this quickly is an amazing feeling. We count ourselves lucky not to be fighting relegation to the Award Programme for those using English as a foreign language.

To keep us fighting fit for the rest of the competition we are taking a leaf from Kieran Donaghy’s book (the captain of the winning Kerry team in the All Ireland final) and arranging for “morning juices” to keep up our stamina.

Go on the Girls in a peculiar shade of Sage Green, we can do it!!

The Web Awards will take place during a glitzy affair on October 22nd in Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin. We are nominated in the Best Web Only Publication category and the Best Daily Web Only Publication category.

How to ask for a raise

1950s Raise

There is nothing worse than opening your online banking account and realising that you are over-drawn, again. Until you realise that the bank is going to start fining you so that you become deeper in debt, and even when you finally do get paid and clear it, this whole cycle is going to restart three days after payday. It is at those moments you think… do you know what  … I could really do with a raise.. but like most of us, you have probably never been told how to go about getting one?

If your organisation does not have a regular performance and salary review process, or your contract does not include an annual appraisal (or even better, guaranteed increase) then you will have to bite the bullet and ask for a raise – if you don’t ask you won’t get.

Here are some tips to make the process as successful as it can be.

1. Plan in advance.

Unfortunately it’s no good opening your horrendously overdrawn credit card bill one evening, and then marching into the boss’s office the next morning looking for a raise. You need time to plan your strategy, and get yourself prepared.

Start planning six months to a year before having that meeting.

Also give your boss time to prepare – don’t march into their office Friday afternoon when they are trying to get out the door or Monday morning when they are tackling a hundred emails; schedule a time for the meeting that is good for both of you and let them know the topic/agenda in advance.

2. Layout all the reasons why you are a more valuable asset now than you were when you last negotiated your salary.

Have several concrete examples where you either generated income or saved costs for the company. Make sure your contribution is clear, and how, if some else less experienced had been in your role then the outcome would have been different.

3. Prepare for negotiation

At the end of the day, you are basically asking your boss to pay themselves a little less so that they can pay you a little more, expect them to argue against the proposal. Know all the things that went wrong in the past year (there is always something) and think about the things you did to lessen the impact or even make it better.

Even if your boss does not bring up the particular examples you think of, the process of having prepared answers will better prepare you to be able to think on your feet in response to anything that they bring up.

4. Save up your bargaining chips.

If you traipse into your bosses office everyday making a series of financial demands (like you want a new chair cause you don’t like the colour of yours, or a new desk because Jayne in Accounting has a nicer one than you, or a new computer because yours is, like, so last year) then they are less likely to take this demand for a pay increase seriously and are already very used to refusing your demands without consequence. Save up the things you want and make a concise list – prioritise what you need verses what you want, and be prepared to be told that with the cost of the new chair, desk and computer there is simply no budget left to give you a raise.

5. Be specific. Have a figure or percentage in mind.

Do not ask for a general raise – be specific about what you want and have a reason for that figure. Also know that your boss will try to negotiate this down, so go in with a slightly higher figure and know where your bottom line is.

6. Compare yourself to the current market place – know the worth of your skillset.

This will allow you to make a more reasonable proposal, and help you provide a reason for the raise you are requesting. However, be clear on what it is that you are benchmarking yourself against – be sure to read the full job description and not just the job title.

7. Be prepared to give and take.

Your boss might agree to a raise, but it may come with extra responsibilities. Remain open-minded about these, and remember you can always end the conversation without conclusion so you can consider the options on the table and then resume the conversation again a few days later.

8. Have alternatives in mind.

If your boss says no, unfortunately the company cannot afford raises right now, have some alternatives ready that they might be able to consider instead:

  • Could you stay on the same salary but work reduced hours? Possibly get a half day on a Friday, start later or finish earlier? This is a raise, just in a different disguise; and it might make a greater contribution to your quality of life than a bit more cash.
  • Would they pay for you to go on a course or attend a conference? This will not only benefit them because it will improve your skills while you are with their organisation, but it will also benefit you as it prepares you for future roles. Plus some of these can be tax deductible.
  • Would they allow you accompany them to an industry event and introduce you to some of their network or contacts? This allows you to piggy back on their already established network – something that is worth its weight in gold.

9. If they refuse all your proposals, that’s ok, remain calm, all is not lost.

The simple reality is that some organisations allot a certain level of resources to a role, and they cannot assign any more to it. They accept candidates that will grow into the role (rather than being full prepared for the role) because the organisation have the ability to offer a good training or mentoring programme, thereby allowing them to pay that candidate a little less. It is wonderful that you as an employee have now grown and flourished in the role and are now worth more, but they still cannot afford to increase resources in that area.

All is not lost. By opening the conversation you are least opening their eyes to the fact that you have matured in the role that you are in, and that you are looking to progress. You have laid the groundwork for this conversation, and should you have it again, you will not be starting from scratch.

You might also have revealed to yourself that you have outgrown this role in this company, and perhaps it is time for a change, rather than just a raise. By comparing yourself to the market you might have realised that there are actually other jobs out there that you are now eligible for, which you may not have had the experience or skills for last time you looked. You can take all the skills you have learned in this role and bring them to an organisation that is willing to pay for them rather than grow them.

10. Do not ever issue an ultimatum you don’t mean. “If you don’t give me a raise, I will …”

The worst outcome from this conversation is not being refused a raise, it is being forced to resign because you lost your cool, issued an ultimatum, the company called your bluff and you were forced to follow through. Your current salary, no matter how insignificant it is to you now, will look monstrous from the dole queue. Do not get yourself into this situation.

11. Remember the implications of accepting a raise.

Although it is rarely explicitly said, the implication of taking a raise is that the company is buying your loyalty for another six months to a year. Not that there is anything that they can do if you do decide to hand in your notice and leave three months later, but it might leave a very bad taste in this employer’s mouth, which might come back to haunt you if you want to work with them in the future, particularly in a small industry. Bear this in mind as you accept your raise.

12. Regardless of the outcome, leave the meeting on good terms.

Nothing is ever final, there is really no end to any discussion, so even if you are bitterly disappointed and incredibly frustrated, remember to smile and thank the other person for their time at the end of the meeting. This is not a time to throw a temper tantrum or storm off in a huff (not that I really know when the time for those actions is). Not only does it look petty and unprofessional, you still have to work in this office for the foreseeable future, and you do not want to turn that working atmosphere hostile.

So they are our top tips – is there anything that you would add from your experience?

How to get that promotion

1950s Promotion

Any of this sound familiar …… You have been in your job a few years now, it‘s fine, but you could do it in your sleep. You find that you are spending a greater and greater amount of your time surfing the net and you spend so long getting coffee, people are beginning to think you work in the canteen. You think it is time to consider a new challenge – but how do you go about that?

These days the quickest way up the corporate ladder is to change roles at a reasonable speed. Stay in a job long enough to learn everything you can (usually two or three years), but not so long that you become institutionalised and your skills are no longer relevant to a wider market. Although the management team can come to you and offer you a promotion for doing an outstanding job, this usually takes much longer than if you are an active agent in your career progression.

So what can you do to jump start it?

1. Let people know in a subtle way that while you are happy where you are for the moment, you would always be open to discussing your next role, or future career plans.

2. Build on your network, and make it as far reaching as you can.

Do not be cynical or false about this network; include junior as well as senior people, look inside and outside your organisation, or your direct industry. The point of this network is for you to hear about opportunities before the information becomes wide spread – you would be very surprised at the source of that information sometimes.

3. Do up your CV and make sure your online profiles are up-to-date.

4. If you are not on LinkedIn, join it. Potential employers use this to check-up on a person’s credentials before approaching them, to make sure the person has the skills they think they have. Connect with everyone you have worked for and with.  It is seen to add some validation to your CV if you have a host of contacts standing ready to verify it.

5. Ask past colleagues and employers for references – not only does this add further weight to your expertise, it makes people aware that you might be looking for a change.

6. Be visible.

Attend conferences, industry talks, speak up at internal meetings, be visible on a project. Do whatever you can to remind people that you are there and you are valuable.

7. Actively apply for new roles.

There is no point in wishing you could have a better job, you have to go out there and find it. Do more than just read Jobs.ie, apply for at least three roles a week. This will get you out there in the market place, and even if you are not shortlisted for the role you apply to, your CV gets to a recruitment agent’s table and they might have another role that would suit you.

8. Consider all roles applicable.

If you have a particular career path in mind, that’s fine, but consider all roads to it. Apply for a job similar to the one you want, but maybe in a different industry – you can learn the skills and move back to your industry of choice bringing a wealth of valuable outsider information and new view-point. Apply for a job that is perhaps a stepping stone to the job that you want (while bearing in mind you will be expected to remain in this stepping stone role for a year or two) – it might be easier to get a step up from here.

9a. Be great at your current role.

High achievers are always the first considered, so aim for the stars. While you are doing this you are also building a solid reputation for being good at what you do and you are building your confidence in your abilities and their worth. This will make you a stronger candidate for promotion.

9b. Don’t be so great that you become irreplaceable.

Build or identify a successor who, if you were to move on, could complete your tasks (albeit without the added sparkle that you bring to the role). A company will not promote you to another unit or department if your current department would fold like a house of cards without you.

10. Don’t be discouraged.

One of the hardest things about looking for the next step is the level of rejection. If it were easy to do people would be promoted every week. It a hard thankless task, that often feels like a second job, until one day that wonderful break comes along – and it’s all looking up from thereon in.

These are our top tips, is there anything that you would add from your experiences?