Tuesday, 20 December 2016 16:40

Every year small package carriers FedEx and UPS evaluate their shipping rates and make adjustments that can have a substantial effect on you and your business. The UPS rate increases take effect on December 26, 2016, while the new FedEx rates take effect on January 2, 2017. As always, how much more expensive your particular small package shipments will be in the new year largely depends on many factors, including shipment volumes, sizes, weights, and modes.

Here are some quick facts:

  • FedEx Express and International rates are increasing an average of 3.9%
  • UPS Air and International rates are increasing an average of 4.9%
  • FedEx Ground and Home Delivery® rates are increasing an average of 4.9%
  • UPS Ground rates are increasing an average of 4.9%
  • The dimensional divisor for FedEx is changing from 166 to 139
  • FedEx SmartPost®, FedEx One Rate®, and UPS SurePost® rates will be changing

The important takeaway when thinking about your shipping expenses in 2017 is that the announced average increases paint an inaccurate picture of the true impact these new rates could have on your business. The shipping experts at PartnerShip® have dug into the details and analyzed the new rate tables to assess the true impact to shippers and help you make sense of these changes. Learn more about how the 2017 rate increases will affect your shipping costs by downloading the free white paper at PartnerShip.com/RateIncrease.

This tip is brought to you by PartnerShip, the company that manages the FRF Shipping Program. To enroll and receive exclusive discounts on select FedEx® services, visit PartnerShip.com/72frf. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 800-599-2902.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 16:00

NRF’s annual survey finds all respondents were victimized in the past year

For the first time in the 12-year history of the National Retail Federation’s organized retail crime survey, every responding retail company — 59 in total — said it had been a victim of ORC in the past 12 months.

In addition, 83 percent of respondents, all top-level loss prevention executives, reported that ORC activity had increased in the past 12 months: 44 percent reported a “significant increase” while 39 percent reported a “slight increase.”

The survey also uncovered a trend of ORC criminals and shoplifters becoming “more aggressive and brazen;” 97 percent reported an increase in the levels of aggression, and one in six felt the level of aggression was much higher than the previous year.

“Shoplifters are more confrontational with our LP officers,” one respondent said. “Even if we do catch them, it’s just a slap on the wrist. Short of pulling a gun on our LP team, they will always be cited and released by the police. Even if they attack our team, they are not charged with a battery or robbery anymore. It’s all just considered part of theft crime.”

Incentivizing training
Survey respondents elaborated on increases in online fraud. One retailer said its online fraud rate had tripled, even as it has stopped more than $350,000 in merchandise from being shipped through the use of software that flags “risky transactions for loss prevention review prior to shipping.”

Another respondent noted that their company has seen “more and more” gift cards sold online that are later traced to “no-receipt” returns in stores.

The average loss attributable to ORC was $700,259 per $1 billion in retail sales.

The average loss attributable to ORC was $700,259 per $1 billion in retail sales, up significantly from 2015’s average of $453,940.

Even though the survey found that the average dollar amount of retail personnel dedicated to combating ORC reached an all-time high of $545,694, more than half of responding companies had “not allocated additional resources in personnel or technology” in the past 12 months.

Noting that ORC activity has increased over the past three years, Robert Moraca, vice president of loss prevention for NRF, says that loss prevention in retail is “a cost center, and retailers across the board have been struggling from a financial perspective, so the fact that LP budgets are remaining flat is not uncommon.

“I think they all would like to do more, but you just have limited financial resources competing for a return on investment.”

Moraca says there are steps that retailers can take that don’t cost anything. “They won’t increase the budget but they will still be proactive steps.”

For example, he says, “Most employers have computer-based training modules on topics like loss prevention. They can enhance that and develop incentives for their associates to review those training modules frequently.”

Some companies are adding another level to digital closed circuit TV camera surveillance systems. Overlaid on CCTV systems, video analytics “can help identify problems,” Moraca says. “Some of these video analytic systems can even send messages via email to loss prevention professionals. These systems self-learn — they are a minimal form of artificial intelligence.”

Making connections
In another negative trend, 56 percent of respondents haven’t seen any additional support from law enforcement for combating ORC in the past 12 months. That could be due in large part to shoplifting being downgraded to misdemeanor offense in many jurisdictions.

One respondent said that the change in status has led to a “higher theft per ORC incident. The felony limit used to be $500, so they would steal $490 per store. Now, with many states having increased the felony limit to $1,500, they steal $1,490 per store.”

Nearly 80 percent of respondents said a federal law is needed to combat ORC, with stronger penalties acting as a deterrent. A federal law would remove jurisdictional issues in what increasingly is becoming an interstate crime.

Moraca says that in states with strong anti-ORC crime legislation, “it is easier to get prosecution.

“However, decriminalization is now a trend all over the country. Legislators are raising the standard for what constitutes a felony.”

To try to reverse this trend, Moraca urges retailers to be proactive in building relationships with local law enforcement.

“The rubber meets the road in the communities you live in,” he says. “Corporate LP policies are not enough. LP personnel on the local level have to meet with their local police departments as a part of community policing/crime prevention programs.

“Engage with the local police … so they can come to really understand your problems and come to see you as part of the community and not just a big retailer with all these assets,” he says.

“You should never be meeting your law enforcement, your first responders, for the first time during an emergency.”
Robert Moraca

“At the end of the day, you should never be meeting your law enforcement, your first responders, for the first time during an emergency. If that’s the case, you’re already behind the eight ball.”

Small successes
Some success stories did emerge from retailers that have developed new tactics to fight ORC.

One retailer reported “having some issues with online fraud involving third-party gift cards. However, where we make the deliveries ourselves, losses are limited.”

Another noted that “aggressive refund management and POS policies have limited the impact in these areas.”

And one said their company was successful in reducing ORC by “lessening the allowable timeframe for returns [to 60 days] and eliminating cash returns for no receipts and e-commerce.” The company also “increased its aggressiveness with return management to include receipted returns.”

Liz Parks
December 14, 2016
National Retail Federation |
This article was published in the December 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.


Tuesday, 20 December 2016 15:41

The holiday shopping season is often a peak for retailers' sales. But the flipside to that boom is it leads to peak returns season — costing retailers billions to handle unwanted, used or damaged goods each year.

The surge in digital shopping is only compounding the pain, as record online sales means record online returns. It's not uncommon to see return rates of 30 percent or more for merchandise that's bought online. Clothing returns can be closer to 40 percent.

In total, Americans returned $260 billion in merchandise to retailers last year, or 8 percent of all purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. That swells to 10 percent around the holiday season. Because less than half of returned goods are re-sold at full price, retailers may end up forfeiting 10 percent of their sales at the busiest time of year, according to Gartner Research.

Unwanted and damaged goods either get tossed out or sent through a lengthy chain of liquidators and wholesalers, paying pennies on the dollar to the retailer before eventually selling them to bargain-hunting consumers.

"Retailers are not very good at managing returns right now, and so unless they invest in their ability to manage returns, the volume of returns coming back will cause problems in their overall supply chain," said Tom Enright, supply chain research director at Gartner.

He warns retailers that dealing with returns the old way is a "ticking time bomb turning into a major cash hole."

Best Buy is one retailer that's working on ways to recoup losses associated with returns. When it started this focus three years ago, returns represented 10 percent of its annual sales, or $400 million.

The retailer's ship-from-store capabilities have increased the number of "open-box" products on its website, which means a TV returned to a store in Omaha, Nebraska, can now be re-sold to a shopper in another state on Bestbuy.com. Best Buy has also been working on reducing the amount of product that gets damaged between the distribution center and the consumer by adding protective packaging and better handling.

Meanwhile, third parties have identified an opportunity to cash in on retailers' return problems, and are trying to disrupt the traditional model for dealing with them. The Washington, D.C.-based startup Optoro claims its technology platform optimizes the efficiency for returned merchandise by finding the best re-sale pricethe moment the product is returned and scanned.

"We help these goods find their next best home, whether it's an individual, business, charity or recycler anywhere around the world," said Tobin Moore, CEO of Optoro. "We're the technology and the systems that retailers are using at their warehouses, in storefronts and headquarters to manage and monitor these returns and to best route them."

"Many retailers are getting 15 cents to 30 cents on the dollar for these returns because they're having such trouble economically processing them and getting them to the next best markets," Moore explained. "We're able to get them to double and triple the recovery."

Sixteen of the top 20 U.S. retailers and manufacturers use Optoro's technology. Its client list includes Home Depot, Target, BJ's Wholesale and Jet.com (owned by Wal-Mart).

After being returned to a store, merchandise ends up at Optoro's warehouse in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Once the merchandise arrives at the warehouse, it gets tested and inspected first. When it's determined to be in working order, or refurbished and given a clean bill of health, it's simultaneously listed for re-sale on Amazon, eBay, and Optoro's retail site, called Blinq.com.

If an item isn't able to be refurbished easily, it goes onto a pallet of goods sold on Optoro's Bulq.com website. Bulq.com buyers often don't mind doing the repairs themselves because they get a deeper discount.

Electronics make up the bulk of returned products to Optoro, at just under one-third. Home and garden merchandise makes up 20 percent, while baby items, clothing and other consumer electronics are another fifth of the returned products in Optoro's warehouse.

Optoro offers a win-win...win. Retailers get a higher recovery rate for returned goods, waste is reduced, and consumers have another channel to shop for discounted merchandise.

Courtney Reagan | @CourtReagan


Friday, 09 December 2016 10:13

NEW YORK — Three years into being a business owner, Becky Davis knew she needed to break the hold technology had on her.

Davis, a marketing and management consultant to other small business owners, was so immersed in emails, texts and social media that she was getting only four or five hours of sleep a night and her husband said he felt invisible. It also hurt her productivity — she'd get distracted reading people's posts and realize she'd lost two hours of work time.

"If you don't set some rules, guidelines and put some technology boundaries in place on using your phone, tablet or computer, they will run your life and can very well ruin your life," says Davis, who's based in Douglasville, Georgia.

Many small business owners in tech overload are putting limits on how much time they spend on ever-growing modes of communication. For some, the antidote is more technology, such as apps or programs that filter emails. Others go low-tech, simply turning their devices off. Some tell clients they're just not available to answer emails and texts at night and on weekends.

Davis now schedules time for social media posting and leaves her computer in another room at night. When she's out to dinner with her husband, she doesn't check email.

For small business owners passionate about their companies, their dedication makes it hard to say no to the email or text that arrives at 10 p.m. The tipping point for many has been the explosion of social media sites that have some owners reading hundreds of posts each day, says Patricia Greene, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College.

"There are so many streams to manage," she says.

Overload during work hours can also be a problem, Greene says. Owners who get bogged down answering emails and social media posts rather than spending time on strategy can see their work days lengthen.

Justine Pattantyus has turned off most notifications, including email and Facebook alerts. The constant interruptions prevented her from focusing on doing work for the clients of her management consulting business.

"How much time I was losing to responding constantly to those outside influences!" says Pattantyus, owner of Spark Life International.

Pattantyus sets other limits. She lives in Lisbon, Portugal, but her clients are five to eight hours behind her in the U.S. If she has clients on Pacific time, they're in the early part of their work day as Pattantyus nears the end of hers. She shuts her computer down at 7 p.m. her time. Clients know that's the rule when they sign on with her.

Kelley Weaver's company, Melrose Public Relations, is in Santa Monica, California, but she's in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where her husband is in graduate school. Her employees start their days three hours after hers begins, raising the possibility of an extended string of texts and emails encroaching on her evening.

Weaver uses the Slack messaging system with her staff for group and individual conversations that eliminate the stop-and-start rhythm of emails and texts. She also strives to go off-duty technologically at the day's end; she silences her phone and tries not to look at it.

"When we go to dinner, I'll leave it home," Weaver says. But it's not always easy: "Part of it is second nature and breaking habits," she says.

Aaron Norris says he's slowly gotten rid of his laptop at home for work after finding he was reading emails at 5:30 a.m. and spending time in the evening sorting through emails that he estimates were 80 percent spam. Norris, a vice president at his family's Riverside, California-based real estate business, The Norris Group, has also cut back on time spent on email at work and no longer tries to read every social media channel.

"There has to be some peace or I just feel frayed by the end of the day," he says.

Josh Nolan began putting a boundary between work and personal life — his own and his staffers' — about three years after his website design company, Bold Array, was founded. He was working over 100 hours a week as he and his staff of five tried to keep up with clients' questions, requests, emails and texts.

"Things were getting a little difficult to manage," says Nolan, whose company is based in Costa Mesa, California.

His solution: Clients are told Nolan will answer emails, phone calls and have meetings between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. He'll answer texts and emails after 10 p.m. or the next day, keeping evenings clear. Weekend work is billed at a higher rate.

"Once we started setting those limits and communicating expectations, it helped with company morale and not just going insane with the amount of work," he says.

Follow Joyce Rosenberg atwww.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg. Her work can be found here: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joyce-m-rosenberg http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/12/08/time-set-limits-business-owners-suffer-tech-overload/95089174/

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