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Category Archives: Small Business Week

Holiday Help: Budgeting, Shopping & Traveling – Part 2 of a 4 Part Series

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If by now, early October, you don’t yet have a list of persons you’re planning to give gifts to this holiday season, take a moment and read our Holiday Help: Getting Started – Part 1 of a 4 Part Series.

In that post, I ask a number of questions to help determine your Christmas 2016 ‘who, where and when’ .  Gifting can quickly get complicated in our mobile, merged, multi-generation families and a bit of upfront planning and discussion can make the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of gifting much easier to handle.

As we proceed to budgeting, shopping and traveling recognize and accept this:  your plans are just plans. Even if your Getting Started list is perfect and fully discussed, there are hundreds of variables that will impact your acquisition of those gifts and the travel to your celebratory locations.  Here are a just a few:  weather that hampers travel, unexpected financial emergencies, unanticipated illness or injury (even the simplest of illness, injury at the wrong time can become an issue), the ability of online retailers and delivery services to meet your expectations and more.

So, why do we plan and budget?  Because without a plan, your sanity, relationships, stress level and financial control are all a free-for-all;  a plan, even with the undesired need to adjust it is healthier for all involved and puts you in the driver’s seat.

Starting with the who’s on your gift list, quickly brainstorm what you’d like to give that individual and an estimated cost.  Do the same with the travel.  If you need help with estimating the cost, use online tools but recognize some online pricing is designed to lure you into an immediate purchase.  Resist that temptation until you completed your budgeting.  Force yourself to put a gift and dollar value next to everyone person’s name on your list. Next tally up your spending based on those quick estimates.

If the total amount to be spent is within your budget, great.  All you’ll need to do is stick to your plan when you shop.  But for most of us, we tend to be more generous than we can wisely afford.  If this is true of your list and estimate, start by sharpening your pencil, do a bit more research on options and pricing, and possibly re-think another gift.

As you’re looking for ways to reduce your spending ask yourself whether there persons on your list that spend time together that could be given a great group gift?  We tend to think of individual gifts but many times a group gift is enjoyed more.

Now you need to get those gifts.  so start by planning your shopping.  Get the items within your budget that might have limited availability first.  Then plot your acquisition strategy to maximize your time, mileage and patience.  Before driving 35 minutes to the mall make sure you’ve identified all the mall gifts that need to be obtained.  While online shopping tends to be easier than the old fashioned brick and mortar store, you might benefit a stroll through a few of them.  I often find inspiration and new trends when I’m in a physical store and it always helps me to get into a festive holiday mood.  Observing brick and mortar pricing and selections can also help refine your list and budget. Use your judgement to determine if the current day’s price is likely to be the best price or will there be a sale?  If so, will that item still be available?

Determine if your ‘acquisition’ style is to spend a full day shopping and getting it all done or if you’re a slow and steady style shopper picking up one thing here another here and comparing both to online options. And as always do investigate and evaluate the retailer’s return policy.

Don’t forget about the ever popular Small Business Saturday which this year is Saturday, November 26, 2016.  SBS is the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and has been named and promoted by American Express since 2010.  We all know that Black Friday is the crazy early morning, late night shopping spree that historically follows Thanksgiving. Also online shoppers will hit the keyboards and tablets heavy on the Monday following Small Business Saturday know as Cyber Monday.  Pay attention to a store’s pre-Thanksgiving prices and specials.  Big Box and online retailers will start to reveal their deep discounts on a handful of items to get your attention (and business) 7-10 days before Thanksgiving.  At the same time Independent retailers  will reach out to you via emails, post cards, radio ads, event marketing to get a slice of your attention (and business).  Use your leverage as the buyer to get the best price from an independent retailer – ask if a particular item will be discounted after Thanksgiving and if so do they have a sufficient number or are they willing to discount the item in advance?  At Gifts To Go, we’re hosting a Holiday Open House with several discounts for same day purchases.  We also hold two week long sales on our popular Willow Tree items of 20% and will honor that discount during our Holiday Open House as well.

Start planning that holiday travel now as well.  Especially if you’re traveling by air, train or bus or renting a car as it will feel as though the entire country is traveling with you.  Seats will quickly become scarce and expected them to be pricey.

Finally, if you’re cooking or entertaining, get your menus planned and shopping lists created as the grocers will also be competing for your business and a plan will let you take advantage of great sales especially on non-perishables.

As with any well organized project, a good plan guides your actions and better equips you for those pesky adjustments that will most assuredly happen along the way to your envisioned holiday celebration.

By next month, you’ll have acquired a number of gifts and be ready to focus on shipping and gift presentation.  Here’s to a great plan!

 

 

 

 

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Musings Of A Shopper

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Musings Of A Shopper

Did you ever consider the word SHOPPING?  How about the SHOPPING EXPERIENCE? 

Every so often I find myself in a situation where I need to find a gift for someone: a niece graduating from high school, a coworker retiring, a grandson’s wedding, a baby shower for the neighbor’s daughter, a Christmas gift for Aunt Mary, a hostess gift for a dinner party, and on and on.  My guess is that you’ve all been there.

When I was younger I would talk to the clerk in a brick and mortar store if I didn’t have a clue, and I often didn’t, about what to get for this occasion or that.  Times changed and the World Wide Web, later the Internet, became accessible through my desk top computer.  It became possible to buy things without leaving the comfort of home.  Pretty neat, but I still had to figure out what to buy.  As time passed the “on line” stores began to carry a wider selection of goods, and it became easier to find a gift.

The problem I experienced was that I couldn’t hold the item in my hand, or see if it was well made or flimsy, until after I bought it and it was shipped and received.  It was impossible to know if the lavender sachet was too strong, or barely scented, until after I bought it.  I’m sure it has happened to someone you know as well.

Technology had given me convenience and variety, but in many ways I was still on my own and taking a risk when I was shopping on-line.

I stopped in a gift shop the other day to pick up some stamps.  I had seen the Post office sign when I stopped to eat in the restaurant at the other end of the block.  After lunch I decided to buy some stamps.

I heard a customer asking about a book for a grandchild and a store employee ask polite questions about the child and make suggestions.  The two of them ended up laughing together about one of the books.

The employee that sold me my stamps asked if I  had seen the new stamp designs that had just come out.  I bought some of both and was glad that I had been shown and offered the choice.

After I pocketed my stamps I asked about a CD Album that was laying on another counter.  The helpful employee took time to tell me about the artist and the theme of the disc.  She also told me it had just been put on sale, 50% off, and hadn’t been marked down yet.

As I turned to leave a display of figurines caught my eye and I spent a moment or two browsing and accidentally listening to another customer thanking a different employee for helping her find a book of poetry.  She talked about how pleased her father had been when she gave him the book.  She said he had really enjoyed it because it reminded him of the farm he grew up on.

As I put my stamps away at home the time I had spent in the store replayed in my head.  The store had given me a sense of comfort.  The employees had all been helpful and friendly.  There was a lot of variety.  I could pick things up and ask questions.  I realized I had just had one of the best shopping experiences of my life.

I’ll be shopping at Gifts To Go again, and if you would like a wonderful shopping experience as well, I’ll be looking for you there too.

Ken B, Surprise, AZ

Editor’s Note:  We at Gifts To Go appreciate our customers and visitors and strive to create a fun, easy-going environment that makes people want to come back and spend time with us.  We take great pride in moving our postal customers through their transactions quickly and correctly and take great joy in spending time chatting with those who aren’t in a rush.  So, receiving Ken B’s letter (above) was an immense treat that we will cherish and are thankful to Ken for sharing his thoughts.

And as in all of life’s endeavors, timing is everything.  We received this note on the first day of Small Business Week 2016.  So, if there is a small business you appreciate for their skills, location, ambience, community focus or… please take a moment this week and let them know.  And, please remember artists, authors and musicians are small businesses, too.

Press Release: Small Business Saturday Book Fest & Toy Drive Launch

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 11,2014) Gifts To Go, located on the Bell Mar Plaza, announces a Small Business Saturday Book Fest and the launch of their annual toy drive to benefit the El Mirage Firefighter Charities on Saturday, November 29, 2014.

The Book Fest features discussions and autograph sessions with local authors, raffles and discounts. “Reading is fun,” says shop owner Tammy Fraser, “and it is going to be a fun day for everyone. We have great authors scheduled and will offer out-of-the-ordinary specials including discounts hidden inside books” she shared.

John L Ketchum, author of the popular John Bodie Detective Series (Vengeance in Vallejo, Karaoke Killer and Where’s the I in I and J’s?) and Aubrey Finley Patriot Series (2020 Patriots Revenge and soon to be released, 2021 The Search) will discuss his nine published novels ($15.00), along with his military and investigative careers from 9am to 11am. Mr. Ketchum, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and recipient of prestigious military awards including two Purple Hearts, also coordinates three writers groups and is an active participant in others.

During the 10am to noon time period, Laura C Browne will be available. Readers throughout the country may recognize Ms. Browne for her work as a business coach, corporate trainer, speaker and non-fiction author helping others achieve greater career success. She will focus on Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom ($8.95), her delightful novel for girls ages 9-13 which has been praised by Publishers Weekly. Ms. Clark will donate a personalized copy of the book to the winner of a raffle held on November 29. The free copy will substitute a pre-teen’s first and last names in the role of Annie Clark in the title and throughout the novel. Additional personalized copies can be purchased for $49.95 and must be ordered in advance. Raffle tickets can be obtained by visiting Gifts To Go now through the Book Fest.

Multi-award winning time travel writer Ann Goldfarb will visit from noon to 2pm. Ms. Goldfarb, a former teacher, staff developer and school principal, is the author of seven mysteries for the teen to adult audience. Her books, including the recent The Time Borrowers ($11.95 to $12.95) are rich with science and history and include valuable study guides making them great selections for home and classroom reading.

Romance writer, Brenda Whiteside, will share the story behind the story of her six romance stories ($13.95 – $16.95) from 1pm to 4pm. In addition to novels Ms. Whiteside’s pens a frequent blog for her fans. Her works include Sleeping with the Lights On, Amanda in the Summer, The Morning After, Honey on White Bread and an anthology of short stories, “Warm Christmas Wishes”.

From 3pm to 5pm, Rev. Susan Henley, will share her spiritual expertise and books, Sara Beyond the Veil, A Spiritual Look at Dementia ($12.99) and Because of Sean, The Story of a Mother’s Courage ($13.99). Rev. Sue is an ordained Spiritual Peace Minister, counselor and Reiki Master. She can be found around the valley performing weddings, baptisms, funerals and helping her clients achieve a state of well-being.

The El Mirage Firefighter Charities have again partnered with Barnaby Street Shoppes, the retail incubator where Gifts To Go and the USPS Contract Postal Unit is located, to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys and books for local children’s holiday celebrations. Gifts To Go will provide an entry ticket to Laura C Browne’s raffle of a free, personalized copy of Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom to persons who bring in toys and books for the Firefighter Charities.

Barnaby Street Shoppes and Gifts To Go/USPS Contract Postal Unit are found next to the 5 & Diner Delux at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ. They are normally open Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm but have added Sundays from 10am to 1pm on November 30 and Dec 7, 14 and 21. Please direct questions to Tammy at 602 -403-0646.

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Can’t make it to our Small Business Saturday Book Fest?  No worries, we’re adding all these great reads to our website so you can browse and purchase online. And, as you know our USPS Contract Postal Unit will get your online purchases out to you the day your order is placed!

Small Business Week 2014 & All The Tiny Businesses

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Today, Day Two of Small Business Week 2014, brings to mind that while I consider Gifts To Go a ‘micro’ business in that I’m the owner and THE employee, there are a few slightly more micro small businesses in operation.

Gifts To Go prides itself on promoting local authors and local artists and frequently describes them as smaller businesses than itself. I tend to think of authors and artists writing or creating art feverishly in their basements, dens, spare bedrooms or kitchen tables. I’m sure they are not always working at frantic speed as I’m sure there are writer’s cramp moments, toss it out the window moments and hours of product and self introspection.

I’ve been reading this week’s material from multiple ‘expert’ sources on promoting small, shopping small and the value of the backbone of the US economy. I agree with it and am glad to be a part of it. But it strikes me there are some unsung players in the small business realm.

Consider the Etsy store owner. Maybe she makes jewelry or greeting cards or organic dog treats – regardless of product type she’s working the small business dream and hopefully making a profit as she does. Likewise give some thought to the teen, trying to save money for college, who doesn’t drive or cannot afford insurance to drive a car, who walks dogs before and after school in his neighborhood. Again a wee sized business contributing to the US economy.

So, to the volumes of written material this week, I’d add a shout out to those like the Etsy store owner and teen dog walker, those who embody the spirit of entrepreneurship in the tiniest of business settings. A strong American economy depends on all organization sizes. National Small Business Week implores us to shop small and shop local — and I add a request that you look beyond the small shop doors. An internet purchase from an Etsy store or hiring the kid next door to wash your windows will have a similar positive economic impact.

Don’t need anything you could purchase from a small retailer in-store or online? Don’t despair. Instead of shopping, give them an even greater boost – refer the great small businesses to your family and friends. Do it publicly with a review on their Facebook page or write their name and address on a piece of paper to share with your neighbor. Be active this week in supporting the locally owned businesses; we’ll all appreciate your endorsements.

Speaking of being neighborly, I’m reaching out to my neighbors near Avenue of the Arts and Bell Road in Surprise to invite the Etsy store owners and Ebay’ers to drop their USPS packages off anytime Monday-Saturday from 9am – 5pm. My small business values your business.