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Category Archives: External Research

Flash! They’re Gone or Are They?

Remember when people were crazy about flash sale sites? I’m talking about Gilt, Hautelook, Beyond the Rack – did you ever shop from there? Why were they so hot back then?

Yes, I used a past tense for that last sentence. While the sites haven’t been shut down, many of them have changed ownership, now being bought out by bigger companies and merging with existing store discount initiatives. Hautelook being bought out by Nordstroms, now lumped with Nordstroms Rack easily comes to mind when one thinks about the fate of flash sale sites. Now Saks Fifth Avenue is looking to make Gilt their version of Hautelook to rival Nordstroms.

Going back to the question of why flash sites were the cheese to someone’s macaroni for sometime, I suspect a lot of it had to do with the thrill. It’s no secret that the goal of many retail stores, whether it be clothing or home decor want people to spend money at the end of their visit. Sales are alluring to many who don’t want to pay full price, especially if there’s the threat of a store being out of your size.

Video posted by Tucker Michaels

This old Gilt ad illustrates it very well – two shoppers eye an item, but there’s only one in their size. It’s down to speed and luck to secure the coveted item they want before someone else snags it. Many times we buy things because we convince ourselves “It’s my size”, “It’s on sale”, or “If I don’t get it, I’m gonna regret it.” Making shoppers fight to get the items they want heightens the thrill of shopping, in some cases it results in buyer’s remorse.

Years later, people aren’t willing to fight it out anymore or they are simply interested in different stores and brands, especially if there is an easy return policy. Sometimes it just makes more sense to drive to the closest store, return what you’re not keeping, and call it a day, versus packing the item up and paying return shipping in some cases.

While all of these flash sites hearkened to the budding trend of people preferring to shop online, it appears that many of them couldn’t adapt on their own to meet new demands from online shoppers. After all, while it can be fun getting a great deal, the return policy and process can look more like a hassle if its shipping returns only.

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From Eating Utensils to the Building Blocks for Art

Posted on

Are you a master at using chopsticks? Sadly I would consider myself a beginner – I have the basic technique for holding them down but its putting it in motion to pick up food that is the challenge. (Especially without trying to cross the chopsticks while picking something up!)

While taking something small to make something bigger isn’t a new concept, Malaysian artist Hong Yi has transformed the traditional eating utensil into a hanging portrait of Jackie Chan. 64,000 chopsticks were used to create the piece. In addition to Jackie Chan, the artist has replicated several likenesses of other famous Western and Eastern celebrities in chopsticks.

Avoid the Crowds or Brave Them?

Another Black Friday has come and gone, with some fighting the crowds to score great deals and other awaiting Cyber Monday. Many businesses started Black Friday deals early, both in store and online. In addition to Black Friday, some businesses including Black Milk Clothing and Amazon have started their Cyber Monday sales earlier or plan to extend them longer than Monday.

Black Friday is a mixed bag for me. In some years I’ve gone to a few clothing stores at midnight to see some of the deals and others I’ve stayed home and avoided the crowds. This year I braved bad traffic and multiple accidents to visit one store for a surprise sample sale at Black Milk.

Its been noted that people have been choosing to shop online more, versus waiting days for deals that are doorbusters or one day only specials. With multiple tools that compare prices, sizes for various brands, and lucrative offers like Free Shipping or discounts that can be stacked, online shopping has become very easy for buyers.

While the benefits to shopping at a brick and mortar store include seeing the products in person and being able to try them on, more people are placing their confidence on website descriptions and saving themselves the hassle of dealing with other customers trying to grab the same item.

What about you?

The Last One’s Always the Hardest (Final Books in Series)

Many people have read series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, all of which include 3 main books with an occasional prequel or side short story. The main thing I tend to hear when people reach the final book is how disappointed they are. It can be the storyline, the fate of certain characters, or the resolution to some of the conflict.

Having read all three series, I can understand why people are reacting. Yes, its heartbreaking to read favorite characters either dying or fighting to save the main character or perhaps a pairing ends up with someone else. But take a step back and think about this: In order to show how high the stakes are in a fictional world or dire situation, people die. Not just the bad guys but some of the neutral figures and beloved allies have to. If they didn’t, it would become a very cliche story and you’d probably be complaining about how the story ended too neatly with a perfect ending.

Also consider that the authors could be under stress from their publishers or fans to meet certain expectations. Some people feel that Mockingjay had a rocky ending that seemed forced but I feel that in order to get to the conclusion she wanted while giving some fans the resolution they wanted, Suzanne likely had to plan out certain deaths to symbolize the message of dying for a good cause while showing that love can persevere in very difficult situations if the bond is there.

I still think back to J.K. Rowling saying how she regretting killing off a minor character. Recently, she’s apologized to killing off other characters in the series via Twitter. You have to admit, she wrote an impressive roster of characters and eventually some of them had to succumb to death in some way in the series. Otherwise, it would be a nightmare for her to manage all of them in the conclusion.

I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to slam your book shut, throw it across the room, and scream your frustration at the ending. But instead of bombarding the author with hate, I think its best to take a deep breath, think about how difficult it likely was to write that scene/character fate/etc., and remember that the author wants to give you a fairly realistic scenario of what can happen when the stakes are high.

A Single Compliment Can Make a Heart Open

Video from Buzzfeed

A compliment can seem like an innocent thing. Simply letting someone know that their joke was funny, their outfit is pretty, or that they liked something you did seems like a small gesture to express gratitude or admiration. It’s often been said that small compliments like these can improve someone’s mood or make them feel better about themselves.

Meet Chris Ulmer, a special education teacher who starts every class by complimenting all of his students. This in turn has boosted their confidence and has motivated them to reciprocate and bond with fellow classmates. It’s a simple thing but it has proven to be a very positive effect on these students and how they act and view themselves.

Face it, things can be difficult and sometimes we all need a little boost every now and then. Do you make it a point to give out a genuine compliment every now and then?

Be Safe!

To all my readers and fellow bloggers in Japan, France, Mexico, Beruit, and Baghdad, please be safe!

Sending positive thoughts to all affected.

Sustainable Purpose with a Vision

Upcycle: reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.
While its not a new concept, upcycling has surged in recent years, which I feel is due in part to the economic crashes and shifts in how people view money. The trend has bolstered creativity and encouraged people to use existing items without spending tons of money.
Meet Cyrus Kabiru, an artist from Kenya who takes discarded e-waste and transforms them into unique glasses. He cites his inspiration for creating these futuristic looking accessories from wanting a pair of real glasses as a child. When his father said no, he was compelled to make his own pair. In an effort to cut down on e-waste thrown into landfills, he looks for discarded electronics with the hope of salvaging the materials to give them a second purpose and use.
While some might see these as something that belongs on a bold celebrity like Lady Gaga or Björk, one has to admit that his ideas and designs make us look at something as simple as a pair of glasses in a whole new way.
I’ll admit that the designs are wild but his creativity and thought behind each pair is inspiring. What about you?