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SizeUp: free tool gives you binoculars into your competitors’ backyard

Business intelligence can be quite expensive for small businesses, but one way to get critical insight is through a free tool created by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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small business intelligence

small business intelligence

Getting your hands on useful business intelligence

As a small business owner, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and operate day-to-day with the sole vision of running your company. It’s great to have this precise level of focus as it allows you to monitor every aspect of your business to ensure things are up to par. But there are factors outside of your business that affect its success – namely your competitors.

Their presence in the market plays a part in your revenue gains and the growth of your customer base. Large firms are often able to gain competitor intelligence through a market research firm; for smaller businesses, the SBA offers its free SizeUp widget, serving as your binoculars into the competition’s backyard.

How the SizeUp tool works

Users come to the SizeUp web page and enter their city and industry (e.g., manufacturing, real estate, etc.) After inputting this information, the widget pulls up the top three industry competitors in your area. The listing provides a break-down of employee salary, years in the business, and past revenue reports. It even spins up a Google map with markers showing the location of your top three competitors, as well as a separate map showing the locations of neighborhoods with the highest grossing revenue streams. In order to see this information for more than the top three vendors, users have to register with an email address and password.

The fact that a tool like this exists for small business owners is incredible. It’s not often that business owners are able to gain intelligence about their competitors without spending a large chunk of change to do so. By utilizing this offering from the SBA, you can gain a near 360-degree view of the industry within your city and develop a strategy to bring your business to a level on par with your competitors. Even if your business is performing well, it never hurts to do a status check on what similar companies are doing; this research strengthens your business further grounds your stake in the market.

Quick tour of SizeUp:

free business intelligence for small businesses

free business intelligence for small businesses

free business intelligence for small businesses

free business intelligence for small businesses

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

Business News

School supply retailers are also feeling the effects of COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) As families gear up for more virtual learning, back-to-school retailers anticipate major losses.

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For many, the return to school this fall will mean exchanging pencil boxes and notebooks for an internet connection and virtual learning. This is an incredibly demoralizing process for those involved–including back-to-school retailers, who anticipate substantial uncertainty in the coming weeks.

CNBC’s Melissa Repko details some of the trains of thought put forward by retailers who depend on fall sales, and while nothing is for sure, even the most optimistic of estimates looks bleak with clothing giants such as Gap and American Eagle poised to encounter significant hits to stock value as the pandemic drags on.

And, with families paying closer attention to their spending habits, taking stock of what they have rather than what they want, and generally tightening their belts with no end in sight, it seems reasonable to assume that they won’t be purchasing art supplies that they don’t anticipate using for several months.

Repko mentions that “stimulus checks could put money in [spenders’] pockets”, but even this cautiously optimistic assertion comes with an implied shrug and more uncertainty. Families who find themselves coming out on top with the addition of a few thousand dollars might decide to replenish their kids’ school supplies, but it’s just as likely that they’ll put that money away for future hardships.

One detail to which back-to-school retailers are clinging onto is that of clothing needs. The pandemic has hampered many aspects of daily life, but children growing isn’t one of them; retailers are hopeful that families will still find value in buying new clothes for the school year–if for no other reason than necessity.

Similarly enough, some retailers hope that families will opt to buy smaller quantities of pricier items like laptops, tablets, and other virtual learning gear; others may decide to upgrade their existing modems or routers, making the back-to-school rush a comparable–if slightly anticlimactic–experience.

Whatever the end result for retailers, it’s no secret that the coming year will weigh heavily on everyone–retailers, parents, children, and school staff–and with discernible end to the daily positive rates for the virus, each of these members of the chain stand to be affected differently, yet equally as tragically.

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Business News

The second stimulus check may be on its way…to some

(BUSINESS NEWS) A second round of stimulus payments seems to be on the horizon for Americans, but remains held up by debates in the Senate about eligibility.

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2nd stimulus

Counting on a little extra stimulus money coming your way? You might be in luck soon!

Keyword: Might.

The Senate recently confirmed plans to include a second round of Economic Impact Payments in the HEROES Act, but the details on who will be eligible, and for how much, are still fuzzy.

They are poised to approve the act by the end of the month, and for the sake of those on unemployment, it had better go through on time. The $600 boost to weekly benefits bestowed by the CARES Act is due to expire on July 31st. After that, 31 million unemployment recipients will see their income plummet by at least 61%.

Another EIP would really come in handy for these folks, and many others. But if you made over $40,000 last year, don’t count on getting a check this time around (and if you’re also on unemployment right now, at least take comfort that the HEROES Act would extend that $600 benefit bonus until February 2020, too).

While the act has bipartisan support, both factions of the Senate have different ideas about exactly who deserves another payment. Currently, the text of HEROES has the same criteria that CARES did: individuals earning up to $75,000 will be eligible for a one-time payment of $1,200, and married couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who just announced his support for another payment on Tuesday, has proposed setting an upper income limit for the next EIP at $40,000 per year. He has emphasized that if the act passes, the scope of the payments will be small.

Admittedly, it’s a little weird to see such a kerfuffle being made about setting more strict limits on the financial relief for individuals and families (regardless of what number was printed on their W-2) who are clearly still struggling , when $500 billion in corporate bailouts were eagerly baked into the first stimulus bill.

This debate represents tension with a legislative mindset that often hits middle class families and small business owners hard, as well as residents of exceptionally expensive areas like New York and San Francisco. Seeming not-poor on paper doesn’t necessarily equate to living comfortably when taking into account factors like debt, bills, taxation, and cost of living differences across the country – especially during a pandemic and an unprecedented economic downturn.

The first round of stimulus checks was arguably disastrous: Millions of dollars in stimulus money ended up in the hands of dead people; many payments were mistaken for junk mail and recipients threw them away; confusion about how to appeal one’s ineligibility ran rampant; and plenty of people still haven’t gotten their first one – months after they were meant to be sent out. If HEROES does pass, and does contain EIPs, then hopefully the IRS has ironed out the worst kinks in their system. All this back-and-forth about income limits in Congress is stressful enough without a complete repeat of the last payment debacle.

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Business News

To infinity and beyond…or NOT: COVID forces Bed Bath & Beyond closures

(BUSINESS NEWS) Bed Bath & Beyond will be closing 200 stores due to coronavirus. Honestly, they might’ve had it coming.

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Bed Bath Beyond store

Yet another company is having issues with their old practices. Will they pull their tails out of the fire?

As this pandemic enters the fifth official month, we have yet another company closing down at least some of its doors. Bed Bath & Beyond announced last week that approximately 200 stores, about 20% of their total store count, will be closed down over the next two years.

The President and CEO announced that “the impact of the COVID-19 situation was felt across our business during our fiscal first quarter, including loss of sales due to temporary store closures and margin pressure from the substantial channel shift to digital” shopping. By impact he’s referring to a $1.3 billion fall in sales.

According to the CEO, the company has attempted to take measures to keep their people safe while also servicing their customers. This is a completely different approach than what a number of customers have noticed in the last few years. From merchandise that makes flea market chattel look new and shiny to misinformation about product availability, this company has been floundering for a number of years.

The latest shift that the CEO is masquerading as an ‘online shopping’ shift is yet another attempt to dredge sales and lower cost. Maybe they’ll do it better this time though. Over the past few years, they have been doing this while not effectively communicating that to their clientele.

A customer might know that Bed Bath & Beyond carries an exclusive item but what they don’t know is that it’s only carried online and can’t be found in stores. It isn’t communicated to a customer until they’ve gone to a store and searched for it. One would hope that this is an easy fix that should have been made by now after customer complaints, but it hasn’t. And with their demonstrated history thus far, I won’t be holding my breath.

At this point the company has positioned itself to quickly liquidate millions of dollars in merchandise at all 955 locations that they currently have reopened across the country. Maybe this will spark a new age in this corporate cash cow that will push it forward. On a personal note, I don’t foresee that either unless a great amount of change happens. Instead, we’ll most likely be seeing a ton of “going out of business” signs in no time.

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