30 years of sales growth, now this?
With brick and mortar retailers closing shop left and right, it’s hard to be surprised that Pottery Barn – your suburban mom’s favorite décor store – has hit a bump in an otherwise smooth road. Excluding the Great Recession, the home furnishings chain has had over thirty years of solid sales growth, ever since it was acquired in 1985 by Williams-Sonoma.
But recently, Williams-Sonoma reported that the Pottery Barn brand has seen a 1.4 percent downturn in comparable sales (online and at stores that have been open for over a year) over the past three months.
This marks the fourth consecutive quarter of decreasing sales for the furniture emporium.
On the other side of the retail success coin, there’s sister brand West Elm, which is absolutely killing it with the upper-middle-class millennial crowd, and boasts quarter after quarter of insane growth.
What’s going wrong with Pottery Barn?
Well, size matters. If you’re an urbanite with a tiny apartment or condo, a lot of Pottery Barn’s rustic-traditional offerings literally won’t fit in your space (or up your stairs, or through your doorway). And even if you can manage to fit that giant furniture into your small space, you likely want it to be more than just furniture – it should offer the storage space that tiny apartments often sorely lack. Bed frame? Cool, where are the drawers? Coffee table – without a shelf, what’s the point?
“We know that the opportunity is often size, because as people move to smaller living arrangements and the urbanization happens, the large-scale furniture is difficult,” said Laura Alber, Chief Executive of Williams-Sonoma.
Pottery Barn on the tiny track
In February, Pottery Barn set out to address the scale issue by introducing more pieces designed with small spaces in mind, and on Wednesday executives said those pieces earned “strong demand” in the last quarter. So if Pottery Barn keeps on that tiny track, will they be fine?
Maybe not. No matter how space-efficient that dining table is, if it’s perceived to be overpriced, no one is going to want it. Thorough customer research last year found that non-loyal Pottery Barn customers saw the brand as “expensive, too predictable, and not for them,” said Alber.
Luring millennials without alienating boomers and Gen-Xers will be tricky, as will remaining “aspirational” while hitting some lower price points.
It seems like there are plenty of competitors at both the high and low end of Pottery Barn’s reach, and maybe that middle ground is just destined to dissolve. Is another type of retail downfall on the horizon that can be blamed on our shifting space preferences?
A well-crafted rejection email will save both your brand and your time
(BUSINESS) Job hunting is exhausting on both sides, and rejection sucks, but crafting a genuine, helpful rejection email can help ease the process for everyone.
Nobody likes to hear “no” for an answer when applying for jobs. But even fewer people like to be left in the dark, wondering what happened.
On the employer side, taking on a new hire is a time-consuming process. And like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get when you put out ads for a position. So once you find the right person for the role, it’s tempting to move along without further ado.
Benn Rosales, the CEO and co-founder of American Genius, offers an example of why that is a very bad call.
Imagine a hypothetical candidate for a job opening at Coca Cola – someone who’s particularly interested in the job, because they grew up as a big Coke fan. If they get no response to their application at all, despite being qualified and sending follow-up emails, their personal opinion of the brand is sure to sour.
“Do you know how much effort and dollars advertising and marketing spent to make [them] a fan over all of those years, and this is how it ends?” Rosales explains. This person has come away from their experience thinking “Bleep you, I’ll have tea.”
To avoid this issue, crafting a warm and helpful rejection email is the perfect place to start. If you need inspiration, the hiring consultants at Dover recently compiled a list of 36 top-quality rejection emails, taken from companies that know how to say “no” gracefully: Apple, Facebook, Google, NPR, and more.
Here’s a few takeaways from that list to keep in mind when constructing a rejection email of your own…
Include details about their resume to show they were duly considered. This shows candidates that their time, interests, and experience are all valued, particularly with candidates who came close to making the cut or have a lot of future promise.
Keep their information on file, and let them know this rejection only means “not right now.” That way, next time you need to make a hire, you will have a handy list of people to call who you know have an interest in working for you and relevant skills.
Provide some feedback, such as common reasons why applicants may not succeed in your particular application process.
And be nice! A lack of courtesy can ruin a person’s impression of your brand, whether they are a customer or not. Keep in mind, that impression can be blasted on social media as well. If your rejections are alienating, you’re sabotaging your business.
Any good business owner knows how much the details matter.
Incorporating an empathetic rejection process is an often-overlooked opportunity to humanize your business and build a positive relationship with your community, particularly when impersonal online applications have become the norm.
And if nothing else, this simple courtesy will prevent your inbox from filling up with circle-backs and follow-up emails once you’ve made your decision.
Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace
(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?
Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.
Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.
How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?
It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.
- Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
- Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
- Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.
Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.
What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?
AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines, so what now?
(BUSINESS) Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that AI-generated content is against webmaster guidelines. What does mean for content strategy?
John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, stated that AI-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines in a weekly online question and answer session.
Let’s review what that means for you and your content strategy going forward.
First of all, what is AI Generated Content?
Simply put, Medium defines it as
“[a]utomatically generated or Auto-Generated content is content that’s been created with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.”
Tools like writesonic or jasper are examples of AI content creation tools made to create content for a blog, social media, etc. If you check these websites, you will find that Google is listed as one of the many companies that use their services.
So, Google can use it but others will be penalized for using it. Can Google recognize when a user takes advantage of AI-generated content services for use on the web?
In the video Q&A, Mueller doesn’t confirm or deny whether or not Google is capable of recognizing AI-generated content. He is quoted as stating,
“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can take action on that.”
After countless searches about the Google webspam team and what actions they can take, it’s not immediately clear, but what seems to be the consensus is that it could negatively impact Google rankings and SEO.
What can you do?
If you are already using AI-generated content, the first thing to consider is do you need to do most of the heavy lifting or are you using it to generate ideas or a starting point? If you’re using it to fully write your next blog post, you need to reconsider this position and be sure to have a human add personal touches to your online content.
According to Mueller, using AI-generated content in ANY capacity is considered unacceptable. He states,
“[c]urrently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So, from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”
Your best bet is to keep doing it yourself because right now Google has all the power over search and rankings. At least, until something changes.
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