Health care costs, federal taxes and scarcity of job candidates rank one, two, three atop the concerns list of small business. An annual study by National Federation of Independent Business ranked cost of health insurance as the No. 1 concern of the more than 4,000 small businesses polled with 47 percent calling this a "critical" problem.
In second place was federal taxes on business income, and finding qualified employees was third, rated as critical by 31 percent of respondents.
THREE OF FOUR BUSINESSES PLANNING PRICE HIKES
Three of four corporations surveyed plan to raise prices an average 4.7 percent in the next 12 months. A year ago only 60 percent were scheduling increases and then by only 1.3 percent.
Actually, core prices (those excluding energy and food) climbed .6 percent in June as consumers increased their debt load despite higher interest rates. The latest Federal Reserve Board report had consumer borrowing increasing at a 9.8 percent annual rate to pay those higher prices.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? SALES!
Never underestimate a simple name change to boost the sale of a product. So now it's "dried plums" instead of "prunes" to get away from its stodgy image of a laxative for the elderly. Prune sales fell 14 percent in the last six years, alarming the prune barons in California, the source of 99 percent of U.S. prunes. The California Prune Board pushed for the name change and finally won Food & Drug Administration approval. Watch for a $1 million ad campaign emphasizing the "fresh fruit goodness" of dried plums.
By the way, the California Prune Board retains its name because it still promotes prune juice.
INTERNET IMPACT THREE TIMES THAT OF ACTUAL SALES
Research shows American consumers will spend $199 billion on Internet shopping by the year 2005, but the impact of the Web will be three times that.
More than $632 billion will be spent in off-line channels as a result of research conducted on the Internet, according to Jupiter Communications, Inc.
E-COMMERCE BANDWAGON ROLLS ON
There has been a shakeout in e-commerce recently, but not to the point that Chicken Little needs to worry about the sky falling. E-tailers will continue taking business from traditional stores because they satisfy customers' call for convenience.
According to a recent survey, e-tailers need to be aware that customer concerns about e-commerce are:
• shipping charges (51 percent of respondents)
• inability to see and touch items (44 percent)
• difficulty in returning items (32 percent).
Most all of these concerns are addressed by retailers combining both a traditional store with Internet shopping.
Small firms have been the slowest to board the e-commerce bandwagon, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). NFIB finds fewer that one of six small businesses has a Web site and of those who do, less than half use it to sell goods or services over the Internet.
BLAME IT ON THE GENES
After debating the influence of age, gender or ethnic origin on the entrepreneurial urge, now comes the idea that the tendency to start a business may be present at birth. "This tendency is biologically predetermined," says John Eggers, Ph.D., professor at University of Western Ontario.
Testing to detect signs of entrepreneurship contrasts "innovators" with "adapters." The innovator often is led to start a business because of failure to survive in the corporate scenario, which resists the change the innovator requires. On the other hand, the adapter thrives in the established business structure, generating few ideas but making old ones work.
POWER OF SUGGESTION IN RETAILING PUT TO THE TEST
Can laundry products be sexy? Victoria's Secret says they can be. Victoria's Secret will be marketing its own line of "Lavish Laundry" detergents this fall along with "Gentle Affection" soap for delicate garments.
The pink striped bottle of Lavish Laundry makes this claim: "Makes doing the laundry a sensual experience." Perhaps more men now will be willing to do the laundry.