Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is cheap the new green?

If you had asked us a year ago what the most important trend for businesses was, and for children-related businesses in particular, we wouldn’t have hesitated for a nano-second – GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. An amazing variety of products and services all aimed at consumers with an appetite for all-things environmentally responsible cropped up and inspired us all to do a little better. But the shaky global economy has changed things. It’s been a while since I heard a company talking about how green they are…

Here’s a story I found interesting. Amy recently popped into a posh grocer in midtown Toronto. This store is one of a row of shops wryly known for their steep pricing as ‘The Five Robbers’. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Amy’s spending habits – it’s just that one of these Robbers carries a chocolate cake that you would practically mortgage your house for (and you almost have to). Amy noticed that a whole handful of products in the store had special packaging pointing out their recession pricing – about 10% off.

Now we could all use a break in these tough economic times – but I’m willing to guess that if you do your groceries at The Five Robbers, then 10% isn’t going to make or break you. So what gives? I think that cheap just may be the new green. I’ll bet a year ago that same store would have been touting eco-friendly products or packaging. I’m afraid that recession pricing at the toniest grocer in the city may be just another marketing gimmick. I think it’s designed to make the customer feel virtuous and responsible, much like a lot of the green marketing did. Does it work? I’m not sure. Ten percent off the world’s best chocolate cake is certainly a nice pick-me-up, but I’m hard pressed to think that sales are way up at that shop as a result. If cheap is the new green, what will be the new cheap? I wish I could predict it – but it’s no piece of cake.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's in a title?

There are all sorts of unique experiences I have in my work day that my corporate friends will never have. For instance, I get to make up my own title - which changes depending on the tasks of the day, who I am telling, and which one makes us laugh the most! The truth is I wear many hats at Admiral Road. I am the Office Manager when I have customers to talk to, supplies to order or bills to pay. I am the Director of Social Media (our favourite title) when I am spreading the word via Facebook, in a newsletter, or of course, blogging. Today Amy declared that I am the "web-genius". I get these titles not by virtue of my degree in Sociology (which I am still trying to figure out how to apply to the blanket business), but by virtue of being 23.

I’m not the only one who knows how to use a computer but I do have the advantage of not having had to work very hard at it. I was interested and I grew up at the right time. My family got our first computer when I was 12. It was new and exciting and I fought my 5 siblings for a chance to play with it. Now I can't imagine doing much in life without my computer. Instead of looking words up in a dictionary, I look them up on When I can't remember who was in a movie, the lyrics to a song, or baseball stats, my computer answers me instantly. The Internet is like my very smart best friend that I have grown to know so well that I take it for granted that I had to learn these things.

I have a whole host of knowledge that was acquired simply by being exposed to a huge amount of new technology as it came out. The benefit of my useless knowledge is that I have managed to carve out a unique role at this company because so many "skills" from my everyday life (blogging, Facebooking, troubleshooting) have turned into assets that I didn't know had value.

Now I see 5 year-old kids surfing the webkinz site or 8 year-olds texting on their cell phones (I didn't get a cell phone until I was 18!) and I wonder about my generation gap.What will these kids be able to do in 15 years?

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is imitation flattering?

Where do original ideas come from? Aren’t all new ideas inspired by something? At Admiral Road we have always prided ourselves on our original blanket designs. There is something very satisfying about putting something out into the world that was never there before you made it. Sure, we’re influenced by external factors: The success of the films ‘March of the Penguins’ and ‘Happy Feet’ led us to consider a penguin-themed blanket. But we’ve always put our own stamp on our ideas.

In the world of mompreneurs, we’ve seen imitation run rampant. You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve seen women do to one another. We ourselves have been imitated by other small businesses more times than I can count. (I know! The cut-throat world of baby blankets – who knew?) Our designs have been imitated. We’ve also had content from our web site knocked off many times. Heck, we’ve had to take legal action against a competitor!

But what happens when a big fish gets into the small pond? We recently learned of mass-market retailer who ripped off a mompreneur friend of ours – a children’s dress design. Same unique fabric, same style, same cut. The mass retailer was selling the dress for one-sixth of her retail price.

Where does the mass retailer get its ideas from? Aren’t there teams of designers sitting around designing new things?

I’ve always been a total cheapskate when it comes to my kids’ bibs. Drooling infants can necessitate a staggering number of bib changes in a single day. Five bibs for $1.99 at Ikea – that’s right up my alley. Not all the Ikea bibs lasted for the third kid, however, so I was thrilled when I recently found the good, wipeable kind at this same dress-design-ripping-off mass retailer (3 for $10!) It wasn’t until I got home and took apart the packaging that one of the bibs caught my eye. It looked…familiar. Why, that reminds me an awful lot of our sheep blanket! The sheep, the grass, the fence – those are the same three elements on our blanket. Now that sheep looks a little different, but the grass is a similar green. And my, the shape of that fence is….

Did a big fish imitate a little fish? Maybe not. But maybe….

You be the judge.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.