Retail profits are plummeting. Stores are closing. Malls are emptying. The depressing stories just keep coming. Reading the Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Target earnings announcements is about as uplifting as a tour of an intensive care unit. The Internet is apparently taking down yet another industry. Brick and mortar stores seem to be going the way of the yellow pages. Sure enough, the Census Bureau just released data showing that online retail sales surged 15.2 percent between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.
But before you dump all of your retail stocks, there are more facts you should consider. Looking only at that 15.2 percent “surge” would be misleading. It was an increase was on a small base of 6.9 percent. Even when a tiny number grows by a large percentage terms, it is often still tiny.
More than 20 years after the internet was opened to commerce, the Census Bureau tells us that brick and mortar sales accounted for 92.3 percent of retail sales in the first quarter of 2016. Their data show that only 0.8 percent of retail sales shifted from offline to online between the beginning of 2015 and 2016.
So, despite all the talk about drone deliveries to your doorstep, all the retail execs expressing angst over consumers going online, and even a Presidential candidate exclaiming that Amazon has a “huge antitrust problem,” the Census data suggest that physical retail is thriving. Of course, the shuttered stores, depressed execs, and tanking stocks suggest otherwise. What’s the real story?
Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is focusing on an important aspect of the agenda for corporate tax reform — — allowing U.S. corporations to receive a deduction for dividends paid to their shareholders. That deduction would eliminate double taxation of corporate profits distributed as dividends; instead, these profits would be taxed only to shareholders, not at both the shareholder and corporate levels.
Although Senator Hatch has not disclosed the details of his proposal, a corporate deduction for dividends paid has several advantages. But such a proposal would raise financial and political challenges that would have to be addressed.
If you’re a bargain hunter, it’s common to spend time researching prices before making purchases. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy a washing machine at your local Lowes store only to find a lower price offered on Lowes.com. However, I found in a recent study that retailers’ offline and online prices are the same more than 70% of the time.
That’s good news for consumers, who don’t need to worry about price comparisons when deciding whether to use a retailer’s website or visit a local store. They can choose instead based on other factors like convenience and product availability.
This finding is important for economists too. Online prices are increasingly being used in measurement and research applications, including studies of pricing behaviors, price stickiness, international relative prices, and exchange-rate dynamics. Many national statistical offices are even considering the use of online data in official consumer price Indexes.
Many people find asking to be paid more money awkward. How will your request be perceived? Will you look greedy or demanding? Are you sure you’re really worth what you’re asking for? The key to answering these questions and reaching a successful outcome is preparation. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to prepare for a salary negotiation. It just takes a few simple steps.
1. Think about timing.
The first step in preparing for a salary discussion is to consider timing. In general, it’s better to discuss salary after you receive a job offer rather than once you start a position. Companies generally expect there will be some negotiations before a person formally accepts a position, and assuming you have done your market research, you should be comfortable knowing the salary range and typical benefits for your position and in your location.
However, many people decide to have this conversation when they have been in a job for a time and desire a raise. If this is the case, look at whether you’ve had changes in job responsibilities. Have you taken on new roles or tasks? Or have you recently completed a successful project? If so, this would be an appropriate time to ask for an increase.
Another rule of thumb is that it’s better to ask for a raise when you’re happy in your job, versus feeling dissatisfied. You want to bring a positive attitude to the negotiating table, because that suggests you are committed to the company and are in for the long haul. After all, who wants to reward a disgruntled employee?
It’s also helpful to look at how the company is doing. If it just announced layoffs, don’t ask for a raise. On the other hand, it reported a 15% increase in profits over the last quarter, that is probably a better time.
Kristina McElheran, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy Visiting Scholar
Professor of Information Technology, Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy
From Harvard Business Review
Growing opportunities to collect and leverage digital information have led many managers to change how they make decisions – relying less on intuition and more on data. As Jim Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape quipped, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” Following pathbreakers such as Caesar’s CEO Gary Loveman – who attributes his firm’s success to the use of databases and cutting-edge analytical tools – managers at many levels are now consuming data and analytical output in unprecedented ways.
This should come as no surprise. At their most fundamental level, all organizations can be thought of as “information processors” that rely on the technologies of hierarchy, specialization, and human perception to collect, disseminate, and act on insights. Therefore, it’s only natural that technologies delivering faster, cheaper, more accurate information create opportunities to re-invent the managerial machinery.
At the same time, large corporations are not always nimble creatures. How quickly are managers actually making the investments and process changes required to embrace decision-making practices rooted in objective data? And should all firms jump on this latest managerial bandwagon?