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“Nominate Your Favorite Teacher” Winners!

Congratulation to all the winners and a big thanks to the thousands of people who nominated their favorite teachers for our Sept. 1-13 sweepstakes.

First Place $700, Janey Mercadante, Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School
Second Place, $500, Bethany Gantt, Deer Park Elementary
Third Place, $300, Laura Lueshen, Rockton Grade School

And ten $100 winners:
Kris Gonzalez of Desert Heights Schools, Allisha Douglas of Sunset Park Elementary, Charisse Hastings of Garden Elementary, Michele Delgado of Carl Hayden High School, Lisa Theodore of Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, Tanya Peters of Gaston County Schools, Carla Banack of Prospect Mill Elementary, Chanel Smith of Dogwood Elementary, Colleen Furlong of Gloversville Schools, Traci Frey of Jarrettsville Elementary School and Amanda Kisor of Moody Elementary.

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September 16, 2013   No Comments

Teachers have it rough, but kids are the ones who suffer

By Marc Joseph, CEO & Founder of DollarDays (Reposted from The Huffington Postmarcs blog)

With the start of the school year, we have yet another terrifying shooting incident at the McNair Discovery Learning Academy elementary school in Decatur, Georgia. This is less than a year away from the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Between Newtown and Decatur, the U.S. has experienced 12 other shootings at schools. I just can’t image how much stress this puts on all teachers. Our dedicated teachers do what they do because they have a passion to help mold the future of this country, foster creativity in young people, develop character in students and help people lead productive lives. They become teachers because of their sense of service. Having to protect kids from shootings was not part of their original job description — but it is now.

Then on top of the stress to protect our kids, salaries have not moved much for teachers during the recession we have weathered since 2008. But what has moved up is the money teachers take out of their own pockets to help their kids. According to  USA Today, teachers will be spending an average of $400 out of their own pockets for classroom supplies and other help for their kids this fall, which is up 3 percent from last year. Mallori Lucas, a language arts teacher in Valparaiso, IN, says, “Of course we’re not forced to spend our money. But some of these kids don’t even get breakfast before they come to school, so we buy those snacks and treats.” Comparing today’s school spending trends to 10 years ago, the National Center for Education has school spending on supplies at 4.1 percent of the budget compared to 8.1 percent. Kids still need the same amount of supplies and learning materials they needed 10 years ago, but it does not look like our schools have this in their budgets.

Teachers by nature are resourceful considering that last year they took $3 Billion out of their own pockets to help their kids; and they are going to spend even more this year. You can see this inventive behavior with what happened all over the country this summer as teachers anticipated they needed to help their students more than ever. Elementary school teacher Mary Loung started Educycle which helps other teachers sell or pass along useable school materials, and shop for supplies they need in their classrooms in California. Businesses can also donate any surpluses to schools through Educycle. The Chicago Sun Times reports that David Zine and Peter Baker, high school social study teachers from Aurora rode their bicycles to Seattle to raise money for Best Buddies, a nonprofit that partners special needs and general education students to help forge friendships. The Memphis Business Journal talks about teacher Elizabeth Monda from Corning Achievement Elementary, who was one of the first teachers to use the site PledgeCents, a crowd funding site, to raise $4,000 for materials for her students. And this dedication happens in every city, every state to make sure our kids are prepared to learn this year.

Charles Best, CEO of  DonorsChoose, an online nonprofit charity group that matches donors and teachers for supplies and projects reports, “We’ve had a 30 percent increase over last year in requests from teachers.” So we should all go to DonorsChoose to help out these teachers in need. At DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away a total of $2,500 in products to 13 teachers who are nominated, so submit your favorite teacher to win.

How did we, as a well-educated society, get ourselves into this mess where we are putting so much stress on the teachers who we entrust with our kids every day? School should be a sanctuary of learning, maturing and growing our children into the next greatest generation. Instead teachers worry about bullets and having enough money for the basic functions needed to educate the leaders of tomorrow. Our current leaders have raised taxes, have us in a sequestration and can’t agree on anything to help move this country forward. Nothing has changed since Newtown, except we are spending less to help our teachers teach our kids to be decent and honorable. It is the teachers of today with their dedication and determination who will set the example for their students by their actions of caring and giving. The rest of us need to support these public servants and ease their personal burden of doing the right thing for our kids.

September 4, 2013   No Comments

What Content Marketing Offers to E-Commerce Sites

By Guest Blogger Joseph Berida

content marketingContent marketing is one of the biggest trending marketing techniques today. How exactly does it help the many e-commerce site owners looking to boost their sales? To find the answer to that question, we must first understand what content marketing really is.

The Importance of Value

Content marketing is a holistic approach to providing more value to your target audience based on a variety of compelling and useful content distributed through the right channels.

Basically, it’s giving relevant information to your prospects and customers for free. The idea is that they will learn to appreciate your content, and in return learn to trust you as a quality content provider. They won’t just allow you to send them more content; they will actively search for it and share it through their own networks.

By educating them about your industry and how your products are the best in the business, you generate more qualified leads, turn leads into customers, and one-time customers into brand loyalists.

Getting Friendly with Search

By delivering a constant stream of new and informative content on your e-commerce site that people share (whether it’s through social media or links from other websites), you are also improving your chances of ranking higher on search engines.

Search engines want to make it as easy as possible for people to find quality content by linking to them in the top results pages. Search is still the number one avenue for direct traffic in e-commerce sites, so it’s critical that you are ranking high.

Creating the Right Content

You can start mapping out your content strategy with different types of content that will cater to the special desires of an e-commerce audience.

Blog

There is a reason why blogs are still in use today by businesses, including Dollar Days. According to a 2012 Burst Media Survey, 8 out of 10 Americans within the 18-34 age range say that blog posts with brand mentions influence their purchasing decisions.

The angle of content marketing isn’t always self-promotion. Instead of talking about your own products, tackle issues that are relevant to your industry, whether they are problems your customers are facing or the challenges you and your competitors need to overcome.

Video

Video is your greatest tool in informing your audience about the products you’re selling, as humans favor visual information. We simply understand things better when we’re shown what they offer and how they work.

Record instructional videos of your products in use as well as the benefits they provide. Your site’s visitors will feel more assured seeing your products working just as you market them.

Experts’ Insights

Another avenue where people can find out more information regarding industry issues as well as the products you’re offering is through engagement with experts in the field. If you have contacts with thought leaders or at least those with the proper credentials to their name, set up a section on your site where they can receive questions from visitors and have them answer those questions

User-Generated Content

Besides hearing from authorities in the industry, buyers are more likely to listen to the recommendations of real people who’ve tried the products themselves than your own promotional efforts.  Allow customers to write reviews on your products. Feature the ringing endorsements on your product pages.

Spread the Word

As mentioned above, there is still the marketing side to content marketing. You’ll need to get your content out in the open if you don’t have a recognizable brand.

Social media is one of the more obvious platforms to share your content. Facebook and Twitter are the biggest sites, but you can also try out image-based sites such as Pinterest and Instagram where you can share photos.

Don’t forget to include share buttons within the pages of your content so that visitors can easily post them on their social networks.

Participate in active forums that are related to your business. Once you’ve proven yourself as a contributor, you can drop links to content within your site in your forum posts.

Email is a platform where you can directly engage with customers. You can create a newsletter where you can regularly send updates about your products with links to your site’s content as well as exclusive offers such as discounts and promos.

Consumers are constantly searching for quality content online. Capture their attention on all fronts with the right kind of information spread out through multiple channels, and you’ll earn their trust that they’ll want to do business with you.

September 3, 2013   No Comments

Incentives for Reusable Grocery Bags

By Guest Blogger Ali Pourvasei

tote eco friendlyReusable grocery bags are becoming a popular among those who are concerned about our Earth, but what about those who are more concerned about their wallets?  Sadly, there are many people who may balk at buying a reusable bag when they have no monetary incentive. Many stores have realized this and have created incentive plans to help encourage bargain hunters to help cut down on waste.

Free Bag Giveaways

The first step to switching customers over to reusable grocery bags is to get customers to try them out. One of the best ways to do this is to offer free reusable bags like the recent effort to free Los Angeles of plastic bag waste. A group of grocery stores agreed to give away free grocery bags for LA’s annual “Day Without a Bag.” This effort has led to a 95% reduction in plastic bag distribution in L.A.

Discounts on Groceries

Once customers have some reusable grocery bags, the next step is to give them incentive to remember to use them. There are many different ways to offer discounts. Her are four popular ways some stores approach it:

  • In 2009, Target started offering a discount of five cents for every reusable bag a customer used. It doesn’t have to be a Target bag, but it does have to be a cloth bag.
  • CVS Pharmacy offers a discount for reusable grocery bags that is based on the number of uses rather than the number of bags. A small green card with a barcode is scanned every time the customer goes through the line, and every fourth trip the customer earns on dollar in CVS store credit.
  • In addition to offering its own reusable bags, Kroger also offers a discount of four cents per grocery bag. While it’s not a large amount, large families with lots of groceries will find that it adds up fast.
  • KTA Super Stores also offers a discount, but theirs is for every bag that the customer brings in, whether plastic or reusable. They offer various rates for customers based on the size and type of bag they choose to bring to the store.

Charging For Plastic

In the effort to cut down on plastic waste, some cities such as Washington, D.C., Austin, TX  and San Diego, CA are requiring retailers to charge customers for plastic bags. Other places may follow their lead to get the consumer on board with the green effort.

A Little Push Goes a Long Way

No matter what kind of incentive is used, the main goal is simply to reward customers for bringing in a reusable bag.  The change to reusable bags is one widely embraced, but as history shows, human beings can resist change, even when it is a good one. Creating store or city wide incentives can be the extra push that helps consumers buy reusable bags and then continue to use them. When it comes to helping our environment and preserving our world, that little push can make a huge difference.

September 3, 2013   No Comments

Should You Open Your Own Online Store?

By Marc Joseph

storeThe economic recovery for most is much slower than the news would lead you to believe. Many people ask themselves, “How can I supplement my income so I can provide more for my family?” The perceived hot trend to accomplish this goal is doing business on the Internet—but it is not as easy as it looks. Before you go off and open an online store, you need to fully understand what online stores are all about.

Online stores are not much different than physical stores except you don’t have to worry about paying the rent or having a lot of money tied up in inventory. In online stores you still need to present the right product at the right time at the right price. You still need to be very clear about what you are selling and project stellar customer service.

The first obstacle to overcome is deciding what to sell. It is always much easier and much more fun to sell something you have a passion for. That way the long hours you spend with your online store become more engaging and less work. Many products are more conducive to selling online, such as jewelry, clothing or school supplies, while other products are more difficult to sell when they can’t be seen in person, such as refrigerators or leather sofas. So, the questions you need to ask yourself about what to sell in your online store include:

  • Can I sell a digital product that can be sent right over the Internet (like an e-book) or should I sell a physical product that needs to be shipped?
  • Will you specialize in one category of goods like pets or party supplies or will you offer a wide selection of products?
  • Do you have to house inventory or can you find a company to drop ship for you?
  • Will you be creating your own product to sell? If so, are you going to make it yourself or do you need to form a relationship with a vendor who will manufacture it for you?
  • How are you going to ship your product? From your home, a storage facility or drop shipper from a third party warehouse?

The second obstacle to overcome is finding the customer niche who will buy from you. You need to list what differentiates your site from all the other similar sites (and don’t kid yourself, they are out there) found online. So, to find the right niche:

  • Study the competition and if you can’t beat them with product or price or customer service, find another niche. Go to the main marketplaces like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, Rakuten, Tiger Direct or Newegg to see who is already selling and make sure you can do it better or faster or cheaper
  • Become the expert on what you sell. Show your passion for your products through original content that differentiates you from others. The more originality you add to the site, the more you stand out
  • Make sure it is easy to purchase from your site. Even if the products are similar to other sites online, you will set your site apart by making shopping easy. The quicker you can get customers from liking the products to finalizing the sale, the more you will stand out from all the competition

There are plenty of places on the Internet that can help you open up your dream store. Yahoo stores, Go Daddy, Volusion, Big Commerce, Doba, 1&1, Web.com and a whole slew of other sites can be your partner. “Build it and they will come” sounds good in movies, but it does not work the same with online stores. Marketing your site with search engine optimization, paid search, emails, affiliates, etc., will be the topic of another article.

At DollarDays.com, we have partnered with Lucrazon to offer an easy and fast way to get a site up and running. There are several website templates to choose from and you can sell as many products as you like. In fact, the DollarDays products are already uploaded to your site, so you can decide if you want to sell them all or just a few departments. There is no limit to the amount of pages you can create and the site is integrated into a shopping cart so you can begin selling in less than an hour.

We come back to the original question of should you open your own online store. It is inexpensive to get started if you find the right store-building partner and the right drop shipper of products for you. It can become a black hole if you start to throw money at every marketing scheme that comes along. So like any business, it takes time to build. If you are an entrepreneur, an optimist and a hard worker, then you should be in the online store business. If you believe that if you pay for a site and all you have to do is sit back and watch for an income stream, then the online store is not for you. The Internet is still the Wild West. Learn how to do guerilla marketing on the Internet with your online store, show your customers you are passionate about what you sell and this could be a fun way to make a living.

August 22, 2013   No Comments

August Favorite School Drive Facebook Promotion Winners!

$2,500 giveaway back to school suppliesCongratulations to our winners who were nominated as someone’s “Favorite Back to School Drive” organization!

First place $1,000 shopping spree went to Project Sleep Tight.

Second place $500 shopping spree went to Caring for Kids.

Third place $300 shopping spree went to Andrew Cooke Magnet.

Seven organizations each received a $100 shopping spree: Glacier Peak Elementary, NY Inner City Ministry of CRU, Integral Youth Services, Altoona Public Library, Kyrstens Kids, FamilyWorks Seattle and Urban Mentors Network.

Thank you for participating!

Take a look at our contest on Facebook now! We re giving away 1,000 SAT online test prep courses!

 

August 16, 2013   No Comments

Taking the SAT? Get FREE online test prep help

DollarDays SAT Test PrepNationwide, million of students take the SAT exam each year  for admission to colleges and universities. The SAT is the standarized benchmark exam that determines who gets into which schools, based upon scores.  If a student wants to go attend a top tier school, it’s important to do well on the SAT.  That’s why it’s important to take an online test prepration class prior to taking the exam. Not only can it help raise students’ scores, it can also build confidence for the big exam day. It will also help students manage the expectations regarding the flow of the exam.

Studying for the SAT is a smart plan, but knowing how to study is even smarter.  That’s why DollarDays has partnered with Boston Test Prep, an online SAT test prep tool, to give away 1,000 online SAT test prep courses through the end of August. We believe using this course can be the difference between a decent score and an amazing score!

So, go be amazing and enter to win a free SAT test prep course. You deserve it!

 

August 16, 2013   No Comments

Why DollarDays is Testing International Waters

marc joseph alibabaUpon cursory inspection, the DollarDays website appears to be as American as Chicken McNuggets. After all, the site’s name is not RupeeDays or YenDays, and there’s a U.S. flag peeking out from the banner on the home page. Since its debut in 2001, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based online wholesaler and closeout-goods vendor has been distributing a wide array of low-cost merchandise to dollar stores, gift shops and other discount retailers, the vast majority of them in the U.S. All of the 300,000 products available on the site are sourced in the U.S., too.

DollarDays CEO Marc Joseph is not exactly leaving those American roots behind—but he is expanding his root system. Joseph, who founded the site because he thought the cost efficiencies of Internet-based distribution “would give small businesses a chance to play on a level playing field with the big guys,” today is growing his e-commerce business by using the Internet to go global.

The Internet “has made the world a lot smaller,” says Joseph, a retail industry veteran who worked for Federated Department Stores and was a senior vice president at Crown Books. “When I was younger I had to jump on a plane to go have a face-to-face with vendors in the Philippines, China, India. It was very expensive and time-consuming. The Internet has streamlined all that.”

E-commerce is also making it easier for merchants to market and sell their goods overseas. Although DollarDays, which has 3.5 million registered users and gets about a million visitors a month, has only just begun a serious international expansion effort, last year small retailers and entrepreneurs in some 40 countries purchased goods from the site, which specifically advertises its shipping service to Canada, the U.K., Europe, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand.

DollarDays also runs a Canadian mini-site featuring products targeted for that market. But Joseph says he’s not interested in developing foreign-language mini-sites because of the complexity and cost. With just 50 employees, “We are lean and mean and all of our people are concentrating on how we grow the business,” says Joseph, who still finds time to blog about business and charity for The Huffington Post website. “Creating websites in other languages is a whole other effort.”

Click here to read Joseph’s Huffington Post column on the outlook for back-to-school sales in the U.S. this year.

Instead, he’s turning to online marketplaces to expand DollarDays’ reach. DollarDays is selling on Amazon.com and Sears.com marketplaces, in addition to running its stand-alone website. For additional international exposure, DollarDays recently opened a storefront on Alibaba.com, an English-language B2B marketplace with more than 36 million registered users from more than 240 countries and regions.

Marketplaces like Alibaba.com are a cost-effective way to reach more potential customers. That’s because the big ones get a lot of traffic and opening a storefront doesn’t require much technical expertise or investment. Alibaba “is doing all the heavy lifting that we don’t have to get involved in,” Joseph says. That allows DollarDays to remain focused on what it does best. “We are a marketing company that sells product, and [Alibaba] is focused on bringing the world together.”

International orders currently amount to about 15 percent of DollarDays total sales. It’s too early to tell whether the Alibaba storefront, launched in June, will boost that percentage significantly.

But Joseph says he’s positioned for growth, having increased the number of products being sold on the site from 100,000 to 300,000 over the last 18 months. He anticipates eventually attracting buyers from countries such as China, where concern over the quality and safety of domestically manufactured goods is generating interest among consumers for products made in the U.S.A. About six months ago, DollarDays created a specialty store on the website featuring thousands of U.S.-made products.

“Our name has always been Dollar Days International,” Joseph says. “We’ve always envisioned we could sell all around the world. Being with Alibaba is going to speed that up for us.”

This story first appeared on Alizila, Alibaba Group’s e-commerce and corporate news website.

August 9, 2013   No Comments

We’re giving away $2,5000 in back to school supplies!

$2,500 giveaway back to school supplies Through August 15, we are asking our Facebook fans to nominate their favorite organizations that are having back to school drives for supplies for kids who don’t have everything they need for school this year. DollarDays will donate $2,500 in back to school merchandise to ten organizations. The organizations can be your church, the PTO, the school football team or an even an outreach program.

If you know of an organization you’d like to nominate, please click on the image to be taken directly to DollarDays Facebook page. Hurry! The last day to enter is August 15! Thank you and good luck!

August 1, 2013   No Comments

Back to School: It’s Make It or Break It Time for the Economy

by Marc Joseph (reprinted from August 1, 2013 Huffington Post)

Marc Joseph Dollar DaysSpending this fall for students K-12 is expected to drop 12 percent, according to a National Retail Federation survey reported in the Wall Street Journal. The average that will be spent on each kid is $634.78, down from $688.62 in 2012. Even those going to college are expecting decreases from $836.80 this year, down from $907.22 last year. So it looks like the payroll tax hike, the sequestration and the continued sluggish job market are finally going to rear their ugly heads during the first major sales season of the year. This is troublesome news for retailers because the back to school (BTS) season is like the canary in the coal mine; BTS sales trends historically predict how the holiday fourth quarter sales will turn out. And in another BTS warning about the economy, 47.7 percent of college students expect to live at home, up from 42.9 percent in 2012.

These depressing numbers tell us that the American family has begun to focus on the needs of their children for BTS rather than the wants of their kids. If working Americans are having trouble getting their kids ready for BTS, what about the children in families stuck in poverty or not working at all? According to The Hechinger Report, poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools is classified as a “high poverty” school by the US Department of Education. To be classified as high poverty, 75 percent of an elementary, middle or high school students must qualify for a free or reduced price lunch.

Moyers & Co. reports that U.S. poverty (fewer than $17,916 for a family of 3) affects 46.2 million people, up 15.1 percent. The 16.1 million children in poverty are 22% of all children, including 39 percent of African-American and 34 percent of Latino kids. Deep poverty (fewer than $11,510 for a family of 4) hits 20.4 million people, which represents 1 in 15 Americans. On top of all this, we have 1,065,794 homeless students enrolled in U.S. preschools and K-12 schools and we know that only 48 percent of poor children are ready for school by the age of 5, compared to 75 percent of children from moderate and high income families.

So we have parents who are going to be spending less on their children for BTS. And we have poverty creating a major burden for schools to figure out how to deal with accommodating these kids’ needs. This is a bleak time for not only our economy, but to the answer of how we cope with an all-inclusive society so that no child is left behind.

Some organizations are rising to the occasion with drives to provide the underprivileged with what they need to go back to school with dignity with staples like backpacks, school supplies and clothes. Fox News reported in St. Louis that the National Council of Jewish Women brought a Back to School store to 1,200 children in need where they could just pick out what they needed for school. The Broomfield Enterprise in Colorado reports the organization “Crayons to Calculators” hopes to provide 9,000 students with new backpacks full of supplies. The City Wire in Arkansas reports on the “Stuff the Bus” campaign supported by the United Way where bright yellow buses will be scattered throughout Fort Smith, AR to collect school supplies for children in need. This is the ninth year of Stuff the Bus. We can all help online at Operation Backpack, where they are gathering backpacks for the New York City children in need (collected 13,500 in 2012). At DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $2,500 in products to a back to school drive that is nominated, so submit your favorite.

We have been putting up with this recession since late 2007. It has been close to six years where the poor are getting poorer, the needy are getting needier and now it looks like our school children will be getting less. Spending less for BTS is a major blow to our economy and when word of this decrease becomes widespread, it will be a major blow to the American psyche. As Americans, we have to do what we can do to ensure the long-term survival of our educational system, because all these kids, rich and poor, are our future. Dig deep into your pockets and help out your local backpack drive by donating backpacks, school supplies or cash so they can buy what is needed for the underprivileged. If you are a parent or grandparent, spend a little more on your kids for BTS so we can prove the predictions wrong. If this BTS season is truly less than last year, then we are in for a long, cold fall and winter retail season which will keep us in this recession for another year.

August 1, 2013   No Comments