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Are E-tail Returns Burning a Hole in your Bottom line? Consider in-kind Donations

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Are E-tail Returns Burning a Hole in your Bottom line? Consider in-kind Donations

The National Retail Federation estimates that about 20 percent of merchandise sold online is returned by the customer. And that’s a costly proposition for e-tailers. In most cases, returns mean the seller has paid for shipping twice (to and from a customer) without getting a sale.

Returned products need to be inspected and repackaged, which takes valuable time.  That’s if (a big IF) the merchandise is returned in good condition.  Plus, the retailer is taking a chance that the product won’t go out of style or expire before it can be resold. It’s unlikely most returns can be resold at full price, so even brand-new merchandise can end up at a liquidation warehouse or in the trash heap.

Rather than trashing merchandise or selling it to a liquidator, where you can’t control brand identity, consider donating returned merchandise. The resulting tax break may be quite handsome, and it may even be more financially beneficial than reselling the merchandise at a cut-rate price.

Just donating the goods to a nonprofit, though, comes with its own headaches. The retailer has the task of vetting an organization, making sure it will accept what’s being offered, understanding how it will be valued, and figuring out how and where merchandise has to be delivered.

Gifts-in-kind donation organizations do that legwork for you. These organizations will accept most of your overstocks and returns, whether it’s a truckload or a few cartons, at any time of the year; ensure those items go to qualified nonprofit organizations, and, if you wish, give you a full accounting of how your donations were used.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, quality, brand new merchandise is given each year to U.S. schools, churches and non-profits, allowing them to stretch their budgets, get more done with less money and even expand services.

Donated merchandise runs the gamut from educational products, safety supplies, books, clothing, crafts, office items and a myriad of other goods.  Many of this country’s leading corporations have discovered that in-kind giving is extremely beneficial to their bottom line and they’re doing something good to boot.

Giving in-kind makes you feel good, and you are assured that your merchandise won’t end up on the open market or have the brand diluted. Plus, your company may qualify for a substantial tax deduction.

Section 170(e)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code states that when Regular C corporations donate inventory to qualified nonprofits (also known as 501(c)(3), they can receive a tax deduction equal to up to twice the cost of the donated products.

Under the tax code, deductions are equal to the cost of the inventory donated, plus half the difference between the cost and fair market-selling price, not to exceed twice the cost.

For example, if your product costs $10 and you retail it for $30, the difference is $20. Half of $20 is $10. So, $10 (product cost) plus $10 (half the difference) equals a $20 deduction. As $20 does not exceed twice the product cost, it is an allowable deduction. It’s that simple.

There’s no one solution to the issues caused by customer returns. But, in-kind donations can be an integral part of the solution for your business and will certainly help others.


Big Dreams, No Cash; Funding Your Brick-And-Mortar Business

The digital world made starting a business easier. Anyone with a computer, a phone and a spare room could give entrepreneurship a try, no office or storefront necessary.

Or so it would seem.

In truth, not every business can operate without a brick-and-mortar presence. Cyberspace isn’t sufficient when a budding entrepreneur wants to open a bowling alley, laundromat, car lot, restaurant, motel or any number of other businesses, says Elijah McCoy, CEO of McCoy Brokerage Service (

“That means they need to buy, rent or renovate property, and purchase equipment,” McCoy says. “That also means they are going to need the capital to turn their entrepreneurial dream into an entrepreneurial reality.”

But securing that capital is not always easy. Entrepreneurs who want to launch a small business, or small businesses that want to expand, often find that lenders are reluctant to provide the cash they need to make their vision happen, McCoy says.

Yet the need is growing. Since the pandemic, the number of people who feel the urge to start a business has increased dramatically. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, up from 4.4 million in 2020.

Many of those people were part of the Great Resignation, the movement among millions of Americans to quit their jobs and refocus their lives. In numerous cases, that refocusing involved people who longed to be their own boss. But as McCoy points out, being your own boss also means taking on responsibility for overhead expenses – possibly including real estate – that someone else handles when you are an employee.

“Sometimes business owners or would-be business owners go to lenders and they think they have a great idea,” he says, “but for whatever reason the lender rejects their application.”

The key is to not give up, he says. If one lender says no, it’s time to find another one.

“There are options out there,” McCoy says. “You just have to persevere until you find the right match.”

Some of those options include:

Conventional loans. A conventional loan for a business is somewhat similar to a personal loan. Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions offer them and, just as with a personal loan, the business borrows a lump sum and repays it over time, along with interest and fees. With conventional loans, though, borrowers may face more stringent requirements to qualify than with some other types of loans.

Small Business Administration loans. The Small Business Administration is a government agency that partners with private lenders to provide loans to businesses. McCoy says this can be a good option for businesses unable to secure a conventional loan, but certain requirements still must be met to qualify. In fiscal year 2021, the Small Business Administration provided 61,000 loans totaling $44.8 billion to small businesses.

Hard money loans. A hard money loan usually isn’t the first option when someone is seeking to purchase real estate for a business, but these loans do have advantages, McCoy says. The loans typically are based more on the value of the property than the creditworthiness of the borrower, and the closing can happen much more quickly – sometimes within 48 hours of the appraisal review. Unlike with conventional loans or SBA loans, hard-money lenders usually are private individuals or companies, as opposed to a bank or credit union.

“When you are seeking a loan for your business, it’s a good idea to shop around,” McCoy says. “You want to get the best deal possible for what you are trying to accomplish, and it’s all the better if you can find and work with someone who understands your needs. Ultimately, you want to match your objectives with the most appropriate lender in the most timely manner.”


Elijah McCoy is CEO of McCoy Brokerage Service (, a company he founded in 2006. McCoy’s firm works with businesses throughout the country that are trying to secure financing. Much of McCoy’s clientele is in healthcare, such as doctors, dentists and pharmacists, but he also has worked with a broad range of people in other industries. He is a certified commercial loan expert and financial consultant.


5 Key Retail Industry Trends for 2022

2021 was a year of adjustments in which the economy slowly recovered from the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, a year that many believed would mean a return to normalcy, but the new Omicron variant rocked the world once again as a fresh reminder that, no, Covid has not gone away yet.

What do the next twelve months have in store for us? In 2022, we will continue to reshape the world with one thing in mind: to build our new reality… A direction that major retailers and brands were already beginning to move towards by reorganizing their channels and resources.

Looking to the future, Alfredo Pérez, International Business Development Manager at Tiendeo, explains the trends and tools that will be used by retail sector leaders and professionals, derived from his Hot Retail Trends 2022 study*.

1. Increased focus on e-commerce and digital channels

Changes in shopping habits have led to the digital channel becoming the preferred means of connecting with consumers. According to statistics, digital marketing (83%), social networks (73%) and e-commerce (63%) are positioned as the most relevant media for marketers in Latin America. The leading role that e-commerce is playing in the region is evident, 7 points higher than the international average.

In fact, in pursuit of ensuring greater traceability of campaigns, content personalization and automation strategies, retailers and brands have opted to implement the digital transformation of the consumer industry, encouraging constant interaction with the customer in both online and offline channels, resulting in 57% of marketers favoring digital channels while 41% lean towards offline channels.

2. Long live social shopping!

With 64% of the world’s population shopping via social media1, marketers are clear on where they are going to spend their advertising dollars. According to the Tiendeo study, 58% of retail executives will increase their advertising spend on social media in the next 12 months.

Although social shopping is a well-established trend in other parts of the world, this year the retail sector in Latin America will exploit the benefits of social shopping to the fullest. Accenture estimates that by 2025 the largest volume of sales in this channel will be in clothing (18%), electronics (13%) and home (7%).

3. Customer experience above all else

The main challenge facing retailers today is to identify the right time and channels to engage with both potential and repeat customers in order to offer them a seamless and frictionless shopping experience.

According to the Hot Retail Trends 2022 study, for 44% of marketing professionals, user experience is the most important aspect to consider in their strategy. Under this premise, retail is developing multi-touch strategies such as ROPO (Research Online and Purchase Offline) so that the consumer can have different alternatives and conversion points when shopping, whether on the web, e-commerce, or in the physical store.

4. More innovative stores

Digital mannequins that learn about your favorite items and guide you through the aisles, cashierless self-checkout stores, smart shelves that verify product availability or virtual try-on sessions, yes, these are the stores of the future.

Perez adds “With the incorporation of breakthrough technology (augmented reality, artificial intelligence, etc.) throughout the sales process, we will see increasingly autonomous stores that allow consumers to find what they are looking for almost instantly, receive the immediate attention they need, try it before buying it and also (why not) pay for it quickly, making a simple purchase a multi-sensory brand experience”. Retailers such as Walmart and Carrefour have already taken the plunge into this new way of interacting with customers in order to compete with the e-commerce giants.

5. Focus on the circular economy 

Customer concern for the environment has led retailers to reassess their strategies to be more environmentally conscious in order to find a balance between economic growth and sustainability.

In sustainable practices such as the Circular Economy where production cycles are closed to make the most of natural resources, the role played by digital tools is key. In 2021 many retailers began to implement more sustainable marketing actions with the digitization of the promotional catalog, long considered the key to generating brand awareness. This type of model favors the reduction of industrial waste by up to 80%.

Thus, industry professionals will step up their investment in digital advertising to communicate with customers, and this year digital channels will account for 86% of budget allocations, while offline media (outdoor advertising, catalogs, etc.) will account for 14%. 

*Study conducted in EMEA and LATAM based on the opinion of 358 directors and brand managers in the consumer sector in multiple categories (supermarkets, home, fashion, electronics, beauty, toys, DIY, pets, sports, health and travel) between November 8, 2021 and December 13, 2021.


4 Ways DTC Brands Can Beat Supply Chain Logjams

With the holidays fast approaching, global supply chain disruptions are threatening to cast a shadow over the peak shopping season for both brands and consumers. COVID-19 related shutdowns, production delays, rising materials costs, labor scarcity, shipping container shortages, and port congestion could all leave retailers short of products to sell, and consumers without gifts to give.

That’s troubling for both digital and traditional retailers who rely on final-quarter sales to drive their revenues. For direct-to-consumer merchants, though, it isn’t all bad news. Despite the challenges, direct-to-consumer merchants have a real opportunity to leverage their brand equity, weather the storm, and come out ahead by capitalizing on supply chain disruptions this holiday season.

That’s partly because DTC sellers have less risk exposure than marketplace merchants or real-world retailers. More than half of Amazon’s sellers, for instance, are now based in China, meaning the marketplace could be especially hard-hit. Besides global shipping issues, China is also facing widespread power shortages that could curtail manufacturing operations and leave Amazon facing tremendous shortfalls in inventory — both for Chinese sellers and for U.S. sellers that import Chinese-made products into Amazon’s FBA network.

Traditional physical retailers face similar challenges. Their geographical footprint requires a multiple-step distribution process, creating greater costs, slowing down delivery times, and heightening the potential impact of logistical logjams and labor shortages. Full-truckload shipping is especially tough, with drivers in such high demand that high schools are now training teenagers to drive 18-wheelers. Inventory shortages are also likely to be more noticeable in brick and mortar stores, where empty shelves will impact customer experience and could dissuade shoppers from entering stores in the first place.

By comparison, DTC dropshippers have a much simpler task. Like any ecommerce operation, DTC brands have significantly lower fixed operating costs than brick-and-mortar retailers. That’s especially significant when inventory runs low: if nobody has products to sell, it’s far better to be on the hook for small, manageable hosting costs than to be stuck paying a sky-high commercial lease.

Better yet, DTC brands don’t just have lower costs and less risk exposure — they also have more control over the customer experience. While marketplace sellers have little option other than to simply remove listings for out-of-stock products, and real-world retailers are left with bare shelves, DTC brands can respond more creatively — updating their websites to guide shoppers to available products, say, or reducing SKU count to create a more focused browsing experience.

This agility, combined with deeper brand equity and a more loyal fanbase, gives DTC brands a path to generating revenue and deepening customer relationships even in the face of product shortages. The best approach will vary from brand to brand, but a few key strategies include:

1. Transparency. 

Be honest with your customers. Many will have read about global supply chain issues, but they may not be aware of how acute they are or how they are impacting your brand. While consumers will get frustrated by marketplace sellers or real-world retailers that don’t have the products they’re seeking, they will tend to be more sympathetic toward DTC brands that communicate about the challenges they’re facing in purposeful and honest ways.

Start by reaching out via your customer email list — an asset most marketplace sellers and real-world retailers lack, or fail to actively maintain — and follow up with a posting on your website. Strike a forthcoming and optimistic tone, and avoid defensiveness, and you’ll find your transparency will increase your credibility with your customers.

2. Assortment 

Because DTC brands often have lower SKU counts than other retailers, the impact of a single product being out of stock can be disproportionately large. To combat this, merchants should leverage their brand equity and promote available product-adjacent and brand-extension items, such as branded merchandise or related products and accessories.

Taken to excess, this could dilute your brand — but executed tastefully and in a way that’s still aligned with your core brand, it can be an effective strategy. Bringing new temporary products to market requires some additional research and investment, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about your customers, and potentially identify new SKUs to incorporate into your permanent product lineup.

3. Promotions

Given the likelihood of shortages and delays, try to drive engagement by running one or more promotions. Easy options include gift cards and credits, discounts for late delivery, and freebies such as accessories and merchandise. You could also offer free gift-wrapping or small personal touches such as notes of thanks to customers whose gifts arrive later than expected.

The key is to offset late delivery or other inconveniences with an elevated experience — something that marketplace merchants simply can’t offer, but that can be a great option for DTC brands shipping high-value, high-demand items.

4. Pricing 

When supply issues cause order volumes to drop or COGS to rise, the easiest way to make it up is by increasing prices. This is harder to do in marketplaces where competitors’ products are only a click away, or in brick and mortar settings where overhead is higher, but DTC  merchants with strong brand equity are better-placed to command higher prices this holiday season.

If you pursue this strategy, distribute increases across your best-selling items to reduce the effects of price elasticity, and be forthcoming about why prices are going up to preempt sticker shock and underscore your commitment to transparency. Alternatively, consider pursuing a more aggressive bundling and up-selling strategy, including tailored product recommendations and checkout up-selling, to increase AOV without increasing item price.

Control your destiny

Of course, how well these recommendations will work for you depends on your brand and your customer base. The most important thing, though, is to realize that as a direct-to-consumer brand you have far more control over your destiny than pure-play marketplace sellers and traditional retail brands.

If there was ever a time to use the strengths of the direct-to-consumer model to your advantage, it’s now. The global supply chain disruptions will undoubtedly affect sellers of all kinds this holiday season. That makes it all the more important to use every tool in your arsenal to face these challenges head on, and to leverage your brand equity to strengthen customer relationships and drive revenues in the months ahead.


Remington Tonar is the Chief of Staff at, the first end-to-end ecommerce solutions provider delivering a fully integrated and owned suite of software, expert services, and infrastructure to scale businesses online.



In the digital world, most of us are constantly immersed in protecting data while ensuring smooth operations that have become increasingly complex in recent years, particularly in the age of COVID-19 for manufacturers and e-commerce leaders. With concerns of maximizing cybersecurity compliance increasing almost as quickly as consumer demand, we decided to take a deeper look at how data protection ties into e-commerce and manufacturing and what companies can do to remain competitive, compliant and trustworthy in the eyes of their customers. 

To gain a better understanding, we looked to Bindu Sundaresan, director at AT&T Cybersecurity Consulting. With the firm for the past 12 years, Sundaresan and her organization offer planning and professional services to help customers in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, finance and more reduce cyber risks.


“You name the emerging technology irrespective of customer security maturity, we are there,” Sundaresan says. “We are starting to see some implications of rushed transformation efforts, putting companies at larger risk. They have to take stock of their altered risk profile as the threat surface grows and with the adoption of digital technologies in pursuit of new business models and enhanced customer experiences such as e-commerce in manufacturing.”

She adds that in the modern age, e-commerce is no longer just in sight for retailers or e-tailers. In fact, e-commerce has transformed the way major industries are conducting business from manufacturing, B2B and even shippers. 

“It’s a whole function, end-to-end in terms of when the ordering is placed to checking on what stocks are available, to shipping,” Sundaresan says. “This is all happening through front-end e-commerce websites. E-commerce in general is an attractive target for the malicious actor, because that’s where the money is.”

Data protection in the digital space requires a strategic and tedious process–two words some would never think to put in the same sentence when talking technology. For businesses to successfully secure consumer data, company data and overall cybersecurity, all moving parts must be considered, starting with the basics. Sundaresan emphasizes that just because digital applications have been simplified, it does not ensure a successful launch of data-secured applications.

“Follow the data, think about every connection, think about the data flow, think about every connection you are making for every asset within your organization. Web application security must be taken seriously. Application Security 101 is how you should secure your third-party and open-source code because approximately 96 percent of apps today use borrowed code. Sure, it is a great way of standing an application up, making it run fast, and saving development time and resources. But at the same time, it will introduce vulnerabilities into your infrastructure.” 

From its inception, web applications present competitive advantages—and significant vulnerabilities if not properly deployed. One must carefully consider the limitations and vulnerabilities of the selected tools over protected information to effectively secure and operate it. 

“It’s not just about fraud protection or credit card data behind these applications,” Sundaresan notes. “It is about the denial-of-service attacks that can happen, making your website unavailable. It is not somebody stealing, it is somebody getting availability. It is about using your website and your brand to craft another webpage that looks exactly like your brand, and then do SQL injection on it. E-commerce websites now have sophisticated tools with shielding applications and technologies available. These are all affordable and easily consumable, eliminating the need to go in and actually change the code.”

Whether we realize it or not, almost all of us are using some type of e-commerce platform, IoT device or another form of digital technology enabling connectivity between us and the outside world of products and goods.

“Everyone cares about privacy, and this is a common thread across industry verticals,” Sundaresan explains. “We all use internally built applications, APIs and take payment information. Anyone that takes credit card information needs to comply with the PCI standard. It covers a lot of web applications and e-commerce security controls that are a must. Compliance is not the end goal, but it’s a great starting point for your framework.”

Looking at manufacturing, we see a different story unfold. Data protection measures are approached from a different angle that does not consider coverage for sensitive consumer payment information or personal identification. After all, many manufacturers are not dealing directly with the consumer but still have a need for securing digital transformation in the sector.

“As a manufacturer, you have to think about what the attack surface looks like and what the protection surface looks like,” Sundaresan warns. “It is critical for manufacturers to think of each new connection as a potential vulnerability to their attack surface. Gone are the days where manufacturers are going to look at just safety and well-being as the only priorities–security is now top of mind, and it should be.” 

Along with basically every other industry sector across the globe, COVID-19 impacted and changed manufacturing. Sundaresan highlights the changes sparked by the pandemic and how manufacturers are now prioritizing data security. 

“COVID propelled smart manufacturing, showing us that security is more about risk and resilience rather than just providing a technological element to operations. We have enough tools out there, and it’s time to initiate the joining of forces and look at how data can be exploited because of unpatched systems in manufacturing.” 

Over the past 12 years, Sundaresan and her team at AT&T Cybersecurity Consulting have learned the adage, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” was more than relevant during the pandemic for the supply chain, challenging the notion that just because a company is not focused on B2C operations does not eliminate risk for data breaches and threatened security.

“In the 20 years I have been working in the industry, there is not one thing that we don’t do at AT&T Cybersecurity. Some assume we might only do large projects or cater to those if they are connected to our network. That is not the case. In relation to the industry as a whole, an important takeaway is to remember that what manufacturing and healthcare are going through now, retail and finance went through this same thing about two, three years ago.” 

To learn more about AT&T Cybersecurity and its diverse solutions portfolio, visit:


Bindu’s experience, which spans more than 20 years, has been shaped by the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most innovative companies. She has worked with industry frameworks, including NIST/ISO/HITRUST, regulatory requirements including PCI, NERC, and HIPAA. Bindu has led dozens of cyber-risk engagements for Fortune 500 clients from strategy to technology implementation to breach response. She was tapped to lead a complex PCI and HIPAA compliance assessment for a leading global retailer, spearheaded a $1M security assessment, and worked on securing Criminal Justice Information Sharing Networks in NYC. Before AT&T, Bindu was a Senior Manager with Verisign. Before joining Verisign, she was a Senior Consultant with KPMG and a Senior Network engineer. Her love for teaching and mentoring started with her role as an Adjunct Faculty with the State University of New York (SUNY).


5 Ways to Ease Canadian Supply Chain Pain

Canadian businesses are facing a painful dilemma as they enter the second half of 2021.

A study released by the Bank of Canada in early July shows business confidence has soared across the country as vaccination programs have rolled out and reduced restrictions on public movement. Business leaders reported strong sales outlook, unprecedented levels of planned hiring and plans for greater investment. In fact, the monetary policy overseer’s quarterly survey showed confidence at its highest level since 2003.

There is good reason to be buoyed about the future. Canadian consumers have saved an estimated $220 billion during the pandemic that they are now looking to spend. Another Bank of Canada survey showed near unprecedent intentions amongst consumers to spend their savings once the economy opens. That is the good news.

The bad news is retailers, wholesalers and service-sector businesses reliant on the movement of goods are also facing unprecedented supply chain woes. Shipments of goods critical to the success of these businesses have been delayed by months due to backlogs at ports in Asia stemming for a global container shortage. In its survey, the Bank of Canada found 60% of businesses would have some difficult or significant difficulty meeting demand if there was a sudden increase. Commodity prices have soared to their highest levels since 2014 while factory-gate prices in China – where many manufactured goods are produced and exported to Canada – witnessed a year-over-year increase of 6.8% in April 2021. Shipping costs from China to the coast of British Columbia have tripled.

‘Just in Case’ Becoming the Norm

The delays and escalating costs of shipping are prompting businesses to stockpile inventory at rates not seen in recent years. The just-in-time supply chain model that has characterized the movement of goods throughout most of the 21st century is now being traded in for a just-in-case model. But the market has responded accordingly with warehouse lease rates up 25% and warehouse availability almost non-existent with little new capacity slated in the near term. In some cases, businesses have had to invest far more heavily in warehousing than they had planned when inventory arrived at port on time, along with delayed inventory and the oversupply that could not be contained within existing warehouse space. In addition, fiscal stimulus programs have tightened the labor market, driving down labor availability and driving up labor costs.

All the added expense is fuelling concerns about inflation as businesses pass down the additional costs to consumers. A spike in inflation could dampen consumer demand, which would then resolve the supply chain woes, but would also stagnate economic recovery. This leads to the greater challenge of whether to plan for a consumer boom or a more temperate market.

What is a Business Decision Maker to Do?

As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Businesses have been finding creative solutions to supply chain problems as they have arisen – from alternative transport routes and methods to new suppliers and even alternative materials to build their products.

The reality, however, is there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the supply chain woes being faced by Canadian importers. Solutions will vary based on industry, pain points, sourcing markets, ports of entry and several other factors.

Gain Visibility: One of the key actions being taken by businesses is digging in to learn more about their suppliers’ suppliers. Doing so allows them to better identify potential disruptions where materials may be scarce, or transit routes are congested.

Call for Backup: Even businesses that have reliable suppliers should consider finding alternative sources of supply and ideally from a different country. In most cases, delayed supply is the result of congested ports or a regional dearth of cargo container availability. Finding backup suppliers in other markets means not only having an insurance policy for supply but also for transport.

Make Accurate Supply Projections: It is a tall order to know how consumers intend to spend in the wake of a global pandemic. But businesses that use analytics to gauge future demand will suffer fewer supply chain headaches as they will be able to plan better for anticipated inventory arriving from overseas.

Secure Freight: Cargo capacity is at historic lows as businesses around the world fight for space on ocean freighters. Even inland transport has become challenging. For businesses that have not secured space, finding available transport can be near impossible. Working with a freight forwarder can help not only to identify available capacity but also to secure space for future supply. This is particularly true for businesses that have a stronger gauge of upcoming demand.

Lower Landed Costs: Businesses searching for alternative suppliers can often find cost savings by leveraging free trade agreements to reduce duty outlay. Canadian businesses may find refuge in trade agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which gives importers free trade access to markets like Vietnam and Singapore. Other opportunities may be found with suppliers in Europe via the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Of course, Mexico is a viable alternative to sourcing in Asia and is party to the recently enacted United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA) that replaced NAFTA. Using Mexico could also remove the need to use ocean freight where congested ports are forcing weeks-long delays to bring goods to market.

When will it End?

Canadian importers are anticipating the day when business can get back to normal. After years of uncertainty over the fate of free trade in North America, conflicts with the U.S. over steel, aluminum, and lumber, and conflicts with China over agricultural goods, there is a desire to see things stabilize. The reality, however, is that Canadian importers will have to compete with their counterparts in the U.S. and other markets with recovering demand for cargo space. While more containers are being brought online, the shortage is anticipated to continue into the early part of 2022 or even later. That means rates will remain high for the foreseeable future, particularly for Asia-origin goods moving to North America’s west coast.


Michael Zobin is a Canada-based director of global trade consulting at Livingston International. His expertise includes supply-chain optimization; duty deferral and drawbacks; conducting compliance program reviews; developing compliance procedures; voluntary disclosure; and post-entry review.

hybrid production

The Future of Sustainable Manufacturing is a Hybrid Approach

If you’re in the retail business, one of your worst nightmares is being stuck with boxes and boxes of unsold inventory taking up space in your warehouse. Wasted stock can be a huge cost to your bottom line and pose serious risks to your business.

For eco-conscious brands, a lot of unsold inventory is also detrimental to the environment, especially if the products are textile-based. Of the more than 100 billion items of clothing produced each year, some 20% go unsold leftovers are usually buried, shredded, or incinerated (Forbes).

Businesses that end up in an overstock situation generally use traditional bulk manufacturing which requires products to be made and then warehoused until they are shipped. While there is a risk of costly unsold inventory, bulk production can also be economically effective if a product is proven to be a best-seller.

On the opposite side of the spectrum sits on-demand manufacturing–a process by which goods are produced only when they are needed and in the quantities required, eliminating the cost and effort of storing and managing inventory. Although on-demand products are not produced at economies of scale, businesses can more easily and quickly test and go to market with new products and designs.

Previously, businesses would need to choose one method or the other but with recent advancements in technology in the past decade, retailers can get the best of both worlds through hybrid manufacturing. An economically and environmentally sustainable solution, a hybrid approach blends the cost-effectiveness of bulk production with the risk-free per-order fulfillment process of on-demand manufacturing.

How Hybrid Works

Before adding any new item to product lines, experts recommend testing them through on-demand manufacturing to ensure viability. An on-demand approach gives retailers the freedom to sell more SKUs and products that they might not think will take off en masse. Once retailers know a product has the potential to move into mass production, the switch can be made. Eventually, when interest wanes and the product becomes more evergreen but to a smaller audience, retailers can realize ongoing value by going back to an on-demand approach.

Having spent a career as the former VP of On-Demand at One Live Media, an eCommerce agency that works in sports, music, and entertainment, I am well versed in fulfilling merch orders for thousands of sports teams and artists including but not limited to the L.A. Lakers, KISS, Willie Nelson, and Zac Brown Band. Before getting stuck with a warehouse full of stuff, my team would run every new product through the on-demand cycle. Most of the brands we worked with fulfilled 25-60% of their orders through on-demand and the rest with mass production. It’s important to find the right mix of on-demand products and bulk inventory in order to optimize sales.

Why Utilize a Hybrid Approach

Adapt to trends quickly without risk. Culture is now manufactured on-demand. In the past, consumer trends were generally set by businesses. However, in the recent decade, the tables have turned and consumers are setting trends on social media. Because buyers are now changing the way we capitalize on culture, it is affecting how brands produce and manufacture products on-demand. With a hybrid approach, brands can quickly mock up a design and add the product to their online store without prepaying for costly order minimums by first using on-demand manufacturing. If the product doesn’t fly off the shelf, then you can simply remove it from your store and not have to worry about piles of unsold inventory. If it proves to be successful, then they can switch the production process to bulk manufacturing.

Improve cash flow. When a business utilizes a blend of on-demand and bulk manufacturing for its products, it can more easily optimize its cash flow. For bulk products, they can get a higher per product profit margin due to economies of scale. For on-demand products, they don’t have to pay for costly inventory or order minimums, freeing up a business’s cash flow. This liquidity allows brands to boost revenue-driving activities such as marketing, which increase sales, and ultimately grows their business.

Shift toward sustainability. Being eco-conscious is no longer a consumer marketing trend, it is a real practice many businesses are implementing in their business model. Because on-demand manufacturing allows companies to produce only what consumers order, it eliminates unnecessary production and harmful waste—saving both the business’s bottom line and the environment.

Be better prepared for economic disruptions. When COVID-19 disrupted supply chains across all industries last year, many retailers were forced to shut down and were left with boxes of unsold inventory. When utilizing on-demand manufacturing in a hybrid approach, it is important to look for a provider that manages a distributed supply chain network. This type of fulfillment process allows on-demand manufacturing providers the ability to carry a large number of product SKUs in more than one facility, therefore orders of that product are able to be fulfilled in multiple locations. That means if one location closes or has an external disruption— they can seamlessly move order fulfillment to another facility.

It has never been easier to embrace a hybrid manufacturing approach. Many retailers can use traditional manufacturing for bulk products that sell all year round in conjunction with on-demand for short-term collaborations and innovative, trending designs. Because on-demand doesn’t require a large amount of startup capital, it is a low-risk method that can lead to high returns. The ease and efficiency of on-demand combined with the cost-effectiveness of traditional manufacturing is truly paving the way for the future of sustainable retail.


Dale Manning is Head of Market Expansion at Gooten

digital marketing

Why Small Businesses Need to Embrace Digital Marketing

In the last decade, marketing has shifted in a different sphere. With the rise of technology and social media, we got introduced to a new branch of marketing which is digital marketing.

In many ways, digital marketing is no different than traditional marketing. Digital marketing is the use of the Internet to reach consumers.

But digital marketing has replaced most traditional marketing tactics because it’s designed to reach today’s consumers online, and as we know, the digital world is so trendy right now.

Our question is: why should small businesses embrace digital marketing? A simple answer: Because it’s the future. With the rise of social media, digital marketing is a new trend.

If you’re not sure how to do this, we are about to give you some of the most efficient tips and tricks that will for sure grow your business.

So, let’s dive in. How to make a business rise in digital marketing:


1. Make a strategy

Before even starting with anything, it is a good habit to make a strategy and know what you are expecting for your business, whether it is a new, a small, or a big one. Strategies are what keep your business on track and always evolving. Also, social media strategies are what make your business pop up more, and we will talk about this later on.

2. Make a user-friendly website

Having a website is a good start. But, it doesn’t mean that you cannot succeed if you don’t have a website. However, this section is about those who want to have a website. A good and easy way to build a website is WordPress. We are not sure what your field is, however, WordPress is free and most of the themes there are free. If you want a more customized website you can hire a web developer, or now with the quarantine going on, it is a very smart idea to hire freelancers. Another way is that you can hire a digital marketing company to do all these for you. But, again, this is something you can do yourself, it just needs a little more time.

3. Search Engine Optimization

If you haven’t heard about this, no worries, it is a new technique that digital marketers are using lately. Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is a technique that helps your website rank better on Google by using link building as the main source. However, it is divided into two parts, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO where:

On-Page SEO is 30%

Off-Page SEO is 70%

On-Page SEO is mostly focused on the website, making sure that your website has meta descriptions, best titles for crawling, keyword research, h1 tags, etc. Optimizing your website with SEO is a very important step. There are a lot of companies that offer such services, however, if you don’t want to spend your money on this you still can do it yourself, however, it will need some time.

Meanwhile, Off-Page is focused mostly on campaigns, where you need to work on backlinks and link building more. Why is this so important? Because link building is what will get you ranked on Google. More links linked to your website, the more visitors it will bring, and this way Google will rank it higher. Ahrefs is a very good tool to use if you want to track your competitors.

4. Keep track of your competitors

Since we already mentioned that you have to track your competitors, it is important to know the reason why. You need to track your competitors to see what they are doing, and be better than them! If you have very big competitors, it doesn’t really matter that you are a small company, use it as an advantage to get inspired and become better than them.

What are some of the benefits of digital marketing?

Benefits of digital marketing:

1. It’s free

Promoting your business on social media is mostly free. Because social media apps are free. However, if you want to promote it in a more advanced way then you have to pay for the ads. But, we would advise you not to because with the right social media advertisement you can attract as many clients as you want. We also need to mention that it is cheaper than traditional marketing.

2. You connect with your customers more

By using social media, you get really close to your customers and you get to know what they like and dislike more. This way, you get to hear their feedback even in a closer way. If they don’t like something, you will know right away, and then you will make it better!

3. You can reach a bigger audience

As we know, the internet is globally spread and it is used almost in every part of the world. This way, if you are located in North America, you can reach people in Western Europe by using social media. It won’t be a problem to do so because social media does this amazing thing for you. All you have to do is keep track of what your audience loves.

We really hope that we helped you out to start your own business and be in the spotlight with our tips.