Washington: The US is “locked and loaded” to respond to the unprecedented drone strikes on key Saudi oil facilities, President Donald Trump has warned, a day after his top diplomat blamed Iran for the crippling attack that has led to the biggest surge in crude oil prices since the Gulf War. The attacks on Saturday targeted Abqaiq, the site of the largest oil processing plant run by the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, and the Khurais oilfield. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US Iran has denied involvement in the air attacks, which were claimed by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack, without providing any evidence, prompting Tehran to accuse Washington of deceit. Tweeting on Sunday, President Trump stopped short of directly accusing Iran, but suggested possible military action once the perpetrator was known to his administration. “Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Trump said. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls Trump’s tweet, which appeared to raise the specter of a US military response, served to ratchet up tensions in a region already on edge after the audacious attack on the Saudi oil field. Trump used similar language in June when he announced he had called off an attack on Iran just as the US was “cocked & loaded” to strike because he decided it would cause too many deaths for a proportionate response to Tehran’s downing of a US drone. The coordinated strikes on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities disrupted 5 per cent of the daily global oil supply. The attacks sent oil prices sky-rocketing on Monday, with Brent futures up USD 12 — or nearly 20 per cent — in the first few minutes of business, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) jumped more than USD 8, or 15 per cent, AFP reported. It was the biggest rise since the 1990-1991 Gulf War, it said. Though Trump did not name Iran in his tweet, the attack has caused another spike in tensions between the US and Tehran. Prior to Saturday there were signs the US appeared open to new negotiations and even a potential meeting later this month between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. A day after Secretary of State Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack on Saudi oil facilities and argued there is “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” a senior Trump administration official briefed CNN on information to back up Pompeo’s claims. Pompeo did not provide evidence, but the official pointed to satellite imagery provided to CNN showing the oil facilities were struck from the northwest, suggesting an attack from Iraq or Iran, among other information. Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter to issue a similar denial. “Having failed at “max pressure”, @SecPompeo’s turning to “max deceit,” Zarif wrote. “US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory. Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our April ’15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.” The Trump administration official pointed to the angle at which Saudi oil facilities were attacked, the numbers of points of impact and other information to argue that it is unlikely the attacks were carried out by Yemen. Instead, the official suggested the attack most likely originated in Iran or Iraq. “It is very difficult to see how these things could have come from anywhere but Iran or Iraq,” the official said. The official said 19 Saudi targets were struck in Saturday’s attack and argued that such an attack could not be carried out with 10 drones, which the Houthis claimed to have used. “You can’t hit 19 targets with 10 drones like that,” the official said. The official, drawing on commercial satellite imagery shared with CNN, also noted that “all the points of impact on Saudi facilities were on the northwest side of them, which is somewhat difficult to do from Yemen.” The official could not say whether it is possible drones from Yemen could have angled around to attack northwest facilities. Officials quoted by the New York Times said a mix of drones and cruise missiles might have been deployed, but that not all hit their targets at Abqaiq and the Khurais oilfield. The ABC News quoted a senior US official as saying that Trump was fully aware that Iran was responsible. Earlier on Sunday, White House senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway said Trump has “many options on the table” when it comes to responding to the strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities. “The President will always consider his options,” Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if Trump would still sit down with Rouhani under current circumstances. “We’ve never committed to that meeting at the United Nations General Assembly. The President’s just said he’s looking at it,” she said.
At a major international tournament, American men had a very bad day.Yes, the U.S. men’s soccer team did just fine Thursday, losing 0-1 to Germany but advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup. But at Wimbledon, all but one of the four remaining American men exited the singles draw without winning a set. That leaves just John Isner to play in the third round. Isner is by far the highest-ranked American, but he’s often vulnerable to upsets at events outside the U.S.“I guess it’s better than last year. We didn’t have anybody past the second round,” Isner said of the American men’s success at Wimbledon, at a press conference Thursday. “At least there’s one guy past the second round.”Here’s a sign of how bad things have gotten for American men’s singles tennis: Even with all the early exits, Isner has to win just one more match for this tournament to count as a good Grand Slam by recent low standards. He’d be the lone American man in the fourth round for a second consecutive major, after five consecutive Grand Slams without any American man to make it to the Round of 16. The U.S. hasn’t had a male quarterfinalist at a Grand Slam since Isner and Andy Roddick reached that stage at the 2011 U.S. Open, nor a semifinalist in the five years since Roddick lost in the final at Wimbledon. No American man has won a major since Roddick did at the U.S. Open in 2003, and after every disappointing Grand Slam, the prospect of an American major champ seems farther away than it did at the one before.The situation is very different for the American women. They’re led by world No. 1 and five-time Wimbledon champ Serena Williams, who will be joined in the third round this year by her sister, Venus Williams, who also has won Wimbledon five times. Even more American women are outperforming their male counterparts. Three others have made the third round at Wimbledon, with one more, Victoria Duval — the 18-year-old who got into the tournament the hard way, by qualifying — still to play her second-round match.Isner isn’t an ideal American No. 1. He has a booming serve and one of the worst return games in the top 50. But without him, things would be truly bleak. For the third consecutive major, Isner is the only American man ranked high enough to get one of the 32 seeds. No other American man even ranks in the top 50.Sixteen countries have a No. 2 player ranked higher than the second-best American, No. 67 Sam Querrey, one of the players who lost on Thursday. Among the countries with a higher-ranked No. 2 player are Switzerland, Croatia and Austria, which have a combined population under 21 million — roughly the population of Texas. Three other countries with a population under 20 million have a No. 2 player ranked higher than Querrey. (It’s worth noting that tennis has become more popular globally since the 1980s, hence more countries are competing and leaving fewer spots for the traditional powers.) The strength of the No. 2 player matters, as a proxy for depth of talent and for the Davis Cup, the international team competitions with two singles slots.To Denis Kudla, a 21-year-old American who lost his second-round match here Thursday, international comparisons aren’t fair because of tennis’s relatively slight stature among U.S. sports. “Tennis is our fifth or sixth sport,” he said in an interview last week. “People just have to be patient.”American women fare better in the equivalent international comparison, perhaps partly because female athletes have fewer professional options and tennis is one of the most lucrative. Just two countries have higher-ranked No. 2 players than Sloane Stephens of the U.S.: Serbia and Italy.Strong prior American male generations — John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors; Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras — cast a long shadow over Roddick and his peers, former top-10 members James Blake and Mardy Fish. But the Roddick generation was far stronger than the current one, as demonstrated by the decline in the number of American players in the majors’ draws, of seeded American players and of American players who reach the third round. “I think what happened is, maybe we missed a generation,” Kudla said. “The generation behind Roddick maybe didn’t pan out like it was supposed to.”“Every country goes through a slump,” Benjamin Becker, a German player who played for Baylor University, said in an interview this week. “It’s not easy to always have these prodigies like Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, [Jim] Courier and Connors. A lot of times, countries take generations off.” He added, “I’m very confident that an American player will be soon at the top level.”Two young Americans who hope to fulfill Becker’s prediction had modest success last week, qualifying for Wimbledon by winning matches on adjacent courts at the Bank of England Sports Centre while monitoring each other’s progress. Ryan Harrison, who was watching Kudla’s match during changeovers of his own contest, said in an interview that in an individual sport, national rankings don’t matter much. “The U.S. is always concerned about how many top players they have,” Harrison said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is my own development, my own career.”He added: “The U.S. has to really understand that we’re working. We’re doing what we can here.”
The way women are often portrayed on television helps accentuate the traditional roles at the expense of their sexual satisfaction, says a study.Media portrayals teach women to be passive participants in their relationships and prioritise the desires of others – particularly men – instead of prioritising their own desires, said Rita Seabrook from the University of Michigan in the US.The study, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, showed that college women who frequently watch television tend to endorse the gender roles that are portrayed often on TV. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfEndorsement of these roles – which are called gendered sexual scripts – results in some women having less confidence about using condoms and more shameful feelings about their sexual experience.Being confident and proud of one’s sexual experiences “conflicts with gendered expectations that women should abstain from sex except in limited circumstances,” she said.The study sampled 415 undergraduate women who described themselves as sexually active heterosexuals. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThey indicated the number of hours of TV (live or online) and reality TV watched weekly, and disclosed if they believed the programming reflected daily life.Questions also focused on relationships, attitudes towards women, sexual beliefs, gender roles and how participants rated their emotions.”Women who reject traditional gender norms face backlash for failing to adhere to the culture’s expectations for them,” Seabrook said. “Thus, adhering to gendered sexual scripts may protect women from perceived and actual judgment at the expense of their sexual satisfaction and sexual well-being,” Seabrook said.
Holiday Hurdles 15+ min read What Not To Sell There is more to making the most of the holidays than having the products everybody wants. Shipping policies and procedures, timing, site design, payment options, sourcing and more all play roles in getting the most from the year-end opportunity. Of them all, timing may be the most vital. Experts and experienced sellers all sing the same tune: Start early.”You have to start very, very early,” stresses Hess. “Online, people tend to shop early, so we start about October 15.” Why so soon? Hess explains that his listings generally run 10 days. “If we start October 15, those seemingly early auctions will end October 25, the following ones will end November 3 and so on,” he says. “We’ll have only six to eight cycles to take full advantage of the Christmas holiday [season].”Others say October is late. “Theoretically, it starts on Thanksgiving, but there’s a lot of planning that starts before then,” says Joseph T. Sinclair, author of eBay Business the Smart Way. “If you don’t plan, you’re going to get caught short. You won’t know whether to promote something because you won’t know whether you’re going to get it in stock. September should be the target [planning] date for the [holiday shopping] season, so everybody’s ready to go in November.”Early is the time to line up a trusted source of supply, especially for items you think will be your best movers. “Make sure you have reliable suppliers who are going to deliver when they say they will,” stresses Schepp. “What could be worse than trying to put your listings up on December 15 because the product you were promised by November didn’t show up [on time]?”Another key early task is staffing. “This is not a time to scrimp,” says Schepp. “You might have to hire people to get your shipments out, and those are things you don’t want to be putting in place the first week of December. You want to make sure you have everything ready to go.”You may also want to change your look and feel. “Have your webmaster dress up your pages with a Christmas theme instead of using your normal template for your [item listings],” suggests Sinclair. One specific suggestion is to take advantage of the eBay gift icon. The wrapped-gift logo tells shoppers you can help them check an item off their to-do list by gift-wrapping their purchases and mailing them directly to gift recipients.Shipshape ShippingOffering gift-wrapping and delivery to a gift recipient can be a powerful word-of-mouth tool for expanding your marketing, says Barbara Weltman, a small-business consultant and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting an eBay Business. When the wrapped gifts arrive, recipients will be exposed to your business, Weltman says. “This is an opportunity to reach people who aren’t your customers, and perhaps gain new customers.”You may want to offer free shipping on Buy It Now items, says Schepp. “If you offer it strictly for Buy It Now customers, you’re giving them a little bonus, and you’re also encouraging people who want to get their shopping done and don’t want to wait five or six days for your [listing] to end.”Whether you decide to offer free shipping or not, make sure you ship sold items quickly, says Kitchener. “The main thing we do is ship fast, especially at Christmastime,” he says. “You get all kinds of people with deadlines.” Dangerous Threads ships via the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx Ground, and usually ships items within 24 to 48 hours, which gives most shoppers enough cushion to make sure their items arrive in time for the holidays.Because of those deadlines, take extra care to clearly explain shipping policies in your listings. Consider how you could simplify your shipping policies to make everything as fast and easy as possible for the hurried gift-purchaser. Says Hassler, “We include a standard shipping rate to the U.S., Canada and other international locations so people aren’t slowed down by having to write to us and ask for [the shipping costs].”When designing holiday listings, make sure your terms include accepting payment through PayPal. Faster payment means faster shipping, which makes it easier for shoppers to make their deadlines.To make it even more likely that gift-buyers will make their deadlines, you can and should consider refusing to guarantee holiday arrival after a certain date. “People will buy things on the 23rd of December, expecting to have them before Christmas,” explains Hassler. “That’s been a problem, so we’ll quit having [listings] a few days before.”Kitchener stops selling some products much earlier, particularly custom items. “We make some beautiful custom guitar straps,” he says, “and we’ll cut off the orders for those about three weeks before Christmas because of the shop time required to make the items.” Be sure not to promise buyers items you can’t deliver.Hess employs a more complex solution. As the number of days before Christmas shrinks, Hess Fine Art reduces the lengths of its listings. From the usual 10 days, Hess goes to seven-, five-, three- and even one-day listings. The formula is simple: “Count the days to Christmas, subtract the days for shipping, and figure when those auctions will end.”Selling PoliciesYou should also consider your terms of sale. Start by thinking about adding more Buy It Now items. “Impulse buys are better that way,” says Hassler, who does primarily Buy It Now sales during the holidays instead of the auction-style listings that are her usual method. “People don’t want to wait a week to get a book that someone else may have on Buy It Now.” To increase the speed of the sale, use Buy It Now with immediate payments through PayPal. The transaction is instantaneous and saves you critical time spent waiting for payment.During the holidays, it may be more important for you to offer PayPal Buyer Credit, which allows your buyers to finance their purchases through GE Money Bank, the financial entity behind PayPal Buyer Credit. “During the rest of the year, it might not be worthwhile for some sellers,” says Sinclair. “But during Christmas, when everyone is scrambling for money to buy gifts, they might [offer] it for one month.”When everyone is scrambling, they’re more likely to buy the wrong item, one that doesn’t fit, or one that just isn’t what the recipient had in mind. For that reason, returns tend to go up during and shortly after the holidays. So it’s important to keep a relaxed attitude toward customers who, after being relatively easy to please all year, have suddenly turned uncertain, demanding and difficult during the holidays.”You have to be a little more liberal and a little more giving and caring,” as Hess puts it. “You have to be more friendly and more forgiving, because clients are more emotional then in their buying habits.” Experienced eBay sellers say there’s not always an obvious reason why some items move better during nonholiday periods, but it does happen. Jeff Hess, owner of Hess Fine Art in St. Petersburg, Florida, says, “It’s difficult to sell large diamonds on eBay [during the holiday season]. Not expensive diamond jewelry–[that’s] easy to sell. But large solitaires, one carat and up, are difficult.”Likewise, holiday shoppers at Dangerous Threads, based in Nashville, Tennessee, snub the leather-craft supplies that are mainstays the rest of the year. Owner Bob Kitchener thinks he knows why. “It stands to reason,” he says. “You don’t want to hand somebody a gift of a pile of rivets.” Generally, experts say, holiday-unfriendly items can be anything not usually regarded as a gift.Celebrate All Year LongDon’t assume you’ve got it made because you nailed Christmas. The final quarter is the biggest for most eBay sellers, but it’s not the only important holiday season. For some on eBay, it’s not even the most important. “Halloween is a real good one,” says online sales expert Debra Schepp. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day herald sales surges for flowers, perfume, candy and jewelry; themed decorations can be hot for Easter and the Fourth of July.Make a List, Check it Twice…You’ll be in great shape to take advantage of the busy holiday season if you prepare in advance for the rush. This handy checklist will help you prioritize what needs to be done:Get started early, as many consumers start their holiday shopping as early as October.Sign up for PayPal, and offer it on all your listings.Check your eBay preferences, and update your listing and shipping policies if necessary. You can also change your default template to give your pages a “holiday” theme.Find reliable supply sources. Make sure they’ll be able to deliver when they say they can.If you sell custom-made items, stock up on bestsellers, and start your listings early.Gather marketplace data via a Completed Listings search or other method.Sell in-demand products to boost sales this holiday season. Check Seller Central for hot items.For a useful merchandising and promotion calendar of important dates, visit http://pages.ebay.com/sellercentral/calendar.html.Check third-party sources for the scoop on what’s hot. Terapeak Marketing Research offers its own “Hot List” reports, based on eBay data going back as far as a year. The buzz on upcoming movies can be found at ComingSoon.net and Internet Movie Database. And check out “Hot Stuff” on page 48 for our preview of 2005’s top sellers.Assess staffing requirements, and hire temps if necessary.Order ebay/usps co-branded shipping boxes from the U.S. Postal Service.Order wrapping paper and gift enclosure cards. The eBay Shop sells eBay wrapping paper; type “paper” into the search box to find it.Reconfigure your shipping assembly line to accommodate special requests, such as wrapping gifts and shipping directly to gift recipients.Explain shipping prices and policies clearly to buyers. Consider offering free shipping on Buy It Now items.Save the DatesYour customers expect their purchases to arrive on time for the holidays, so it’s critical you ensure every item ships when you say it will. These guidelines on shipping basics can help you stay on top of deadlines–and keep your customers happy:Make sure last-minute shoppers know your terms and policies. Tell them clearly and in advance if what they’re buying won’t arrive in time, or if getting it there requires extra shipping fees.Keep in mind that neither FedEx nor UPS delivers on Christmas Day; however, both offer one-day shipping services. An item shipped on December 23 will arrive the next day. The U.S. Postal Service does not deliver normal mail on Christmas Day. However, if an order is shipped using Express Mail, the USPS will attempt delivery on December 25, unless it’s a Sunday.Priority Mail from USPS, which usually takes two to three days to deliver, can take up to two weeks in the busy month of December, so plan accordingly. Guaranteed service by your carrier of choice is the best way to go.Different deadlines apply when you’re shipping internationally, so check with your carrier in advance for details.Hot StuffBefore making your list of products to stock this holiday season, make sure you check out the latest “Hot Categories Report”. As you approach the high tide of holiday sales, the reports available here will tell you where both demand and bids for items are growing.But why stop there? There’s a lot more you can do to find out what is likely to sell well for the holidays. For instance, some categories are always in demand. Perennial holiday winners include cameras, cell phones, clothing, collectibles, dolls and bears, electronics, jewelry and watches, sporting goods and, of course, toy and hobby items.Want to know which items will be especially hot this year? Check the roster of Hollywood films slated for holiday release, suggests Jim Migdal, senior category manager for eBay Toys & Hobbies. “Those always drive sales,” he explains.With that in mind, this December 9, Walt Disney Co. will release The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, based on the perpetually popular children’s books by C.S. Lewis. You can find more info on upcoming movies at ComingSoon.net and Internet Movie Database.You can also find information about the categories you specialize in. The scoop on hot toys, for instance, can be found in forecasts by Toy Wishes. In the spring and fall, this journal’s editors list toys they think will be most in demand during the summer and holiday seasons. Another way to find forecasts for what will be hot this holiday season: Type “holiday watch 2005” into an internet search engine, and check out the results.Sellers of dolls and collectibles can reliably predict increased demand for certain items during the holidays. Prewar Lionel trains, Hot Wheels cars from the 1960s, and bisque dolls from France and Germany are always scarce and in demand at the holidays, explains Migdal.Climate also plays a role with holiday hot-sellers such as sporting goods and clothing. That’s why ski jackets will tend to outsell bathing suits. And when it comes to popular categories such as electronics and jewelry, consider offering more expensive items than you might at other times of the year–shoppers’ wallets are open, and they are, after all, in a giving mood.Finally, keep an eye on current events, and stay alert for one-of-a-kind opportunities. One of these occurred when a manufacturer mistakenly made just 6,000 Polar Express trains. Says Migdal, “They sold out very quickly, and we saw them on eBay for two or three times the list price.” For the latest hot sellers by category, go to Seller Central. Click on “Category Tips,” then click on “In Demand” under the appropriate category.Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living. Everyone else may be getting out their sweaters, but on eBay, holiday time is the hottest season. For many brick-and-mortar retailers, November and December are the make-it-or-break-it months, when the offline world racks up as much as 50 percent of annual sales and an even larger percentage of profits. So it’s not surprising that eBay sellers report that the holidays are important to them as well. “We probably do a little more than a third of our business in that period of time,” says Jenanne Hassler (eBay User ID: jenanne), who, along with her husband, sells an average of $3,000 worth of video games and video-game books each month on eBay from Waynesville, North Carolina.Many larger eBay sellers have similar experiences. Jeff Hess, 54, owner of Hess Fine Art in St. Petersburg, Florida, does close to $5 million annually on eBay, selling vintage watches, jewelry, art and antiques. About 25 percent are holiday sales, says Hess (eBay User ID: hessfine), who adds that since he began emphasizing eBay over his brick-and-mortar store several years ago, the holidays have become even more important. “In the past, like most vintage retailers, we didn’t have a very active Christmas season,” Hess says. “Our season was essentially over by November 15. With the advent of eBay, we found we were more like the standard Christmas holiday retailers, [which see an increase during the holiday season].”There are a couple of reasons why the holidays are critical for eBay sellers. One is that eBay increases its advertising budget during the holidays, executing a wide array of marketing, advertising and promotional tactics to encourage buying holiday gifts on eBay. Every retailer should take advantage of the significant effort eBay makes to drive traffic to its site during this crucial time of year.Another reason is that eBay is so mainstream, it can’t help but be affected by society as a whole, says Debra Schepp, a writer in Middletown, Maryland, who co-authored eBay PowerSeller Secrets: Insider Tips From eBay’s Most Successful Sellers. “It’s becoming more and more true as people are more comfortable with shopping on eBay–and devoted to shopping on eBay,” Schepp says. “Plus, there are lots of things that make it convenient [for buyers] to shop on eBay, like the fact that you can offer [them] gift-wrapping and direct shipping to recipients. That makes eBay competitive with any online shopping [destination].” The proof, Schepp says, is the fact that the biggest shopping day of the year–the day after Thanksgiving–is the same for both offline retailers and eBay sellers.Best SellersSince making the most of the holiday season is a priority for most businesses on eBay, where do you start? First and foremost, sell what people want to buy. So what are the hottest holiday items on eBay? “It all depends on what you’re selling,” says Marsha Collier, author of eBay Business All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies. “That’s the magic [of] eBay. People can come and buy just about anything, and people want just about anything.”The holiday hotties on eBay tend to mirror what’s hot elsewhere (and often what you can’t find elsewhere). As a marketplace of many small sellers rather than one dominated by a few mega-retailers, it’s truly a democratic free-for-all, with the decision about what sells ultimately resting in the hands of the buyers. “Since what’s for sale on eBay isn’t dependent on a big corporation or a bunch of executives deciding what to sell this season, it’s a reflection of what’s happening [all over] America,” Schepp says. “Anything that’s popular somewhere else is going to be turning up on eBay.”With that in mind, eBay sellers who want to make the most of the holidays should make it a point to know what’s selling well in society at large during the period. When an in-demand item is hard to find offline, buyers turn to eBay. For instance, notes Schepp, when the iPod was scarce in traditional brick-and-mortar channels last year, units were still available on eBay–and selling like hot cakes.A few recurring themes outline what makes a product hot during the holidays. For instance, Hassler, 37, says higher-end rare books sell better during the holidays than at other times of the year. In other words, if you’re selling products like watches during the holidays, think Rolex. Bundled products–items sold together at a special price–are also better sellers during that period, Hassler says: “It’s a focus on items that may not sell during the [rest of the] year because you’re not going to buy them for yourself, but you’re going to put them on your wish list.”One-of-a-kind custom orders also move better during the holidays for Bob Kitchener, owner of Dangerous Threads, a Nashville, Tennessee, eBay retailer of leather goods and craft items (eBay User ID: bobkitchener). “Custom stuff is really good at Christmastime, along with customized things like [guitar] straps and belts with names on them,” says Kitchener, 53.The price tag is likewise a key indicator of what will sell for Hess. “It seems like everything expensive sells better during the holidays,” he explains.To know everything about what sells, you’d have to survey all eBay sellers, or at least a large sample of them. Luckily, you can use a variety of tools that track, analyze and report on the bestselling items instead. The “Hot Categories Report” is an eBay tool for sellers that lists Hot, Very Hot and Super Hot categories each month based on factors including month-over-month bid growth, bids-per-item and conversion rate. To view the report, go to Seller Central, click on “What’s Hot,” then click “Hot Items by Category.” eBay Pulse gives you a sense in real time of what people are looking for. You can also find out what items are hot in a particular category by going to Seller Central, clicking on “Category Tips,” and clicking on “In Demand” under any category.There are also third-party sources for information on what’s hot for the holidays. Terapeak Marketing Research licenses eBay transaction data and goes back as far as a year to provide its own “Hot List” reports. Andale is a third-party subscription service that includes detailed research tools, including information on hot-selling products.Finally, don’t neglect to place at least some trust in your own well-honed instincts, advises Jim Migdal, senior category manager for eBay Toys & Hobbies. He’s been impressed and occasionally amazed at how eBay retailers seem to intuitively stay ahead of hot-item trends. “Our sellers just have a nose for that stuff,” he says. “And they find it and get it on the site.” It’s All in the Timing Holiday selling isn’t, in fact, all about having fun and making a bunch of money. The holidays present special challenges in addition to trickier sourcing and more frequent returns.For instance, if you gift-wrap and send items directly to the recipients, you won’t be protected by the PayPal Seller Protection Policy, because that applies only when items are sent to verified addresses. You’ll need to decide how much your customers will appreciate being able to ship wrapped gifts directly to recipients, and balance that against the value of PayPal coverage. “It is very convenient to have items shipped directly to the recipient,” says Collier, who adds that you don’t have to advertise your gift-wrap policy, but can apply it on a case-by-case basis. “If you get a special request and the person has a good feedback rating and you’re comfortable with the situation, you might want to do it,” she says. If you do choose to offer gift services, practice your due diligence. It’s a great strategy for the holidays that could lead to many more sales.Another issue: Since every other holiday-savvy eBay seller is going to be tuned in and looking for the next hot product, it’s going to be that much harder for you to be first. And if you do happen to find yourself with a garage full of hot-selling items, your holiday-happy rivals may realize it nearly as soon as you do and flood the market with their own similar items. “If you find something is selling really well, you can’t be complacent with it,” warns Schepp. “Ultimately, it’s going to show up on the hot list, and everybody’s going to see it. You can easily end up with an overstocked item when the bottom drops out.” Use eBay resources such as the “Hot Categories Report” and Completed Items searches to keep tabs on the competition and avoid having too much “me, too” product on hand.Remember, as eBay has grown into a global, multi-cultural phenomenon, the meaning of the holidays has gotten less clear in terms of the entire audience of buyers on eBay. So while you should certainly try to take advantage of the end-of-the-year gifting binge, it’s also important to do it in a way that recognizes cultural differences. Many eBay buyers don’t celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other year-end holidays, or they celebrate differently.For instance, in Canada, the biggest shopping day of the year is traditionally not the day after Thanksgiving, but the day after Christmas, a holiday known as Boxing Day and celebrated in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand. Keep such differences in mind. Advertising only a “holiday sale” instead of a “Christmas sale” will help you remain inclusive. “You need to be selling for everybody,” advises Collier, who suggests simply promoting a “sale” in your listing titles and saving the rest of the character count for important keywords.If there’s one overriding and enduring theme to the holidays, it may be that this is when you should keep an open mind, be creative and be willing to do things differently. While it’s certainly nice to get some extra sales at the holidays, it can be even better to learn something new that will help sustain your sales throughout the year. “The holidays are a great time to experiment because there’s a lot of traffic,” says Sinclair. “If you want to experiment with what sells and what doesn’t, what sells better on sale and off, you’ll get better feedback during the holidays than at other times of year.” Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. August 31, 2005
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Imagine this fantasy: At your company, sensitive customer data is impenetrable. Hardware is secure. And every single IT specialist in your employ has the resources and funds to make all of this happen.Related: Expert Advice: How to Up Your Cyber SecurityBut, no, it’s time to pinch yourself and wake up. The reality is that no matter how secure the nonhuman end of things is, the mere existence of people using a system will always mean the potential for data breaches.Should we throw in the towel? Of course not. If we did, cyber criminals would practically rule the world.Instead, we should focus on increasing security awareness in the workplace, from the ground up and from the top down: We should teach workers how to handle data to minimize the potential of its falling into the wrong hands. A couple of strategies:Tell employees that a data breach could mean the loss of their job. This will give them incentive to become more security aware.Impress on employees the warning signs of a cyber attack so that they can more easily spot suspicious activities.Every employee, old and new, should be thoroughly instructed on security at the level of the individual computer. And new employees, before they officially begin work, should complete this training before accessing the company’s network.Install technology that will detect when employees are doing something they shouldn’t. The software will alert them in time to take corrective action as well as enhance their learning experience.Set up mock “phishing” emails to see who takes the bait. “Internal phishing” will teach employees how to be smarter and less gullible.So, what are some ways to maximize security awareness? Here are eight.1. Establish a baseline. Before you can get awareness efforts going, you must first collect all the metrics to establish a solid reference point. An example might be the results of the staged phishing. Metrics are important, as they will enable you to gauge the success of effort.2. Be realistic. Don’t think in terms of banning a certain activity, like involvement with social media, but rather of teaching employees to be judicious about it. 3. Use lots of tools. A program for security awareness should involve multiple venues such as video games, newsletters, mock phishing and whatever else comes to mind.Related: What Startups Need to Do to Be Cyber Secure in 20154. Be creative. Even if funds are scarce, you can still make the learning process more fun than drudgery. For example, give boxes of candy canes out for the holidays, but tucked inside each box enclose the company’s security policy. Employees will more likely read the policy if it comes with candy canes than if it’s simply mailed, or handed to them in the office by the boss.5. Seek high-ranking executive support. Once the “bigwigs” get involved, employees lower on the chain will more likely follow suit. How can we get “C-level” decision makers on board in the first place? Tell them that return on investment is contingent upon security. That will get them hopping. Another way to grab their attention is to send out newsletters specifically for them, which will add to their feeling privileged. In the newsletters, include information on security awareness.6. Recruit other departments. No department is too unimportant to be involved in security awareness. Get every department involved, even your housekeeping and cafeteria staffs. But especially go after your marketing, legal and human resources departments, because they’re in a position to make security awareness a requirement.7. Re-evaluate. Re-evaluate your new program every 90 days, without fail. This approach has been shown to be quite effective. To avoid information overload, emphasize maybe three topics at a time over the three-month period. Then, 90 days later, see what needs to be revised, based on those three topics.8. Hit close to home. Get employees to focus on themselves; don’t harp just on security awareness that affects the company. Make workers understand that security is about them, too, not only the elusive bigwigs. Talk to them about the most common scams and tricks cyber criminals use, and how to protect themselves at home, with tools such as firewalls and wireless VPNs.Related: U.S. to Establish New Cybersecurity Agency May 5, 2015 4 min read Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Register Now »