Tech Tips: When Apple Mail Won’t Connect With Your SMTP Server And You’ve Tried Everything

One day, just randomly, Apple mail stopped sending outgoing mail. By random, I mean random. There was no OS upgrade, no quit and restart mail it just stopped working. After two hours on chat with my hosting company’s support, I still didn’t have a resolution.

Emails were backing up and I was trying to work around it. The third attempt at live chat resulted in the tech saying (offhandedly) oh yeah, a lot of people have problems with Apple mail, it’s just unstable. He then suggested I use Outlook (is that Outlook or Entourage? either way, never going to do that) or another email program.

This led to me downloading a few different programs and purchasing Airmail2. Airmail2 and I were off to a really bad start, it wouldn’t import my accounts from Mail, their support never answered and I never could quite get the hang of it. Not to mention I had to re-do all my Spam Sieve filters and they still weren’t working properly.

Miserable. 3 weeks later and I was miserable and determined to fix it.

In my situation, Apple Mail ONLY had an outgoing mail issue. And I knew it had SOMETHING to do with my hosting company in particular. It hit me that with Mandrill you get thousands of outbound emails on their free plan and I signed up but never used it. I logged into Mandrill, grabbed the SMTP information, plugged it into Apple Mail and was back in business. Problem solved. You can probably also do the same with SendGrid.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail Compared to Online

Read Part 1 of this article: Should You Sell Online or Offline?

If you are able to have a brick-and-mortar retail store, and that will need the factors of both location and financial resources, it can be a really great thing especially if you live in a community that can sustain the type of product mix that you would like to bring in and may not have as many shopping options as a major metro area with a very large mall or significant shopping resources. The big difference between brick-and-mortar and online retail is their acquisition of customers is completely different. Online is active but yet it’s passive. When you’re asleep, people place orders. You wake up in the morning and you can see what people have bought. In a brick-and-mortar setting, it is much more of an active endeavor because you need live bodies present in the store in order to complete a transaction. You can’t have a transaction when no one is there. In a perfect world, you would blend the two together.

Having a brick-and-mortar store with a significant online component will enable your customers shop easier when they’re not in your store. Even though the numbers, like the sales figures for online shopping and apparel are tremendous, the key thing to keep in mind is that the overwhelming majority of apparel that is sold is still sold through physical retail stores. At this point in time, online and catalog sales do not drastically reduce the people that shop for apparel in physical outlet stores. The reason is that shopping is a little bit social, especially for a female. It’s a little bit of looking at this, looking at that, picking this up, seeing how it looks with that, trying it on, going to the fitting room, having crisis under the fluorescent lighting where you can see all of your flaws and then putting things back and starting all over again. Some people really kind of need that experience – that touchy feeling that we call the ‘tactile’ experience of being able to touch the clothes. These are certain things you can’t really communicate online. For example, you can have two pairs of jeans and they can look identical in a photograph, even in a close-up, but one of them can have a much higher quality–fabric, wash, construction– all these are things that you can describe online but it becomes difficult to get the customer to have that ‘Aha!’ moment because they’re not there looking at and touching the merchandise.

The other thing about having a brick-and-mortar retail store is you don’t really have an offline equivalent of the market places like E-bay that can bring you customers. In a brick-and-mortar environment, you have a mall, or shopping mall or shopping center but the down side is that there is a finite amount of space. Ten thousand sellers could go and register at E-bay tomorrow and they would all be allowed to sell but ten retailers can’t even go open up shops in a desirable high traffic area because they won’t be enough vacancies to sustain them. The chances that you have of getting into a place that will bring customers to you on its own are just very slim because there aren’t that many opportunities for something like that.

But on the up side, there is a certain experience involved offline that can’t be replicated on the internet. And we can try with customer service agents, with live chat, with all of these tools but there’s a certain element that you can’t replicate online no matter how hard you try even if you have an online personal shopper service. That element of being able to consultatively sell to someone is something you really cannot duplicate outside of a face-to-face experience.

In summary, the best scenarios combine some of the technological advantages of selling online such as the ability to capture customer information, e-mail marketing, targeted marketing and merchandising, communication, adding in benefits of being able to shop online or re-order online or preview a new merchandise online but come and try it out on the store. Combining this with the brick-and-mortar experience is also an amazing opportunity.

Most of our online consumers are very, very focused about what they want. They’re actively looking for it and they’re going online to buy it. For a lot of them, however whatever it was they wanted, they saw it offline – like they saw it in a magazine or in a retail store or someone told them about it and then they go online and look for it and buy it because the technology.

A woman shopping on a mission can make her way through an entire store in less than twenty minutes and she can literally see everything that’s in that store. Going through a website is a very tedious and slow, time-consuming process and so when I said earlier that shopping can be social, it is because it’s a bit of an activity when you’re just shopping versus going through something specific or browsing and taking a look, maybe discussing it with someone who is shopping with you or the sales clerk, then it can be a leisurely activity.

Clicking and looking around on a website, it doesn’t have the same impact on people. It can be frustrating because the pages can take a while to load and the time that elapses, one rack of clothing in a store can have ten different styles and in two minutes, you can look at each and every last one of them but online, trying to look at ten different styles probably will take you somewhere between five to ten minutes. It’s just too slow a process and that’s why customers who were shopping online tend to be a lot more focused about what it is that they’re looking for. They’ll browse and casually come across new things but for the most part, they tend to be more focused as opposed to offline shoppers. Sometimes you just, you know, go and hang out, you shop at Bloomingdale’s, and you go grab lunch, catch up with your girl friends. It’s a different thing and there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both. For each person that is going into this, you have to make the choice about what makes sense for your business. I will say though, if you don’t have the retail experience, it’s better to start online because then you can learn certain retail and customer service aspects, also the nuances of dealing with off-price jobbers while not having to have the overhead and staffing burden of a retail store constantly, constantly gnawing at you.

Should You Sell Online or Offline?

Most of the customers who buy my guide are selling on online sites such as E-bay and other auction sites. I did get a fair number of customers who operate brick-and-mortar retail stores that are looking for merchandise to fill in and complement their product selection. A lot of people want to know the different between selling offline and online. I’ve done both and I’ll be honest about the pros and cons of each.

The first part we will tackle is what it’s like to sell online. The market conditions for E-bay may be drastically different than they are at the moment you read this article. But E-bay is a very, very competitive market place and one of the things that I really need to make my customers realize is that sometimes they have no idea what type of company they are looking at.

When you’re doing research or when you’re looking at other options, sometimes you’re looking at someone that has a company just like this. They may be buying from a jobber, and selling on E-bay. And then sometimes you’re looking at a very large company with significant resources that is just using E-bay as a sales outlet.

Having said that, there are still specific categories of merchandise that do extremely well for the independent seller on E-bay. What they are, I couldn’t tell you because they vary from time to time. They may vary depending on what’s currently trending in fashion or accessories. They have so many different variables involved that it’s hard to give an answer that stays consistently true. But the truth of the matter is that you have to do your research. E-bay and other types of online marketplaces are great because they bring in their own traffic and give you a chance to get your feet wet. They also help you understand buying and selling before you have to tackle the beast of bringing in your own customers.

We have quite a few buyers that have their own websites. This is the other option but that landscape is also becoming increasingly crowded. However, there is always room for specialized sites with focused merchandise. There will always be room for that. And we have clients that also, they either completely off-price or they buy off-price just to fill in their merchandise and they do very well.

Selling online is a wonderful option for a lot of people. Some of you have lifestyles that don’t really allow you the flexibility of anything else and some of you just live in a geographic area where selling online is pretty much your only choice because you don’t live in an area that can sustain a retail store. It’s really a great opportunity for some people but to be successful at it, you really either have to invest the time to learn and understand internet marketing.

I won’t just throw out terms like search engine optimization, because the truth of the matter is we’re evolving into that kind of internet but also away from that. You’ll see a lot of focus paid on social media and on social shopping. Whatever the phrase of the moment is will change over time but basically, you will just have to have an incredible understanding of what it takes to market to customers online–how do you reach them, how do you get them on to your site, and how do you get them to buy. However all that is being done, at the point in time that you’re undertaking it you need to understand what to do or you need to be able to hire someone to do it or you need to find a company that can do the work for you. But the bottom line is truly, truly, truly, you should know how to do it. A great example of this is how Zappos markets themselves as a customer service company that just happens to sell a whole bunch of merchandise.

Actually, the more successful independent retailers online are those that are marketers who understand how to market online. They know exactly what to do even if they just pick a product that fits into their level of expertise or needs a lot of other criteria for the optimum type product to sell online. That’s the kind of thing that you will need to know if you plan on having your own website.

We’ve also seen people really do some interesting things like focus on certain internet communities and sell to them. We’ve seen people do Facebook. For e-commerce it’s not what I recommend but I have seen it as well as a bunch of different methods. It all comes down to how much you have to get it going and how large a scale you want it. The great thing about this is that the level of infrastructure that it requires to sell online is such a small fraction of what is required to sell offline. When you have a brick-and-mortar store, you need more of everything to have more space to sell your merchandise. You pay more rates, utilities and electricity, you need more staff. Online, you don’t have those same considerations so you can scale pretty significantly without requiring as much in resources.

Read Part 2: Brick-and-Mortar Retail

How The Off-Price Retail Market Works

While a specialty retail or department store must rely on fashion trends and innovative product designs to drive profits, an off-price retailer depends instead on its ability to move high volumes of goods quickly, and on its relationships with designers and distributors who provide the low-cost inventory on which its stores depend. Off-price companies rely on extremely lean cost structures, using their scale along with sophisticated systems and distribution infrastructure to maximize productivity while maintaining the lowest possible prices for consumers.

Nonetheless, the products that off-price retailers sell depend on discretionary income. Clothing, footwear, home products, and the other items that off-price retailers offer are not necessities, for the most part. So consumers must have some disposable income to spend on retail, even at an off-price store. Off-price retailers sell clothing and accessories from major-label brands at a significant discount. They purchase at below-wholesale prices and charge less than retail prices.

Imperfection in the retail industry is what makes the off-price model possible. When a major label like Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) miscalculates consumer preferences and over-produces a product, it will send the excess inventory to T.J. Maxx, one of the biggest off-price retailers at a huge discount. Companies such as T.J. Maxx, Ross Stores, Big Lots, Stein Mart, and others take advantage of overruns, canceled orders, and forecasting mistakes made by their counter-parts in the full-price retail sector. When a major designer produces more clothing than it can sell through specialty retailers or department stores, or a store can’t move all of the items in a particular line, the excess inventory is sold at a 20%-60% discount to an off-price retailer. The company passes these savings onto consumers, marking up goods by a lower percentage than full-price stores and instead building their operating margins by moving a high volume of inventory quickly, at rock-bottom prices.

Apparently, fashion is not the key variable in off-price retail since firms in this industry must make the right decisions about what products to buys and sell, because they operate at such small margins on each individual product. Inorder for the off-price sector to gain profit, these companies must keep in mind three key factors—scale, operational expertise, and vendor relationships. As opposed to the full-price fashion industry in which exclusivity and low supply high demand products are the norm, off-price companies should be able to purchase a huge amount of inventory and distribute it through its chain stores, selling in large volumes or wholesale. Also, companies in this sector must have strong business relationships with wholesalers and designers in order to guarantee continual flow of low-price inventory so designers and department stores would sell their excess inventory at prices low enough to fit the off-price model.

Decision-making and the ability to predict what products will sell quickly are essential parts of the off-price retail success. These companies cannot afford to take major losses on a product because of their lean costs structures. However, as long as buyers remain fickle and selective in their spending habits, off-price companies will continue to fill a need in the marketplace. As long as consumers have to spend more on basic commodities, they will look for cheaper alternatives when they buy non-essential goods like clothing and footwear, which could benefit the off-price sector. When the economy is bad there are a lot of reasons to look for cheap apparel. You want to make some additions to your wardrobe but pay the least amount of money. Finding these cheap clothes takes a little more time than shopping when money is no object but the rewards will be worth the effort. By spending less on individual items you will be able to purchase more with your apparel budget.

In evidence of these, off-price retails is said to be growing faster than its full price counterparts. The two largest firms in the off-price sector, TJX and Ross, have combined to grow sales at a Compounded annual growth rate – CAGR of greater than 10% over the past five years, which is well above the average annual growth rate in the apparel industry of 4%. The numbers indicate that more consumers are looking for value-shopping options, and off-price firms are predicting similar growth in the next five years and looking to expand into new markets.

A General Look at the Off-Price Market

A lot of people believe that beauty and fashion ought to be a part of everyone’s life. An individual’s style is actually an expression of their inner self and they should have the opportunity to dash out and get imaginative whenever they wants.This is precisely why people these days are determined to stuff their closets and drawers with top of the line items and accessories.

But being fashionable nowadays can set you back big time. The rates of leading designer shoes can make a grown man cry. If you are a fan of exceptional fashion and designer brands, you would probably give an arm and leg for designer dresses as well as designer handbags though they cost much more than what you have in the bank.

Nevertheless, a smart and experienced shopper can always find great apparel at a lower price. You don’t have to break the bank just to dress yourself in designer clothing or shoes or handbags and other accessories. One can always find brand new designer merchandise for much less than what department stores offer, if they know exactly where to look.

Shoppers can now buy quality designer clothes at off-price retailers like Marshalls, Loehmann’s, TJ Maxx and Steinmart. No longer considered the place where damaged merchandise or last season’s designer clothes goes to die, off-price retailers now carry quality clothes and name brand fashion for all ages and style types.
If you need a few faithful strategies to leave more money in your pockets and less cash in the hands of Neimans, Saks and Bergdorfs, consider these strategies for buying quality clothes from off-price retailers.

Look online or in the phonebook for your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Unique Thrift store locations. Check when each store’s sale days are. Salvation Army and Unique Thrift stores have half off days weekly (Salvation Army on Wednesdays and Unique on Mondays), where all the items in the store are 50% off their original ticket prices, which average $3.99 to $9.99 per item! So, average half off day prices are $1.99 to $4.99 per item! Thrift stores get new inventory daily, so you will always find something new! And with designer brands like Ed Hardy, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Hollister, and many, many more, these prices are unbelievable compared to retail costs. Thrift store merchandise is almost always in Excellent to Brand New condition, so don’t believe the myth that thrift store item quality is low. Goodwill also has excellent deals on their clothing on Customer Appreciation Days, where they offer 35% off all merchandise in their stores.
Off-price shoppers only shop at Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Stein Mart, Ross, Tuesday Morning, Home Goods and Loehmann’s. These stores carry the same fabulous merchandise as the high-end retailers, but at 50 to 80 percent off of retail prices.

Moreover, internet shopping sites like SmartBargains.com, Zappos.com, StyleDrops.com and Bluefly.com are just a few of the many online stores selling discount designer shoes, handbags, accessories at lower prices. At Smart Bargains, footwear are up to 70% discount, you can save an extra 50% for fashion jewelry such as juicy couture, greenbeads and more; outerwear such as Andrew Marc and DKNY has a 40-75% discount off their price tags. At Style Drops, you can avail of designer handbags, clothing, shoes, and other accessories from Prada, Gucci, Hogan, Tod’s, Giorgo Armani, Dolce and Gabana and many more. Blue Fly is where you can shop with up to 70% off retail including Furla handbags; suits and dresses from Armani, Gucci, Hickey Freeman, Hugo Boss, Prada, Zegna and many more; footwear from Stuart Weitzman, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Dolce Vita, and many more.

However, if you want to do away with the hassle of going through numerous searches yourself, you can look for those who will do the walking around for you. The people at theclothingbroker.com are such.

If you love to hunt for designer bargains, or creating a designer look for less, there’s nothing better than buying quality clothes from off price retailers. Because your wallet deserves a break from the shopping grinch, use these tips and keep your vow to never pay full price for name brand clothing, ever again.