Top 10 Shop Fittings Questions and Answers

Setting up a high street store can be more complicated than it seems. Above everything you need a well structured plan of action. Assuming that you have a good plan of action and have done all the researching and have the funding needed to set up your shop here is a check list that will aid you with one of the most important sections of your store, the shop fittings and display units.

After premises and stock buying, fittings represent one of the biggest slices in the expenditure pie when setting up a new high street shop. The check list below will help you avoid some common mistakes as well as choose the right fixtures for your shop.

1. Have I found a premise?

First and foremost you need a well located premise for your store. No good setting up a stunning shop where nobody can see it or find it. I know that establishments in very busy streets have high rental prices but that will be money well spent.

2. Do I have existing floor plans?

Now that you found the ideal place for your shop it is time to make you floor plan. Where will be the counter be, aisles, shelves displays, etc. Might be a good idea to ask for professional help here, like hiring an interior designer or decorator specialised in store’ interior designs.

3. What will the shops branding / colours be?

Choose the style and colours of your shopfittings based on the colours of you brand/shop. There are many shop fixture manufacturers these days that can create fittings and displays according to your requirements. Some of the most popular shop fittings manufacturers are Tegometall, CAEM and KLEEREX and you can find them on all major shop fittings suppliers across the country.

4. What work needs to be conducted to the shop front?

Again depending on the type of shop that you are setting up, you will need to make some changes to the shop front. Sports shops need to reflect action and movement, a beds shop needs to pass calm and tranquility and so on, you got the picture, right?

5. Will I need to alter the shop usage? Once again depending on the type of shop you will have to alter its usage but there is one rule that suits all shop, accessibility. A shop needs to have easy access for your target audience as well as for disabled people. Displays settings also should be considered when thinking of your shop’s usage.

6. What display shop fittings will I require?

I hate to sound repetitive but, this is also related to the type of shop you are setting up.

7. What is my budget?

The biggest villain in all start ups, the budget. With money everything is made easy but how to start up a good shop with a tight budget? As before mentioned shop fittings represent a big slice in the expenditure pie of a shop so make sure you reserve some extra cash for it.

8. What are my timescales for the shop fit?

This is entirely up to you and your shop fitter to decide.

9. Where to find good shop fitters?

Ask your shop fitting supplier or visit website specialised in finding you shopfitters in your area.

10. Have I got a quote from a shop fittings company?

Like mentioned in check list number 7, before you go out buying shop fittings left right and centre, do some research to compare prices. Get a quote from at least two shop fittings companies and suppliers.

Once you have the answers for all those questions you are on the clear to start your new shop.

Mystery Shopping Fakes and Finds

The times in my life where, for one reason or another, I was looking for a job, I always found the lure of work at home jobs tempting. The work at home jobs that were most readily available were either scams or they cost more to do than you could make. The best work at home jobs were hard to find or they required skills that I just did not have.

My true passion and calling is church ministry, which in my case has moved me across the country a couple of times. It also, until recently, did not pay at all. That meant I had to find some regular paying job that was flexible enough to let me do my church ministry.

My last move was from California back to my home state of Missouri. That left me in a position where I was not yet being paid by the church, and I still didn’t have a secular job. After a short time of filling out applications, I got tired of it and just looked up the city’s business directory and started calling. I didn’t get very far down the list before I was asked to come in for an interview. After the interview process I was hired. The job I landed was a hourly position at a mystery shopping company.

I have learned a lot about the mystery shopping industry and the problems they face with fake mystery shopping companies. These fake mystery shopping companies will often use the real mystery shopping companies name. They ofter refer to the real companies website to enhance their legitimacy. They sometimes even use the names of the employees at the real mystery shopping company.

This article’s purpose is to teach you how to avoid the fakes and take advantage of the finds by; showing you what to look for in the fakes, where to look for the finds, and the best way to make the real deal profitable. This article should give the person looking for a work at home job with flexible hours the information they need to make mystery shopping a profitable venture.

Beware of checks in the mail! If you receive checks in the mail from a mystery shopping company before you have done anything, chances are they are a fake. They may email you or even call, but if they send you money that has not yet been earned, be afraid. Be very afraid! Some unsuspecting people have called our office asking where their money is. They followed the instructions carefully. They deposited the checks and wired the money, but now their bank account is overdrawn and they are demanding answers. My only answer is they have been duped and we had nothing to do with it. It breaks my heart to tell them that they will probably never see any of that money again. If you have lost money due to one of these scams, you should contact any companies involved and the FBI as well as alert local authorities. Don’t expect any of them to be too reasuring though. Your money is probably in another country right now.

If the checks or money orders are fake, why doesn’t the bank catch them right away? The evil doers that make these fakes are really good at what they do. The only way the banks can know for sure that the checks or money order are real, is to run the transaction. That takes a couple days. Meanwhile your bank account if full of imaginary money. When you pay for something or use money out of your bank account, that money is real. If you wired money to these people or where ever they told you to wire it, that money was real as well. When the imaginary money disappears, the bank holds you responsible for the difference.

There are a plethora of other schemes out there designed to make money off anyone who might be a little to trusting. The general rule is, you don’t give or use money that you couldn’t afford to lose. If you are given money in the form of a check, money order, or even cash, give the bank time to verify it is real. Do not spend the money or send the money until it is verified. Open a separate account so as not to mix the potentially fake money with your real money. Be very careful about giving out personal information.

You might be thinking that you should just avoid everything that comes along with the words “mystery shopping” attached. Please don’t come to the conclusion that mystery shopping is always illegitimate. There are opportunities out there for those that want to shop businesses for money. Businesses rely on mystery shopping to make sure their front line employees are meeting their standard of customer service. Sometimes they do the shops internally, sending in upper management undercover. Sometimes they ask their regular customers to evaluate their service. The most common and most effective mystery shopping programs are done by third party businesses.

Mystery shopping by its very nature is secretive. Companies do not want people or other companies to know about their mystery shopping program and shoppers do not want people to know that they are mystery shoppers. Mystery shopping companies have to be very careful about how they promote their business. They can’t go around saying, “we have shops at McDonalds” to the whole world. They have to be somewhat generic. “We have fast food shops in this city” they might say. These generic advertisements rouse suspicion among those who mystery shopping companies would most like to reach. It is a catch 22.

People who are looking to become shoppers can find a few places where they can be sure the opportunities they are getting are real. One of those places in the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The MSPA is like the Better Business Bureau, except they deal exclusively with mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies. Their website is mysteryshop.org. They help connect shoppers with legitimate companies.

You can also find mystery shopping forums where shoppers talk to each other about what companies are the best and worse. Most mystery shopping companies will have somebody out there calling them a scam on these forums, but take those comments with a grain of salt. These shoppers probably did not complete the shop according to the client details specified before they accepted the opportunity. There are always bitter people out there who’s goal in life is to destroy the reputation of businesses they feel cheated them out of a couple dollars. Check and see if everybody is complaining or if it is just one voice in a thousand.

You can also check out the webpage of the company and any of their social media pages. Look specifically for others who have posted on the companies blog or Facebook page. You can tell a lot by how many friends a company has on their social media platforms and how active they are. Keep in mind that shoppers are pretty private people, so you won’t a whole lot of comments on public forums. You will see enough to verify there is some life though.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies will have some sort of sign up process. Some are long and somewhat laborsome. Other companies sign up process is as simple as using a Facebook automatic sign up button. A sample of your writing might be required and other information you. It is not unusual for a mystery shopping company to ask for your Social Security number or EIN. They need this for tax purposes. If you make over $599.00, the company will have to send you a 1099 form. They may also require a W9. If the company does direct deposits they will need some bank information. Asking for any of these thing should not make you think that the company is illigitament. All these things are a necessary part of doing business with you as a independent contractor.

In most cases, unless you are applying for editing, scheduling, sales or some other type of office job, you will not be hired by a mystery shopping company. What I mean is you will not become an employee of the mystery shopping company. If you do mystery shopping you will be doing it as a independent contractor. Congratulations! You are running your own at home business. Mystery shopping companies are how you connect to the clients who need shoppers. They also do all the scheduling and editing for the client. Basically, the mystery shopping company is a liaison between the mystery shopper and the business. Without all the tools that mystery shopping companies have, shoppers would not be able to deliver the kind of reporting that companies require. Without the mystery shopping companies, businesses would spend a lot more time and money on mystery shopping programs. Mystery shopping companies are a valuable asset, both to the businesses who need shoppers and to the shoppers who want to shop for businesses. The important thing to keep in mind for those looking to be shoppers is, you are not an employee. There are benefits to that and drawbacks. but you are your boss and your client is the business. You will probably never have any contact with the person who is really paying you. Strange but true. Mystery shopping is kind of a weird world.

Different mystery shopping companies have their own way of telling you what shops are available. Most mystery shopping companies will give you a login to their website where you can see all the available shops in your area. You accept the shops you want to do and after the shops are awarded, you are responsible to follow the client details for the shops you have accepted.

After completing the shop, you will normally fill out an online survey. When you have completed the survey, some mystery shopping companies will have editors review the survey, and if there are any problems, the editors will return the shop to you to correct those problems. If you fail to follow the client details or fail to complete the survey thoroughly, the editors may reject your shop all together and look for another shopper to complete it. You will not be compensated for time or money spent doing the shop. This is the risk of being an independent contractor. If your work does not meet the agreement when you accepted the project, the client does not have to reward you.

On the other hand, if the survey is filled out thoroughly and all client details were followed, you will receive the agree upon amount of money. You may also receive an agreed upon amount of reimbursement as well for purchases made. The business will pay the mystery shopping company for their services which includes the shopper pay. The mystery’s shopping company will disburse the money owed to the shoppers. The disbursements are made using pay services, paper checks, direct deposit, etc… The day of the disbursement also varies a great deal. It could take up to 90 days to receive the disbursement for your shop. It could be as quick as 15 days from the day of the shop.

There are shops that could earn you large amounts of money or reimbursement in one shot. Normally those shops require a lot of time, a large amount of money up front, and/or some risk. There are shops where you are earning a meal, product, vacation or service completely reimbursed. You will have pay for these things first, but if you do the shop correctly, they will be 100% reimbursed or up to the agreed amount in the client details.

On the other hand, a majority of shops available earn much less money. Shops can earn as little as $2, but most are in the range of $5 to $20. Some shoppers aren’t really doing it for the money and just shop for fun.

Other shoppers develop large routes so they can do as many shops as they can in one day. They can turn $10 each into $100 easily. Many shops are in close proximity and if planned well, can make the shopper a lot of money in one day. To do this they have to sign up for as many mystery shopping companies as possible.

Route shopping takes a lot of organization. You have to be able to work with the schedulers from the different mystery shopping companies and make sure the shops can all be done on the same day. You have to allow enough time to travel between locations and enough time to fill out all the surveys. Some companies require the surveys to be turned in the same day that the shop was completed. You also have to be thorough in your reports or they could be rejected. If you miss due dates or forget about shops, you could get black listed and not be able to do anymore shops for some companies. For those that can plan and organize routes, they have the most potential for making a significant amount of money.

Most locations can be done more than once by the same shopper, there are usually rotation times. Rotation times could be as little as 30 days all the way up to a year. Some shops will only be able to be done one time and will never be able to shop that location again. It just depends on what the client needs.

Mystery shopping companies may also have affiliate programs, where the affiliate is rewarded for referring shoppers to the company. These programs could pay for every person referred that signs up or even for every shop completed by the person who was referred. Some also pay for sub-affiliate activity as well.

Mystery shopping can be a viable, flexible and fun source of income. Even if you have heard horror storys of people being taken advantage of, you can confidently choose legitimate mystery shopping companies to shop for.

What is the Best Shopping Cart Software For Your Ecommerce Website?

Searching for the best shopping cart software for you ecommerce website can be a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of carts and ecommerce solutions available. How do you know which one is right for you?

You should consider the following factors when you are searching for a shopping cart that fits your needs.

  • What is a shopping cart?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Should I buy or lease a cart?
  • What Features Should I Look For?
  • What Kind and How Much Support Does will I get?
  • Which Payment Gateways Work with the Cart?
  • What Hosting/Server Platform is Required?
  • What if I Need Customization?

What is a Shopping Cart?

First, let me define a shopping cart or ecommerce website. In the most basic terms, a shopping cart is software that allows you to list your products on a web site and then automatically collect fees when a customer buys products from your website.

For example, lets say that you sell vitamins from your home, and now you want to start selling them on your website. First, you need shopping ecommerce software. You will also need to have a business bank account and a payment gateway, a service that allows you to automatically process credit cards on your web site.

Once you have the cart software set up on your website, you can add your vitamin products to the website using a web browser. The software allows you to add product images, descriptions, prices, shipping and tax rates, and so on. Once your cart is populated with all of your products, you can start selling them on the web.

Here’s how it works: A customer comes to your web site and adds products to her shopping cart. When she is ready to buy the products, she enters her shipping and credit card information in a form so you know where to ship the product and whom to charge it to. When the customer clicks the button to submit the order, the shopping cart uses your payment gateway (credit-card-processing service) to validate the credit card and then transfer the money from the customer’s credit card to your bank account. Then it’s up to you to ship the product.

You can also use a shopping cart to sell digital, or downloadable products such as electronic books, music, and software.

How Much Do Shopping Carts Cost?

As you might expect, shopping carts come in a wide range of prices, from free to thousands of dollars. Does that mean that the more you spend, the better cart you get? Not necessarily.

There are several free shopping carts that are very powerful and full of features; for example, OSCommerce and ZenCart. Both of these carts are completely free and offer most of the features you would expect in a modern shopping cart: unlimited products, connections to the major payment gateways, credit card payments, real-time shipping prices, discount customer groups, multi language, and more.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to free: free products lack good documentation and support. For example, there is no official support group that you can call when you need help. And there is no official user’s guide to explain how to use the software. You usually have to search through user forums to find answers to your questions.

Free shopping carts are probably not be the best choice if you are new to ecommerce and are trying to do everything yourself.

Fortunately, there are many commercial carts in the range of $100-500 that offer lots of features. The carts in this range usually have some kind of support system to help you with problems, and they usually have documentation to explain how to use their software. X-Cart and Ecommerce Templates are two carts between $150 – $200, and both are very powerful and relatively easy to use.

Should I Buy or Lease a Shopping Cart?

There are two basic models for online shopping carts:

  • Pay a one time fee for the software and install it on your web server: This can be a daunting task unless you are comfortable working with Linux web servers and configuring web-based software. The good thing about this model is that you don’t have to pay monthly fees, and the software is usually much more customizable than leased shopping carts. If you have the skills to install the software on your server, or if you hire a website designer to install and configure your shopping cart, this method is more economical than leasing.
  • Pay a monthly or yearly fee to lease the software: This model is easy to implement because you don’t need to install, configure, or maintain any software. If you are going to do it yourself and have little web experience, this is the easiest way to get started. The downside is that leased software is often hard to customize and many ecommerce sites need some customization. Furthermore, it can be very expensive when you add in the cost of leasing over many years.

What Shopping Cart Features Should I Look For?

Most shopping carts come with standard features like unlimited categories and products, web-based administration, easy-to-use product creation screens, and tax and shipping calculation. Unfortunately, not all carts include all the functions YOUR business will need to operate an online store.

The following is a list of features to look for in a shopping cart:

Installation and Design

  • Easy-to-use web interface: A web interface allows you to administer your shopping cart from any web browser that is connected to the internet.
  • Shopping Cart Reporting: The ability to get detailed reports about your sales, inventory, states, users, categories, products, destination zones, taxes, shipping rates, orders, membership levels, etc.
  • Multiple Languages: The ability to display multiple languages in your shopping cart
  • Customer Support: Most carts usually provide email or forum-based support, but sometimes they provide live phone support.
  • Upgradeable: Find out if you can get free updates as the software is improved. Usually you can get free updates for 6 to 12 months.
  • Template-based Design: Tempate-based designs make it easier to customize the look of your website
  • WYSIWYG Editor for Products: This feature allows you to enter product text and images using a word-processor-like editor.
  • Content Pages: Does your cart allow you to create content pages? For example, can you create an “About Us” page?
  • Mini-Cart: A mini cart is a small box that indicates if the user has items in their shopping cart. These are usually located on the top or side of the page. Most carts have this feature.

Customer Features

  • Newsletter Function: Do you need to ability to send mass emails to your customers? Many carts come with the ability to send emails to customers.
  • Customer Order / Customer Account / Customer Registration: The ability for your customers to view their account and their order history.
  • Product Search: A search tool for your products. This function is especially helpful if you have more than 20 or 30 products.
  • Googlecheckout: Google Checkout is a new service that makes online shopping faster, safer and more convenient. Many carts have been updated so they work with Google Checkout.
  • Wish list: A “Wish List” allows your customers to save products to a wish list. That way they can come back to your online store at a later date and buy the products in the Wish List.
  • Send to friend: This feature displays a form that allows customer to enter a name and email address so the can send a link of a product to a friend.
  • Memberships and special pricing: This feature allows you to create memberships on your store and then give them special prices or discounts.
  • Printable Invoices: The feature allows your customers to print their invoices.
  • Multiple Shipping Addresses: The feature allows customers to store multiple shipping addresses. This is a handy feature for customer who often ship gifts to friends and family members.

Store and Products

  • Unlimited Number of Products: This feature means you can list as many products as you like. With many leased shopping carts, the total number of products is limited by your plan. The more you pay, the more you products you can list.
  • Unlimited number of categories: Products are usually stored in categories; for example, Men’s Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Children’s clothing.
  • Products can be assigned to multiple categories: This feature allows you to assign a product to more than one category.
  • Featured Products: This feature allows you to list feature products in a box or area on your home page.
  • Bestsellers: This feature automatically lists your best-selling products.
  • Related products: This feature allows you to relate one product to another product so the customer can see products that are related to the product they are looking at.
  • Unlimited product options and option price modifiers: This feature allows you to add options to products, and the options can add or subtract from the product price. For example, T-Shirts come in sizes Small, Medium, and Large and colors Red, Green, and Blue.
  • Custom Input Fields for Products: This allows you to add fields to products. For example, if you sell custom greeting cards, you can use a custom field so the customer can enter a custom message to be printed on the card.
  • Unlimited number of product images: This feature allows you to add more than one product image for a product.
  • Popup Product Images: This feature allows you to add popup images so your customer can see a larger, more detailed product image.
  • Manufacturers: This feature allows you to associate manufacturers with products.
  • Drop Shippers: This feature allows you to sell products that another company stocks and ships. When your store receives an order for a drop shipper product, the shopping cart sends an email to the drop shipper with the product and shipping information and that company ships the product to your customer.
  • Discount coupon codes and gift certificates: This feature allows you to sell gift certificates or to offer coupon discounts.
  • Inventory control: This feature allows you to enter the number of products you have in stock and then automatically makes a product “Unavailable” when there are no more products in stock.
  • Quantity discounts: This feature allows you to give discounts based on the quantity ordered.
  • Retail and wholesale price: This feature allows you to create a wholesale and retail price for any product.
  • Limit minimal order amount: The feature allows you to specify and minimum order amount.
  • Real-time USPS, FedEx and UPS shipping calculation: This feature allows you to provide realtime shipping calculations for USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
  • Shipping Label Generator for USPS and UPS
  • Allow your customers to choose delivery methods: This feature allows your customers to select a delivery method; for example, USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
  • Add handling fee: This feature allows you to add a handling fee per order.
  • Digital Electronic Downloads: This feature allows you to sell digital products such as E-Books, Music, or Software. Once a customer purchases a digital product, the cart sends them an email with a link to download the digital product.
  • Product-specific taxes: The feature allows you to charge a unique tax on any product.
  • Payment Gateways: This feature is VERY important. Most carts support many different payment gateways; for example, Authorize.net, Paypal, or 2CheckOut. If you already have a payment gateway, make sure the cart you purchase supports your gateway.
  • The ability to Optimize all pages for search engines: This important feature allows you to optimize your product and content pages for Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines. This is a VERY important feature; if the search engines can’t find your products, your customers can’t find them either.
  • Multiple Administrator Accounts and Account Levels: This feature allows you to have multiple administration accounts. This feature is very handy if more than one person maintains your shopping cart.

What Kind and How Much Support Does the Shopping Cart Provide?

Shopping cart software and ecommerce is pretty complex and there are many opportunities for problems. Whatever shopping cart model you choose, be sure to consider amount and type of support offered by the leasing host or the software seller. Because a smooth operation of your website and shopping cart are necessary for financial success, you’ll want to have appropriate support for emergencies.

Which Payment Gateways Work with the Shopping Cart?

If you are going to use a leased shopping cart, or you are going to buy shopping cart software, find out which payment gateways will work with the shopping cart.

Note: Each shopping cart provider builds their own interfaces for payment gateways.

What Hosting/Server Platform is Required?

Will your website and shopping cart be hosted on a Linux / UNIX server or a Windows server? If you are going to use a hosted shopping cart, you probably don’t need to worry about this unless you already have other web-based software applications installed on your current web host.

If you are going to buy shopping cart software, your choice might be limited by your server choice. Currently there are many more shopping carts made for Linux / UNIX than for windows.

What if I Need Customization?

Every shopping cart I have installed, designed, and configured, has required some customization. In most cases, the client wanted to do something the cart did not do. For example, one client wanted the ability to send a custom email with specific products so he could send special instructions whenever a customer ordered a specific product. A few shopping carts have this ability, but most don’t.

The best solution is to first determine your specific requirements and then find a cart that fits your needs. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a cart that does EVERYTHING you want it to do. If this is the case, you’ll need to have some custom development done to add a new function to the cart.

Keep in mind that many popular shopping carts have dozens of Modifications and Plugins that you can add to the shopping cart software to make it fulfill your requirements.

Note: If you use a leased shopping cart, you will probably not be able to make modifications to the software.