Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber shares her successful marketing strategies.

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What Has Happened to Macy's?

I realized the other day how much my buying habits have changed. I have a feeling that I do at least 30% of my shopping online, and I can’t imagine life without Amazon Prime anymore.

One thing I do still buy in person is clothes, and no one loves a sale more than I do so yesterday I thought I’d venture out to the mall and see what deals I could find.

Shopping during the week mid day is one of the perks of working for yourself - I can usually avoid the crowds. Being a decisive shopper helps too - when you shop for a living you want to do it as efficiently as possible.

Macy’s has always been an easy place to shop so I thought I’d start there. I’m heading to Orlando, Florida this week and thought I’d get a new pair of slacks. There were lots of employees milling around, but I’m going to assume they aren’t on commission, because no one seemed in a hurry to help me.

When I got to what I thought would be the logical department, I couldn’t believe what I saw. All of the sizes were mixed together, things were off of hangers and the worst - there were clothes lying all over the floor. This wasn’t because they were having a super sale and there was a mad rush to grab things - I have a feeling those garments had been on the floor for awhile.

It was the same way in almost every department I visited. This store was in a very high end area of Dallas, and it definitely wasn’t an outlet mall. Is this what shopping at a major retailer has become?

Today there was a news story about Macy’s closing 68 stores across the country, eliminating 10,000 jobs, and this wasn’t even one of them. And they aren’t the only ones in trouble - JCPenney announced that they had sold their corporate headquarters this week, and Sears is closing 150 of their stores as well. I can’t help but think if their employees had a better attitude and took ownership in making these stores successful we might be hearing a different message.

The sales process has changed a lot lately, and how customers want to be treated is evolving every day. It’s now not about selling, it’s about educating. Consumers have access to data that they never had in the past including being able to shop the price of a product with your competitors when they are standing in your store. It’s less about price, and more about the education and experience.

Time will tell if the big department stores can adapt and stay in business, or if they go the way of stores like Woolworths and Montgomery Wards.

Standing Out at the Kitchen and Bath Show

We are getting ready to attend Design and Construction Week in Orlando. It is a combined show that combines the International Builders Show and The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. With over 2,100 exhibitors, it takes a lot to stand out.

This flash drive from last years show is one of our favorites. Smeg is an Italian home appliance manufacturer that offers everything from small appliances (like toasters) to large luxury appliances. Their signature is the refrigerators in bold colors and smooth lines.

There's no doubt about who this flash drive was from, and we'll keep this on our desk for years to come - love it!

When a Reservation is Not a Reservation

We learned an important lesson this week - believe it or not even if you have a confirmed reservation complete with a deposit, the hotel might not have a room for you.

This nightmare happened to Alice Stewart when she arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn in Irving, Texas and was told they didn't have a room. Add to that they refused to admit it was their mistake, and that Ms. Stewart had to drive 4 hours back home with her aging parents.

Read more about what you can do if it happens to you here.

What Were They Thinking? Sears Customer Service Manager Tells Customer to Call Him Master

Just when I thought I had heard it all.

We've been trying to get into the holiday spirit and since many of our friends and family are out of state I've been embracing buying online. We are busy compiling the Lifestylist® List which is full of our favorite gift ideas for this year and we've been spending a lot of time trying to find the perfect products.

I've had some wonderful experiences - can't be beat, especially with their new Amazon Smile program where you can shop and a percentage will go to the nonprofit of your choice.

In the spirit of giving, Shared Housing which is one of our favorite nonprofits were in need of some televisions so we gave them all of ours and got online to buy a few more. We had some Sears gift cards to use up so we went to their site and found one that would suit our needs.

Here's where things went really off track. First of all, with all of the talk this year about people stealing your information, fake sites and viruses, I was concerned when I went to the and saw how many things were misspelled -often a sign of a fraudulent site. I did some checking and it seemed to be authentic even though I was having trouble with it and made my purchase, and a few minutes later I got a call from someone who said they were in fraud prevention and needed to ask me some questions to verify I made the purchase. Really, really strange questions so I got cold feet and said cancel my order.

A few days later I decided to call Sears and try to order the same item. They said they were honoring their "Cyber Week" pricing all week and when I talked to Mr. Jhon he said he could honor that pricing - he would just need to credit the difference back to my credit card at the end of the transaction.

Then I get another crazy call wanted to confirm personal information including my ex-husbands birthday and date of birth! At this point I just wanted to get what I ordered and be done with it so I complied. Go figure - after checking my credit card balance the credit was never given so here we go again.

After wasting over an hour with people this morning trying to resolve this, they put me through to a man who said their name was Master and that's how I should address him. And that no matter what I was told and promised I wouldn't be getting the credit on my credit card as I was promised, but they would be sending me another gift card.

I had stopped buying from Sears years ago because they never honored a very expensive warranty they sold me on a range - today I'm remembering why I swore that would be my last purchase.

Remember the Sears and Roebuck catalog when your word meant something and it was an American company based on integrity. Days like today really make me miss the qualities that company and so many others were built upon. And Master - best of luck with your career, you might want to find a new profession.

Working on Your Marketing Budget for 2015

What a difference a year makes!

How we market to consumers and what consumers listen to has been rapidly changing. Especially the younger consumers - they don't want to be sold, they want to be educated.

Original content is now the main driver to get noticed, but that costs more in time and money than we have planned for in the past.

I just read a great article in Forbes Magazine about "5 Trends Your Marketing Team Should Budget For in 2015". Excellent information that anyone that is looking for ways to attract new clients in 2015 should read.

All of us at the Lifestylist Brands are continuously looking for new ways to be heard and known and we are going to relook at how we marketing after reading this.

Lifestylist Makeovers

The Lifestylist Brands are growing! Ever aspect of our company continues to expand, and because we believe in giving back we also are very actively helping some of our favorite non-profits get more of a social presence.

It's hard enough to keep up with all of this, but marketing tools and social media are changing every day and we have to change to keep current.

Just like we've been working on updating our Home Idea Factory, we've also been working on making our websites and social media sites more interactive.

You'll be noticing some changes in our pages and sites - we hope these make it easier for you to experience the Lifestylist® Brands and what we are all about.