Guest Blog By David Sisco.

Now that the 2012 holiday shopping season has come to a close, it’s time for retailers to focus on the next phase of the holiday customer experience: returns. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to return nearly $63 billion worth of holiday gifts this year – equivalent to nearly a quarter of all the merchandise that is returned to retailers in a typical 12-month period. Some of these returns will happen in store, but thanks to the large growth in e-commerce, many holiday goods will be shipped back to retailers. Many retailers allow consumers to purchase items online and return them in-store as more companies compete in this multichannel world.

Guest Blog By Kevin Conway and Mark Smith

The Chinese market is a land of opportunity for online retailers, but reaching those consumers also poses great challenge on the back-end of a website. Traditionally global e-tailers have had a choice for managing the end-user web experience: Navigate the complexities of hosting their content within China or take gamble on performance by hosting their cloud infrastructure elsewhere in the region. Either road can be quite an undertaking. Compound the job with the proliferation of evolving cloud technologies, and the choices become downright overwhelming.

Guest Blog By Brian Miller

With profit margins shrinking and overhead costs soaring, retailers are under immense pressure to cut costs. While most business managers look far and wide for new cost saving ideas, too few are looking at indirect categories as a way to cut costs. According to sourcing data from the past two years, retailers could save hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars by competitively sourcing facility maintenance services like store cleaning, floor care, and snow removal.

I have to admit it – I’ve always thought artificial Christmas trees were stupid. But I’m a man of the 21st century, and I wondered what kind of environmental impact came about through all that chopping. Well, thank you to Trucost for at least slightly absolving me of whatever guilt I feel for buying a real Christmas tree every year. According to Trucost research, artificial Christmas trees are six to ten times more environmentally costly than real Christmas trees. But as with all statistics, there is more to the story. One fact is that most of us real tree people end up purchasing many natural trees over our lifetimes of Christmas revelry.

Guest Blog by Brendan O’Kane

Could a holiday shopping season in which big retailers stay open around the clock be somewhere in our near future? It may seem farfetched until we consider that Thanksgiving, once a day when almost all stores were closed and people stayed home with family, is in the process of becoming Black Thursday. Macy’s recently announced that, during the weekend before Christmas, it will stay open for 48 hours straight. It probably won’t be long before other leading large retailers follow suit, hoping for an even bigger slice of the year-end profit pie.

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