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Consumer Daily Reports

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Consumer News: 5 tips for starting a small business

business owners high fiving
Photo (c) Rawpixel - Getty

COVID-19 has turned the business world upside down, and many people have been looking at alternative ways to make a living. For some, that may be exploring the small business idea they’ve been contemplating. However, starting a small business is a daunting task, so here are some tips that may help.


1. Keep it simple

Leonardo Da Vinci once said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and he knew quite a bit about inventing! Even if your concept is complex, try to focus on the product itself. All too often, entrepreneurs start with one item, but their business quickly becomes a mess of additional ideas. Don’t turn your thought balloon into an anchor. For instance, if you want to design a quality steering wheel cover, stick to perfecting your first product before making covers for other things. You can always revisit other ideas later on!

2. Count every penny

Starting a business is usually very expensive and every penny counts, so you need to focus on your cash — where it’s coming, where it’s going and where to put it. When planning, be mindful of all your expenses, including product costs, overhead, distribution, marketing and employee payroll.

Among these expenses, you need to pay yourself a manageable and fair salary. Consider your rent, food and other costs of living. Even if you have an accountant or partner that handles the business’s finances, you need to stay vigilant regarding the company’s money.

group talking about finances chart
Photo (c) Drazen_ - Getty

3. Get to know your customers and competitors

Customer research is an essential part of building a small business, so do the legwork. You should analyze your market carefully and monitor trends that work and ones that don’t. Understand what your target customer base is looking for and how you can deliver — preferably better than your competition.

Excellent research usually starts on the internet, but don’t be afraid to visit other successful stores or examine popular competitor products. You can never know too much about what your customers want and how your competition works.

4. Have a trusted partner

Going into business with a partner makes it easier to delegate tasks and brainstorm new ideas. You can share work that may be overwhelming for one person — especially the duties that aren’t your strong suit. For example, if you’re a fantastic inventor but a less-than-perfect public speaker, find a trusted partner who can handle sales.

Another great thing about working with someone is having a soundboard to discuss plans and thoughts regarding your business. When you work in a vacuum, you may not see problems that another person can point out. You may find your ideas come through stronger in the early stages of development if you partner with someone reliable.

5. Play by the rules

Make sure you understand the legalities of your industry, including employment laws, intellectual property laws, contractual obligations and business taxes. This critical tip may seem vague, but it can be absolutely detrimental to your business if not taken seriously.

You should be aware of all legal matters and know when it’s the right time to consider hiring a corporate lawyer. Even a successful business that overlooks this step could end up paying a substantial cost in the future.

woman packing small orders
Photo (c) eyecrave - Getty

Starting a small business can be stressful, but it might change your life if you take the right approach. Whether you’re selling baked goods, making jewelry or tackling a larger idea, a small business lets you command your economic destiny. However, all businesses need capital and a business loan may help. To learn about our favorite picks for lenders, check out our helpful guide on business loans.

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Consumer News: Lawmakers seek to pull e-cigarettes from the market over coronavirus concerns

Photo (c) HighGradeRoots - Getty Images
Earlier this year, U.S. lawmakers crafted and passed a new policy that banned certain e-cigarette products that were popular with America’s youth. Now, regulators are asking for more e-cigarette products to be taken off the market -- but for a very different reason. 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn this week to request that e-cigarette products be pulled from circulation due to additional risks they create in connection with the coronavirus. In the letter, Krishnamoorthi cites studies that suggest COVID-19 is even more dangerous for e-cigarette smokers.

“Today, we have the evidence that the FDA was waiting for, and it can no longer deny the danger e-cigarettes pose during the coronavirus crisis. The science is now in: e-cigarette users are much likelier to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and to experience symptoms,” Krishnamoorthi stated. 

Increased risk of infection

The evidence that the letter refers to is from a study conducted at Stanford University that gauged the risk of contracting COVID-19 in young e-cigarette smokers aged 13 to 24. The results suggest that this demographic is up to five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who don’t vape e-cigarette products. 

The statistics are even worse for those who vape e-cigarettes and smoke traditional cigarettes. These dual users were almost seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and nearly five times more likely to experience symptoms of the virus. Krishnamoorthi says that these numbers are putting a considerable burden on the nation’s COVID-19 testing system and leading to increased waiting times for results. 

“If we reduce the number of vapers in America, we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system. People should not have to wait weeks for COVID-19 test results -- removing the risk posed by vaping will help,” he said.

The letter asks the FDA to confirm in writing within the next week whether or not will take e-cigarettes off the market. If the agency chooses to do so, it is also tasked with providing a description of its action plan. 

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Consumer News: Kroger is expanding its digital footprint by developing a 'marketplace' with 50,000 third-party items

Photo (c) Imagesbybarbara - Getty Images
The Kroger Co., the largest retail grocery chain in the U.S., has decided that if consumer behavior is going to keep moving toward online vs. in-store, it’s saddling up, too. On Tuesday, the company announced Kroger Ship will stretch the number and types of available products and offer an extended ship-to-home assortment through a marketplace offering of third-party sellers. 

Kroger has been pushing itself in this direction for nearly three years -- with Microsoft to build connected stores and with a robotics company to build high-tech fulfillment centers

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a largely negative impact on retailers, Kroger has demonstrated the potential of online for its customers. In the company’s first quarter 2020 results, its digital sales grew 92 percent.

"Our customers are increasingly turning to our e-commerce solutions provided at for their grocery and household essential needs. To better serve our customers, we're continuing to invest in technology that enables us to expand our digital services to deliver anything, anytime, anywhere," said Jody Kalmbach, Kroger's group vice president of product experience. 

50,000 products to start

Kroger’s strategy will start with more than 50,000 products from third-party sellers, focusing on specialty items which it’s never carried before. Those will include natural, organic, and international products, as well as toys, housewares, and seasonal items. Eligible orders will qualify for fuel points and other discounts tied to the Kroger-Plus card. There is a minimum purchase of $35 to get free shipping. 

Kroger isn’t going into this expansion alone. To help it navigate the rigors of becoming an online “marketplace,” it contracted Mirakl (like “miracle”), a French e-commerce software developer. The company brings success stories to the initiative -- having worked with Urban Outfitters, Albertsons, Walmart Mexico, and Best Buy Canada -- but Kroger will be the biggest fish it’s ever caught.

"Leveraging Mirakl's best-in-class marketplace solution, we are broadening Kroger's ship-to-home capabilities by offering more relevant products for our customers through exciting new partnerships with reputable third-party sellers,” Kalmbach said.

Good move or bad move?

The success that Kroger has had in the digital arena speaks for itself. Building out an infinite number of product aisles will undoubtedly benefit the chain as a whole, including its existing delivery service Pickup.

“But Kroger will have to convince shoppers to buy from its site as opposed to Amazon, Target or online specialty grocers like Thrive Market that have recently gained momentum — a challenge it is all too familiar with at this point,” says Grocery Dive’s Jeff Wells. Wells also brought up Walmart, which has doubled the number of sellers on its own marketplace to 50,000 over the past year.

Wells notes that adding third-party sellers has gotten messy for companies like Amazon, which has been raked over the coals for offering unsafe and counterfeit products on its marketplace. Kroger may be able to cover that angle by relying on Mirakl to vet potential sellers and carefully screen those it does business with. 

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Consumer News: GM recalls various vehicles with airbag issue

Photo source: Buick
General Motors is recalling 769 model year 2020 Buick Enclaves, Cadillac XT5s & XT6s, Chevrolet Blazers, Silverado 1500s, 2500s & 3500s, Traverses & GMC Acadias and Sierra 1500s, 2500s & 3500s.

The diffuser component of the Roof-Rail Air Bag (RRAB) inflator may not have been properly crimped to the inflator and could separate from the inflator during airbag deployment.

If the diffuser separates from the inflator during deployment, RRAB performance may be degraded, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

What to do

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the suspect RRAB modules free of charge.

The recall is expected to begin September 14, 2020.

Owners may contact GM customer service at (866) 522-9559. GM's number for this recall is N202305380.

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Consumer News: Whole grain food labeling is confusing to many consumers, study finds

Photo (c) SDI Productions - Getty Images
Understanding food labels can be tricky business for many consumers. Recent studies have found just how frequently labels are misunderstood, and researchers say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should make things clearer for shoppers. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Tufts University is backing up those assertions. The researchers say whole grain food packaging is particularly hard to understand for many consumers, so they’re calling for changes in how food is labeled with the hope that clearer wording will prompt consumers to make healthier choices. 

“Our study results show that many consumers cannot correctly identify the amount of whole grains or select a healthier whole grain product,” said researcher Parke Wilde. “Manufacturers have many ways to persuade you that a product has whole grain even if it doesn’t. They can tell you it’s multigrain or they can color it brown, but those signals do not really indicate the whole grain content.” 

Confusion over whole grains

For the purposes of the study, the researchers showed whole grain food packages to over 1,000 U.S. adults. Some of the examples were actual labels while others were hypothetical renderings used to represent what many labels actually look like. In both instances, the exact amount of whole grain was hard to discern, and many products contained misleading or confusing words that led consumers to believe that products were healthier than they really are.  

The goal of the study was to assess consumers’ knowledge of healthy food products. Based on the results, the researchers wanted to see if there was a need for food labeling to change. 

Overall, when looking at both real and fake images of whole grain food packages, the researchers learned that most consumers overestimated how much whole grain is found in popular food items. In this study, they overestimated whole grain content over 50 percent of the time, regardless of whether it was a real or fake image. Though the participants were shown a wide range of whole grain foods, determining the correct whole grain content in bread was the trickiest out of all the foods. 

The importance of clear labeling

Eating diets high in whole grains can have countless health benefits for consumers, so it’s important that the labeling on these types of foods is straightforward and accurate. The researchers say that knowing exactly what’s in a food product can aid consumers in making the best choices for their desired diets and can lead to improved health overall. 

“With the results of this study, we have a strong legal argument that whole grain labels are misleading in fact,” said researcher Jennifer L. Pomeranz. “I would say that when it comes to deceptive labels, ‘whole grain’ claims are among the worst. Even people with advanced degrees cannot figure out how much whole grain is in these products.” 

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Consumer News: Continuous alcohol use in early weeks of pregnancy increases risk of miscarriage

Photo (c) Space_Cat - Getty Images
Recent studies have highlighted how drinking alcohol during pregnancy can come with serious side effects, and it’s been determined by researchers that there’s no safe level of alcohol to consume while pregnant. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center has found that consuming alcohol during the early weeks of pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage. The study revealed that the longer into the first trimester that women consume alcohol, the more that risk increases. 

“Abstaining from alcohol around conception or during pregnancy has long been advised for many reasons, including preventing fetal alcohol syndrome,” said researcher Dr. Katherine Hartmann. “Nonetheless, modest levels of consumption are often seen as likely to be safe. For this reason, our findings are alarming. Levels of use that some women, and care providers, may believe are responsible are harmful, and no amount can be suggested as safe regarding pregnancy loss.” 

Eliminating alcohol use

To better understand how alcohol use can affect pregnancy, the researchers had over 5,300 women participate in the study; the women were either in the early days of their pregnancy or were planning to become pregnant soon. The researchers asked them questions to gauge their attitudes about alcohol consumption during pregnancy and then followed them through their pregnancies to see how alcohol played a role.

Over 40 percent of the women involved in the study reported that they stopped drinking alcohol within just a few days of finding out that they were pregnant. However, roughly 50 percent reported that they consumed alcohol through the early weeks of their pregnancy. 

The study revealed that the participants had a greater chance of having a miscarriage based on how long they waited to cut off drinking alcohol. Compared to those who stopped drinking alcohol at the earliest signs of pregnancy, those who continued drinking into the first trimester were at a nearly 40 percent increased risk of miscarriage. 

The researchers explained that the early weeks of pregnancy are some of the most pivotal in terms of development, so it’s important that consumers understand the risks associated with drinking during this time. 

“Combining the facts that the cohort is large, comes from diverse communities, captures data early in pregnancy, and applies more advanced analytic techniques than prior studies, we’re confident we’ve raised important concerns,” said researcher Dr. Alex Sundermann. 

Read more ...

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