Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Texas tonight. 80 degrees and sunny. Drove around with the windows down. I am ready for Spring in Lafayette. Hope I bring these warm temperatures with me when I get home on Wednesday.


Friday, February 20, 2009

I have always wondered about the Select Comfort bed. The whole bed seems a bit gimmicky, but still, I wondered...what is my number? Rush Limbaugh and others have a number. But what is mine?

This week I found out. I stayed at a Radisson for one night in Ohio. It was a nice hotel and in response to the Heavenly Bed craze, they have Select Comfort beds (they might be knock offs, I did not see the Select Comfort name, but I also did not look to close... I was busy trying different settings). NOTE: I just checked the Select Comfort web site and they are the official bed for Radisson. My results are official.

First off, there are two different settings. There is a setting for each side of the bed. Seems like a good idea. But I had trouble figuring out if I was laying on the left or right side. I could not decide if left or right referred to looking at the bed from the foot or laying on the bed looking at the ceiling. It turns out left or right refers to looking at the bed from the foot of the bed. Of course this is confusing since you set your number by laying on the bed looking at the ceiling. So when you are laying there it feels like you should be using the opposite sides button settings. After several tries I figured out I was on the right side of the bed (left looking at the ceiling).

The bed is pre-set to 65 when you lay down. That was too hard. I adjusted the bed (you have to be laying down while adjusting and you can "feel" the firmness change.

Next I tried 15 (the control is digital and moves in 5 digit increments). Way to soft (I felt like Goldielocks).

After several more tries I settled on 35. Not to firm, not to soft...just right.

I now feel part of the club. I can not wait for the next time I am with a group of people and we start talking about mattresses (puzzles and mattresses, no wonder I never get invited anywhere). I will be able to say with confidence, " I am a 35."


Sunday, February 15, 2009

I am in New York this week. Its the Annual New York Toy Show, the biggest toy show in the US. I always enjoy this show. The number of exhibitors is unbelievable. I do not have a booth this year. We set up meetings around New York and are finding that to be an effective way to follow up with customers. Its a little more relaxed when we speak. I feel like we get to really know what the buyers a looking for in a more laid back atmosphere.

If you have never been to a Toy Fair, this is the one to go to. Next year go on the web site and sign up. You will walk a lot, but also be amazed at the amount of toys there are that you never see in a store. Some of the neatest toys (in my opinion), I never see at retail. I have no idea why.

Toy Fair has evolved in the last few years. It used to be the toy industry had a building in New York and everyone leased space in the building. There was a show at the Javitz Center at the same time, but it was mainly for smaller toy and game manufacturers. All the big companies were in the "Toy Building". The showrooms were all closed and meetings were by appointment.

A few years ago the Toy Building was sold and turned into condos (why didn't the TIA buy the building years ago???). All the toy companies lost their leases. So now, all the toy companies, big and small have booths in the Javitz Center.

This makes walking the show much more enjoyable. Companies work very hard to make their booths attractive. Some of them are so clever. I do not know if the show gives out any awards for booth execution, but it should. The competition would be fierce.

I think you can tell a lot about a company from their booth. Some are completely closed with walls on all 4 sides and a receptionist at the door. Others are totally open and even seem to encourage everyone to come see what they have. And the rest fall in between. Every company fears being copied by the competition. And I believe that drives alot of the booth design. It is too bad the industry has to be this concerned (see Bratz vs Hasbro for how much money is involved with a good idea/design). I guess I am just naive enough to wish that all the booths were more open and on the last day they allowed real kids to come in and try the products. I attended a candy show in Chicago a few years ago that opened the door to the public on the last day. What a great way to quickly know if a new product or company has a winner or not.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I am a huge Purdue fan. Last week, four players from the Purdue Mens team came to talk to my sons basketball teams. It was a really great event and the Purdue players all were outstanding.

One of the "stars" was Bobby Riddell. He is a hometown hero having attended the local high school. He ended up walking on the Purdue team 4 years ago and is now a scholarship player. Tonight he had a great game against Penn St. scoring 13 points and getting 4 assists and a blocked shot.

I think what impressed the kids was that Bob looked like a regular person. Maybe even an older brother. He is 5' 9". And he plays in the Big Ten on a top 20 team. He does this because he works harder than anyone else. And he is always ready so that when opportunities do present themselves he can excel. I think that is the real secret. Too many players in his position (maybe the 12th man on the bench) would find it easy to get on the team and just relax. Weeks go by when he does not play in a game. Then all of a sudden he is called on and he is ready.

I have no idea how long my kids will play basketball. But I hope when they hear lessons like this they realize they can apply them to all aspects of their lives. In school, with friends, and someday jobs.

Always be ready. Opportunities will present themselves and you want to be ready.


PS: Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and Ryne Smith were all very impressive too. They encouraged the kids to do their homework and keep their grades up. All the right things. After they visited, I am an even bigger fan of each of them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lately when I have been meeting puzzlers, I have been asking them to tell me their strategy for doing a puzzle. Where do they start. How do they "work" the puzzle.

The answers have been facinating. Most talk of sorting the pieces and completing the edges first. Then working their way in. Some go into great detail and spend time sort pieces. They use the box lid, base, and even cake pans. They sort by color or shape. One old friend of mine admitted recently that as a child he enjoyed putting puzzles together upside down! Using the image was too easy!

I have to admit that when I do a puzzle, I like to do the easy parts. Give me a fence or a horizon to work on. Anything with lines or strangely shaped pieces is where I excel. The area I am working on might be anywhere on the puzzle. Or it may not attach to anything right away. I figure I can always attach it later to an edge or to other areas people are working on. My wife is much more methodical. She likes to get the edge finished first and then work her way to the middle. Our methods actually work well together. Although, I did pick up one bad habit from my father. As we are working the puzzle, I like to take one of the pieces and put it in my pocket. As the puzzle comes to an end, it becomes apparent that a piece is missing. The whole family is put on high alert to find the piece. Couch cushions are turned over, sofas are searched, accusations are made. And then I reveal the last piece was behind someones ear the whole time (or maybe I "cough it up" if I am feeling particularly clever). I love putting in the last piece.

Although, the last puzzle we did had two missing pieces at the end. I revealed my piece and started to lament the quality of puzzle production today (the puzzle was not an LPF puzzle) when my youngest son revealed the last piece he had hidden in his shoe. Like father, like son. I was so proud!

How about you? How do you like to work a puzzle? Do you have any jokers in your family that mess with the pieces? Or would that not be tolerated?


Thursday, February 5, 2009

I had a neat experience this week. I was at one of the major retailers visiting the puzzle aisle. I am loath to admit how much time I spend in puzzle aisles. For the most part, I can not visit a retail establishment without going down the puzzle aisle.

When I am in the aisle I am looking at the images, box designs, prices, puzzle sizes, who made the puzzle and just anything that looks different. I even take notes and keep track of retail prices at different establishments. It is cheap and effective market research.

Often I encounter people buying puzzles. It only takes me a minute to start talking to them. I learn so much from these chance meetings.

This week I met a couple who have put together 16 puzzles since Thanksgiving. They are not really brand loyal, but only want to do 500 or more piece puzzles. We spent about 30 minutes looking at every puzzle on the shelves. They had done many of them and knew the pros and cons of each. It was so interesting. And I think they got a kick out of talking to someone who makes puzzles. One thing they reminded me was that when you do so many puzzles a year, you worry about the price of the puzzle. They were very price conscious and would not look at a puzzles over a certain price point. This is a little counter intuitive from conventional wisdom.

But it makes sense. Puzzles are sold primarily in the 4th and 1st quarters of the year. When its cold outside, people are looking for indoor activities. But it is people like the couple I met who are buying puzzles the rest of the year (and there are people who are buying puzzles the rest of the year). The retailers would be smart to keep the heavy puzzle user in mind to build and sustain sales year round.

If you see a guy looking at every single puzzle in the puzzle aisle, writing notes and talking to himself, stop me and say hello. Or if you think of something you wish puzzle companies would do better/different/more drop me a note.