Opinion: Can Sears Be Revived After Eddie Lampert Won Auction Bid, Saving Sears From Liquidation?

Can Sears be revived after Chairman Eddie Lampert won $5.2 billion auction bid to save Sears from liquidation?

When thinking of Sears I got nothing to be excited about! On the top of my head, I don’t even know what I care to want to buy at Sears. Whenever I need new clothes I think about stores like Kohls. Whenever I need new gadgets I think about stores like Amazon. Sometimes, Best Buy and Micro Center make to the top of my head for buying computer related items. Video gaming stuff I would just usually get from an online store like Valve’s Steam. Something needs to be improved for the home, I usually go to Home Depot. I usually go to Home Depot or Best Buy for big items such as the refrigerator. If I need everyday cheap, items I just go to Walmart. I still don’t see what I would need so much that I would rush to Sears to get it.

I think Sears will have a very tough uphill battle even it got itself out of liquidation. In order for Sears to be relevant, I think Sears got very few options. The first option is to find out what makes Sears unique in today competitive online/offline retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. If Sears cannot compete against Best Buy, Amazon, and so forth, then I think Sears needs to go with the second option which is to cater to luxury stuff only. Nonetheless, this would be like completely changing the business model of Sears inside-out. This would mean Sears would not even try to be competitive against brands like Amazon and Best Buy. Instead, Sears would just cater to the rich.

Let’s fantasize how Sears would just cater to the rich would be like OK? Let’s imagine instead of selling a normal refrigerator Sears now sells a gold plated refrigerator. This gold plated refrigerator is one of a kind since very few of them were made. The price is around $25,000. The refrigerator is not only gold plated, but it is also a tech hub center for the kitchen where the large glassy part of the refrigerator door could go translucent so you can interact with it like a smart TV or a computer. It also got a smart AI assistant to help stock up the refrigerator when something is about to run out. In this scenario, normal people wouldn’t buy this refrigerator since it’s too expensive and luxurious. Wealthy people though, they could buy this refrigerator without blinking twice.

If Sears targets the rich, then its business model would be completely different than before! The stuff Sears needs to carry in the store are going to be totally different than before. Furthermore, when targeting the rich Sears may not even need to care about being competitive against other players at all. How come? I think buying luxurious stuff is an experience! A few clicks of the mouse through online stores won’t get you the experience! Instead, I can see rich people would drive their supercar or Rolls Royce to Sears, get greeted by super friendly and helpful staff — feeling like a king when buying something — and feeling like a king when leaving Sears store afterward. Such an experience you would never get from online stores or from the stores that cater to the middle-income class. Sears can go this route to stay profitable even though Sears won’t be competitive against players such as Amazon.

Of course, there is always a third route which is to use the old model but providing better customer service. Nonetheless, I don’t see how Sears can stay competitive and relevant when people don’t have the need to go to Sears. Sears could learn from Kohls even though Kohls is just a retailer for clothing. Why? I think Kohls is really good at attracting me to buy clothes from its online store! Kohls got discount programs such as Kohls Cash, and these programs somehow encourage me to spend more. Although Kohls doesn’t provide free shipping unless you buy more than $75 worth of items (if I’m remembering this correctly), but this somehow encourages me to spend more than $75. Kohls always announces a new clearance sale, and so it’s like Christmas all over again. If Sears can learn how to give out discount like Kohls does, I think Sears can begin to become relevant in no time. Nonetheless, Sears must carry the stuff that when giving out discounts it does make sense for people to care to buy. Yep, even on discount, unwanted stuff won’t get sold.

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How To Fix A Corrupt Country?

I stumbled on a Quora’s question “How do you fix a corrupt country?” and so I decided to give my two cents on Quora in regards to how I think such a country could fix its problems.  Well, I will quote myself fully right after the break.  Nonetheless, you can also visit Quora for this specific answer too, but you may have to go through countless other answers that were given to this same question.

Here I quote myself:

When a country is being weakened by a weak leadership or a weak governance structure — having both would be a disaster — such a country needs to find a way to exert law and order so everyone in the country could recognize a corruptive behavior isn’t acceptable. When people are actually supportive of a measure against such corruptive behavior, the government could slowly gather strength through the recruitment of a strong leadership to carry out the enforcement of rules and regulations to curb the corruptions.

I think many forms of corruption could be very subtle too, and so corruptive agents could actually thrive in almost all governments — doesn’t matter what form a regime is actually practicing. For example, a democratic country is relatively poor, and so such a country will not be able to have strong leadership even though it got a democracy. Without a strong leadership, things tend to slip in and out between cracks, and so the corruptive agents could easily use such opportunity to do corruptive things out in the open.

In a dictatorship regime, corruptive agents in the position of power would be unchallenged since there won’t be enough checks and balances to curb such power. If a dictatorship regime got a weak leadership, the country could experience widespread corruptions that go unchecked. A good thing about the dictatorship regime is that if a country got a strong leader who actually cares for the people, such a leader could use the absolute power to weed out the corruptions really fast and effective. Basically, there are pros and cons to a different form of governance and style of a particular government.

I think to fix a corruptive country, the most important things are to find the right leadership and enhance or rebuild a governance structure so the country could thrive on rules and order. As long the rules and order are making sense and the people could feel safe, then other good things may come eventually. For example, a strong economy is a must for a leader to keep the people happy and healthy. When people are happy and healthy, they tend to do the right things and be supportive of the government. With strong support from the people, the government could exert enforcement to weed out corruptions without much of any opposition. Heck, when a government is being loved by the people, the government could take a lot more risks to achieve its aspirations.

I’m curious anyone else thinks this is the right approach to fixing a corrupt country?  Please leave a comment or two in the comment section if you agree or disagree with my suggestion.  Thanks.

Just An Obvious Thought: Advertising In The Age Of Streaming!

Streaming is proliferating nowadays, and so people are slowly switching from watching traditional TV contents to streaming contents.  In fact, whatever that is streaming can also be duplicated on TV and vice versa.  The big difference is that TV is scheduled and streaming is an on-demand kind of things.

For advertisers, streaming is something radically different than traditional TV because streamers may not accept forced advertising contents.  TV viewers may not care how long or how many advertisements get push through during a viewing experience.  The big words here are may not since TV viewing experience is about potato couching.  On the other hand, the streamers want contents quickly and sometimes prefer the shorter the content the better.  When advertisers push through advertisements in streaming contents, the streamers often get turned off.

The puzzle here is all about how to get viewers who stream to watch advertisements!  We’ve seen clever advertisements been done in movies such as marrying a brand into the content of the movie itself.  For an example, let’s create a fictitious brand of soft drink known as Blahboulous and we marry this Blahboulous can of soft drink with a character in the movie who often loves to carry the can of Blahboulous soft drink around.  This tactic could also make a brand viral since a famous actor or actress is being associated with such a brand!

The question is how to marry multiple brands into streaming contents!  Doing this too obvious would also be a turnoff.  Perhaps, there would be a better method?  I think forced advertising contents can still be done in streaming contents, but this gotta be super concise and short and the fewer the better!  Meanwhile, advertisers should marry their sponsors’ brands into the streaming contents more often.  The combination of both could elevate the advertising streams while irritating the streamers less.

Ten Advantages of Cao Cao Over Yuan Shao — Still Wise Today!

In a time of war and competition, do strategies from fictional and non-fictional historic works amount to anything in reality?  I like to think some strategies and tactics in such works do encourage self-reflection and humbleness for the creative mind and out of the box thinking do shine some light on whatever matters that are at hand.  I have always loved Romance of Three Kingdoms story because this work does carry some really cool fictional and non-fictional strategies and tactics.

If you don’t know about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, then you wouldn’t know why it’s a great piece of work!  Basically, this piece of work is rather ancient as it was penned by ancient Chinese authors.  Ancient Chinese authors exaggerated a lot of things in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but these authors had also included a lot of known real historical facts.

I like how the intricate plots and interactions among the characters within Romance of the Three Kingdoms play out.  Especially, the coolness level rises to the max when the advisers among different factions try to best each other by using amazing tactics and strategies, both in the battles and out of the battles.  Liu Bei’s smartest adviser Zhuge Liang is especially cool as this guy is being portraited as one of the smartest if not the smartest advisers on earth at the time, in ancient China.  His reputation proceeded him because he could predict ancient weather patterns and devise winning strategies, both in the battles and out of the battles, for his lord.

Cao Cao got some smart advisers too!  In this blog post, I like to focus on one of Cao Cao’s smart advisers who is known as Gou Jia.  According to Wikipedia, Gou Jia flattered Cao Cao with Cao Cao’s ten advantages over Yuan Shao and Cao Cao was so flattered that he hired Gou Jia to be a Libationer.  To tell the truth, I don’t know what is a Libationer in ancient China, but for sure Cao Cao’s many victories were won through Gou Jia’s well-thought strategies and tactics.

In this blog post, I like to think that Gou Jia’s Cao Cao ten advantages over Yuan Shao are still relevant today.  Let me list these ten advantages.  Actually, let me quote Wikipedia’s Gou Jia article:

“Everyone has heard of the rivalry between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu. Liu Bang won by strategy; Xiang Yu was very powerful but he still lost to Liu Bang. Based on my observations, Yuan Shao has ten disadvantages while you have ten advantages. (Yuan Shao) may have many troops but they are useless.

  1. Yuan Shao is overly concerned with formalities, while you behave naturally. You win him in principle.[Sanguozhi zhu 4]
  2. Yuan Shao attempts to achieve supremacy from an opposing position, while you use the Han Empire’s authority to command respect. You win him in righteousness.[Sanguozhi zhu 5]
  3. The Han dynasty declined due to a lack of discipline and law enforcement. Yuan Shao condones his followers and their ill discipline, so he fails in administration. You uphold discipline sternly and firmly among your followers. You win him in management.[Sanguozhi zhu 6]
  4. Yuan Shao appears to be welcoming and accepting but he is actually jealous and suspicious. He never fully trusts his followers and places faith only in his family members and close relatives. You appear simple on the outside but you are actually very discerning on the inside. You fully trust those you have placed your faith in, and you promote meritocracy. You win him in tolerance.[Sanguozhi zhu 7]
  5. Yuan Shao likes to listen to many ideas but is indecisive and he hesitates before he makes any move. You are decisive and you adapt to changes well. You win him in strategy.[Sanguozhi zhu 8]
  6. Yuan Shao uses his fame to attract people to serve him and boost his name. His followers are mostly people who are able to disguise their flaws through persuasion and glib talk. You are sincere towards your followers and do not recruit them for the purpose of increasing your fame. Many loyal and truly capable people are willing to serve under you. You win him in virtue.[Sanguozhi zhu 9]
  7. When Yuan Shao sees others suffering from hunger and cold, he will express his concern towards them. However, he will not do so if their sufferings are not obvious. This is a form of unwise care and concern. You sometimes neglect less important things but when you handle big situations, you are connected to the masses within the Four Seas and the rewards you give out are far greater than Yuan Shao’s fame. Even though this may not be obvious, your care and concern towards others are complete. You win him in benevolence.[Sanguozhi zhu 10]
  8. Yuan Shao’s followers are often bickering and politicking and they give libelous and troublesome advice. You govern your followers with the right principles, so corruption does not occur under your leadership. You win him in wisdom.[Sanguozhi zhu 11]
  9. Yuan Shao cannot distinguish between right and wrong. You respect someone when you think he has done right and you punish someone when you feel he has done wrong. You win him in culture.[Sanguozhi zhu 12]
  10. Yuan Shao likes to display bravado and is not aware of the crucial elements in war. You overcome an enemy superior in numbers with a smaller force, just like a god of war. The soldiers look up to you, your enemies fear you. You win him in military skill.”[Sanguozhi zhu 13]

Do you think in today world, these advantages that Gou Jia mentioned to Cao Cao are still wise words?  Personally, I do think these words are still wise.  I like the advice #3 (management capability matters), #4 (to employ someone is to believe and trust that someone otherwise it would be counterproductive), #5 (don’t be indecisive), #6 (use capable people in important roles and positions), #7 (be very practical and honest when interact with a faction, whoever and whatever), and the advice #8 (destroy corruptions).  To conclude I say these wise words are still relevant today; these words could still be employed by wise leaders of today world!

Cities of the Future Could Be in Space, And These Won’t Look Like Any Real Estate We Know Today

The concept of real estate is largely depending on how we are glued to earth!  What will it be if in the future we could forgo the glue of earth altogether and build a city in space?  The space elevator is a concept that is in science fiction realm, and today we don’t have anything like this yet.  Nonetheless, this space elevator concept could become true if we got the right materials and plan to make it a reality.  Once humans travel through space easily as if how one would take a bus or a train on earth, then the idea of living in space becomes rather mundane.

We humans always think that we need another planet out there to be a second earth, but what if the cost of building a city in space in a modular fashion in a sense that space elevator concept could expand into a space highway and such — wouldn’t this be more doable and cheaper and time-saving than trying to find a second earth?  So I would imagine that a highway system in space would function similar to space elevator but the system itself would be more expansive.  After all, a space elevator could be a quick fix for a short distance from one point in space to another point in space.  Perhaps, space highway is like a bigger, more durable space elevator, and the spaceships that travel through this space highway system won’t need to use a self-powered propulsion system to traverse quickly from one point in space to another point in space.  Wouldn’t this be fuel efficient?

Of course, we could argue that space highway is kind of stupid if spaceships could just fly freely in space without needing to stick to an asphalt.  Nonetheless, space highway could function as fuel saving mechanism/system and much more.  Spiritually, space highway could function as a system that turns the idea of space city into a real community/city.  Imagine how much more expensive to build a small earth in space, and so it’s not wise to do so.  Instead, each spaceship could act like a car, home, restaurant, and so on.  The space highway then acts as a highway system that connects the necessary points in space to form a loose space city system.  From this highway, a home in space could fly from one point to another without needing to use any fuel unless the home is going to fly off the space highway system.

I think a concept of loose space city system — if it’s a reality — could turn the idea of owning a piece of real estate upside down.  After all, everything would be floating in space and won’t stay put.  Furthermore, even the highway itself could be floating continuously, albeit that it would stay in the same large vicinity in space.  Once people actually live in such a space city, people won’t be able to differentiate a house from a car, a car from a restaurant, and so forth.  After all, humans in space would be in a spaceship most of the time.  So, humans in space would think their spaceship as either a home, a car in a space highway system, a business location, a restaurant to invite other humans to come to dine and so forth.

In summary, I think when people begin to think a city in space in a loose space city system, the real estate concept would be completely different than the one that we use for cities on a planet.  Of course, humans don’t have to stick to only one type of space city.  After all, we could find a second earth and create even more cities from far away in space.  In my opinion, a loose space city system could be the extra real estate for a closeby planet.  For an example, let’s say earth would run out of space and people could create extra space real estate by creating a loose space city system just right outside of earth.

Weaker Dollar, Stronger Yuan May Hurt The United States And Help China In The Long Run!

I’m no expert in economic matters, but I just want to use my own personal logic to make sense of a few things that are currently happening.  People are seeing that the Dollar is weakening as we speak, and the Yuan is growing stronger as we speak.  Some people say weaker Dollar is a good thing because export will become more profitable.  Furthermore, when export becomes profitable, it also drives up the manufacturing sector at home.  That’s the theory for some people, but I feel that it’s way more complicated than this.

Since the United States isn’t a world manufacture hub — China is holding this title — the United States’ exports won’t matter as much unless the United States becomes the world manufacture hub.  Sure, with weaker Dollar, the United States’ exports will become more competitive than before.  The question is, will a little gain in competitiveness in exports spur the manufacturing sector at home?  Meanwhile, weaker Dollar will make the United States’ imports a lot more expensive.

I think the United States currently imports a lot more than exports.  The United States’ import is at $2.25 trillion and the export is at $1.45 trillion for the year of 2016, according to Wikipedia.  If the United States’ exports continue to slack even with the weak Dollar and the imports continue to grow, the United States could face an even stronger trade deficit.  For an example, manufacturer companies in the United States may have to import more expensive materials from the outside to manufacture products at home for selling across the world and at home.  This may not make the products at home cheaper for homegrown consumers.  Furthermore, this will increase the trade deficit in manufacturing sector if not enough products within the United States get to export to balance out the import costs.

Weak Dollar will increase less buying power for the Americans who go abroad for vacation, business, and so forth.  Weak Dollar can make purchases of products from foreign companies through online websites or offline imports more expensive for the American consumers.  For an example, I could be buying a music plugin from an online website which belongs to a French company, and with a weak Dollar, I could be paying more for this software.

I guess good things and bad things do exist even when the Dollar is weak or strong.  Nonetheless, the most interesting question is can the United States fare better when the Dollar is weaker or stronger.  In my opinion, weaker Dollar can help spur export a bit, but if the United States’ exports don’t carry the whole United States’ overall, long-term economy, then the weaker Dollar will be a very bad thing!

What about China?  If the United States enters a trade war against China, China can increase import tariff costs for the products from the United States.  This could hurt the United States’ export market because weaker Dollar would be neutralized by this move from China.  Furthermore, China can also buy up weak Dollar on the cheap to make Yuan stronger if this would serve China’s agenda.  Of course, stronger Yuan for China could make China’s exports look expensive.  Still, from what I’ve heard, China is trying to spur demands at home to create a bigger home consumer market so China won’t be relying on too much from the export market.  If this is the case, then cheap Dollar would be beneficial for China in a big way!

Stronger Yuan would allow Chinese who are going abroad to get more bang for the buck.  Meanwhile, Chinese imports would become cheaper, and so China won’t have to spend so much money to import stuff.  As China’s export market isn’t doing so bad and the imports get cheaper, stronger Yuan allows China to continue to reform her consumption market.  Foreign companies would love to enter China’s bigger homegrown consumption market because China has 1.4 billion headcounts and growing.  As China becomes an ever more important factor for foreign companies due to the size of Chinese population and market, China can begin to dictate tastes, styles, fashions, and so forth worldwide.  Chinese culture will become ever more influential if Chinese market becomes the most important market in the world.

With a weaker Dollar and stronger Yuan, entering a trade war against China might be very bad for the United States!  China can sanction the United States’ companies, entities, and so much more to crash the United States economy.  Of course, a trade war would be bad for China too, because the United States’ imports from China do matter to China a lot.  Nonetheless, as China doesn’t rely on the export market so much, a trade war between the United States and China won’t deter Chinese economic reform plan.  After all, China wants to grow the homegrown consumption market!  While growing a homegrown consumption market to rely less on the export market, China relies on the cheaper import market to balance out the reduction of Chinese exports.  Weaker Dollar and stronger Yuan will allow China to transit from the export market to a service market, also to move to a higher value-added export market — all in all – making this transition in a smoother fashion.

In conclusion, I think China can make the best out of either weaker or stronger Dollar, and the United States — as long as the country stays less competitive — won’t be able to have the upper hand if a trade war occurs between China and the United States.  Meanwhile, China can use stronger Yuan to buy cheap debts from United States’ weak Dollar to prop up China Yuan’s strength.  This, in turn, will actually help China transits from a manufacturing to a service economy.  As the low value-added market goes away in China, China has to accelerate the reform of the manufacturing sector at home so Chinese future export market will be more about high value-added products.  Anyhow, if the United States isn’t going to be able to use the opportunity of a weaker Dollar to reform her economy somehow to make the United States’ economy more competitive against rivals such as China, in the long run other rivals will use the weaker Dollar as the opportunity to make their own economies a lot stronger.