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Articles from 2019 In December

Report identifies key freight transportation, logistics market trends

Total e-commerce revenue in 2020 will reach $3.52 trillion, an explosion that will force retailers to find faster and more convenient modes to reach the final mile and yard, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

“After a tumultuous 2019 that was beset by many challenges, both integral to technology markets and derived from global market dynamics, 2020 looks set to be equally challenging”

In its new whitepaper, 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020, ABI Research’s analysts have identified 35 trends that will shape the technology market and 19 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, look less likely to move the needle over the next 12 months. “After a tumultuous 2019 that was beset by many challenges, both integral to technology markets and derived from global market dynamics, 2020 looks set to be equally challenging,” said Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.

What will happen in 2020:

Retailers will trade profits to continue investments in e-commerce explosion:

“ABI Research forecasts total e-commerce revenue of $3.52 trillion in 2020, growing Year-over-Year (YoY) at nearly 19%. This growth depends on ever faster and more convenient modes to reach the final mile and yard in suburban and urban markets, as well as share in rural areas,” said Susan Beardslee, Freight Transportation and Logistics Principal Analyst at ABI Research. This includes the increase of one-day delivery and seven-days-a-week delivery in 2020 to reduce “click-to-door” time and combat the Amazon effect. There is increasing convergence of online and in-store businesses, with brick and mortar positioned as hubs closer to the customer, as well as e-commerce sites directing package delivery to retail outlets. Additive investment will grow in Buy Online Pay in Store (BOPIS) options.

China giants Alibaba and JD.com now have greater focus on growth through lower-tier cities, chasing fast growing, third place Pinduoduo’s rural playbook to reach the next 600 million people. Singles Day in China for 2020 will surpass not only all of the U.S. retail holidays (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday), but 2019’s record-setting $38.4 billion for Alibaba alone, at a 26% increase YoY.

Retailers need to address their increasing costs and consumer expectations through new business models and optimized transportation and logistics methods. “Amazon already felt the financial pressure in 2019, with North American margin compression, as it grew investments in its next-day Prime delivery, expected to impact Walmart as well. Other retailers have been pushed into offering expanded shipping options and reverse logistics in order to compete,” Beardslee said.

What won’t happen in 2020:

Self-driving trucks: “Despite numerous headlines declaring the arrival of driverless, self-driving or robot vehicles, very little, if any, driver-free commercial usage is underway beyond closed-course operations in the United States,” Beardslee pointed out. Alphabet’s Waymo has been in testing mode since 2016. Its latest vehicles are still manually operated by trained drivers. Heavy-duty leader Daimler Trucks’ (DTNA) 2020 Cascadia with Detroit Connect 5.0 will offer Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2 partial automation features, initially with automated braking, steering, and forward lateral control. DTNA just delivered two eCascadias for customer testing. In partnership with Gatik AI, Walmart has been testing “self-driving” Ford Transit vans that are planned for middle-mile deliveries. The vans will also be operated by drivers in the pilot.

“Despite the successful primarily manned testing and early revenue operations, there are no known regulatory approvals or fully autonomous methods to address the first and last mile for heavy-duty big rigs through challenging urban and suburban locations,” Beardslee adds. Additional cultural acceptance is another factor. Successful revenue-generating routes will remain highway-only for the foreseeable future, with ABI Research not forecasting a material level of SAE Level 4 shipments prior to 2023 in North America. The journey from SAE Level 2, early commercial OEM deployment this year to ubiquitous highly automated Level 4 and fully automated Level 5 is still years away, which does not grab attention or Internet clicks. Many other opportunities, including closed courses (e.g., airports, ports, mines, oil and gas operations, universities, corporate campuses), are early movers, with opportunity growing for altering the role of “drivers” in vehicles equipped with significant AI.

ABI Research provides strategic guidance to visionaries, delivering actionable intelligence on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces across the world.

U.S. retail sales grew 3.4% this holiday season


Retailers have much to cheer about this holiday season. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, holiday retail sales increased 3.4% (ex auto) with online sales growing 18.8% compared to 2018.

Mastercard SpendingPulse provides insights into overall retail spending trends across all payment types, including cash and check.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc. “Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.”

The Mastercard SpendingPulse report details holiday shopping from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Key findings of the report indicate that this was a winning holiday season for retail, especially for e-commerce:

  • Total Apparel saw a gain, posting 1% growth year over year. The category also experienced stronger than expected ecommerce growth, up 17% compared to 2018.
  • The Jewelry sector experienced 1.8% growth in total retail sales, with online sales growing 8.8% – supporting eCommerce strength. This trend started before the holiday season and helped the sector power through to its finish.
  • Department stores saw overall sales decline 1.8% and online sales growth of 6.9%, emphasizing the importance of omnichannel offerings.
  • Electronics and appliances were up 4.6%, while the home furniture and furnishings category grew 1.3%.

Mastercard SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.

Equine asthma may be triggered by latex allergies

Shutterstock horses in stable

Latex exposure could be detrimental to a horse's respiratory health, according to the findings of Morris Animal Foundation-funded research at the Royal Agricultural University and University of Nottingham in the U.K.

While further investigation is needed, the researchers said latex could be among the allergens responsible for causing severe equine asthma (sEA), a serious horse ailment with limited treatment options, according to the announcement.

The team published their findings in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The finding came from a larger study that applied a new, more-comprehensive microarray platform to determine the precise allergens within horses' stable dust that elicit sEA. Researchers tested nearly 400 extracts and proteins associated with the equine environment on blood samples from 138 horses from Switzerland, France, the U.S. and Canada, the foundation said.

The study revealed several previously suspected allergens -- such as pollen, mold and insect proteins -- are likely involved in sEA, but the most surprising finding was the implication that natural rubber latex might also play a role. In fact, four of the five most significant allergens associated with sEA were latex proteins, the announcement said. The fifth was a protein from Aspergillus fumigatus, a common fungus previously linked with sEA.

The Morris Animal Foundation said until now, latex had not been tested due to limitations associated with classical allergen assessment methods.

"Research to date has generally implicated fungi and bacteria as the predominant allergens associated with sEA, so this was a little unexpected," said Dr. Samuel White, senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, and the lead author of the paper. "We would need to learn more about how these allergens affect actual predisposed horses, but avoidance of latex allergens may still be beneficial."

Horses primarily come into contact with natural rubber latex on artificial riding surfaces, like arenas and racetracks. Urbanized environments, which have higher levels of breathable latex from car tires, also have been identified as a risk factor in sEA, the announcement said.

The high level of breathable dust associated with training on artificial surfaces has already been linked with chronic bronchitis, inflammation and oxidative stress in riding instructors, and latex has long been associated with a variety of respiratory conditions in people.

Closely resembling human asthma, sEA is a debilitating and chronic allergic respiratory condition. Diagnosed in all horse breeds, it affects 14% of horses in the Northern Hemisphere, the announcement said. When exposed to allergens, these horses can experience inflammation and constriction of the airways, as well as excessive mucus production. sEA also is known as heaves, recurrent airway obstruction and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"This new finding highlights the need to better understand the potential health effects of the environments we expose our horses to," said Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane, Morris Animal Foundation chief scientific officer. "It's crucial that we identify which allergens might cause them distress so we know what to avoid as well as develop appropriate treatments."

The team plans to conduct further research to establish exposure levels of latex in a horse's daily environment and demonstrate the benefit of avoiding latex.

Morris Animal Foundation is funding other studies to address equine asthma. One is investigating if targeting a specific protein is a viable new therapeutic strategy to treat the condition. Another is examining differences in mast cell subtypes found in the airways of heathy and asthmatic horses to help identify better diagnostic and treatment strategies for equine asthma.

Co-grazing horses, cattle may reduce strongyle infection

Shutterstock horse silhouette at sunset_shutterstock_62315617.jpg

Strongyle (nematode) infection is an important issue in horse breeding because it impairs horse health and performance, with young horses being the most sensitive, according to researchers L. Forteau, B. Dumont, G. Sallé, G. Bigot and G. Fleurance, affiliated with INRA in France, in a article published in the journal Animal.

Forteau et al. reported that strongyle control has long relied on the systematic use of chemical treatments, but expanding anthelmintic resistance among strongyles calls for alternative options.

They said mixed grazing has been assumed to reduce the strongyle load on the pasture as the result of a dilution effect, which has been shown in small ruminants grazing with cattle, but the benefits of co-grazing horses and cattle had not been evaluated yet.

Therefore, Forteau et al. conducted field surveys and face-to-face interviews on 44 farms from two contrasted saddle-horse production areas in France (Normandy and northern Massif Central) to compare equine strongyle management practices between specialized systems and mixed horse-cattle systems.

The researchers said their goals were to: (1) quantify breeders’ awareness of the putative benefits associated with the co-grazing of horses and cattle, (2) establish whether mixed farming was associated with different strongyle management strategies and (3) test whether strongyle egg excretion was reduced in horses grazed with beef cattle.

Every breeder relied on systematic calendar treatments, and only eight out of the 23 mixed breeders were aware that co-grazing of horses with cattle could be used as part of their strongyle control strategy, Forteau et al. reported.

According to the researchers, management practices were similar across both systems in Normandy, but in Massif Central, mixed breeders formed a distinct cluster from their specialized counterparts: Deworming was less frequent, and stocking density was higher in mixed farms, while specialized breeders seemed more willing to integrate herd and plot management into control their strategies.

Fecal egg counts measured in horses from Massif Central were significantly reduced when horses were grazed with cattle, Forteau et al. noted, adding that this was the result of increased reliance on macrocyclic lactones in mixed farms (P < 0.01) and a significant dilution effect (P < 0.01).

Furthermore, they reported that when considering a subsample of horses treated with macrocyclic lactones only, young horses grazed with cattle had 50% fewer strongyle eggs excreted in their feces than horses grazed in equine-only pastures (P < 0.01).

Forteau et al. concluded that this is the first evidence of the benefits of mixed grazing with cattle as an alternative to control strongyle infection in horses, although this promising alternative remains largely unknown by horse breeders.

North Dakota confirms horse with EHM

Shutterstock horse

The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division reminded horse owners to protect their horses from equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) after a horse in Bottineau County, N.D., was confirmed positive for equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), the neurologic manifestation of the virus.

Since October, several outbreaks of EHM have been reported in multiple states, including Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania and California, the announcement said.

EHV-1 can be spread through the air and on contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. Biosecurity measures that can reduce the risk of spreading the disease include avoiding shared food or water containers and preventing nose-to-nose contact.

Out-of-state horses and other equines entering North Dakota for any length of time must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection. “Certificates of veterinary inspection help us better monitor the movement of equines into North Dakota and help determine potential sources of diseases,” North Dakota state veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said.

EHV-1 can cause respiratory disease, abortion, neonatal death and sometimes EHM, the neurologic form of the disease. Vaccinations against EHV-1 have been shown to reduce viral shedding and curb the spread of disease and may decrease the severity of infection. While no vaccine can completely prevent EHM, vaccinating healthy animals and giving booster vaccinations before travel, competition or boarding is recommended, Keller said.

“Horse owners should discuss vaccination strategies and other preventative measures with their veterinarians,” North Dakota agriculture commissioner Doug Goehring added.

Although highly infectious and contagious among horses, EHV-1 poses no threat to human health.

How to keep your 'A' players


It’s a nightmare scenario for any business: A star employee suddenly decides to jump ship for the competition. Out the door goes years of experience, in-depth knowledge of sales and marketing plans, and even a good number of hard-won customer connections.

It’s that last part, with its costly ramifications, that can cause the most immediate damage. “Customers will often follow a departing employee out the door to his or her new employer,” says Richard Avdoian, an employee development consultant in Metropolitan St. Louis. (MidwestBusinessInstitute.com). “People like to stay with employees they trust.”

Longer range, the ghosting of a top performing employee obviates any plans for grooming that person for a management role. “When you lose your best employees you lose not only their skills but also their leadership potential,” says David Dye, President of Lets Grow Leaders, a management consulting firm in Washington DC (letsgrowleaders.com).

Tight market
Expect more star employees to seek greener pastures in the months ahead, and fewer quality replacement prospects. With the nation’s unemployment level hovering just over the four percent level, most economists believe the labor market has reached a condition of full employment. As top-quality talent grows scarce, other employers in your region will try harder than ever to lure away your best people.

“When demand for personnel is high and supply is low, people have more choices for where to work,” says Dye. “Employers have greater difficulty retaining the best performers, and the value rises for those individuals’ work skills.” In rural areas especially, where employers reside far from large cities with concentrated pools of talent, quality employees come at a premium.

How about your own business? Do you think your top performers will hesitate to jump ship? Maybe so, but the fact remains that people who perform the best in the workplace tend to suffer the most from wandering eyes. A survey by SAP and Oxford Economics, published in The Harvard Business Review ("What High Performers Want at Work," by Karie Willyerd. November 18, 2014) found less than half of high performers satisfied with their current duties. One in five is likely to seek a greener pasture in the next six months. “Top performers are often less than content with their jobs,” says Avdoian. “Many want to further their careers by moving on to more promising positions.”

Spot the stars
So how do you keep your own best people from jumping ship? The first step is to make sure you focus on the brightest stars. Avdoian suggests looking at your employment pool as a complex of three classes of workers on an escalating scale of value: slackers, foundationals, and high achievers. Slackers are easy to spot: They do the bare minimum to collect their paychecks. Foundational employees, in contrast, perform their duties in a conscientious and dependable manner, serving as reliable anchors to your business. The final category consists of people who outperform the norm. “High achievers are driven go getters,” says Avdoian. “They are your most productive employees.” These individuals can deliver up to 400 percent more productivity to a workplace than other employees, according to the HBR report.

With this short list in hand, make sure you give your best people the specific things they need to keep them on board. And just what do they want more than anything else? The answer is probably not surprising: The HBR report found that top performers care significantly more than average or low-performing ones about competitive compensation.  You must offer them a salary commensurate with their skills and at least equal to what other employers in your region provide.

Pay for performance
High performers also care more than their slacker or foundational coworkers about the ability to earn bonus pay based on performance. “The opportunity to make more money through their achievements is an incentive for your top performers to stick around,” says Donna Cutting, CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems, Asheville, NC (redcarpetlearning.com). Top sales people, for example, will expect additional compensation when they outperform their peers. The goal is to create a win-win situation for employer and worker: Fixed compensation costs remain low while employees have the chance to earn more when they excel.

A pay for performance system is a far cry from old familiar reward relics of the past, such as the annual seniority-based salary hike and the automatic year-end bonus. The problem was that the conventional system wasn’t getting the job done, basically because it did not incentivize better performance. Moreover, high performers resented the fact they were not rewarded for their superior productivity at a rate any higher than others. Meanwhile, ongoing salary increases bloated payrolls until the business risked becoming uncompetitive.

Besides its direct financial component, such pay serves to highlight the connection between employee actions and organizational success. “It’s important that people understand their overall part in the success of a business,” says Cutting. “Performance-based pay does that.” At some companies performance compensation represents 20 percent or more of take home pay.

Valuable as it is as a retention tool, performance-based pay carries the hazard of unwittingly rewarding the wrong behavior. “You need to be careful that the performance objectives you set are in alignment with your business values,” warns Cutting. She points to the recent experience at Wells Fargo, a bank that rewarded its employees for burdening customers with unwanted accounts, as a textbook illustration of a performance-based pay scheme gone bad. “You have to make sure the objectives you set are not just based on sales or revenue, but also on the way customers and colleagues are treated.”

The sales person who is making a great number of sales may also have a rushed, impatient manner that irritates your customers. Gear your bonus plan to reward employees for quality service. Use the telephone, a mailed survey or the Internet to assess customer satisfaction.

On the other side of that coin, performance-based pay won’t work if employees are unclear about how their actions directly contribute to the organization’s bottom line, or lack sufficient know-how to perform to their maximum potential. “You need to make sure employees have a sufficient measure of control over meeting the described objectives,” says Cutting. “And they must be given the proper tools to do so.”

Include everyone
One more hazard for performance-based pay: Employees left out of the program may resent their inability to earn bonus compensation. That’s why it’s important to include everyone, even those for whom it’s difficult to measure quantifiable workplace results.

“For people who are solely responsible for their work, and where their activities can be readily quantified, pay for performance plans are more straightforward,” says Dye. That’s why many organizations begin by measuring easily measurable achievements such as higher revenues by sales people, accident reductions by security personnel, and glowing customer reports for service representatives.

Designing an effective program is more difficult for some members of the support staff who do not perform in quantifiable ways. However, it is not impossible. “You can make pay for performance work for receptionists, housekeepers, or any kind of support staff, as long as they are given the necessary tools by management,” says Cutting.

The biggest challenge is finding a way to measure support staff performance that is fair and reasonable. One approach is to ask “what is this person’s job and how well are they doing it?” Perhaps a receptionist answers the phone before three rings or greets customers in a cheerful and professional way. If you ask employees how they measure their own performance you may hear good ideas that can be translated into a quantifiable system.

Assure success by continually expanding your plan’s scope. Include more people and develop more refined performance assessment parameters while soliciting feedback from participants.

Healthy environment
Vital as it is, performance pay is not the only tool for retaining top employees. You also need to cultivate a respectful and supportive work environment. “It’s important that people understand what the business wants, and that they feel valued when they meet the employer’s expectations,” says Cutting. “The ability to contribute and to feel involved with the success of the organization can be its own motivation.”

Here are some additional factors that keep your best people aboard:

* Autonomy. “High performers do not like to be micro managed,” says Christina Eanes, a workforce management consultant in Alexandria, VA (christinaeanes.com). “They want the freedom to do their job in a creative way, along with the requisite responsibility and authority.” That serves the organization well. “Innovation happens when smart people find new and better ways to get their jobs done.”

* Frequent feedback. Top performers want to know where they stand, and want feedback more than once a year. A negative December surprise, especially if it affects bonus pay, may well send them packing. The HBR report highlights the importance of monthly performance reviews.

* Advancement pathways. Top performers expect the employer to help them advance in their fields.  “You need to create a culture where people want to work with you because of what they are going to learn and have a real clear-cut career ladder so they see how they can move up,” says Cutting.

Sometimes clearing a path for advancement is easier said than done. In a perfect world a business would have enough open management positions to accommodate every deserving person. Reality is often much different. What can you do? “You need to create a growth path for top performing people that keeps them feeling challenged even though they are not advanced into management positions,” says Dye.

One solution is to feed the craving of top performers for new skills. “High achievers have an insatiable need for self-development,” says Eanes. “They have an ingrained need to develop themselves, so the more opportunities you can provide them to learn, the more loyal they will be.”

Those opportunities can be offered by thinking laterally. “Not every top performer expects that advancement means a higher-level position,” says Eanes. “Millennials, especially, often prefer to move laterally because it provides them with more learning opportunities and more challenges.” A high performing individual in sales, for example, might welcome a move to an adjacent position in human resources with the chance to learn a new set of marketable skills.

Tailor your offer
Because not all top performers have the same motivations, you need to consult with each of them to better understand specific needs. “I suggest designing what I call an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with each person,” says Eanes. “Determine the next logical level of knowledge and expertise and what can you do to help them achieve it.”

An IDP might include a planned pathway to advancement, or the acquisition of new skills. One individual might take on responsibility for larger projects. A second might share their knowledge by training other people. A third might cross train in areas outside of their core competency. Think of these as “expertise promotions.”

These work environment modifications, combined with a robust pay for performance plan, should go a long way toward keeping your best people from jumping ship. Monitor how well you are doing by asking your staff for feedback. And observe how employees perform: Are they acting in more motivated ways and paying closer attention to things really important?

Creating a program to retain your top people takes time and effort. The payoff, though, can be considerable and letting things slide is unacceptable. “Businesses which fail to retain their best people will be stuck with a majority of their employees being slackers and overtaxing the foundational employees whom they rely on for productivity,” says Avdoian. “And that will lead to a decline in employee morale which will in turn impact productivity and devastate profitability.


New test predicts horse’s risk of contracting EHV-1

Photos by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Cornell Vet EHV horses.jpg
Wagner's herd of horses imported from Iceland have never encountered EHV-1 and offer a unique opportunity to understand the complex interaction between a horse’s naïve immune system with the virus.

Despite widespread vaccination, outbreaks of the potentially deadly equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1) occur sporadically across the U.S., triggering apprehension and quarantines, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Now, the college has a new diagnostic test that can tell owners whether their horse will be at risk in the event of an outbreak.

The test, developed by Dr. Bettina Wagner, chair of the department of population medicine and diagnostic sciences in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, is called the EHV-1 Risk Evaluation Assay, and it is available at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

The assay measures the level of a key antibody that protects against the virus to let owners know a horse’s immediate risk, the college said, noting that Wagner is using this and similar tests to understand how the horse's immune system interacts with EHV-1 and to develop better vaccines against the virus.

“We can take a serum sample and define if this horse today is at high or low risk of EHV-1 infection,” Wagner said. “It also provides guidance on when the horse should next be vaccinated.”

Typically, EHV-1 causes a mild respiratory infection in horses. It circulates by close nose-to-nose contact through droplets and through contaminated surfaces or clothes, Cornell said. Most horses are exposed to the virus before the age of two and carry a dormant form that can re-emerge during times of stress, making them perpetual carriers.

During an outbreak, however, about 5-10% of sick horses develop a neurological form of the disease called EHV-1 myeloencephalopathy, Cornell said. The virus travels via blood vessels into the spinal cord and causes strokes, which manifest as a lack of coordination, weakness in the hind limbs, lethargy and the inability to maintain balance. About one-third of horses that develop the neurological form will die from the disease.

In 2019, New York saw four outbreaks of EHV-1, the college said. Besides treating affected horses, the course of action is to quarantine the facility and its horses for up to 28 days to stop further spread of the disease, which can paralyze the movement of horses, shows and sporting events.

Several licensed EHV-1 vaccines protect against the respiratory infection and prevent pregnant mares from experiencing abortions, but none exist that stop horses from developing the neurological form of the disease, according to the announcement. Also, there are numerous cases where vaccinated horses still became sick during an outbreak.

“One important thing is to note that not every horse responds evenly to the vaccination,” said Wagner, who sees this phenomenon in her own horses, Peaches and Betty. While Peaches’s immune system reacts strongly to the vaccine, Betty has a much weaker response and needs more frequent vaccination to maintain protection. “For some horses, the vaccination interval of a year may be fine. For others, six months may not be enough. The test is designed to find that out,” Wagner added.

A horse will always react to the vaccine in the same way, so the testing only needs to be performed once before and after vaccination for veterinarians to optimize a horse’s vaccination schedule, she said.

Wagner and her laboratory members developed the new test as part of a long-term research project to understand how the equine immune system responds to EHV-1 infection and vaccination. She works with a herd of horses imported from Iceland that have never encountered EHV-1. They offer a unique opportunity to understand the complex interaction between a horse’s naïve immune system with the virus, Cornell explained.

When Wagner started working with the Icelandic horses in 2012, the prevailing belief was that T cells — a type of white blood cell that targets the virus as it enters the bloodstream — would be the key to stopping the neurological form of the virus. However, after monitoring how the horses respond both to vaccination and to exposure to the virus, Wagner realized that it wasn’t T cells but a specific type of antibody called IGg4/7 in the lining of the nose that can completely protect the horse.

“It turned out that if these IGg4/7 antibodies are in the nose of the horse at the time of infection, they immediately deal with the virus at the local infection site and, thereby, prevent the virus from entering the lymphatic tissues and white blood cells so that neurologic signs could not happen,” Wagner said. “We now can use those antibody values to predict if the horse can be infected or not with the EHV-1 Risk Evaluation Assay.”

Another related test currently under development in Wagner's lab may help animal health officials manage EHV-1 outbreaks more effectively. The test detects biomarkers in the nose that indicate whether a horse exposed to the virus is protected and, thus, can be released early from quarantine, Cornell said.

Thanks to a new grant from the Zweig Memorial Fund, Wagner plans to investigate whether those horses can pass the virus to susceptible horses to make sure they don’t pose a risk to the greater population.

Additionally, Wagner has been testing different variations of the EHV-1 vaccine to see if they stimulate a better immune response in adult horses that would protect against the neurological form. She is also working on vaccines for foals, whose immune systems are less mature compared to adult horses.

“We’re going to find a vaccine at some point that helps against neurologic disease in horses,” Wagner said. “In the meantime, a test like this can help evaluate risk, especially for horses that travel a lot and are at risk of being infected.”

HiEnd Accents celebrates 15 years

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HiEnd Accents, a leading producer of affordable luxury top of bed and home accessories, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a year-long celebration beginning with the January 2020 winter markets in Dallas and Las Vegas.

Established in 2005, HiEnd Accents began as a small home textile manufacturer in Dallas, Texas. The company's rustic designs quickly propelled it to a leading position in the rustic bedding market.  HiEnd Accents made its mark in the industry by offering quality products at an affordable price point. 

In 2012, with the success of its Lifestyle Rustic Collection, HiEnd Accents expanded into transitional and traditional beddings and accessories with the addition of its Landmark Home Collection.  Since its inception, the Landmark Home Collection has inspired designs that have been well received by its customers.  In 2013, HiEnd Accents launched its Home Décor line to respond to the growing demand of the market.

“We feel very blessed and fortunate to see our company grow through the years. HiEnd Accents is committed to providing quality and inspired designs to our customers with a focus on creating products that enrich and complement your lifestyle for many years to come,” said Cynthia Zheng, president of HiEnd Accents. 

For 15 years, we've offered our customers unique products in the traditional/transitional, modern, farmhouse chic, coastal, lodge, and southwest/rustic styles. We design versatile styles to fit the ever-changing home focus and is the leader in Designer Luxury at an Affordable Price. We pride ourselves with our high-quality products and wonderful customer service, said Zheng.

With over 3000 skus of affordable luxury in Top of Bed Linens, Accessories, Bath, Tabletop and Home Décor, HiEnd Accents' designs coordinate beautifully to accessorize an entire home.  With its comprehensive drop ship program, HiEnd Accents provides retailers the opportunity to expand our extensive product offerings online.

HiEnd Accents will host its 15 year anniversary party and educational seminars at both markets.

Retailers can book an appointment or stop by the Hi End Accent showroom to see new products and take advantage of Show Specials.

HiEnd Accents has showrooms in Dallas, Las Vegas and High Point.

For more information about the brand and its lines, visit Partner.HiEndAccents.com or call (866) 960-9710.

Without customer trust nothing else matters

Fostering trust between entrepreneurs and investors

When the contractor didn’t deliverer the proposal as promised, the homeowner called to find out when to expect it. “Sorry about that,” was the reply. “You’ll have it later today or tomorrow.” When it arrived, what passed for a proposal was a “cost estimate” and a hand-drawn layout lacking specifics. It appeared to have been dashed off on the way over. The contractor came recommended, but the homeowner chose another company due to a lack of trust.

Hands down, customer experience is today’s #1 marketing hot issue—and for good reason. Up to 82% of customers who leave do so because of a bad experience. While businesses keep trying to plug up the customer experience holes, it’s never enough.

There’s a lesson here: it’s over and done if trust isn’t established as early as possible. Without a reservoir of goodwill available to recover from a bad customer experience, customers bail.

Even though winning sales is the goal, the first objective is winning customer trust. Credibility matters since the doubt meter is always running with prospects and customers. This is why bulletproofing customer relationships is the number one task. Today’s customers don’t automatically trust brands, businesses, or salespeople. It’s earned by actions, experience, and attitudes that develop over time. And here are ways to establish it:

Follow through. When contacting a business, a lack of follow through may be customers’ greatest fear. Allay their worries by acknowledging how they feel: “I know how important this is to you… I’ll be back to you about 3:00 pm today.” or “You have my word…but should you want to contact me here’s my email address and cell number.”

Solve problems fast. “Will-they-or-won’t-they take care of it?” is what every customer is thinking when they have a problem. What they’re looking for is a clue as how a business will respond. Surprise them by letting them know you understand and will take care of it now. If you can’t do it, change the policy!

Be candid. “Why didn’t you tell me?” are words no salesperson wants to hear from a customer. It happens because there’s often a wide gulf between what customers think they want to buy and what’s going to best serve their needs. To assure satisfaction be candid with them to make sure they will be satisfied.

Encourage feedback. Companies may say they want to hear from their customers, but make it difficult, at times nearly impossible, to do so. If you’re serious about getting feedback, make it easy for customers to contact you and then respond promptly.

Personalize content. And not by dropping in the customer’s name a couple of times. Imagine having a cup of coffee with someone and keep that picture in your mind as you write. It’s how you say it—with empathy, openness and understanding that makes it personal.

Make relevant recommendations. Let customers know you “get it” by giving them specific ideas and suggestions that fit them. General offers have a negative effect; they make customers feel you don’t know them.

Test ideas and initiatives first. Before making changes affecting customers ask them to comment and express their views. Don’t bother if you’re afraid you’ll learn something you don’t want to hear. Taking customers into your confidence avoids mistakes—and creates trust.

Respond quickly. When customers contact businesses today, they either don’t expect a response or assume it will take a day or longer. This is no way to build trust. Response Rule: best within 15 minutes…repeat, within 15 minutes.

Acknowledge mistakes. Desensitize tense situations by offering an apology and do it in a way so customers know you care—and not just trying to appease them. Then, resolve it to the customer’s satisfaction.

Keep your promises. Many “one star” customer comments, those that inflame customers the most, have to do with “broken promises.” Solution: do what you said you would do when you said you would do it. If you don’t, be prepared to suffer the customer’s wrath! In their mind, you have disrespected them.

Give meaning to “valued customer.” These two words are useless unless they translate into value for customers. Examples: a higher credit limit, loyalty options, a direct phone number, an assigned CSR, or some special service.

Find out what they expect. Even though trust is the critical component of customer relationships, its meaning can be highly individual. To avoid customer dissatisfaction and disappointment, ask them what they expect from you.

Be up front. Bad customer experiences make consumers wary and doubtful. They’ve heard it all before so they’re ready to do battle when someone says, “We put customers first.” Being transparent in dealing with customers helps boost their trust.

Is it worth the effort to build customer trust? It is if you believe that new customers come with built-in skepticism, waiting for the other shoe to fall. This won’t change unless trust is the basis of the customer relationship.

Koelnmesse, BSI terminate long-standing copperation for spoga events


At the end of the year, the BSI e.V. and Koelnmesse are terminating their long-standing cooperation for the events spoga horse and spoga+gafa.

In future, Koelnmesse has said it is going to rely more on personal and direct contact to all of the customer groups for the alignment of spoga horse. This approach will allow the trade fair in future to react fast to market changes and thus offer the industry a dynamic platform. "We thank the German Association of the Sports Goods Industry e.V. and the persons responsible for the good collaboration that extended over many years," stated Catja Caspary, Vice President Koelnmesse. "With the coming spoga horse we will in many respects be writing a new chapter. We are looking forward to this challenge and will of course remain in close exchange with the member companies of BSI."

The collaboration between Koelnmesse and the German Association of the Sports Goods Industry e.V. (BSI) existed for 45 years. Since the start of the collaboration in 1974, the demands of the market and industry and the needs of the exhibitors and visitors have changed significantly. The interest in spoga horse is high, as are the expectations in the outcome of a trade fair participation. "For us as the organizers this means checking task for task whether the concept is well-accepted and that the needs of the majority of our customers are fulfilled," explained Caspary.

spoga horse autumn was also completely fully booked in 2019 and with an attendance of 6,500 visitors confirmed its status as the industry's leading trade fair. The booking figures for the spoga horse FASHION DAYS February 8-10, 2020, are demonstrating the high demand for this format, which is especially tailor-made to satisfy the needs of the equestrian sport fashion manufacturers, while at the same time offering the manufacturers of horse supplies and accessories an attractive presentation platform.