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Credit Card Cuts and the Rise of Local Currency

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Card providers slash limits. The WSJ has some disturbing examples of how credit card providers are cutting back sharply on limits for small business owners. Who's doing the cutting? Some of the biggest players in the industry, including Citigroup, Bank of America, Capital One, and even Advanta, a company that focuses entirely on small business credit cards. One owner of a plants and aquatics nursery in Florida saw his $46,000 credit limit cut nearly in half, forcing him to lay off six of his 8 employees. For more on using credit cards in a downturn, check out Kasey Wherum's story here.

Communities are printing their own money. Yup, you read that right. According to USA Today, a handful of towns are printing their own currency to boost dwindling wages and support struggling local businesses. (At this point, it's not quite as pervasive as Scrip, the Depression-era currency that took the place of dollars.) Still, in Detroit, three business have launched their own form of money called Detroit Cheers in order to keep purchases within city limits. And, in Western Massachusetts, the BerkShares currency has been flowing since 2006, and is now accepted at 370 businesses.

A 'freemium' competitor to MS Word. Want the convenience of cloud computing, but the features of a traditional word processor? The New York Times reports about one small software developer is convinced that it can challenge both Microsoft Word and Google Docs. Zoho, a company we wrote about here, is launching an online word processor with features that rival MS Word. It's free for individual users and for the first nine users in a business, and there's no advertising. Zoho's hope is that, as word spreads, larger businesses will sign up and pay the $50 subscription fee to add users.

Web ads become online stores. Silicon Alley Insider has news that a company named Adregate is turning its web ads into virtual kiosks. Internet ads have long depended on funneling web users to an advertiser's homepages, and betting that consumers will make purchases. Adregate's technology allows users to buy an advertiser's products on any web page across the net.

In tough times, marketers look to the past. These days, business owners are no doubt yearning for the halcyon days of easy credit and a booming economy. But marketers on Madison Avenue, the New York Times reports, are looking backward too. The ad industry is increasingly relying familiar jingles and tag lines, and reassuring themes from yesteryear. For one, Cotton, Inc. is reviving the once nauseatingly ubiquitous "fabric of our lives" campaign from 1989. Pepsi, which is launching retro packaging, is getting in on the act as well: "It's about yearning for the past, a simpler time, even though the '60s and '70s were not simple," said Frank Cooper, chief marketing officer for sparkling beverages at the Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages unit of PepsiCo.

In a downturn, it's "bottom's up" Expecting a double-digit decrease in dining sales, but a less severe contraction in alcohol sales, many high-end restaurants are adding or expanding bars -- even if it means smaller dining rooms. The Wall Street Journal reports that upscale restaurants, including one run by the famed New York City chef Daniel Boulud, are also now turning to promotions like "fried-chicken and waffles night" or touting high-end bar snacks, to combat dwindling numbers of patrons.

Last updated: Apr 7, 2009




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