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Celebrate eBay’s 20th Anniversary with an Infographic

There have been a host of contributing factors to the increase in online retail in the past 20 years. Improvements in payment methods and online security have led to more trust from consumers. Innovations in technology, such as improved Internet speed and increased mobile device usage, have also played an important role in how we shop. However, without the birth of eBay on September 3rd, 1995, it is difficult to have confidence that the evolution of online retail would have developed at the speed that it has. The auction site and online retailer has paved the way, particularly through its partnership of online payment system, PayPal, up until July 2015. PayPal promoted security in payments across the Internet, and eBay’s association with the brand, was instrumental in increasing consumers’ trust in online retail.

This infographic from SnapParcel is aimed at celebrating the achievements of eBay.

Guest blog by SnapParcel

No Such Thing as Offline Retailing Anymore

Digital now drives in-store traffic; is your network ready?

Guest Blog By Ricardo Belmar

Retailers need to rethink the notion that online shopping steals or cannibalizes their brick-and-mortar sales. While it’s true that in-store visits have dropped thanks largely to digital e-commerce, the value of each in-store visitor has risen tremendously.

According to a recent Deloitte study, digital influences 36 cents of every dollar spent at retail stores. Digital also impacts in-store sales rates; consumers using digital devices in the store convert at a 40% higher rate. Consumers visit less, but are better informed about what they want when entering a store. Each trip is more purposeful and they buy more.

The problem is those conversion rates drop precipitously when the in-store digital experience fails to deliver a positive customer experience. Even a few second delay on an in-store Wi-Fi network can send an otherwise promising customer out the door. Considering that 70% of millennials shop with their mobile device in hand according to a recent report from MSLGROUP and the Hartman Group, retailers cannot afford a poor experience. And with social media, a single bad experience can exponentially influence a retailer’s customer base.

The key to implementing a digitally influenced in-store experience lies in the store network. It’s no longer just a tool for processing store transactions, emails and files; it’s a Customer Engagement Network…the central nervous system of the retail enterprise.

Some retailers also want to create compelling in-store experiences by equipping store associates with tablets and mobile point-of-sale devices.  The network therefore impacts the customer’s experience both on their own device and on the associate’s device. All of these factors mean stores must beef up their network capacity, security, and Wi-Fi capabilities if they want digital to drive in-store traffic.

Performance as good as home
The problem is customers expect the same kind of network performance they enjoy at home.  Yet when they visit a store, they may suddenly find themselves sharing a 1.5 Mbps connection with dozens, if not hundreds, of other shoppers.

Some retailers are solving the problem by deploying high-speed Internet access with 10+ Mbps, 50+ Mbps, and even 100 Mbps. Stores with tight budgets or limited network options can still offer better performance by leveraging WAN optimization technology to magnify lower speed circuits into suitable high performance connections.

Given the flash crowds which may overwhelm a store at any given time, congested Internet access must be strategically managed. Business-relevant mobile activity (e.g. mobile shopping apps, gift card redemption, product reviews, etc.) must take priority over lower priority activity (e.g. competitor websites, games, movies, etc.). Proper management can help retailers maximize the business value of even limited or congested Internet access.

Security is Job One
Security is as important as high-capacity bandwidth for a good in-store digital experience, especially in these days of increasingly frequent cyber-attacks.  Customers won’t shop at stores they don’t trust.

Store networks used to be simple: a private network to support credit card traffic and overnight polling.  Today’s in-store networks are more complex. Store-in-Store promotions, for example, require third-party access to semi-secure resources.  And in-store Wi-Fi requires open Internet access. The risk is significantly different between unrestricted Wi-Fi where users can “see” each other versus a Wi-Fi network where users are isolated from each other.

With the emerging “Internet-of-Things,” even the merchandise itself requires Internet access.  Evaluating a product’s mobile app has become part of the purchasing process.  Customers want to quickly download the app, and see if it contributes to a product’s appeal.  Retailers do not want an unacceptably slow download from a congested store network to interfere with the purchase process.

There are also legal and social concerns.  To satisfy stringent PCI compliance requirements, all of this activity must be fully isolated from each other.  When it comes to network security, the strength and scope of the solution must exceed the severity of the threat.

Robust Wi-Fi is Key

Retailers need a flexible and robust Wi-Fi infrastructure that can deliver great performance with no dropped connections or dead zones and can easily adapt to rapidly evolving market requirements.  This requires more than a simple wireless connection between a smart phone/tablet and a wireless access point (AP).

The ideal model for in-store WiFi starts with a high-performance guest and associate experience, which often includes streaming multi-media content to the user’s device.  Content must appear quickly on-screen.  These devices all compete for the same network capacity.  A robust solution must provide proper access management to ensure a great experience for both user groups.

Peak store traffic will likely create periods of severe network congestion. For the retailer, all customer Wi-Fi traffic does not represent an equivalent business opportunity.  For example, a customer “showrooming” for a lower price should always take a back seat to a customer trying to buy a product not available in-store from the retailer’s online site.

The online and offline retail experiences are merging and digital offers retailers a strategic opportunity to not only drive in-store sales, but to differentiate their customers’ experiences and gain a competitive edge.  The bottom line is that there is no offline! Digital experiences are critical to in-store shopping and to ensure success retailers need a powerful network with cost-effective, optimized bandwidth, comprehensive security, and capable Wi-Fi solutions flexible enough to adapt to rapidly evolving market requirements.

Ricardo Belmar is Director of Solutions & Product Marketing for Hughes Network Systems

Beacons: So Much More Than Coupons


By Stephanie Crets

More and more retailers are taking advantage of beacon technology, but many don’t understand that they can be used for more than just offering coupons to consumers. They can be valuable tools in driving traffic and sales to retailers, along with providing customers with real-time, engaging experiences that can better connect them to the retailer’s brand. If customers are engaging in a different, but fun way, they’ll likely be more inclined to purchase and perhaps become repeat visitors. Beacons are even popping up in the fast food industry, stadiums, concert venues, theaters and banks.

According to Kristina Kroot, marketing manager at Mobiquity Networks, retailers can use beacons for a number of different functions:

  • As a way for their customers to pay for items without having to wait in line;
  • To measure the influence of marketing campaigns;
  • To provide additional product information to customers;
  • To help store personnel provide better service to in-store shoppers;
  • Retailers who have loyalty programs can reward their shoppers for shopping at their in-store location and for repeat visits;
  • Use knowledge of a mall or store visit to trigger retargeting campaigns through their omni-channel marketing tools.

Retailers should integrate beacon technology if they want to have more relevant, timely engagements with their customers. But Kroot warns not to push your brand too intensely. “Retailers should be cautious when using because the overuse of mobile messaging has the potential to alienate users,” she says. “The emphasis should be on lower quantity, higher quality consumer interaction, made possible by the location accuracy unlocked by beacon technology.”

This is important to keep in mind because beacons are at the mercy of the customer. If you’re bombarding them with messages or the messages are too generalized, the customer can choose to turn them off or even remove it entirely from their mobile device. Tailoring messages for every customer will inspire them to want to engage with the retailer.

Beacons typically have a range of about 55 yards and can suggest specific items to customers based on previous data collected about the user and the location. A study conducted by inMarket with 25,000 shoppers during a 30-day period in 2014 found that beacons have a significant impact upon the retailer when used properly. Some of the findings include:

  • Interactions with advertised products increased by 19 times for users who received a beacon message.
  • In-store app usage was 16.5 times greater for users who received a beacon message.
  • Shoppers who received a beacon message were 6.4 times more likely to keep an app on their phone versus those who did not.

It’s likely that customers will see and engage with more beacon technology over time and it’s important for retailers to get in while the technology is just warming up because it could be extremely beneficial in the long run.

“Having certainty about a user’s location allows the retailer to replace frequent, scattered messages with fewer messages that are delivered at just the right time and place; a much more efficient and elegant solution,” Kroot says. “For consumers, they will be able to receive more relevant, personalized experiences, whether it is a discount at their favorite retailer or a reminder of where they parked their car at the mall.”

Merchandise Monday: Fandom Licensing

One of the best ways to show your fandom is by wearing it. Whether you’re a fan of wrestling, horror television or a classic cartoon series, these garments are for you.

 

WWE Graphic Tees

What better way to show your WWE fandom than with an awesome graphic tee displaying your favorite superstar? Featuring superstars like Brock Lesner and John Cena, these cotton jersey tees are guaranteed to please.

 

 

 

 

American Horror Story Dresses

AC.DC. Apparel is working with Hot Topic and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products to curate a capsule collection inspired by the hit show American Horror Story. Drawing from each season’s theme, the detailed garments include a wide variety of high0end trims and fabrics. This exclusive wearable art collection launches in October 2015. Just in time for Halloween!

 

The Simpsons Apparel

Neff Headwear unveils a limited edition designer apparel collection based on The Simpsons. The first-ever collaboration combines revamped ‘90s street style with a fresh spin on the iconic characters. The collection features t-shirts, joggers, flannels and accessories all adorned with various Bart Simpson prints and plaid accents. Fans can shop for pieces starting mid-July in all Tilly’s, PacSun and Zumiez stores, as well as select retailers nationwide and online.

 

Juicy J x Neff Capsule Collection

Rapper Juicy J and Lifestyle Brand Neff have come together to create a capsule collection including tees, sweatshirts and caps. Juicy J x Neff products are available at Zumiez and Tilly’s, but you better HU$TLE before they sell out.

 

 

 

By Stephanie Crets

Millennials: The Socially Conscious Back-to-School Shoppers


By Stephanie Crets

Cause marketing campaigns have become a trend this back-to-school shopping season. A study by The Case Foundation found that millennials develop social consciousness earlier in life than former generations and have a strong desire to help others, offer funds to charities and generally want to give back to their communities. Thus, retailers are taking advantage of this during the back-to-school shopping season to inspire millennial shoppers to give back with their cause marketing and loyalty programs. For example, Target partnered with the Kids in Need Foundation, Macy’s has Fashion Pass, which allows customers to get 15 to 20 percent off a purchase for donating to various charities and TOMS offered a “Give Back When You Go Back” promise to its shoppers that it will help one person in need for every product purchased.

RM spoke to Brandon Rael and Andrew Billings, two retail consultants of the North Highland Company, about this topic and the two offered a lot of great insights.

Why is back-to-school (B2S) one of the best times to target millennials for these loyalty programs, since some of them may not be doing any B2S shopping?

Loyalty programs are traditionally powerful tools to establish a long-term customer relationship, and millennials represent the most critical customer segment for many fashion retailers. While millennials may not be “back-to-school” shopping July through September, many utilize this same time period to stock up on the latest fall fashions and exhaust a significant portion of their annual personal shopping spend.

Like other customer segments, millennials are looking to take advantage of the B2S promotions through large purchases, and retailers know large transactions often increase the likelihood of customers joining loyalty programs. But regardless of the shopping season, anytime is a good time to encourage new members to join a loyalty program.

Do you think retailers target millennials during the holiday shopping season as well? Giving back is definitely a theme during the holidays.

Yes! Retailers understand that millennials connect with brands that align with their interests, and during the holidays, giving and community are on the mind of most millennials.

As millennials express that social purpose is among the key factors that influence purchase decisions, leading retailers are connecting consumers to their social/community platforms across the brick and mortar and digital channels. Millennials desire to be a part of the movement, and providing one that they can own and be passionate about is the sweet spot for retailers.

Have these cause marketing campaigns been beneficial to the retailers so far, or is that data not available yet?

The next generation of spenders, the millennials, spend money differently than previous generations, and marketers need to adjust their strategies.

How are retailers using these campaigns to target millennials?

What worked five years ago, doesn’t work now with millennials, in terms of marketing, selling and advertising. Many are seeking personalized, targeted promotions and discounts as the price for their loyalty. To reach Millennials on the various social media channels, retailers and their brand must become a routine part of their conversations concerning product information, updates and special offers.

Can retailers tie loyalty programs and social responsibility campaigns together?

Absolutely.  Today’s millennial consumer is demanding an increased social responsibility from the retailers and brands. Combining social responsibility with a retail loyalty program is more appealing to millennials as they show a preference towards nonmonetary benefits, compared to prior generations. This trend has lead customers to look for companies and brands that are doing their part to help the world by supporting a cause.

 Do you think millennials are more likely to shop at places that are more socially conscious?

Without a doubt, yes. Millennials have proven to consider much more than just the quality, materials and price when deciding which products or services to purchase. A retail company’s social and/or environmental commitment is a significant consideration for the millennial consumer.

Millennial consumers are more likely to build long-term relationships and reward retailers that are socially and environmentally responsible and active. That being said, retailers must still present an overall value to the consumer that is competitive with the broader market to thrive in the long-term.

 

Brandon Rael is a New York-based retail strategy and operations Principal with deep experience as an industry leader for retail and global consulting firms. Brandon has led global delivery teams to help clients achieve operational efficiencies and sustainable profitability improvements, and he has defined transformational strategies to leverage technology solutions that address complex omni-channel business challenges. Brandon has partnered with global and iconic retail companies as they face the challenges of a very dynamic marketplace. 

Andrew Billings is a senior manager of retail and consumer products at the North Highland Company.  He has 8 years of management consulting experience, all within retail and consumer products industries.  He brings deep expertise within the areas of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Product Development, Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain Transformation.  His project experience spans across Strategy Definition, Process Improvement and Systems Implementation. Andrew has served a multitude of retail clients, including vertical specialty retailers, global fashion brands, department stores and big-box leaders. 

Stylize Your Mobile Shop to Boost Conversions


Guest Blog by Brian Smyth, Wiser
 

Converting a shopper into a customer can be difficult, especially on your mobile site. Even though it may be frightening, it’s still important to know that mobile sites actually have a 97 percent abandoned cart rate. It’s intimidating, but can definitely be fixed with one word: merchandising. A good merchandising strategy will boost conversion rates and cut back on cart abandonment.

Whether it’s on a phone or in a physical setting, your store needs to be merchandised to appease the customers’ senses. Perhaps the widest gap between mobile and brick and mortar lies in the access to the products. When someone is shopping online, they can’t touch or fully experience the physical products before they purchase them, which is difficult to make up for. According to a PwC report, 60 percent of shoppers prefer shopping in a physical store to experience merchandise in person. The customer can only experience so much through a phone screen, but you can make up for it with helpful product descriptions and clear pictures.

You’d think this would put online retailers at a disadvantage, and in a way you are correct. If 100 people visit your mobile website, only three will make a purchase. However, good merchandising tactics can change this.

Be Crystal Clear

First things first, be sure to explain what your business does and what makes it interesting on your homepage. A minimalistic look on mobile is aesthetically pleasing, but there’s no reason why you can’t provide an “about” tab on the side. Provide contact info, or even a direct phone number that links to your store in case any questions arise.

Bring the In-Store Experience Online

Make up for the inability to physically experience the product by providing multiple clear images at different angles to show the customer what the item looks like. Don’t plague the customer with tedious pinching and zooming, just make the picture crystal clear and large. In-depth product descriptions combined with a beautiful interface can also help the customer decide if it’s the right product for them, getting rid of any uncertainty. Sometimes reading about the product just isn’t enough for the shopper, so include user reviews that reflect the pros and cons of the product.

Improve Your Webstore Layout

Create clean, simple layouts that are straight to the point. Big paragraphs that have to be zoomed in on are going to frustrate shoppers, so you are going to want to be concise when writing product descriptions. Add a brightly colored tab that links to a section solely for your sales and specials to attract browsers who are looking for a deal. Pop-ups and banners are distracting and can take away from an otherwise relaxed experience.

Make the Checkout Process Easy

At the end of the road, make sure you provide your customer with an easy checkout process. Approximately 38 percent of shoppers feel uncomfortable storing payment/delivery information in a phone. Restore comfort by including easy forms for them to fill out and be sure to offer a “check out as a guest” option. Use clear, big buttons for easy navigation throughout the process and include different payment options so they don’t have to enter sensitive card information on your site.

Optimizing your merchandising practices on your mobile site can change the current reputation mobile holds for abandoned carts. By creating a relaxed layout with simple navigation tools and secure payment methods, mobile conversion rates can increase greatly and become the new norm in eCommerce.

 

Brian Smyth is a Content Writer at Wiser. Wiser is a dynamic pricing and merchandising engine that monitors, analyzes, and reprices retail products in real-time. Wiser enables retailers to boost profit margins and revenue, price with confidence, and improve merchandising through powering the development of a sound pricing strategy.

 

Merchandise Monday: Bay Soleil for Mandalay Bay

Having just gotten back from MAGIC in Las Vegas, I became very familiar with the Mandalay Bay. It just finished a massive convention center addition to the hotel, which consisted of a mile of trade show to go through. When I wasn’t at the trade show, I was enjoying the myriad of restaurants and bars the hotel had to offer. My one regret was that I didn’t get to enjoy the pool and lay out in the 110-degree heat. You’d think that would be miserably hot, but it was a relief from the sticky humidity of the Midwest. Had I done some sunbathing, I obviously would have needed some sunscreen and post-sun care. And in keeping with the Mandalay Bay theme, what would be better to use than Bay Soleil for Mandalay Bay’s line of sun care products.

 

Continuous Spray Sunscreen

With full body sun protection, this can offers a convenient, continuous 360-degree spray that leaves no greasiness, stickiness or residue. The sunscreen is available in SPF 15, 30 and 50.

 

 

 

Moisturizing Tan Protector

Peptides stimulate the production of melanin before and during sun exposure, giving you a longer lasting glow. The lotion offers deep hydration, redness relief and a gradual tan that starts before you step outside.

 

Delicate Skin Protector

This product was created especially for delicate skin and it gives you a deep hydration pre- and post-sun exposure with intense UVA/UVB protection. Available in SPF50.

 

 

 

Anti-Aging Protection

This sun protection offers anti-aging benefits in a fast absorbing, transparent formula with a lightweight, smooth finish without leaving any residue. Available in SPF30.

 

 

After Sun Relief

Your skin needs moisture after sunbathing. This product gives instant, refreshing relief that will soothe and relieve your skin from dryness.

 

 

 

Juicy Lip Fix

Protect your lips from sun exposure with this lip balm that offers antioxidants and a light touch of coral tint. Available in SPF45.

 

 

By Stephanie Crets

 

Answer These Four Sales Tax Questions


Answer These Four Sales Tax Collection and Filing Questions to Avoid Expensive Issues

Guest Blog by Jonathan Barsade

It’s a sign of success when a company starts to experience rapid growth. Expanding into new markets and adding to your customer base is exciting. But it’s important to make sure you stay focused on all aspects of the business, not just your growth trajectory: Don’t allow growth to distract you from the administrative aspects of running your business, including sales tax collection and filing.

Most business owners have the best intentions when it comes to collecting and filing sales taxes, but they may not fully understand how it works. To avoid liability for major penalties and interest payments, you have to make sure you know the answer to these four sales tax collection and filing questions:

1. When should I file? This is an important question because filing cycles can be different across multiple tax jurisdictions, and taxing authorities may set deadlines on different days of the month. When you expand into new markets, it’s critical to consult all relevant taxing authorities and make sure you know when to file in every jurisdiction to maintain compliance.

2. What do I have to file? Sales tax isn’t the only levy business owners may be required to collect. In some instances, companies must collect use taxes. Your obligations will depend on the requirements placed at the point of registration. By understanding what you’re required to file up front, you can avoid costly penalties and interest assessments later.

3. Where do I have to file? A pizzeria on Staten Island that crosses a bridge to deliver pies in New Jersey may create a “nexus” – a business presence in a tax jurisdiction other than the one they primarily operate in, meaning the business must file sales taxes in both states. It’s vital to understand where to file to ensure compliance with tax obligations.

4. How do I file correctly? Generally speaking, the onus is on the business owner to file correctly, and that includes the obligation to present all relevant documentation. For example, if a customer claims to be eligible for a charitable organization tax exemption, it’s a good idea to ask for a certificate so you can document eligibility if asked later by a tax agency.

Taxing authorities generally don’t give business owners a break for good intentions, so it’s critical to make sure you understand when, what, where and how to file in advance. Failure to know the answer to any one of these questions can result in the requirement to pay major back taxes and penalties.

Instead of going it alone in a complex tax environment, many companies rely on a partner to assist them with sales tax compliance. An automated solution that applies the latest rates and regulatory rules to accurately collect and file sales taxes across jurisdictions can allow company leaders to get back to what they do best — running the business.

But whether you choose to handle your sales tax obligations in-house or find a reliable automated platform, it’s important maintain focus on administrative functions, even when entering a period of rapid growth. Knowing the answer to these four questions is a great first step that will help you make sure you fully comply with your sales tax and use fee obligations as you grow your company.

Jonathan Barsade is CEO of Exactor

Lost in Translation: When Great Designs Become Mediocre Displays


Guest Blog by David Muller

A great display is not only a work of art, a thematic rendering of a winter wonderland that evokes children’s stories and mythical creatures, an extravaganza of locomotion – of marching soldiers and dancing bears, of rotating cityscapes and the to-and-fro of villagers descending snow-covered slopes – that, through a combination of lighting, paint and hidden wires, tells a story and attracts a crowd.

A great display is also an example of coordination and translation, where a professional can actualize an artist’s vision into a three-dimensional model of perfection.

And yet, too often what we see on paper – what I see on paper – bears little resemblance to the nuances and flourishes, and the angular shapes and sharp lines, that represent an artist’s vision.

Whether a result of poor communication, or a product of too many chefs in the proverbial kitchen (in this case, too many artists in the studio), there is an increasing disconnect between designs for various displays and the construction of those respective plans.

From the majestic window displays of Manhattan’s fashion emporiums, in which the facade of a French Renaissance revival mansion looks like the reels in a movie that includes tuxedo-clad aristocrats and stylish flappers, and Colorado cowboys and Grand Prix drivers, to huge conventional halls where vendors use displays as conversation pieces and an informal means of business development, one thing is certain: If the construction of these displays falters, if a designer outsources too much of this work to too many firms (of differing skill and accountability), then that business will suffer.

Again, I issue this statement from experience because, where there is more one-on-one collaboration between a designer and the person responsible for bringing a blueprint to life, the chances for success improve markedly.

This point may seem obvious – indeed, it is obvious – but, in the face of deadlines, tightened budgets, searching for the right materials, and the back-and-forth of messages and in-person meetings, collaboration can soon descend into chaos.

The logistics become even more complicated, when trying to corral representatives from different firms to convene in a physical location.

What soon happens is an unintentional, and far from comical, version of “telephone” where a designer and one of several builders enter a conference room and talk to a squawk box – a hoot-n-holler piece of wired plastic with pinhole speakers – that connects to other vendors working on the same project.

Between the overlapping voices and poor sound quality, along with the difficulty of knowing who is on the line, the effect is like one very bad auditory hallucination: All noise, and no signal.

Therein lies the difference between a display that resonates with viewers, inducing suspension of disbelief before this cinematic depiction of the good life, and some cardboard cutout that is as unremarkable as it is forgettable.

The fact is that converting an idea into a tangible object is a discipline unto itself. It involves so many moving parts, literally, that to have the gears built and assembled by artisans, on the one hand, and drones, on the other; to extol craftsmanship, as you simultaneously invite the poverty of mediocre thinking into the workplace, is to have a display that will intellectually collapse because of its contradictions and physically crumble because of its shoddy construction.

Clarity demands the end of this conflict of visions.

Design mandates the erasure of confusion.

A great display requires great professionals, period.

David Muller is Founder and President of DCM Fabrication

Merchandise Monday: Zalemark Will Produce M&M’S Jewelry Collection

Mars Retail Group and Zalemark Holding Company, Inc. have announced completion of a jewelry licensing agreement enabling Zalemark to design, market and distribute a line of M&M’S Brand fashion jewelry. Currently under development, the collection may include earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings incorporating the colorful fun of the iconic candy brand and the whimsical M&M’S Characters.

The M&M’S Brand jewelry line will be available for retailers to preview in late 2015, with distribution in first quarter 2016. With price points ranging from $49 to $129, the new line will appeal to a wide range of consumers – from trendy twenty-somethings to style mavens and collectors of M&M’S Brand memorabilia.

The world-renowned candy brand is no stranger to success in the jewelry industry. In 2010, an M&M’S Brand jewelry collection sold briskly in major department stores, a national grocery retailer, independent retailers and online.

“We’re thrilled to work with Zalemark, a company known for producing unique jewelry,” says John Capizzi, general manager of Licensing for Mars Retail Group. “I’m looking forward to sharing the stunning M&M’S jewelry designs with retailers and consumers.”

“M&M’S Brand parallels well with our other global brand, Crayola,” remarks Steven Zale, CEO of Zalemark. “With the historical testing of this product line, we predict it will move into the market place swiftly. The upward momentum of Zalemark is on a rolling path as we continue to add well-known brands to our line-up.”