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As Seen On TV gives power to the people

BY Dan Berthiaume

Clearwater, Fla. – Multichannel retailer/product marketer As Seen On TV is taking advantage of the burgeoning crowd-funding trend to let its customers help decide what new products will be available for sale. Partnering with crowd-funding software provider Launcht Inc., As Seen On TV will allow inventors to upload video, images, design specifications and marketing strategies relating to their product ideas onto its e-commerce site. Customers will then be able to comment on, review and make prepurchases of products. Those items with the best customer response and highest presale totals will be brought to market, with crowd-funders having special early access.

"This is a significant opportunity for our company and a terrific way to interact with consumers worldwide," said Ronald C. Pruett, Jr., president and CEO of As Seen On TV. "We will use the feedback and consumer response to influence the product design and distribution channels we select.”

Pruett is correct that early customer response to proposed merchandise can provide valuable real-time feedback while products and marketing campaigns are still being developed. In addition, this program is a great means of creating customer intimacy and a sense of empowerment that would likely drive loyalty.

However, having customers allocate dollars to prepurchases of items that may never hit the market will require taking the time and expense of processing refunds, and also may create disappointment and possibly even anger among customers who hope to get early access to a favorite product and instead are told it will not be available. As Seen On TV is probably better off selecting products based on customer commentary and review, and then accepting early crowd-funding purchases before they are made available to the general public.

As Seen On TV expects to launch its crowd-funding program later this summer.

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Staples courts back to school market

BY CSA STAFF

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — School may be out for summer, but Staples has already released its top product picks for the 2013 back-to-school shopping season.

“School supplies need to reflect students’ individual styles, and we are excited by this year’s amazing selection, all at great values,” said Alison Corcoran, SVP, stores and online marketing. “Staples makes it easy to find everything on your list for less this back-to-school season.”

The retailer is looking to maximize foot traffic into its stores by bringing back its Back-to-School Savings Pass, which gives shoppers a 15% discount on supplies. The pass, which costs $10, will be available for purchase through Aug. 31 and is valid through Sept. 21.

Staples is offering everything from light-up pencil pouches to decorative items so students can personalize their lockers. But the retailer is not focusing only on notebooks and loose leaf paper. It is appealing to increasingly tech-savvy youth with an offering of laptops and tablets, as well as assorted cases, including the Jansport Superbreak Sleeve, which lets students safely store their laptops in a backpack. Also available are the Jansport 1.0 Tablet Sleeve and Jansport 1.0 Laptop Sleeve, in zebra and safari prints.

The retailer is also leveraging social media to drive sales, encouraging parents and students alike to check for deals and back-to-school promotions on Staples’ Facebook page and Twitter feed by following the hashtag #StaplesHasIt.

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Men’s Wearhouse fires back at Zimmer

BY CSA STAFF

FREMONT, Calif. — The Men’s Wearhouse’s board of directors has offered new details regarding founder George Zimmer’s termination as executive chair.

"Our actions were not taken to hurt George Zimmer. Rather we were focused on what we believed to be in the best interests of Men’s Wearhouse, as well as shareholders and employees. While Mr. Zimmer owns 3.5% of the stock, it is our obligation to represent the interests of all shareholders.”

According to the board, the conflict between it and Zimmer boiled down to issues of control. The statement presents Zimmer as a man who had difficulty accepting that he has not been the public company’s CEO for two years. The statement lists the following points of contention between the Zimmer and the board:

Zimmer refused to support the executive team lead by CEO Doug Ewert and which includes several team members who have been running the company for many years unless they acquiesced to his demands.

Zimmer expected veto power over significant corporate decisions. Among them was executive compensation despite the fact that the company has an independent committee of the board that sets policy in this area.

After initially supporting the review of strategic alternatives for K&G as proposed by management and supported by the board, Zimmer reversed course. Despite Mr. Zimmer’s objection, the board and management remain committed to the K&G review process.

Most notable on the board’s list of grievances against Zimmer was their assertion that he reversed his long-standing position against taking the company private by arguing for a sale of the Men’s Wearhouse to an investment group. “The board believes such a transaction would not be in the best interests of our shareholders, and it would be a very risky path on many levels. It would require the company to take on a huge amount of debt to pay for such a transaction. The board strongly believes that such a transaction would be highly risky for our employees and would threaten our company culture that is so important to all of us,” the statement read.

Without Zimmer, the board is now unanimously opposed to selling the company. It states that it is committed to a strategic plan developed by Ewert and the rest of the company’s management team, which the board believes “will maximize long-term value for all shareholders.”

The board added that neither its members nor management desired a total breakdown of the relationship between Zimmer and the company, but said that Zimmer left it no choice.

"We care deeply about the culture of Men’s Wearhouse, which we fostered and helped create along with the management team and our 17,000 valued employees. We stand behind its core values of world-class customer service, servant leadership and the open door culture that celebrates the value of every voice. As we stated, we fully support Doug Ewert, our CEO, and senior management team who are unified and focused on the future of the company and the best interest of our shareholders, employees and customers."

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