OPERATIONS

Williams-Sonoma launches new brand of personalized gifts and accessories

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco — Williams-Sonoma said Thursday it has launched a new direct-to-consumer gifts and accessories brand called Mark and Graham. The brand will debut with its own direct mail catalog and website.

At the heart of the new brand, said the retailer, is complimentary monogramming and personalization on its products, with a choice of more than 50 custom monograms and creative type treatments. Every purchase comes with complimentary personalization, and arrives in a signature linen box finished with extra-wide grosgrain ribbon and a customizable gift card.

“I’m extremely proud to launch Mark and Graham, as it is an example of our innovative culture here at Williams-Sonoma, Inc.,” said Laura Alber, president and CEO, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. “One of the things that differentiates our company is our ability to incubate and launch new brands that can grow into substantial businesses. With Mark and Graham, our goal is to create a destination for beautiful, high-quality, thoughtful gifts that are personalized by the artful use of typography.”

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OPERATIONS

RILA to Obama: Without rules, employer-sponsored health care at risk

BY Staff Writer

Arlington, Va. – In a letter sent Thursday to President Barack Obama, RILA President Sandy Kennedy argued that the Administration’s failure in a timely manner to provide employers with formal guidance on the most basic of implementation rules for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) jeopardizes employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

“RILA is extremely concerned that when formal guidance is finally released, employers will not have ample time to plan, budget and implement changes in order to comply with the new law,” said Kennedy.

While the law doesn’t take effect until January 2014, plan years beginning in early 2013 that transverse the ACA’s effective date are obligated to be in compliance. In some cases, the open enrollment period for such plans is under way now.

RILA raised similar concerns in a letter sent to President Obama in July. The association said it has engaged closely with the Administration in an effort to support and inform the complex rulemaking process. However, with no time left to reasonably comply with forthcoming implementation rules, transition relief is needed to allow employers to adapt existing benefits and design future benefits to comply with the law.

“RILA strongly urges the Administration to provide employers with transition relief with respect to the employer requirements under the ACA,” said Kennedy.

The letter included a sample of the many questions that employers need answered in order to ensure their health benefits comply with the new law.

The law is effective on January 1, 2014, yet there are no formal regulations for the employer requirements. How do employers with plan years that transverse January 1, 2014 comply, as 2013 plans are already in effect?

  • How will full-time employees be defined?
  • What is the definition of a seasonal employee?
  • What does it mean to make an “offer” of coverage? How are employers expected to demonstrate that they have “offered coverage?”
  • Who are “dependents?”

Click here to see the whole letter.

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REAL ESTATE

Von Maur continues expansion of Dry Goods brand

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Davenport, Iowa — Department store chain Von Maur said Thursday that it has opened a 4,000-sq.-ft. Dry Goods store at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, Iowa – the specialty retailer’s first location in the state and its eighth overall.

The concept, which centers around contemporary women’s clothing and accessories, is strategically growing; the plan, said the company, is to have a nationwide presence. It recently launched its online business at Drygoodsusa.com.

"We are thrilled to open our first Dry Goods store in our home state of Iowa and are confident our newest location in West Des Moines will be successful," said Lindsay Caltagirone, VP, noting that with more than 150 special stores, the Jordan Creek Town Center is the largest shopping complex in Iowa and the fourth largest in the Midwest.

The first Dry Goods opened in October 2010 in Aurora, Ill. While future locations will be primarily concentrated in Midwest-based shopping centers, the goal is to expand Dry Goods beyond the Midwest as part of a national expansion initiative.

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