New York & Company's (NWY) CEO Greg Scott on Q4 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

New York & Company, Inc. (NWY) Q4 2016 Results Earnings Conference Call March 16, 2017 4:30 PM ETExecutivesEunice Han - ICRGreg Scott - CEOJohn Worthington - President and COOSheamus Toal - EVP and CFOAnalystsPamela Quintiliano - SunTrustDavid Kanen - Kanen Wealth ManagementOperatorGood day and welcome to the New York & Company Inc. Fourth Quarter 2016 Earnings Conference Call.

Today's call is being recorded.And at this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Eunice Han with ICR. You may begin.

Eunice HanThank you. Good afternoon, everyone.Before we begin, I would like to remind you that some of the comments made on todays call, either as part of our prepared remarks or in response to your questions, may contain forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Actual results may differ from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties as described in the Company's documents filed with the SEC, including the Company's fiscal year 2015 Form 10-K.And now, I would like to turn the call over to Greg Scott, CEO.

Greg ScottThank you, Eunice. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today to review our fourth quarter and fiscal year 2016 results. With me today are John Worthington, our President and COO; and Sheamus Toal, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

I'll begin the call by reviewing our performance for the quarter, as well as the progress that we've made on our strategic proprieties throughout the year. John will then review our accomplishments in credit and loyalty, eCommerce, store expansion and Project Excellence. Finally, Sheamus will provide more detail on our financial results before opening the call up for questions.

As a recall, we've provided an update on our holiday performance and fourth quarter expectations at the beginning of January. And both our comp sales performance and adjusted operating loss came in at the better end of that revised guidance.For the quarter, comp sales were down approximately 0.

4%. This was a result of declines in our brick-and-mortar store comp due to continued difficult traffic trends, as well as higher promotional activity. Store comp performance was partially offset by continued strong performance in our eCommerce business.

With comp gains in the low-teens driven by positive traffic, as well as positive comps in our outlet conversion stores.In terms of product, our ability to differentiate our offering continues to service well. We continue to see great results from our celebrity collaborations which we believe provide us with a strong point of differentiation versus others in the space giving these assortments our exclusive to New York & Company.

This is best demonstrated by the long-standing relationship and success of our Eva Mendes celebrity collaboration. In fact, Eva delivered another double-digit increase in sales during the fourth quarter. In addition, our exclusive Soho Jeans, and Soho Street sub-brands also achieved positive comps during the quarter.

Outside of our celebrity and sub-brands, we delivered comp increases across several categories including sweaters, dresses and accessories. The growth in accessories is driven by our strong gifting strategies during our holiday season which also led to expansion in our sweater category, a very important category for New York & Company during fourth quarter.In total, however, these positive performances were offset by softness in our 7th Avenue sub-brand, as well as our knit and woven tops category.

We have some exciting news to share regarding 7th Avenue that we believe will serve as a catalyst for growth in 2017 which Ill get to later.We also prudently controlled our inventory. At year-end total inventory was down 11% and inventory per average store down 6.

5% compared to the prior year. Importantly, we made strong progress in our key initiatives during the year. Let me walk you through some of the highlights from each and how we evolve these keys to drive forward our sales and profitable goals in 2017.

Our first initiative is to leverage and enhance our brand assets growing our celebrity partnerships and sub-brands as we evolve into a broader lifestyle brand. During the year, as I mentioned we expanded our Eva Mendes partnership at a double-digit rate. The success of Eva is further demonstrated in that we've grown this offering at a fast pace since launching in 2013.

The Eva Mendes brand now represents $50 million business and we believe that we have the ability to double that to 100 million sales over the next several years. To achieve this objective, in 2017 in March we are expanding Eva's footprint to 25 more shop-in-shops stores for a total of 50 shop-in-shops locations and we're increasing our assortments at boutique and party offerings in Eva Mendes.In addition, as we open our next six to 10 flexible lease stores in premiere locations, Eva will have a large presence.

In fact I'm excited to announce that tonight we are hosting an appearance by Eva Mendes at our new Dadeland boutique which opened yesterday.Importantly, Eva Mendes gives a framework to successfully add new celebrities to our fold. We are excited that our March 31, we plan to announce a new celebrity collaboration.

This celebrity will be serving two important roles for our Company. First, as brand ambassador to our largest sub-brand, 7th Avenue, and second to launch our own collection which to be sold exclusively at New York & Company beginning in August. We expect this new celebrity collection will see the same success of Eva Mendes and has the ability to grow at a similar rate.

The other aspect of these initiatives is growing our sub-brands. I believe and our customers agree that we have unique sub-brands, expand many lifestyle and occasion and our unique to New York & Company. First, from 7th Avenue for wear-to-work to Soho Jeans for downtown cool and more casual lifestyle, and to lounge under the Soho's Street brand a capitalized on the athleisure trend.

We believe in 2017 that both Soho Street and Soho Jeans has continued upside and we hope with a new brand ambassador we can change the more challenging trend we have seen in 7th Avenue sub-brand.Also in 2017, we will continue to lean heavier into always having new fashion all the time and becoming known as a destination where fashion has created every day. Under this, we will continue to project our new Trending Now dresses and continued growth in celebrity assortments.

Our second initiative is creating a deeper national connection with our customers and increasing brand awareness among our target customers along with increasing traffic to our brand. Our celebrity partnerships continue to be a key part of our marketing strategy. We will continue to leverage celebrities along with an introduction of a new partnership in April to drive traffic and new customers to the brand as I mentioned previously.

At the same time, we will continue to use our customers' influencers to drive awareness and engagement.Last month, we launched a new campaign #IAmNYandCo where we featured longtime Atlanta customer as the face of a collection influenced by her. This collection and her parents drove strong sales in our Atlanta market.

Along with these two initiatives we also will continue to test radio, where we think successful results in metro markets, out of home and well continue to grow our digital media spend. Personally I have the once in a lifetime opportunity to participate under cover of our television show. This was a truly unique experience and would happy to have the opportunity to discreetly go out in the field to interact with customers and members of our organization like I have never been able to before.

I heard so many greater gifts, improved profits for our store teams and would be able to learn how to elevate the in-store experience for customers. Going forward youll see us work to implement many of these ideas in our stores. Third, we continue to better connect with consumers to our private label credit card program which importantly services are loyalty program.

This is evidence by the continued growth in our private label credit card sales and penetration with sales from PLCC customers or private label credit card customers increasing roughly 300 basis points to over 40% of overall sales for the year.We also extended our agreement with ADS as part of this, our royalties from our PLCC sales will increase as move forward in 2017 which John will elaborate on. Fourth we were pleased in 2016 to see e-commerce grow double-digits enhanced by omni capabilities and improvement.

Online now represent over 25% of our business and continues to grow as we continue to look for new ways to further enhance the capabilities and grow our overall business.Fifth, we continue to execute on Project Excellence John will provide more detail shortly but I wanted to say that I'm very proud of the progress the team has made around improving our speed to market. Over the past several years, weve shorten our lead times by almost seven weeks and now have the ability to get reorders in about 12 weeks throughout most of the year excluding Chinese New Year.

Been able to provide great products that fits the trends and meet the needs of our customers quickly is paramount to success in this business and Im very pleased with the work we've done on this front.Finally, I want to note there is landscape that we are currently operating and brick-and-mortar continues to change rapidly. Our solid foundation and focus on the discipline management of our business has opened new growth opportunities for us at strong ROI.

With this in mind as I mentioned earlier, we plan to open six to 10 stores in premier locations at attractive rents require low capital investments which will able us to drive top line sales, additional profitability generates significant return on investments and more importantly expanding our brand and our celebrity presence.Overall, we believe our strategies have poised to continue to evolve the lifestyle brand to the growth sub-brands and celebrity partnership that meet the need for fashion that is on trend, stylish and pull together in a best-in-class omni-channel environment allowing you to shop how, where and when she wants stores, mobile or desktop. At the same time, we focused on increasing sales productivity through strategic real estate moves such as acquiring certain premier lease locations, increasing our speed to market and improved operational efficiencies.

These actions are expected to enable us to move forward toward our high single-digit operating margin goal.Before I turn the call over to John, I want to take a moment to recognize the entire New York and Company team for their continued hard work and dedication. We have made a lot of progress in 2016 that we have a long way to go and I look forward to continue this great work in 2017 and beyond.

With that I'll turn it over to John.John WorthingtonThanks Greg, In a challenging environment the discipline management of our business drove operating results in line with our fourth quarter guidance highlighted by increased sales of our celebrity brand most notably Eva Mendes along with double-digit growth in e-commerce sales, positive outlet conversion comps, and expansion in gross margin. These achievements demonstrate solid traction against our key initiatives, differentiate New York & Company by scaling our celebrity and sub-brands, optimize our real estate portfolio, grow eCommerce and digital sales, benefit from our new PLCC agreement and deliver operational efficiencies included in Project Excellence.

We'll continue to evolve our strategies in 2017 in an effort to drive customer loyalty and preference for New York & Company and better position our stores to mitigate negative mall traffic trends. I'll begin my remarks with the review of our credit loyalty program and omni-channel initiatives, I'll then provide an update on our real estate portfolio, outlet conversion and Project Excellence our productivity initiative.Our credit loyalty market share increased in the quarter to over 40% of sales up almost 300 basis points over Q4 of 2015.

We continue to expect growth in our private label credit card, as well as our email database to drive long-term loyalty and incremental sales. As I have noted previously, our private label credit card customers shop more frequently and spend 2x to 3x more annually. As we continue to increase our credit loyalty penetration, we have the opportunity to more effectively target these loyal customers.

Looking ahead to 2017, we expect to further grow from our private label credit card driven by the relaunch of our loyalty program Runway Rewards. We are very excited about our reduction of Runway Rewards which make it easier for our customers to earn and use their rewards.As it relates to our PLCC, we expect to continue to expand our customer file as we leverage SMS acquisition campaign in-store and online made possible by new technology enhancements at point-of-sale.

We also expect our new PLCC agreement to continue to assist us to expand gross margin driven by $11 million in incremental royalties we expect to receive versus 2016.Now let me turn to our omni-channel business. We continue to experience double-digit growth in eCommerce benefiting from a combination of enhancements we've made and continue to make to our web platform.

We believe we continue to lead in technology within the specialty store channel and expect our enhanced capabilities with Ask Us, ship-from-store and buy online pick up in-store to further differentiate New York & Company from others as we give consumers the flexibility to have the product in the size and color they want and enable them to shop when, where and how they want.We expect our positive performance from eCommerce to continue in 2017 as we benefit from the expansion of our core business driven by exclusive shops for cheap and call our online exclusive styles and the expansion of non-apparel categories such as jewelry. We'll also build on the strong momentum of Eva Mendes with the introduction of the Eva boutiques online that engage consumers in the full collection.

We have several initiatives in place to drive traffic conversion and ADS online. To drive online traffic will leverage social media marketing, an increase PLCC engagement on-site. Conversion improvements are expected as we redesign our website to drive a better brand experience and we expect to increase average dollar sales as we focus on promotion and events that enable us to achieve the objective while increasing higher AUR category such as Eva dresses and outerwear.

We'll also focus on increasing units per transaction as we enhance the recommendation feature on our site as part of our web redesign to drive more outfit dressing.Now let me briefly provide an update on outlet conversion, real estate and Project Excellence. As we have previously disclosed, we are committed to the comprehensive review of our entire real estate portfolio to improve profitability.

Our converted outlet stores continue to perform well and these stores achieved positive comp sales for the year and increased profitability driven by lower rents, as well as higher conversion UPT and traffic.During the fourth quarter we closed eight New York & Company stores and eight outlet stores. For the year we opened two stores and closed 20 New York & Company stores and six outlet stores while converting 50 stories to our outlet concept.

We ended the year with 466 stores including 343 Nico stores, New York & Company stores, 123 outlet stores and 2.4 million selling square feet in operation.In 2017 we'll continue to optimize our real estate portfolio with the goal of delivering $5 million in incremental savings and significant rent concessions with 36 store closures plan for the year.

As it relates to store and outlet expansion, our plans are to open six to 10 new stores in high-performing locations. We were excited to have the opportunity to enter these flexible lease locations that were previously occupied by a close competitor and therefore were move-in ready.The first six will open in the first half of this year.

They include a Dadeland in Miami, Miami International, Pentagon City in Arlington Virginia, Chicago Rosemont Center, Valley Fair in Santa Clara California, and Garden State Plaza in New Jersey.As it relates to outlets, we expect positive comp sales to continue in 2017 as we strengthen our product assortment and grow our lifestyle beyond wear-to-work by building Denim, the reintroduction of lounge and increasing seasonal selections especially in dresses and sweaters.In addition, we will also strengthen our non-apparel categories with the expansion of jewelry.

We also expect to enhance credit loyalty program to assist us to drive traffic to our outlets with a focus on increasing new PLCC accounts. Overall we expect to end 2017 with roughly 440 stores including 122 outlet stores and approximately 2.2 million selling square feet in operation.

We'll continue to asses our store base so that we are positioned to drive optimal sales productivity and profitability. We have increased our flexibility to achieve this goal by having over 60% of our lease renewals on two year basis.Now let turn to Project Excellence which you now is our ongoing initiative to improve overall operational efficiency and productivity.

Our most significant accomplishments toward Project Excellence this year is centered around improving our speed to market and realigning and increasing our collaboration with our key agent partners along with simultaneously driving reduction in our product costs and developing expense controls across all areas of the business.As it relates to Project Excellence, we continue to target areas of opportunity and continue to target additional savings as we increase efficiencies across the organization and continue to realize procurement cost reductions.In closing, we managed our business in a challenging environment in Q4 while positioning our business and brand for improved long-term performance.

We remain encouraged by our strategic efforts across credit loyalty, omni-channel, real estate and Project Excellence and are beginning to yield top and bottom line results. We remain very focused on delivering both short and long-term improvements in sales and profitability for New York & Company.With that, Id like to turn the call over to Sheamus to review our fourth quarter and full-year results and introduce our 2017 outlook in greater detail.

Sheamus ToalThank you, John. Good afternoon, everyone.Net sales for the fourth quarter were $266.

3 million as compared to $271.3 million for the fourth quarter of last year's. Comparable store sales decreased 0.

4% reflecting strength in our growing eCommerce business and $5.4 million of royalty revenue from our new private label credit card agreement offset by decreases in store sales due to reductions in store count and decreased mall traffic which led to declines in comparable store sales.In the comparable store sales base, average dollar sale per transaction increased by 4.

9% while the number of transactions per average store decreased by 5.1%. Gross profit as a percentage of net sales increased by 170 basis points to 27.

4% versus last year's fourth quarter gross profit rate of 25.7%. This increase reflects $5.

4 million in benefits from the new private label credit card agreement, product cost reductions and efficiencies from vendor negotiations related to the implementation of Project Excellence, as well as a 40 basis point improvement in the leverage of buying and occupancy costs partially offset by increased season end product markdowns.Selling, general and administrative expenses were $82.3 million as compared to $69.

2 million in the prior year. However, this includes a $6.2 million legal reserve related to an ongoing trademark infringement case where the Company received an unfavorable judgment but is still in the process of vigorously defending.

On a non-GAAP basis excluding this reserve, selling, general and administrative expenses were $76.1 million as compared to non-GAAP selling, general and administrative expenses of $68.5 million in the prior year.

This increase largely reflects reclassifications to certain amounts under our new agreements or the elimination of benefits which occurred in the prior year. These changes in comparability include $1.3 million increase in marketing expense due to the shift in classification of private label credit card benefits to revenue or $1.

1 million increase in expense due to the elimination of insurance credits and $1.8 million increase due to the reversal of performance-based compensation accruals in the prior year.In addition, the Company also experienced $0.

8 million increase in variable expenses associated with the growth in eCommerce and a $1.3 million increase in digital marketing spending to drive sales.GAAP operating loss was $9.

2 million as compared to the prior year's fourth quarter GAAP operating income of $0.6 million. On a non-GAAP basis excluding $6.

2 million of non-operating charges, adjusted operating loss was $3 million compared to the prior year's non-GAAP operating income of $1.3 million.GAAP net loss for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2016 was $10 million or $0.

16 per diluted share. This compares for the prior year's GAAP net income of breakeven. Excluding $6.

2 million of non-operating charges, the Company's non-GAAP adjusted net loss was $0.06 per diluted share, as compared to the prior year's fourth quarter non-GAAP adjusted net income of $0.01 per share.

Total quarter end inventory decreased 11% which was below our previous guidance reflecting significantly lower levels of in-transit inventory, as well as lower levels of inventory on-hand. On an average store basis, inventory declined 6.5% reflecting on-hand inventories which were approximately flat and lower levels of in-transit inventories due to changes in vendor terms and timing of deliveries.

Capital spending for the fourth quarter was $5 million as compared to $5.8 million in last year's fourth quarter primarily reflecting continued investment in IT infrastructure and real estate. The Company ended the quarter with $88.

4 million of cash and no outstanding borrowings under its credit facility.Now turning to outlook for the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. Net sales are expected to decline in the low single-digit percentage range reflecting decreased store count partially offset by $5.

8 million of royalties and other revenue from the new private label credit card agreement and growth in the eCommerce business. Comparable store sales are expected to range from low single-digit negative to flat on a percentage basis. This range reflects the fact that we still have a high percentage of our quarterly sales ahead of us with the shift of Easter to later in the quarter.

Gross margin is expected to be up significantly reflecting $5.8 million in benefits from the Company's new private label credit card agreement, reductions in product costs and agent expenses resulting from Project Excellence, and reductions in occupancy costs due to the continued rationalization of our real estate portfolio partially offset by increased shipping costs associated with the growing eCommerce business.Selling, general and administrative expenses on a GAAP basis are expected to deleverage by 250 basis points to 300 basis points versus the prior year.

While the Company continues to reduce home office and field payroll costs, these reductions have been offset by the following factors. The shift in benefits from the Company's new private label credit card agreement to revenue as compared to the prior year which reflected these benefits as reductions of marketing expense.; investments in marketing to drive incremental sales, increases in selling, general and administrative expenses driven by increases in eCommerce variable costs, and increases in seasonal and annual performance-based compensation accruals.

Operating results on a GAAP basis for the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 are expected to improve versus the prior year however we do still anticipate a loss in the range of $2 million to $5 million. These results reflect the anticipated impact of a highly challenging and promotional environment given the backdrop of soft industry traffic trends the brick-and-mortar stores.Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization or EBITDA is expected to be positive during the first quarter adding to the Company's strong working capital position.

Total inventory at the end of the first quarter is expected to be down in the low to mid single-digit percentage as compared to the prior year first quarter.The Company continues to be very aggressive in the rationalization of its real estate portfolio reducing occupancy costs while maintaining flexibility. In this regard we currently have a very high penetration of stores on short-term leases with approximately 50% of our stores with lease expirations of less than one year and more than 60% of our stores with lease expirations of less than two years.

We believe this gives us tremendous flexibility as we move forward.Capital expenditures for the first quarter are projected to be between $5 million and $6 million as compared to $1.9 million of capital expenditures in the first quarter of last year.

Depreciation expense in the first quarter is estimated at $6 million. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 the company expects to open one outlet store remodel or refresh three existing stores and close six New York & Company stores. In addition the company also expects to open five new stores in existing competitor locations under short-term leases which require little capital investment.

For fiscal year 2017, the company expects to open two new outlet stores remodel or refresh eight existing stores open six to 10 stores in existing competitor retail spaces under flexible leases and close 36 stores including three outlet stores ending the fiscal year with roughly 440 stores including a hundred and 22 outlet stores and approximately 2.2 million selling square feet in operation.With that I would like to turn the call over to the operator to begin the question-and-answer portion of the call.

Question-and-Answer SessionOperator[Operator Instructions] And at this time, we will take your first question which will be from Pamela Quintiliano with SunTrust. Please go ahead.Pamela QuintilianoHi thanks so much to take my question guys.

So actually have a few starting with the loyalty program. Can you talk about the timing of the just the runway relaunch if could remind us the current reward structure and anything you could share about how you expect that to change with the new program. And then just how robust the data capture is that youre getting from the loyalty program and if youre utilizing that across the stores and then a few after that?

John WorthingtonHi Pamela, its John, Ill start off a couple and then Ill let Sheamus and Greg chime in. The relaunch of runway rewards our loyalty program will start in Q2 were really excited about it obviously we worked very hard with ADS in 2016 to negotiate what we think is a very solid deal for the next 10 years on.And the relaunch will have three separate tier so well be introducing a new top-tier to our loyalty program which were very excited about that will offer at all levels exclusive coupons and offers will have things like free shipping to certain levels, birthday offers double city cash, things of that nature and just the overall rebranding of the program has allowed us to really do some creative things in the marketing space and especially with our promotional cadence as were extremely promotional.

So well be allowed to kind of target each of those tiers and aggressively go after two build each of tiers.I think probably the biggest thing for us in 2015 and 2016 is to see our loyalty program grow in such fast clip so now we've gone from the mid 30s to a little north of 40. We believe there is some real strong growth for private label both from an acquisition new and from those customers to spend more.

So we did see an uptick in both of our loyalty programs and customer spending more in 2016. So were very excited about it. Were very excited about the deal we think we again we can get this up hopefully in other 200 to 300 basis points this year and hopefully we can get it to the mid-40s and beyond.

Sheamus and Greg anything else on PLCC?Greg ScottSheamus.Sheamus ToalNo just in terms of the PLCC benefits as John mentioned last year we signed a new agreement we believe there were tremendous benefits associated with that agreement for us first obviously we received a sign-on bonus of about $40 million a little bit over $40 million which certainly helped our cash and working capital positions so that was a tremendous benefit of that negotiation.

As well as the increase in the royalty rates so as you have seen over recent quarters we have experienced an increase in the royalties that we've received from ADS and in this most recent quarter obviously you can see the amounts in revenue increased to $5.4 million for the quarter.As we move forward in 2017 under the second phase of that agreement we started to experience actually during Q4 the next step up in those royalties.

So as we move forward we would expect royalties depending upon our volumes in the quarter to range anywhere from $5.5 million to $7 million per quarter again depending upon our volumes which is obviously up from last year and significant increases versus where we were two years ago. So there has been tremendous success in terms of that program and that renegotiation.

Pamela QuintilianoRight, thank you for the detail on that. And just a few other questions can you talk about Evaluation Mendes is that attracting a new customer its an existing customer who is cross shopping and if its a new customer is she then going test the Eva collection and buying other things so that was the first question. Second question regarding the limited closing are you seeing any benefit from that Im assuming there were some overlap there and also assuming you picking up some of their locations.

And then lastly Greg just any thoughts on fashion shifts and what you're seeing out there with your girl would be much appreciated? Thanks so much.Greg ScottSure, so as we talked about were super excited about our relationship with Eva were opening Dadeland yesterday and she is appearing in our Dadeland store today kind of marking a milestone at $50 million in the business with a goal $100 million in the short-term.

I think as we've always seen Eva Mendes she does bring in a new customer but at the same time we saw a lion share of our customers shop at as well. When we do find a customer comes in she generally does pick up another piece of New York & Company the average dollar sale for an Eva Mendes customer is significantly higher than a non-Eva Mendes customer that is shopping. So it is s a very qualified and very strong customer for us.

I think with Eva you know whats exciting as we open these six what were calling stores and premier locations that many were limited stores that were opening in the next were opening two today and we opened to last week. I think what you'll see there is Eva Mendes is going to take a very strong front positioning in these stores permanently with a window permanently we think in these upscale centers Eva is a major draw. And were seeing that with these stores that are opening a very high penetration of the Eva Mendes.

So I think what we're seeing is I cant say that we have seen a shift from the limited customer coming into our stores yet. However a couple things one I would say that yes there was some crossover for sure. Two I think we've been fortunate to secure advantageously six to 10 locations many that limited operated in that were able to open very quickly, we talked about that on the call.

So obviously with those locations I think we will absolutely benefit from the limited closing for sure. I think fashion there some really exciting things are happening weve really it didnt kick off early I'll tell you February we did not see this but beginning with March some real significant trends that are happening obviously soft dressing is huge.Whether it be the paper bag palazzo or pant, the highway paper bag, soft skirt, soft tops, soft dressing is great for us right now really palazzo pants of and new palazzo meaning high wasted paper bag are excellent I think in tops weve got three main trend that were seeing early on anything with shoulders, cold shoulder, bare shoulder off the shoulder very strong in our business across the board.

We are also seeing anything with dramatic sleeves opening up so tops are really in that respect as well.So I think in the top trend we have to major trends and then I will say as last year was very neutral on color and still think color is very neutral. We are seeing some color start to appear again which is interesting and mainly the color pink is good across the board there were all seen this new shaded green happening.

So they are trends that we saw in early March that were going to chase heavily into for May, June period specifically around soft on all the tops trends that were seeing. There was so well really build back into that for the late May, June assortment and that kind of speaks to our supply chain and something that we continue to want to grow our chase dollars meaning spend more on chase less probably up from buy and we continue to make that initiative to really drive that second and fourth quarter.Pamela QuintilianoGreat and just one last one with dresses you guys said dresses were one of the categories that was doing well for you right in the prepared commentary or do I heard?

Greg ScottSo what I said is dresses in Q4 were excellent and dresses so Q4 we had a great comp there as we open spring I will say dresses and Eva Mendes are fantastic dresses in our main line have opened just okay. Really strong on eCommerce and not as good stores - I'm thinking this has to do with store traffic which you know store traffic for us as we always talk about through last year in Q4 our store traffic was down in low to mid singles where mall traffic was down double.So we continue to be beat them I will say in our brick-and-mortar Nico stores February traffic was softer though as many people have commented it was definitely better as we move to the Presidents holiday had a lot to do with obviously the shift and the holiday and the shift of brakes so that really helped as well.

So I think what I'm seeing in dresses we are definitely seeing jumpsuits and maxis continue to be strong for us and any shift dress with an interesting sleeve is great. The sleeves are really great things like crazy sleeves things you would never thought would sell are selling really, really well.Pamela QuintilianoThat's great to hear.

Best of luck guys.Operator[Operator Instructions] At this time, we will take a question from David Kanen with Kanen Wealth Management. Please go ahead.

David KanenGood evening. First question Sheamus can you tell me exactly for the quarter what the shipping expenses were relating to eCommerce?Sheamus ToalSo we havent disclosed the specific amount of the shipping expenses for the quarter.

So I don't have that are disclosure in our release at this point I'm obviously on shipping expenses as well as overall eCommerce expenses have gone up considerably over the last few years. So as we have seen growth in our eCommerce business from virtually nothing to 25% of our sales almost $250 million of overall business. Weve set up that business as almost entirely variable cost structure.

So as we've seen that growth in sales we have seen an increase in shipping expenses as well as other expenses associated with that business. So you that's you know been part of what's offset some of our project excellence savings and some of the other benefits that we've been able to pull in. As our business evolves and becomes more of an omni-channel business we have seen a growth in that segment of our expense structure.

OperatorAnd at this time Ill turn it back over to management for any additional or closing remarks.Greg ScottThank you again for joining us. We look forward to speaking with you again when we report our first quarter results in May.

Thank you and speak to you later.OperatorAnd again that does conclude todays conference call. Thank you all for your participation.

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Nowadays there are warning labels on most everything: this is flammable, that will cause injury because it's sharp, this substance is poisonous, and that canister is under pressure, but what types of warning labels would you need for items designed to be used in a weightless environment? There is a very large set of possibilities. For real-world examples do some research on what NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, CNSA do. The list below is just off the top of my head. Cannot be used in microgravity. Must be used in gravity field greater than X% of earth.Must be used in gravity field less than X% of earth.Cannot withstand acceleration greater than Y. Must be aligned along a certain axis for acceleration.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure greater than X.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure less than X. Cannot be used in Heliox atmosphere. Must only be unwrapped/used in an environment with a scrubber that can handle a particular chemical.Must be decontaminated via (some method) when moving from atmospheric composition X to composition Y.Must be exposed to hard vacuum for X hours before being brought into atmosphere. Requires shielding in a certain EM range. Requires grounding. Requires shielding from certain cosmic rays.Cannot be used during a solar flare of greater than X intensity.Cannot be used if organism X is present.Can only be used if organism X is present. Cannot be taken to an uncontaminated planetary environment.Can be injected into a person only if they have a certain symbiote/implant/genetic marker.Can only be used in temperature range X to Y. Can only be stored in temperature range X to Y.Do not change temperature at a rate greater than Z/sec OTHER ANSWER: The thing about silly warnings on earth is that most of them were added because someone, somewhere actually did it and did try to sue the manufacturer. Whether the warning can be followed in practice is irrelevant, as the only purpose is to try to give the manufacturer more leverage in case of a legal claim.So considering the actual incidents and accidents that have occurred in spaceflight, we can color things up a bit and warn:.
Justice Dept Settles with Tobacco Cos on Database
RICHMOND, Va. The nation's two biggest tobacco companies, Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., have agreed to pay $6.25 million to support the country's largest online collection of internal tobacco industry documents, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The settlement resolves a dispute over an online document database that a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., mandated in a 2006 ruling in which she found the companies masked the dangers of smoking. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said the companies were trying to deceive people about the health effects of smoking and nicotine addiction and about marketing to youth and changes to cigarette designs to increase addiction. Over the next four years, the companies will fund and enhance access to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an online database of more than 13 million internal tobacco company documents run by the University of California, San Francisco. The 11-year-old database mostly contains documents revealed during lawsuits against the companies. Hard copies are stored in an archive known as the Minnesota Depository. Representatives for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent of Philip Morris USA, and for Reynolds American Inc., the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based owner of R.J. Reynolds, declined to comment on the settlement Wednesday. The settlement still must be approved by the court. "This agreement helps make sure that these documents will be accessible to researchers, journalists, students, lawyers, the government and the public at large -- anyone who is interested in learning more about the defendants' efforts to mislead consumers about the effects of smoking," Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. In addition to the document database, Kessler has said she wants the industry to pay for various types of ads, both broadcast and print, but she has not said what the statements should say, where they must be placed or for how long. The government's proposed corrective ads would cover the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefits from "low tar," "ultra-light" and "mild" cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke. The companies have argued that the statements are inflammatory, inaccurate and "designed solely to shame and humiliate" the companies. The court is considering delaying that decision while other courts decide newer cases challenging new tobacco marketing restrictions and graphic cigarette warning labels the government has proposed. ------ Michael Felberbaum can be reached at .
Handle with Care: Prepackaged Meal Kits and New Food Delivery Methods Are Serving Up a New Helping o
In June 2016, National Frozen Foods Corp. recalled frozen peas and mixed vegetables it packages under 13 brands. The recalled products, thought to be contaminated with the microscopic pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, were included in several of HelloFresh's meal kits delivered to customers in 21 states. New food delivery methods such as home-delivered meal kits and prepackaged fares are changing the food industry. However, the evolving ways in which consumers now receive and prepare foods are creating new liability concerns that some insurers, brokers and others fear could become a recipe for disaster. On-the-go consumers are flocking to healthy alternative meal solutions. Within the past year, 25% of Americans purchased a meal kit and 70% continued to buy them after making their first purchase, according to Nielsen. But inside the neatly packaged boxes of preportioned ingredients and step-by-step recipes lurks the potential for foodborne illnesses and missed food allergens, and that has the insurance industry developing new offerings and risk management programs to stave off those potential exposures. In a recent study of 169 home meal kits, researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Tennessee State University found the majority of meats, poultry and seafood in those kits arrived at consumers' doorsteps at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, making them unsafe to consume. Part of the problem is the time between refrigeration and delivery of those items. Only 5% of the orders required a signature upon delivery and many of the boxes were left outside for eight hours or more. Also, kits that arrived at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees had "off the chart" microbial loads--the total number of bacteria and fungi in a given quantity of water or soil or on the surface of food, Rutgers professor Bill Hallman said at the 2017 annual Food Safety Summit in Rosemont, Illinois. Menu of Risks More than 100 subscription and a la carte meal-kit delivery service companies, such as Blue Apron, Home Chef, Chef'D and Plated, have sprung up in the past few years, and more competitors are continuing to crowd the multibillion-dollar market. National retailers, such as Whole Foods Market, Costco and Walmart; food purveyors, including Campbell Soup, Hershey and Tyson Foods, and Martha Stewart and other celebrities have also entered the meal-in-a-box fray. But today's "changing plate" is blurring the lines on how food is produced and delivered, and that's raising liability concerns and prompting the need for clarification of responsibilities and regulations when it comes to new food delivery models including meal kits, said Tami Griffin, national practice leader at Aon Risk Solutions. Under the lid of those kits lie many questions, including where food products and ingredients come from, whether product handlers are following proper safety protocols and if adequate packaging and temperature control measures are being taken. The Rutgers-Tennessee State study offered a glimpse into some of those answers. Researchers found dry ice often used inside meal kits fails to come with warning labels or handling information, and only 37% of deliveries had visible information indicating the parcels contained perishable foods. Compounding the problem is that containers used to ship perishable food often are much larger than necessary and often don't have packing materials to fill the empty space, thereby compromising temperature control measures. Also, non- or mislabeled food items inside meal kits bring about potential food allergy concerns, and cross-contamination issues can arise during their transportation, said Steve Kluting, the Midwest regional director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Company's food and agribusiness practice group. Concerns like those pose yet another question: Who is responsible if something goes awry? So far there are more questions than answers. Because of the lack of regulation and the novelty of these delivery models, it is not always clear who to blame when a crisis occurs. Adequate safety measures and protocols can lessen that risk. For example, clearly labeled disclosures about potential food allergens on companies' websites or inside meal boxes is generally adequate enough to protect against liability, said Bill Marler, a managing partner at Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark. He has been a plaintiff's attorney for a number of foodborne illness and food safety cases over the years, including the highly-publicized Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak in 1993. Four children died and 178 other people became ill after eating contaminated beef patties served at 73 of the restaurant's chains. "People with severe food allergies are good at reading labels and knowing what's in products," Marler said. "But if you're sourcing from different suppliers you need to familiarize yourself with each of those companies' food allergy profiles." Labels should also include information about the products' manufacturers or suppliers, he said."Doing so allows the box to work, in a sense, like a grocery store and liability becomes more limited. If some items are included in unnamed packages, the box entity may be on the hook for strict liability as a manufacturer." Liability can fall anywhere along the supply chain--from growers and processors to suppliers and distributors. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and other meal-kit carriers have largely been able to avoid liability because of the contractual relationships they have with their meal-kit providers, said James Neale, a partner at the law firm McGuireWoods LLP in Charlottesville, Virginia. Researchers found shipping companies that delivered meal-in-the-box kits in the Rutgers-Tennessee State study washed their hands of any responsibility if products showed up spoiled. Others in the supply chain, however, are at risk, and that's why traceability is key, said Jana Wilson, managing director of risk services and global lodging and leisure practice leader at Industria Risk & Insurance Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Good Works Financial Group. Also, the shorter the chain, the fewer the risks, she said."Companies need to create and maintain relationships with all of their suppliers--from the guy who caught the fish, to the person who froze the fish, to the individual who transported the fish and finally to all of those who are responsible for preparing and serving the fish." Supply chains have increasingly become more global. That's why companies need a good quality assurance process to test imported products to ensure foods and ingredients are what they claim to be, said Steven Simmons, associate vice president of risk management in Nationwide's agribusiness insurance. He also suggests suppliers secure indemnity agreements which defend and indemnify them in the event of a loss due to use of a supplier of a product/ingredient to include adequate limits of insurance. "When possible have yourself listed as an additional insured on the product/ingredient maker's liability coverage," he said."Good contracts outlining duties and responsibilities will mitigate confusion in the event of a loss." Finding Solutions Food product liability insurance is one of the insurance options companies may want to consider. FPLI protects retail businesses against claims made from the sale of foods sold to the public, and it covers the retail seller's liability for losses or injuries suffered as a result of purchasing a product by a buyer, user or bystander. "Part of the problem is that FPLI is not a mandated coverage. At this point it is primarily the larger food service companies that are requiring FPLI from their suppliers,"Wilson said. That may soon change. Vicarious liability that follows the entire food chain is too large of a risk not to have in place the kind of coverage FPLI provides, she said. General liability policies help companies protect against third-party claims and provide defense and indemnity costs if a contamination or foodborne illness outbreak arises, said Florida-based injury attorney Jason Turchin. Each year, nearly 48 million Americans become sick and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria, according to federal data. General liability, however, is laden with holes when it comes to reputational risks, and smaller farms and local growers may not carry the coverage, Turchin said."All it takes is one major outbreak to bankrupt them and shut down their entire operation." Product contamination and product recall insurance coverages can help fill the gap. The policies provide coverage for reputational harm and lost profits after an event, along with brand-building efforts and financial recovery for items that need to be removed from shelves or inventory stocks, said Amy Lochhead, a vice president and division underwriting manager at Liberty Mutual's national insurance unit. Today's recall insurance market remains relatively soft, and a number of new entrants are flooding the sector, said Caitlin McGrath, vice president of national product recall and accidental contamination risk consulting at Lockton."Despite recent losses, prices have remained low and companies are becoming more competitive with their coverages." Turchin suggests meal-kit providers and their suppliers also consider other coverage options such as medical payment insurance--a no-fault, good faith gesture that helps companies cover medical expenses, up to a certain amount, caused by a food product. Also, stand-alone workplace violence policies, cyber liability to protect the online exchange of customer data in meal-kit transactions and addons such as a vaccination endorsement can cover risks associated with new food delivery models, McGrath said. Risk Action Plans While adequate insurance coverages can certainly help, companies also need to adopt risk mitigation efforts and create crisis management plans, Marler said. For instance, place warning labels outside kits indicating which products need to be refrigerated and at what temperatures they should be stored and cooked, he said. "Taking steps that will help lower a company's risk profile and allow them to share--not shift--risk and responsibility from farm to fork." Also, know where products come from. Decide what kinds of food to include in a kit and which ones to avoid. "For example, raw oysters may not be the best choice," Marler said. Individuals with certain medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and liver disease, are at risk for becoming seriously ill or dying from eating raw oysters that are contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus--a gram-negative bacterium that occurs naturally in warm, unpolluted seawater. Companies also need to examine their policy language and membership contracts. Blue Apron--the first U.S. meal-kit delivery service to go public, in 2017--requires members to agree to the provisions of a 20-page membership agreement outlining its terms of use and mandating members to go through an arbitration process on an individual basis limiting the remedies available to the consumer in the event of certain disputes, Wilson said. The New York startup, created by a professional chef, a venture capitalist and a computer engineer in 2014, currently serves about eight million meals a month. Blue Apron's terms of use agreement clearly holds its members responsible for inspecting all products for any damage or other issues upon delivery. Wilson said the company even goes as far as to recommend members use a thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of meat, poultry and seafood is 40 degrees or below. "But each food element has a slightly different temperature requirement. While food safety experts must navigate, even anticipate, trends in food safety practices, consumer behavior is the sole responsibility of the consumer,"Wilson said. Companies also need to implement and maintain quality control measures, develop testing and traceability plans to monitor supply chain audits and keep abreast of current regulations, Liberty Mutual's Lochhead said. So far the meal-kit delivery industry remains relatively unregulated, experts say. The Food Safety Modernization Act--the most sweeping reform to U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years--was enacted in 2011. However, other than reminding consumers about safe handling instructions, neither the FDA nor the United States Department of Agriculture have yet to issue any substantial guidance around new food delivery methods such as meal kits. Groups like the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators are hoping to change that. This year, the CAEHA proposed a new bill that would expand state-mandated food safety training to meal-kit delivery employees and would require them to obtain a food handlers card, which is a certificate obtained after an employee attends a food safety training course and passes an examination from an accredited organization. But companies like Blue Apron are pushing back over concerns with the bill. In 2016, the final rule to FSMA's Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food regulation went into effect. The rule is designed to protect foods from farm to table by keeping them safe from contamination during transportation. However, couriers--including meal-kit delivery services--are exempt from the final sanitary transport rule, which "ironically, was passed just as the meal-kit delivery model was on the horizon," Turchin said. Regulators are starting to examine home meal-kit delivery more closely, and as a result, Wilson expects the FDA will soon incorporate technical guidelines into the FSMA that will "stretch the understanding of food safety in our new food technology world." She also anticipates insurers will create micro-niche insurance products that would provide coverage for each of the "big eight" allergens, such as shellfish or peanuts, in an effort to help mitigate potential risks in the market. "As we dive deeper into this fat-free, gluten-free and other food sensitivities-free world we now live in, the government will continue to step in and more stringently regulate information about food allergies or sensitivities already being tested on countless menus and food packaging labels." Technology's Role Technology has a large hand in changing today's food industry. By 2025, 70% of consumers are expected to purchase at least some of their food online, according to reports. And new food preparation and delivery models are being overhauled by advances in robotics, analytics and big data. California startup Zume Pizza relies on robots to prepare and bake its pies. The company also uses artificial intelligence and big data to predict order volume and make its food fresher. Another startup, Chowbotics, recently created a robot it calls Sally to prepare custom, chef-inspired salads using precut products stored in refrigerated canisters. While technology is creating greater convenience, it's also upping the liability ante. And that's why companies need to think through their risk profile and ask themselves: Is convenience worth the risk, Marler said. "It's similar to what we saw 15 years ago with the rise in ready-to-eat salad mixes," he said. "Unfortunately, some of those companies didn't think about all of the potential risks that could arise if the mixes became contaminated while being shipped across the U.S. in refrigerated trucks, giving time for bacteria to grow." Insurers have struggled to wrap their heads around evolving risks like those. And new delivery models including home meal kits are once again forcing carriers to come up with novel ways to underwrite and insure those exposures, Lockton's McGrath said. "The thing about meal kits is that they aren't grocery stores. They're not frozen foods. So insurers have to figure out how to underwrite what is essentially a group of individual, prepackaged, portioned foods coming from multiple sources," she said. Only now are those answers becoming clearer and carriers are starting to feel more comfortable with those risks, McGrath said. Dinner-in-the-box delivery is more than a passing fad. The market is set to become a $5 billion industry over the next decade, according to food industry analyst Technomic Inc. So far claims and losses have remained low, Marler said. "That's probably because these are individual deliveries, and large-scale food safety litigation generally involves outbreaks that affect many people. I don't think meal kits are immune from food safety problems, but this delivery model will probably cause more one-off problems." The challenge will be detecting and pinpointing problems, which may fly under the radar, he said. by Lori Chordas Lori Chordas is a senior associate editor. She can be reached at lori. Key Points A Full Plate: The meal-kit delivery market, which packages convenient, healthy preportioned food in a box, is expected to become a $5 billion industry in the next several years. Hard Nut to Crack: Those kits present new liability exposures throughout the supply chain, as well as the potential for foodborne illnesses and possible missed food allergens. The Whole Enchilada: General liability, food product liability, product contamination and product recall, and cyber liability are a few of the coverages that can help recover losses stemming from those risks.
New York Police Officer Contracts Legionnaires' Disease
Officials are investigating a New York police station and water supply after an officer contracted Legionnaires' disease, a potentially life-threatening form pneumonia.Preliminary test results indicate that traces of the bacteria causing Legionnaires' disease were found at the police station in East Harlem. Officials have started inspecting the facility's systems and testing the precinct's water supply. The officer, who was not named, is recovering at a hospital outside of the city, according to the New York City Department of Health.Officials first became aware of the situation on Saturday.Legionnaires' disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it can be deadly if left untreated. Legionella pneumophila, the type of bacteria that causes the disease, thrive and multiply in water systems, cooling towers, indoor plumbing, hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers. Most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex water systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily, according to the Mayo Clinic."Health officials are on site today to sample water in indoor plumbing, and to provide additional assistance and guidance," the health department said in a statement Sunday. "Legionnaires' disease is not contagious, officers can still work in the building but should avoid taking showers at the site until the investigation is complete. There is no public health risk to the larger community."The hot water supply at the station has been temporarily shut down.Officials have ruled out a cooling tower that supports the facility's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as a possible origin of the bacteria because it has been shut down since October as part of a renovation project, according to the police department. A new tower was installed last month, but it has not been activated.Legionnaires' disease was first discovered in 1976, when people attending a Pennsylvania American Legion convention at a hotel in Philadelphia developed pneumonia. More than 200 convention attendees and visitors were infected, and some died.People get sick with Legionnaires' disease by breathing small droplets of water containing the bacteria. Symptoms include headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Those at risk of getting sick are adults 50 years or older, smokers, and people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, cancer and other preexisting illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.On Friday, two guests at a Las Vegas resort contracted Legionnaires' disease, according to media reports. One stayed at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in March, while the other stayed there in April, CNN reported. Health officials said Legionella was found in the hot-water system of one of the hotel's towers.Between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires' disease are reported in New York City every year, according to the health department.In 2015, an outbreak in the South Bronx prompted health officials to implement tougher cooling tower regulations, hire more inspectors and train city employees on how to inspect cooling towers, officials said.Federal officials said last year that cases of Legionnaires' disease have nearly quadrupled in the United States over a 15-year period. About 6,000 cases were reported in 2015 alone."Large recent outbreaks in New York City and Flint, Mich., have brought attention to the disease and highlight the need to understand why the outbreaks occur and how best to prevent them," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a briefing last year.Infants born during water births are at risk of contracting the disease.Two infants in Arizona were infected with Legionnaires' disease in 2016, according to the CDC. Both were delivered by a midwife in a home birthing tub. They survived after receiving antibiotics.- - -The Washington Post's Lena H. Sun contributed to this story.
Defense Rests; Zimmerman Won't Testify in Murder Trial ...
The jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial was expected to begin deliberations as soon as Friday afternoon after the defense team rested Wednesday without the neighborhood watch volunteer taking the stand.Judge Debra Nelson said she hoped to hand the case to the jury Friday afternoon, with closing arguments set to begin at 1pm Thursday.The defense team used its final day of testimony to paint the neighborhood watch volunteer as a wimp who was getting pummeled when he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense, at one point commandeering a mannequin introduced by prosecutors in order to re-enact its version of the fight.Zimmerman did not take the stand, though his team left the option open until the last minute, with Zimmerman finally telling Judge Debra Nelson he would not testify. After OMara announced that he would call no more witnesses, prosecutors called the first of several witnesses back for rebuttal, beginning with Adam Pollock, owner of a kickboxing gym where Zimmerman trained prior to the incident. Like other defense witnesses, Pollock described Zimmerman as a soft weakling, likely unable to defend himself against Martin before firing the gun.Earlier Wednesday, Zimmerman's lawyer literally flipped a prosecution witness -- a gray, foam dummy -- to re-enact the defense's version of the confrontation that ended in Martin's death, straddling the mannequin and bashing its head against the floor as stunned jurors looked on Wednesday. The mannequin was initially introduced by prosecutor John Guy during cross-examination of defense witness Dennis Root, a former law enforcement officer who testified as an expert on defensive use of force. Guy used it to show how, if Martin were straddling Zimmerman, he would have had difficulty reaching for a gun holstered at his waist.After Guy wrapped up his round of questioning, lead defense attorney O'Mara stepped up."May I use your doll?" asked O'Mara.O'Mara straddled the dummy on the floor in front of the witness stand, grabbed it by the shoulders and drove its head into the floor repeatedly."Would the injuries on Mr. Zimmerman, the back of his head, be consistent with someone doing this on cement?" asked O'Mara as he slammed the flopping mannequin's head into the floor."I don't think so," replied Root."How about this?" asked O'Mara, continuing to bash the life-sized dummy against the floor, but placing its arm against his shoulder, as if it were resisting. "How about someone resisting the attack? Could that have come from if someone was resisting me pushing down like this?"Root responded, "I believe so."Earlier in his testimony, Root described how Zimmerman would be no match for the 17-year-old Martin in a fight."Mr. Martin was a physically active and capable person," said Root, who probed both Martin's and Zimmerman's physical conditioning and fighting prowess on behalf of the defense team. "Mr. Zimmerman is an individual who is by no stretch of the imagination an athlete, and . he would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin."Roots testimony jibed with prior defense witnesses who have testified that the neighborhood watch volunteer was overweight, in poor shape and not good with his fists. Root said screams heard on a 911 call, which the defense claims are Zimmerman, show "a high level of stress, a high level of fear."[pullquote]A young mother who lived in the gated community where Zimmerman shot Martin told jurors Wednesday the neighborhood watch volunteer helped comfort her after a home invasion by two young men left her frightened.Olivia Bertalan said Zimmerman supplied her with a new lock for her sliding door and offered to open his own home to her after the incident, which happened about six months before Zimmermans fateful confrontation with Martin,. Although she said the two invaders were African-Americans in their late teens, there was no suggestion that Martin was involved. The testimony was instead apparently presented to show how seriously Zimmerman took his role as a community protector.Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, also took the stand Wednesday, saying it was "absolutely" his son George on the 911 call that captured the fatal confrontation.GAVEL-TO-GAVEL COVERAGE: ZIMMERMAN TRIALEarlier Wednesday, Judge Nelson denied two requests by the defense, ruling that a computer animation that depicts the February 2012 confrontation as well as text messages that purportedly deal with fighting sent from Martin's phone will not be admissible as evidence.The judge seemed concerned about the animation's accuracy during arguments. While the animation can't be introduced as evidence that can be reviewed by jurors during their deliberations, defense attorneys may be able to use it during closing arguments, she ruled.&quotTo have an animation go back into jury room that they can play over and over again gives a certain weight to something that this court isn't exactly certain comports with the evidence presented at trial,&quot Nelson said Wednesday night.The judge also agreed with prosecutors' concerns about introducing the 17-year-old's text messages. But defense attorney Don West had argued the texts were relevant since they showed Martin's interest in fighting and physical capabilities.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Trump's New EPA Chief Warns Water Is a Bigger Threat Than Climate Change
In one of his first interviews, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that Americans should focus less on global warming."We have 1,000 children die everyday worldwide because they don't have safe drinking water. That's a crisis that I think we can solve. We know what goes into solving a crisis like that. It takes resources, it takes infrastructure and and the United States is working on that. But I really would like to see maybe the United Nations, the World Bank focus more on those problems today to try to save those children. Those thousand children each day, they have names, we know who they are," Wheeler told Garrett.Although Wheeler acknowledged to Garrett that the emissions of fossil fuels and other man-made variables "certainly contributes" to climate change, and promised that President Donald Trump would reveal two major regulations later this year in order to curb CO2 emissions, he emphasized that he considered providing clean water to be a higher priority."Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out," Wheeler argued, adding that people are currently dying from drinking dirty water.America, Wheeler insisted, is "doing much better than most westernized countries on reducing their CO2 emissions, but what we need to do is make sure that the whole world is focused on the people who are dying today, the thousand children that die everyday from lack of drinking water. That is something where we have the technology, we know what it will take to save those children. And internationally, we need to step up and do something there."Wheeler then addressed the Flint water crisis, which began in 2014 when the water for the Michigan city of Flint was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to Flint River, thereby exposing the city to elevated lead levels due to inadequate water treatment."First of all, I want to make sure the American public understands 92 percent of the water everyday meets all the EPA requirements for safe drinking water," Wheeler told Garrett.He added, "We have the safest drinking water in the world. We are working to update a number of regulations, one of which is our lead and copper rule, which takes a look at the pipes. The lead pipes that we have around the country. As part of that, we're looking at what we can do to require regular testing for schools and daycares, so that would be part of that regulation when it comes out later this year."As for the water in Flint, Wheeler told Garrett that "part of the problem with Flint was there was a breakdown in once they got the data, once the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, the Obama EPA they sat on it. We're not doing that. As soon as we get information that there's a problem, we're stepping in, we're helping the local community get that water system cleaned up."Although Wheeler is correct about the problem with contaminated water in both the United States and the rest of the world, his downplaying of the threat posed by man-made climate change is inconsistent with the scientific consensus."There will be and already is major consequences and they grow over time. It does not look good," Kevin Trenberth, a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told Salon in August. "The effects are always local but there are more and more of them and the consequences are major. These includes floods and drought, heat waves and wild fires."Michael Mann, he Distinguished Professor of Atmosphere Science at Penn State, explained in October what the world would have to look forward to if global warming goes unchecked."The summer and fall of 2018 provides a glimpse of what will be in store," Mann toldSalon. "We will need to adapt to a world where damaging extreme weather events are far more common. If we dont act, these events will become both more extreme and more common."He added, "A large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry). And more and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlementand probably a lot more conflict."
New Apps Help Shoppers Identify Items Using Image Recognition
TORONTO (Reuters) - A new app lets shoppers flipping through retail flyers purchase items that catch their eye using image recognition technology. The iOS app Pounce allows shoppers to scan images they spot in print media with their devices camera, then purchase the item online directly from the retailer running the advertisement. We are able to match an image with an actual product available online, said Avital Yachin, chief executive of BuyCode, Inc, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that developed the app, one of a growing number of apps using image recognition to bridge the physical and online worlds of e-commerce. Our vision is to allow purchasing of any product in any print ad, he said, adding that the company plans to expand to catalogs, magazines and billboards. The Pounce app recognizes products that its retailing partners, which include Staples Inc, Target Corp, Toys R Us Inc and Ace Hardware Corp, sell online. After scanning an image, the app displays the items price and shipping cost, then allows shoppers to make the purchase directly from the retailer. Other companies such as eBay and Amazon have apps that use image recognition to identify objects such as books, cars and even clothing to help shoppers find similar items in their online marketplaces. The potential of image recognition lies in its ability to determine the make and model of any item in the world, especially those that consumers are otherwise unable to identify, said Steve Yankovich, the VP of Innovation and New Ventures at eBay Inc. EBay has experimented with adding image recognition to their eBay Fashion and eBay Motors iPhone apps. With eBay Fashion, for example, users can upload an image and the app will suggest items that have similar colors, styles, and fabric. Its RedLaser app for iPhone and Android allows users to take photos of items and shows similar items available for sale at retailers online and locally, which eBay says fosters its main mission of partnering with retailers, not competing with them. Yankovich predicts that image recognition technology will help make shopping more seamless as it evolves over the next 10 years. Amazons app Flow, for iPhone and Android, allows users to use the camera to identify a product sold on Amazon and get such details as its description, reviews and video or audio clips. The company says the app can recognize packaged goods with distinguishable features such as books, DVDs or even items such as candy bars or a box of cereal. Users can then read reviews and purchase them from the online retailer. But Yachin said it will be some time yet before consumers can identify everyday items such as clothing on another person. The broader vision of recognizing real-world objects will take a little longer, he said, adding that the technology relies on a large database of product images. Pounce is free and available in the United States, with plans to expand to Canada and Europe. Amazon Flow is only available in the United States and is free and EBay Fashion is also free and available worldwide.
New InkSoft Feature: Custom Personalization
Some customers will not have a need for custom designs for their online stores and printed product needs. A team will already have a mascot and a company or organization will already have a logo. In this situation, selected products are displayed in the InkSoft powered online store as pre-decorated products. However, many times, customers also will want a name, number, or some other type of individual personalization added to the preprinted product. Recently InkSoft has added the capability to do this. The new custom personalization feature allows for the collection of individual customer personalization information per product. So if its a team uniform, the parent or coach can order the uniform and add the name and number to be embroidered or screen printed. Theres a split function so that a parent with more than one child can order multiple quantities of a shirt and indicate personalization for each child.Admin controls allow you to set up the options as needed for each customer and product. If theres any concern that a customer may not understand what is being asked in any part of the customization form, a tip can be created that pops up explaining it.To learn more about this new feature please review this step-by-step guide, or contact the InkSoft Success Squad at 8004103049 Ext. 1Custom Personalization Example: Multiple fieldsCustom Personalization Example: Single fieldCustom Personalization OptionsOriginally published at . RELATED QUESTION What can I do as a small printing company nowadays? This is a tough question, because the printing industry has changed drastically over the past several decades. Lawrence Finn noted the range of things that a small printing shop usually does, but unfortunately even those are on their way out. And in cases where they are still around, mass-market shops with economies of scale (such as FedEx Office) can typically do anything you can do, faster and cheaperand include online ordering and previewing, etc. So the real issue comes down to what special things you can do that they cant. The closest to your current operation might be (talk about back to the future, or, more accurately, forward to the past) to get a letterpress and start doing custom, high-end work such as wedding invitations and letterhead. The equipment isnt crazy expensive, the market is not insanely expensive, and you can transfer much of what you already know. You can get a new high-speed digital press and offer large scale custom commercial printing. You can get new equipment and specialize in die cutting and embossing, and perhaps form mutual referral partnerships with local folks who do flat printing. You can get new screen printing equipment and specialize in t-shirts and the likebut thats a very different business, and already somewhat competitive. You can get new flexographic printing equipment and print small productsbut thats got the same problems of a new business with existing competition. You might try getting a laser engraver and doing on-the-spot engraving and customization (my guess is that this might be your best option, but probably only as an add-on service). You could get a number of 3D printers and offer that as a service, along with design. You could specialize as an integrated online/offline shop, combining web work, business cards, etc. with the emphasis on design, leaving the production to a larger firm like VistaPrint . Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck integrating printing into the 21st century!
Why Inflatable Kayaks May Be the New Wave in Kayak Fishing
Kayak fishing has quickly evolved over the last ten years into a mainstream style of fishing. The greatest difference between fishing kayaks and other kayaks is generally in the way they are rigged with an elaborate array of fishing accessories attached into a relatively small area. The ease with which these accessories could be added to a regular kayak soon led to the development of a separate line of kayak models designed specifically for the angler. Yet even with all of these popular advancements, there is now another style of kayak that is becoming more and more popular among avid kayak fishermen. The inflatable kayak was once often thought of as a toy as compared to other kayaks, but the inflatable kayaks of today are not anything like their early counterparts. Previous inflatable models were sometimes as light and flimsy as an average swimming pool raft. The modern inflatable kayaks have proven to be extremely safe and are available from quality manufacturers. They are known to be quite durable and puncture proof. So while there are both pros and cons with inflatables, as there are with any other style of kayak, the cons seem to be an acceptable trade off in return for the advantages that are available in no other type of fishing kayak. First, a look at the cons. Inflatable kayaks are somewhat more difficult to paddle and maneuver, and in general lack the speed of a rigid kayak. This might make a big difference if purchasing a kayak for touring, but in kayak fishing, speed is not really that big of a deal. Kayak anglers spend most of their time sitting still in one spot or possibly drifting while casting and retrieving, rather than paddling along at full speed. Another consideration is that it may be more difficult to add the numerous accessories most individuals like, which is widely known as "rigging". On rigid kayaks, it is relatively easy to drill a mounting hole into the deck of the kayak and add just about anything a person might want. A short list of common accessories would probably include such things as rod holders, tackle box mountings and compartments, bait containers, and a wide variety of electronics such as fish finders, GPS, cell phone holders, marine radios, air pumps for bait tanks and running lights. Obviously, it is not advised to drill holes into an inflatable kayak! However, many enterprising DIY riggers have found that a few plastic "D-rings" and some duct tape will make a handy group of mounting and attachment points on an inflatable kayak. One of the latest and greatest discoveries among self-rigging enthusiasts is that a heavy duty plastic cutting board, normally for kitchen counter use, can be bungee corded to an inflatable kayak which then makes an excellent hard surface for mounting the normal electronics. So what exactly is it that is causing such an uprising in the popularity of inflatable kayaks? The number one reason is portability. An inflatable fishing kayak can be folded into a carrying pack and easily backpacked to remote fishing areas that no other boat can be taken to. Most inflatables can be purchased with a carrying pack that can either be used as a back pack, or as a shoulder bag, and taking them to remote fishing spots is no more trouble than taking along an extra tackle box. Most fishermen have a well kept list of those secret and remote fishing spots that can only be reached by a long hike. Carrying any type of watercraft by hand to those sites has simply never been an option. After years of only being able to walk around the edges and do some shore fishing, those sites have now become opened up to getting out on the water where the big ones are. The slight inconvenience of having to inflate your watercraft before getting started is easily compensated for by being the only person there with a fishing kayak. The average person can easily take an inflatable kayak to places where they would not even consider carrying a rigid kayak or canoe. To seal the deal on the rising popularity of the inflatable kayak, there is a long list of additional pros. Their light weight not only makes taking them along on a hike a definite plus, but also makes a nice difference in getting the kayak out of your vehicle and to the shoreline even when you are able to drive right up to the launch. On average, an inflatable kayak will weigh about half that of a similar sized rigid kayak. Even many tandem inflatable kayaks weight less than single rigid kayaks. There is no need for a trailer or roof rack, since they easily will fit into the trunk of even a compact car, or into the back seat. This ability to fit into a small space adds another big benefit, storage of your kayak in the off season. While storing your rigid kayak in the winter months usually means either having sufficient garage space, a storage building, or an outside rack or cradle of some kind, a deflated kayak will usually need no more storage space than that of a cooler. Finally there is the price consideration. Inflatable kayaks are generally about half the cost of a similar sized rigid model. The additional savings of not having to also purchase a roof rack or trailer has influenced many fishermen to become kayak fishermen when price is their main consideration. With a long list of pros, that outweigh the few cons, it is easy to see why the inflatable kayak is quickly becoming the next big thing in kayak fishing.
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