Why more small business retailers are switching to Xero for their POS software integrated solution

More small business retailers are switching to Xero for their business accounting solution and choosing the Tower Systems Xero integrated POS software for the retail front end.

Delivering a seamlessly integrated solution offering a whole of business approach backed by two respected IT companies with excellent customer service as the core focus.

We use Xero here at Tower Systems and there is no doubt that it offers an excellent accounting solution. Our experience with the integration helps us help our customers with proper setup as we can speak from experience.

With the POS software / xero integration retailers…

  1. Save time.
  2. Reduce mistakes.
  3. Reduce accounting fees.
  4. Have faster access to business data.
  5. Cut duplication.
  6. Have more time for parts of their business where they can make a more measurable difference.

While we integrate with MYOB and Quick Books, it is the elegant Xero integration we love because of the product itself. We are proud to be showing it off in a couple of weeks at the Xerocon conference in Brisbane.

We have a competition bagging Xero but we think that is because they did not get approved for integration.

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Sunday retail management advice: how small business retailers can compete with a big national retailer

Small and independent retailers often feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.

The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. This is often enough for them to give up and close the business.

Giving up and running is the easy way out. There is no lesson learned, just an escape from the fear.

The alternative is to find out how to deal with the national retailer.

Here are five tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:

  1. Don’t compete. By not talking about the competitor, pricing against them or pitching your business in any way, you separate yourself. While they may have similar products, it is unlikely that they are targeting your specific business so why target them? Focus instead on your own business. Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them. We were working with an independent retailer recently who decided to offer a product they sold which is also available in a nearby national retailer for 10% less than the sale price in the national retailer. This move gave the independent retailer a margin of 15%. In discussion I discovered that most of the customers who visited the independent retailer were unlikely to shop in the national retailer. So why compete on price? If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.
  2. Run a better business. From the moment you hear about a new national retailer coming to town, look at every aspect of your business for opportunities for improvement. From the back room to the font counter fine tune your processes, employee training, stock buying and the look of the business. Dramatically improve your business from the inside out. This will improve your business health and help you weather challenges which may lie ahead. Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.
  3. Be unique. Look for ways to make your business unique. It could be on product range, operating hours, add-on services or something else. Embrace any opportunity to make your business unique. Even a unique niche range of products can give you traffic a big competitor will not chase. Try and focus on products which require a level of retail skill and knowledge to sell – national retailers have challenges hiring and retaining retail employees with specialist knowledge and skills.
  4. Engage the community. Connect with the community at every possible opportunity. Support local groups, speak at functions, get known as someone and a business who care deeply about the local community. Subtly make the connection that you are fortunate to be able to help because of your local business. Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.
  5. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it. Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.

By acting early and in advance of a national retailer opening, you better position your business to weather their advertising and PR onslaught. Get in early, build a stronger business and understand that through this the new business in town will not be your competitor.

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Melbourne Gift Fair a hit for our POS software

Wow, Melbourne Gift Fair was a terrific event with plenty of new sales leads being harvested through the five day event. Our sales team is busy now meeting with the prospective new customers from the gift, newsagency and homewares channels, learning about specific business needs and showing how the software can serve these needs.

The fair was a wonderful and intensive experience as over five busy days we got to meet with plenty of engaged retailers to talk business, hear their plans and show off live some of the innovations we have released, which present them with further business growth opportunities.

The Melbourne Gift Fair is excellent like this, for talking business, exploring ideas and advancing relationships. It is a fast-track event as we have been able to progress in a few days with some opportunities that might otherwise have taken weeks to progress.

This is where trade shows really pay off for an engaged POS software company.

We are grateful for the opportunity to see so many people and offer the Tower Systems [pitch, to show business owners we care enough about them to support this event and through it their business channels.

Plans are well advanced on our next gift fair, this time in Sydney.

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Helping small business retailers promote and manage LayBy services to drive sales

LayBy is an important tool for small business retailers in a range of vertical channels. Offering LayBy can attract shoppers and drive revenue. For this to happen, the LayBy service must be well run, tightly controlled, so as to maximise the benefit for the retailer while maintaining a focus of service for the customer.

Using the Tower Systems POS software, small business retailers are able to efficiently manage the LayBy offer from operational rules to shopper documentation to follow up to knowing where a LayBy is at any point of time.

Whereas in the past small business retailers would manually write up and track LayBys, using the Tower software small business retailers are able to handle this professionally with:

  1. Consistent LayBy rules applied to every transaction.
  2. Ensuring all details are gathered.
  3. Gathering the correct deposit.
  4. Recording the location of the LayBy.
  5. Handling a shopper deciding not to complete the LayBy.
  6. Dealing with a change in the mix of products on LayBy.

Offering small business retailers consistency around the creation and management of LayBys drives business efficiency, improves employee confidence and delivers to shoppers a solution they are sure to love.

We have retailers using the Tower Systems LayBy services as a point of difference for their business, a marketing opportunity through which they are able to drive traffic and sales.

We are thrilled to be part of such success stories and love hea4ring them.

LayBys continue to evolve with even more enhancements delivered in recent months and more coming soon.

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Helping small business retailers compete with our Xero / POS software integrated solution

The most effective ways small business retailers can compete with big businesses and online is through efficient operation, accurate data and customer service touch-points that add appreciated value.

Tower Systems only sells its POS software to small business retailers.

We believe in small businesses, their importance to local communities and their broader economic value.

Through our software, our personal in-store training, 24/7 human and locally based help desk service, regional user meetings, weekly online workshops and other touch-points we help small business retailers beyond what is usual for POS software companies.

Our company motto is we’re here to help. We take this seriously. Everyday, out motto challenges us to help our customers in ways they do not expect, ways beyond the software itself.

Founded in 1981, Tower Systems has evolved as technology has evolved. The software we sell today is generations away from where we started. We are proud to have served some of our customers for decades.

More than 3,500 specialty small business retailers in Australia and New Zealand use our specialty POS software.

To us, a specialty retailer is one that offers services unique to the channel, services that define the business. We embed in our software for each retail channel facilities that serve needs unique to that channel. We take pride in doing this and enhancing these channel-specific facilities as the needs evolve.

We appreciate software cannot stand still. Every year we release significant enhancements, serving the needs of our customers. One such enhancement a couple of years ago was our Xero integration, approved by Xero and listed on their website as a partner.

The Xero integration delivers to retailers a seamless and deep connection between our POS software and Xero. This saves time and reduces bookkeeping costs for any small retail business.

The Tower Systems POS software / Xero link is another Tower AdvantageTM.

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Beautiful software leverages POS software data

Retailers are reacting to the beautiful interactive business intelligence reports available through the cloud-based platform released by Tower Systems.

Small business retailers are loving the elegant reporting, that they can access the reports from anywhere, that they can easily compare trading periods and that vitally important business data points are so accessible.

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This software is creating a buzz among retailers hungry for a fresh view of business performance and keen to see how they are competing with their most important competitor – themselves.

Tower Systems is grateful to the encouragement of its small business retail customers and their guidance in developing this and other exciting new software.

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Tower Systems leverages Tyro and Xero partnership

Thanks to the Tower Systems partnerships with Tyro broadband EFTPOS for retail and Xero and our direct integration with the beautiful Xero accounting software, we are thrilled to support the Tyro Smart Account. This has been outlined to our small business retail customers in this week’s customer email:

Our EFTPOS partner Tyro now offers a fee-free bank account that links to Xero and automates your supplier bill payments? It’s called the Tyro Smart Account, and is available exclusively to Tyro merchants.

If you’re using Tyro and Xero and you’d like to activate your Smart Account (it’s free after all), contact banking@tyro.com. Tyro is also offering complimentary Xero training on batch payments to all merchants who activate. The training is conducted by leading online Xero trainer Jet Convert and is valued at $110.

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Sunday small business retail advice: everyday marketing for small business retailers

We get to see many different retail businesses in in our work and along the way we pick up ideas that work particularly well. Here is a selection of everyday marketing tips we see working in almost any business.

  1. Always have a value-proposition offer just inside the entrance to the business. This should be a double-sided offer, one they see as they enter and as they leave.
  2. Always have an appealing impulse purchase offer at the counter. Change this weekly. Use the opportunity to learn more about what your customers will purchase on impulse.
  3. Always know your top selling item in the store and always place products next to the top selling item thoughtfully, to leverage the eyeballs looking for and at the top selling product.
  4. Run a generous loyalty program where the value is understood. This probably means not using points.
  5. Create stunning window displays people would not expect to see in your type of business.
  6. Offer multi-buy opportunities unlocking savings for people purchasing more than would be usual in a single visit.
  7. Be brief in talking to customers about your products on social media: a single product per post. Two sentences. Short sentences. Make the post appealing beyond you trying to promote your business. Entertain them.
  8. Send customers a card for special occasions, a personal card to reinforce the personal relationship you have with them.
  9. Change the front two metres of your shop weekly, keep it fresh for your customers and your staff.
  10. Unpack and price products on the shop floor and not in the back room or outside of shopper view.

Our goal with this list is to give you ideas you can use right away as well as ideas that will get you thinking of your own ideas.

Go for it. Remember, if you do next week what you did this week you cannot expect any growth. Growth only comes from change.

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Small business retailers value personal and accessible POS software customer service

We are winning good business for our POS software this year from retailers switching from other POS software. While the software is a factor in their decision to switch, customer service is top of mind.

Customers switching love:

  1. Personal service. When they call they talk to a human. And, yes, they can call any of our offices even toll free from NZ. We hear many stories of poor service from other POS software companies where personal contact is discouraged.
  2. Names.  Names matter. Were humanise our contact and support by people on our teams using their names, real names.
  3. Access to leadership. Our leadership team is directly accessible to our customers should they wish to escalate any issue. Too often we hear of other POS software companies sidestepping issues or completely ignoring requests to speak too senior management. We take personal service seriously.
  4. Free training weekly. People love our free and easily accessible live online training workshops.
  5. Free one-on-one training. People love that they can schedule top-up training long after the installation is done.
  6. Transparency on updates. People love that they can suggest changes and watch as other customers vote on their change suggestions.
  7. Extensive help desk coverage. People love our long hours and our weekend coverage.
  8. Response time. People love how quickly we respond to their queries.

These are points of difference we have invested in with infrastructure, people and management focus. We are thrilled to win business from other POS software companies because of these services we provide.

This whole package is part of our Tower AdvantageTM.

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Practical facilities in the Tower Systems POS software for small business retailers

We were asked this week for a list of the practical facilities in our POS software by a group putting together a report for retailers to consider us. Here is part of the list we shared with them. It provides a good starter insight into the everyday facilities on which small business retailers can rely:

  1. POS sale scanning.
  2. POS sales using user configures touch buttons.
  3. Tracking sales by employee.
  4. Control over the look and feel of the sale screen.
  5. Control over the look and feel of receipts.
  6. Smart receipts that add value to the customer experience with local knowledge, care instructions and more.
  7. Customer receipts that contain a $$ discount off the next purchase if loyalty engagement is achieved.
  8. Structured end of shift process to reduce mistakes and more easily track fraud.
  9. Employee theft mitigation controls.
  10. Inventory control.
  11. Multiple price levels for products.
  12. Multiple customer types with varying levels of support and assistance.
  13. Community group co-loyalty engagement.
  14. Anniversary and birthday marketing and recognition.
  15. Customer marketing facilities to enable targeted marketing.
  16. Importing supplier stock files.
  17. Importing supplier invoices.
  18. Generating orders based on sales.
  19. Four different and valuable types of loyalty facilities.
  20. Comprehensive business performance reporting.
  21. Customer age controls.
  22. Serial number tracking.
  23. Repairs management.
  24. Hamper/package support.
  25. Product manufacturing management.
  26. Multiple POS terminals in a store.
  27. Multiple stores connected.
  28. More than 100 reports with extraordinary options to facilitate insights into the business performance.

This is not the full list we provided. It is intended to provide a glimpse of the comprehensiveness of our software and to show our software is not your usual offer the sheep POS solution.

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Everyday marketing tips for small business retailers

Here at Tower Systems, through our work with our specialsist retail POS software, we get to see many different retail businesses in in our work and along the way we pick up ideas that work particularly well.

Here is a selection of everyday marketing tips we see working in almost any business. This list was first shared with our customers on the weekend, as part of our weekly email of advice, support and encouragement.

  1. Always have a value-proposition offer just inside the entrance to the business. This should be a double-sided offer, one they see as they enter and as they leave.
  2. Always have an appealing impulse purchase offer at the counter. Change this weekly. Use the opportunity to learn more about what your customers will purchase on impulse.
  3. Always know your top selling item in the store and always place products next to the top selling item thoughtfully, to leverage the eyeballs looking for and at the top selling product.
  4. Run a generous loyalty program where the value is understood. This probably means not using points.
  5. Create stunning window displays people would not expect to see in your type of business.
  6. Offer multi-buy opportunities unlocking savings for people purchasing more than would be usual in a single visit.
  7. Be brief in talking to customers about your products on social media: a single product per post. Two sentences. Short sentences. Make the post appealing beyond you trying to promote your business. Entertain them.
  8. Send customers a card for special occasions, a personal card to reinforce the personal relationship you have with them.
  9. Change the front two metres of your shop weekly, keep it fresh for your customers and your staff.
  10. Unpack and price products on the shop floor and not in the back room or outside of shopper view.

Our goal with this list is to give you ideas you can use right away as well as ideas that will get you thinking of your own ideas.

Go for it. Remember, if you do next week what you did this week you cannot expect any growth. Growth only comes from change.

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Sunday retail management advice: interviewing prospective employees for your retail business

Interviewing prospective employees is a personal thing in that it is all about you and your business. Get this one thing right and you get plenty of benefits for your business.

The type of people you want for your business can only be determined by you. This is why we say it is personal and why we do not advice a consistent corporate approach across all businesses.

That said, based on our many years working with and helping small business and independent retailers there are some basics to get right before or at the interview:

  1. Make sure prospective candidates are who they say they are. Check photo ID.
  2. Have them bring a Tax File Number – to show they are known to the government.
  3. Have them bring two written references.
  4. Advise them before the interview you may do a police check.
  5. Stalk them on social media to look for possible issues.
  6. Interview two or three candidates. Not too many though as it can take up time when if you vet them right prior to the interview you can have a good short list.

Now, on to the interview. The goal is to encourage conversation as it is from conversation that you can determine if you like the candidate and liking them is key to their future with the business.

Start by asking them what they think of the business and what they would change. The purpose of this is to test to see if they know much about the business and have any interest in it beyond a paycheque.

Ask them why your business. The reality is this question often elicits the answer they think you want rather than the truth. Press them on it.

Ask them about any experience they have that could help them in your business. This is designed to be open ended, encouraging conversation.

Usually, three or four topics in and you should have an idea if they are right for you. If the feeling at this point is they are not right for you, pull the pin on further discussion and than them for their time.

Other topics worth discussing are: how they relax, their dreams for the future, whether they collect anything, what they are passionate about and whether they read magazines. Each of these topics can be open ended – encouraging further conversation.

If you have a candidate you think is right, consider a paid trial of three hours. This is usually useful if you are not sure between two candidates.

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Enjoying small business retail

It is a thrill to see so many independent small retail businesses thriving through the winter of 2016. We are seeing businesses transforming from what has been traditional for their type of operation into fresh offerings that drive the appeal of the business beyond what has been traditional for them.

We love seeing this not only because of the pleasure of observing success but also because of a role we can play in helping to uncover and leverage good news for small business retailers.

Our commitment is to help our customers beyond the software to help them reach beyond the dreams they have for their businesses.

We are grateful every day for the opportunities that come our way.

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Small business retail advice: be generous with your loyalty program

Too often small and independent retail businesses create and run shopper loyalty programs that mimic their big business competitors. They ignore that the big business loyalty programs do not have rewarding shopper loyalty as a core focus.

Big business loyalty programs are primarily about the needs and profitability of big business.

Our advice for small business retailers is to be generous with your loyalty program. Offer generous rewards for loyalty. Run a loyalty program shoppers love, a program that brings shoppers back again and again.

Being stingy will cause frustration and anger among customers, it could have them talking negatively about the business. This is not good for business.

When we look at loyalty programs that have failed to deliver good results in a small or independent retail business, the most common cause we find is that the loyalty reward is not sufficiently a reward.

This is why we encourage retailers to be generous in loyalty reward settings.

The best way to reflect generosity is through transparency of value. By this we mean making it clear what a reward is worth. This is why a dollar amount is more valuable than points. People understand dollars. It is unlikely the will easily understand the ‘value’ of points.

For more advice and assistance on the best-practice approach to shopper loyalty, please talk with the team at Tower Systems.

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Toy shop software helps independent toy retailers leverage lay-by now for Christmas opportunities

Lay-By is a vitally important service for independent toy retailers in their competition with mass retailers like Target, Big W, K-Mart and Toys R Us.

Independent and small to retailers using the toy shop software from Tower Systems have in the software terrific Lay-By facilities that enable their businesses to run a professional Lay-By service that meets regulatory requirements and that competes head-on in terms of flexibility and functionality.

Now, in the middle of Winter, is the perfect time to ensure Lay-By is properly setup and promoted. This is why Tower Systems has been educating customers, to ensure they are fully prepared for the Lay-By opportunity and to ensure they are pitching the message of Lay-By opportunity to customers and prospective customers.

Here is a taste of the professional advice we have been sharing with customers:

IMPORTANT: Before you begin, familiarise yourself with Lay-By regulation as set by the ACCC: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/contracts-agreements/lay-by-agreements

Also, check the website of your state Consumer Affairs office to familiarise yourself with local requirements. Information there will help you determine your own terms.

Meeting regulatory requirements is vital. For example, if someone cancels a Lay-By you must refund their payments less a termination fee. You can set this fee and advise as part of your terms and conditions.

Our advice on the next page guides you through key rules and steps to success with Lay-bys.

  1. WHAT TO LAY-BY. Set a minimum item and or purchase value. We’d suggest $80.00.
  2. DATA REQUIRED. Always ensure you are satisfied you know who your customer is. Require proof of ID from a driver’s licence or similar legal ID document.
  3. DEPOSIT. 20% of the total GST inclusive purchase price.
  4. AGE. Only Lay-by to people 18 and over.
  5. DURATION. Lay-bys should run for between eight and twelve weeks. You could run for longer pre Christmas to get early toy sales.
  6. PAYMENT CYCLE. Require payments to be made weekly or fortnightly.
  7. PAYMENT METHOD. Accept any payment form you choose.
  8. BREAKUP. Do not allow someone to take home a single item from a group of items on Lay-by together in one purchase. It’s all or nothing.
  9. CANCELLATION. Have a Lay-By termination policy you are comfortable with. We suggest a 20% termination fee. Alternatively, set a dollar amount to reflect the work. Also, consider setting the Lay-By to auto terminate if it extends beyond a period of time you nominate. Note that you could equally choose to have no cancellation given that Lay-by product may not be able to easily re-sold.
  10. BREACH. Decide what you would consider a breach. This has to be something you stand by. We suggest two missed payments without reasonable excuse or rectification. On breach, cancel and charge the cancellation fee.
  11. EXCHANGE. We suggest a no-exchange policy.
  12. DOCKETS. When a customer Lay-bys, print two dockets – one for them to take immediately and one to be placed with the goods. Have your customer sign both copies, accepting your terms and conditions.
  13. STORAGE. Set aside a clean and secure storage location for Lay-bys in your business where locations are coded for easy finding. Place Lay-by goods into a single clear plastic bag per transaction for clean and safekeeping. Staple to this a copy of the Lay-by docket. Let your customers see you do this so there is no doubt when it comes time to collect the products.
  14. MANAGEMENT. Have one person responsible for Lay-bys to ensure product care, track payments and contact customers.
  15. TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Enter these into your software so they are included on every Lay-by docket. Points 2 through 11 above are a good example of what to include in your terms and conditions.
  16. COMPLETE PAPERWORK. To not over complicate things, rely on your software’s Lay-by docket as your complete paperwork / contract. Get that right and Lay-by management will be easier.

These rules and steps may feel complex. They are necessary for the small number of times something goes wrong and you need to rely on them to help you deal with a situation.

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Sunday retail management advice: managing spinners for success

Retailers have a love-hate relationship with spinners. While some have a rule of no spinners, in many situations they are necessary.

Here is advice designed to help any retailer make the most of the spinner opportunity.

  1. Keep them tidy. Duh! This is very basic advice. But it needs to be said. Daily you should have your spinners checked and tidies. Move products to the front, keep products clean, pose products to show them off, if appropriate to the products.
  2. Keep them full. A half empty spinner will not work as well as a full spinner. This is retail 101.
    1. If you plan to keep a spinner for the long term, order stock regularly to keep it full. We know that a full spinner usually achieves around 20% more sales than a half empty spinner.
    2. If a spinner is a one-shot – get it in, sell it down, take it off the floor – once it starts to look empty, consider taking all stock off and placing it elsewhere in-store. Leaving it on the floor and half empty will hinder sales.
  3. Move your spinners. One a week tweak spinner locations to keep your shop floor story fresh. Have a plan. Don’t move them just to move them. Move them to drive sales – to get the products considered by people who may have missed them so far.
  4. Respect the brand. Never put product on a branded spinner that is not from the brand. Not only would such a move disrespect the brand it makes you look like an unprofessional retailer.
  5. Use thoughtful adjacencies. When placing spinners next to each other, think about the shopper and what they are looking for. This will encourage a shopper attracted to a spinner to consider the products on the spinner next to it.
  6. Avoid orphans. There is nothing sadder than a lonely spinner at the back of a shop. It’s usually half empty and looking tired and sad. It does nothing for the products or the business. Find it some friends or remove the stock and throw the spinner out.
  7. Spinners have a limited life. While a spinner for which you no longer have the original product can be useful for displaying other products, don’t work the poor thing beyond its useful life. Hideously bent wire, cracked and broken pockets, no signage, seriously chipped paint, broken casters … these are all indications that the poor old spinner ought to be tossed out.
  8. Leverage traffic hotspots. This only works with certain products on spinners – locate the spinner next to high traffic generating products such as weekly magazines, newspapers, lotteries etc. The products need to be products shoppers of the destination items will purchase.
  9. Leverage seasons. Around your cluster of cards for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc place spinners with products appropriate to the season.
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