After the economy soured in 2008, Conn’s examined which of its locations – currently numbering 65 in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma – did well during the downturn selling the company’s mix of appliances, consumer electronics, furniture, mattresses, lawn equipment and computers. Conn’s found that the stores with a concentration of its core customers – those with credit scores from 525 to 650 – did better.

“The most unique thing that we do – our key differentiator in our business model – is our consumer finance program,” COO Mike Poppe emphasizes. “Credit scores from 650 down to 525 are our core customer – that is the sweet spot we play in. These customers have limited access to other credit; they generally are good payers and good stewards of the credit that they do borrow, and are typically going to be blue-collar, working-class, lower or fixed-income individuals.”

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With a brand that spans gen­erations –  all the way back to 1886 – capitalizing on that longevity while still remaining hip and cutting-edge is the challenge for the worldwide licensing group of Coca-Cola. “For us, continuing to stay relevant with each new generation is important,” emphasizes Kate Dwyer, group director of worldwide licensing for Coca-Cola. “We closely follow trends and technology advances to make sure we are at the pulse of what is happening in the market and continue to be relevant.”

Deklah Polansky, design director for Coca-Cola Licensing, stresses the involvement of the fresh and cutting-edge licensing design team. “They are much closer to the brand, and they live and breathe it every day,” she points out. “It’s the passion they experience in their lives outside of work that mirrors their passion to the brands.”

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For some people, clothing is something they wear and discard with not much thought put into it. Yet for many, clothes have their own language that they communicate in fabrics and textures, in color, design and in the craftsmanship of a well-cut piece. For those people, clothes are an art form, a way to express their uniqueness, personality and style with pride and attention.

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The Quincy, Ill.-based company operates 99 stores in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri that employ workers who are not only skilled, but also friendly with customers and each other. “That’s the main trait we look for,” Niemann says. “No matter what business or industry you’re in, it’s hard to train friendliness.”

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In 2009, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, also known as A&P, celebrated its 150th anniversary, a significant milestone for the oldest grocery retailer in the nation. Through organic growth and acquisitions, A&P made it to a century-and-a-half with six grocery store banners in its portfolio: A&P, Superfresh, The Food Emporium, Pathmark, Waldbaum’s and Food Basics. But if the Northeast-based company wanted to last longer than that, it needed to make some serious changes. Many stores were in need of upgrades and losing relevancy to their respective communities, but the company’s debt made investing to change these matters far from viable.

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It is a rare accomplishment to create a character that keeps connecting with audiences after many years, but this is a task that SEGA of America Inc. manages time and again, according to Chris Ironfield.

“[We] continue to generate innovative content that moves the industry forward,” he says.

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For the largest hair salon brand in the industry, staying true to the principles and strategies that grew Great Clips to more than 3,200 locations is of utmost importance. The “delivering the brand” document – in place in every location – reads, “comfort, freedom and connection,” and is the goal each employee must strive to achieve every day.

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When customers go into a retail store, they expect to come out with what they wanted to purchase with as little hassle as possible. Tuesday Morning knows that can’t happen unless the people behind the supply chain and transportation operations get products where they need to be, when they need to be there.

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