We have a new podcast for you guys! Alex from Wii Play Games shared his story on how they started and kept growing a business for the last 7 years! You will find out what challenges they’re facing, what strategies they’re using and how to not become the next “Toys ‘R’ Us.” Enjoy the podcast!
Interviewer: Hey, everybody who’s a listener on this podcast today, this is Alex Tanney from Wii Play Games over in Las Vegas. They have two locations in the Vegas area on the east and the west side.
Alex, thanks for being a part of the podcast and we definitely want to give you and your company a shout out.
Their website is wiiplaygameslv.com. That’s W-I-I Play Games L-V dot com. Really cool play on words there, especially since it’s a video game industry which is huge.
For us here at Crystal Commerce, one of our premier retro video games stores, they’re located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Let’s think about this, rewinding when I first met you guys, we were at the GAMA trade show in Vegas and I met you at the East Las Vegas location and I have to tell you, for me, it was by far my favorite retail gaming experience that I had the pleasure of walking into. I’m serious about that too.
Alex: We appreciate that.
Interviewer: Once I walked in and you just give me an idea, I was like, “Yes, this is like the store for me.” I look to the right of the house and it was like I was being pulled in by some kind of gravitational pull, everything video game culture, and then to my left, I’m a TCG guy, I like Magic. I was like, “Oh, sweet. It has all the Magic stuff on the left side of the house.” I was like, “Of course you guys pretty much more than just those two things,” but for me, it was like very apparent.
If you guys are ever in Las Vegas, on the east side of the city or on the west side of it, definitely, go check out the two locations they have there.
Alex, to me the American dream is to run a business with your family, you know, you pass something down to your children or someone else in your family as well.
Let’s give the listeners a little backstory of how the two of you got started, you and your dad. His dad’s Mikey by the way. Tell the listeners about Wii Play Games, how it all began.
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Alex: Alright, well you know, a long time ago when I was in, I’d say Middle School, my dad owned a store called Game World. It was pretty big. They also had two locations. He was forced to close it down due to my grandma, she got sick.
When I graduated high school, I was either going to go to junior college and play baseball or you know, decided to spend a little more time with my dad and we opened up a small store and then, from that point, we just grew, grew, grew, grew.
I mean, that’s really like the small backstory on it. I mean, I’m sure I can talk about it for hours and hours.
Interviewer: We’ve got time. Anything, in particular, you want to talk about for the listeners?
Alex: Sure. Let’s see, it was pretty much the day I graduated high school, we opened our location about a week before. Actually, I came here, – I worked another job and I was helping my dad out in the store and then eventually it was just easier. We both thought the same. We both had the same ambition, the same ideas, so we just went with it.
We started opening up trading cards, board games, slowly by slowly, a little bit of a little, we opened up, I think we have four or five suites now in one location and then we opened up another store. It’s just crazy how fast we grew.
Interviewer: That’s great. Man, thank you for that. You know, it’s funny, like I have kids too, two young boys but one’s 14 years old so he’s going to be going into his freshman year here, but there’s a saying, you know, “You should never mix family and business.” Me, personally, I’ve never been a fan of it, and obviously, you’re living it.
You mentioned you guys are on the same wavelength when it comes to your thoughts. Has it always been this way?
Alex: Yeah, I think so. I wouldn’t recommend mixing family and business. I think it’s a terrible idea. Dad and I are probably like the only exception I would say because everything we think about, we think the exact same. I mean we definitely argue sometimes, but it’s, – I mean, we can get pretty loud with each other, but it’s not about arguing to prove somebody wrong, it’s just to find the best option to do. I think that’s probably why we work out very well together
Interviewer: That’s awesome. I mean this is unique and there’s a lot of other game and hobby or video game retailers. They’re probably similar to you and probably passing the business down to the kid who their kids actually working with them and vice versa.
If you reflect on like some of the strengths between the two of you as a father-son team you guys have, what are the keys to both your successes despite being father and son? What do you guys do, – what are your strengths in those?
Alex: Well, a cool thing is – Here at the store, the way everything is set up, it requires, you know, pretty much I like to call it a babysitter to watch all the employees, make sure everything goes smoothly and with two of us thinking the exact same way, it’s like the same person is always here seven days a week without being here seven days a week. That’s a pretty good benefit for that.
I definitely think that by us having two people, it makes the store a little bit easier to run when we’re both here, we take the slot of almost three or four employees just because we know everything, every corner of the store, running around, grabbing something and helping customers out is a little smoother just because we’re more advanced at it.
Opposed to, imagine if you’re just one business owner having to have employees. I mean, I’m sure everybody knows that not all employees are the best employees and they take a lot of training, it’s a lot of hard work. You get irritated sometimes, but…
Alex: Yeah. With my dad and I, when it comes to that part of it, we don’t get aggravated with each other because we both rely on each other, we both know that we’re going to do the same thing that the other person would do.
Interviewer: No, that’s great. Fantastic. It’s kind of neat because you’re kind of transparent because obviously, you guys don’t always see eye to eye. It sounds like you guys kind of massage things out when you guys have your differences, but again, it’s all for the greater good of the business together, which is really neat and very unique. That’s awesome.
Alex: Yeah, definitely.
Interviewer: You guys definitely share like probably the same goals, but do you guys have goals that he has that you don’t have that, and you have that he doesn’t have?
Alex: I’m sure, like, my goals are always to stay in the retail market. I’d like to buy land strips to where the people who are running the retail market are paying me to have their store there. That’s my goal. Where his goal is probably, you know, to pass it down to me.
Interviewer: It sounds like land strips are probably in the next several, the next decade.
Alex: That’s the plan.
Alex: Slowly but surely, you know. You got to have something out of reach to fight for it, so that way you know, you keep going. If you can just grab everything, what’s the point of doing what you’re doing?
“We do research constantly about how other businesses run their stores. The goal is to be bigger, like Walmart, Target.“
Interviewer: That’s awesome. So you guys are like dual CEO, you guys have two locations. When you guys sit down in your respective places and try to do the brainstorming, how do you guys come up with your goals as a company?
Alex: Well, we do a lot of research. We look at other companies. For instance, Toys“R”Us just recently is going out of business. We’ve spent several weeks, one of us is at Toys“R”Us almost every day talking to their general managers, their liquidators and we’re really learning on why they went out of business and we’re trying to not do the same thing.
We do research constantly about how other businesses run their stores and we don’t really look at the smaller stores as much as the bigger ones because that’s the goal is to be bigger, like Walmart, Target.
I’m not necessarily saying we want to compete with them, but the goal is to be big like they are, so they’re doing something right. We want to learn what they’re doing correctly and implement it into our stores as best we can.
Interviewer: That’s fascinating. These people at Toys“R”Us actually opened the doors for you guys to actually pick their brains?
Alex: Some of them are more willing than others and when somebody you know, helps us out and allows us to get in their brain, we definitely take full advantage of it.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. Hey, if there’s a golden nugget to come from their learnings that you guys learned about with these people at Toys“R”Us, is there anything that you grabbed from that, that you can share?
Alex: A big thing is, I think, customer service is a huge thing and knowing how to buy. Now, there was a story we heard from a manager that I believe Toys“R”Us, they found over $200,000,000 in inventory in their trailers in the back of their stores that they just forgot about.
Alex: There was a store in Washington that had 160 of the land speeders, they cost around $800 a piece. Why would one store order 160 of those? I mean I don’t care who you are, but selling $160 land speeders, $800 a piece, it’s going to be pretty difficult. And you know, when you overorder like that and you have multiple locations doing it, it’s only going to be bad from there.
Interviewer: And this is in a trailer?
Alex: Well, they have the trailers, their 18 wheeler trucks and stuff like that.
Interviewer: Yeah, their freight trucks. They’re just sitting there, on their property?
Alex: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Interviewer: Man! They can’t sell what they can’t see.
Alex: No. Sometimes, you can’t sell everything either, so you’ve got to be very careful on how much to order. Here at the store, we sell sleeves. I sell a ton of Dragon Shields, but I’m not going to order a 30,000 of dragon shield white. It’s a little unrealistic. I mean, it’d be great, but that’s what I mean by over ordering. There’s no point. You can order a thousand, to sell out of those, it’ll probably take you a year or so, and then you order another thousand
Interviewer: That’s a smart move especially when it comes to buying. Here’s a funny one. You know, I had a conflict with this myself with my older kid in high school and all that, but you’re past that, but since you and your dad are together in this business, do you guys do on vacations together though?
Alex: No, we do not, unfortunately. It’s just really difficult. Usually, when he takes a vacation, I’m watching the store and when I take a vacation, he’s watching the store. I think there’s been a handful of times, you know, probably eight in the last seven years where we’ve both been out of the store at the same exact time and it wasn’t for very long.
Interviewer: Wow. Do you guys stay clean to one location or do you guys diversify yourselves between the two locations, pretty much equally?
Alex: Physically I stay at the east location. I’m rarely at the West location only, you know, I was there to set it up, to give ideas, to teach the managers over there how to run it successfully. I do everything online through Crystal Commerce. It makes it quite easy to run multiple locations that way.
Interviewer: Awesome. Thanks for the plug buddy.
Interviewer: Going back to listeners, giving them what they want to hear, so Wii Play Games – When I was in there, you guys were really well diversified when it comes to the product lines and the services you guys provide.
Tell the listeners a bit, you know, because you’re talking about retailers right now, you’re talking consumers right now, maybe in distributors. Tell these people what options that you guys give to your customers as part of your services when somebody walks in your doors?
Alex: Okay. Well, I mean the size of our store here now, we are a huge video game store. I believe we dedicate almost 3000 square feet to just video games where we carry everything from, you know, a tarrian up.
We definitely took on the trading card market a little bit ago and we’ve been pretty successful. I can see comfortably around 180 kids in here and then I can break out more tables and start squishing some people together.
Here in Nevada, I’d probably say we have one of the largest selections of magic, the gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and board games, this is something we’ve probably started in last three years, so we’re picking up a little bit. Definitely have over 20,000 different titles for Board Games for people to choose from.
Then we offer other services like, disk resurfacing, battery replacements. We refurbished some systems. I have employees here that we try and run demos for card games at least once a week. We choose a new card game and I’ll schedule a day where they do Dragon Ball Super or Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic. We just try and run events like that, help people out.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. I’d imagine like inside the store when you have those kinds of diversification, it presents some really good cross-sales opportunities for you guys. What are the two most common product categories that are sold that come across the same time? If a person buys a video game and buys a card or buys a board game, buys some cards or a video game, what’s the most common?
Alex: To be honest, you’d be surprised. A lot of people are into all of them. I would say that board games and trading card games are probably the two items sold together the most, but everybody who walks in looking for trading card games, always ventures to the video game section and I would say at least 50% of our customers end up buying a video game when they came in for trading cards. So, I mean that’s pretty good if you think about it.
Interviewer: Yeah, what I’m hearing is, your customers, – basically, your store has so many products that someone’s – You bet that someone is going to pick up a product and it doesn’t matter what category it is, they’re just going to get fascinated. They’re going to get sucked in by the impulse and they’re just going to pick it up.
Alex: Yeah. When I worked – I worked for a retail store, it was American Eagle. They were really big on their conversion rate, so a number of customers walking in and the number of customers walking out, buying something. They focused highly on everybody who walked in would buy at least something, and that’s what we try and focus on.
We try and help everybody whether or not they spend a dollar and they buy a soda. We deem it as a successful transaction because that person buying a soda in return, is going to come back, he’s going to buy cards, he’s going to buy a board game, maybe a video game. That’s what we really focus on here.
“We rely a lot on word of mouth. So customer service here is – we do our best to help every customer as best we can, so that way they in return, they come back, and they not only come back, but they tell their friends about us, and their friends started to come here.“
Interviewer: That’s awesome. You mentioned American Eagle, so you worked retail before and you’re talking about conversion rates for every person who walks in that door. Do you guys make sure you guys are counting the door counts, people walking in the store every day?
Alex: No, we don’t really do that. I’d love to, – we thought about getting like a security system with the panels where we put a sticker on everything and then when they walk out, it would beep and we’d have to deactivate it. Getting a system like that, there are some they will count foot traffic, but we really just, – I rely on a lot of our employees to just be on top of helping everybody in that way.
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Alex: I don’t go through all the hassle of counting and finding everybody for not helping as many people as they should be. We just try and do it in other ways.
Interviewer: Sure. Got you. Alright. So you’re giving these entrepreneurs we work with and that you’re surrounded by as well. The people are using Crystal Commerce or even not using Crystal Commerce, maybe there are some startups out there.
If you were to do a retrospective review of your plan of action, what you guys did in the past, you opened up both of your stores. What would the top three items be, that you would definitely repeat if you were to restart your business today?
Alex: Okay. Well, if we were to restart, I would probably do it the same way. I think we got really lucky by starting with video games. Definitely moving into – the trading card games next was also pretty good. Then when it comes down to like either toys or board games, I’d probably say board games, it’s just more universal with trading cards. People who play board games, they liked the trading card aspects, so they’re going to play a card game, most of them. I would say it would be video games, trading card games and then board games.
Interviewer: Okay. A little more golden nuggets. What sort of strategies do you deploy to attract more foot traffic to come into the doors of the store?
Alex: Well, I mean we rely a lot on word of mouth. So customer service here is – we do our best to help every customer as best we can, so that way they in return, they come back and they not only come back, but they tell their friends about us and their friends started to come here.
Facebook is a big thing, hosting our events, sharing in different groups. We’ve created several groups for all the major card games and board games here in Las Vegas, so we control most of those groups.
Interviewer: No kidding.
Alex: Posting in that everybody just, you know, they’re waiting for an event to happen, so they’re following us there.
Google and Yelp, those are pretty good ones. I think we do FourSquare as well. I mean that’s pretty much it that I can think of off top of my head
Interviewer: I haven’t come across this before. You guys actually deployed seven groups for the games you guys support inside the store, we might as well do it while we’re here, so everybody is listening. What are those groups?
Alex: Well, we have Las Vegas Yu-Gi-Oh! players, Las Vegas Pokemon players, Las Vegas Magic players. A lot of them start with Las Vegas, so Las Vegas Board Games. Wii Play Games has its own miniature group as well. Dragon Ball Super is a new group that we just created a little bit ago. We did have Heroclix as well, so I mean if you search up Las Vegas Pokemon, most of them should come up.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. So you’re building a community around your business and making sure that all gamers of all types actually know about your Biz in Las Vegas.
Alex: Yeah. When we started out here, there weren’t many stores to compete with, so we had to do something to make us stand out and it’s a good thing because now I believe there are 27 different stores that sell like magic the gathering and other trading cards now. Back when we started, there was three.
Interviewer: Wow, that’s amazing. Do you have a dedicated person that actually does all your social media outreach and communications?
Alex: We try and – The way I schedule is I have, you know, people who are more familiar with a video game, standard video game section, people who are more familiar with the trading card section and then I have the people who they know, – most of our employees know everything. Over time, you’re going to learn it, but then I have the guys that really familiarize themselves with everything and those guys run around to help break every other side, but each side runs a different part of the Facebook group.
My video game side will do video game post, trading cards will do a trading card post. My guys in the middle, we’ll do board games and Warhammer or whatever else is new.
Lately, because we’ve been in the middle of construction a little bit, we’ve slacked on that. Here, in the next week or so we’re going to get an onboarding again.
Interviewer: That’s exciting. Is construction on the east store or the west?
Alex: East store.
Interviewer: So that’s when I visited. That’s nice. I’m excited to see it, man, when I come in next.
“I would say, our dedication is one and we like to refer to ourselves as sharks. Sharks always have to keep moving, or they die.”
Alex: You’ll be blown away. It will be completely different.
Interviewer: Is it really? So you got more space or?
Alex: We bought a suite down next door, so we did a lot of the work ourselves, blown out walls. We learned how to do tile. We learned how to do T-Grid, which is the little ceiling tiles everybody hates to change. We learned a lot doing this, saved a lot of money doing it ourselves. I mean tile is just insane. We went with like a luxury for luxury vinyl, learned how to install that ourselves and we just went away with it.
Interviewer: My goodness. How far along is the build out? Are you guys almost done or where you at?
Alex: We are, I would say 90% done with it. If you were to come in, you wouldn’t be able to tell that we’re still under construction because I’m pretty good at hiding it. I don’t like the customers to see some stuff, but the back room we’re still working on and we’re waiting for a few more displays. I bought a few stuff from Toys“R”Us, so I think they completely go out of business at the end of the month and we’ll get the rest of our displays.
Interviewer: That’s slick. I heard that they go out of business tomorrow though.
Alex: Yeah, I believe their store to the customer’s closes, but if you have stuff there, you can go pick it up.
Interviewer: No, I was just mind blown by that. When I heard about it in the fall, I was just mind blown. You know, I grew up going Toys“R”Us.
Alex: I know. It’s a crazy hit.
Interviewer: You know, I googled what the causes were for the breakup of Toys“R”Us and I didn’t realize that back in 2000 they signed a 10-year agreement where the actually offloaded all online sales to have the gaming for the toys and games category and Amazon fulfilled 100% of it. That was scary.
Well, speaking of that, so you know, you are making – what has kept you guys business healthy and thriving over the years?
Alex: I would say, our dedication is one and we like to refer to ourselves as sharks. Sharks always have to keep moving or they die. So if you look at every year we’ve either grown a store, we expanded into a second store, we’re always adding something new to our product line, always expanding the stores, always moving.
By us always adapting, opening up new sections, maybe learning something new and then implementing it into the store, which is a big change and that’s pretty much what’s been keeping us alive.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. Is your plan to nail this store, nail the west store and open a third maybe?
Alex: Possibly. The big issue is there are only two of us and three stores can be a little difficult. We’ll see how that goes. It is a plan.
We had an option of either moving our east location to another section of Las Vegas, opening a third location or expanding this one. We went with expanding this one this year. Then, who knows, next year we might open a third store.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. You mentioned earlier about events are a big deal for you guys. It’s definitely a big deal in our industry being gaming, hobby, video games, you know, e-gaming, stuff like that. Events are huge, it keeps people on, you know, puts butts in the seats. What do you guys do that packs your house with these demos and events?
Alex: Well, we’ve run multiple events at the same time. The disadvantage to being a smaller card store is, let’s say Friday night everybody runs Friday night magic, you know, they’re getting 20 people, 30 people and that’s it. That’s all they can run here.
Here, I have enough space to run Friday night magic, we do Pokemon League, Dragon Ball super tournaments Cardfight Vanguard, Buddyfight Vanguard. We have enough space to run all of those events by captivating on those key days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, running multiple events, everybody can come to them and that’s how we stay packed.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. You guys are, – I bet you guys are always moving, so you’re running multiple events at the same time as well.
Alex: It is a handful. Yep.
Interviewer: My goodness. How many employees do you guys have?
Alex: I want to say at each location there are at least 12 employees.
Interviewer: You guys are doing a lot with 12 employees.
Alex: Yeah. Seven to 12. I mean it fluctuates depending on the time of year. Christmas seasons, we have a little bit more. It’s tough. At one time, I would say Friday and Saturday are our busiest times. We usually have about six people working at the same time and then total, we have about nine, I think at my east location and 12 at the west.
Interviewer: Got you. If you had advice for a newcomer, that’s coming into the Retro Game Industry or even the new game industry on the field game side, if you had three tips you would share to somebody inside that community of entrepreneur or trying to jump into retail, what would they be?
Alex: Well, definitely research whatever you’re getting into. You’ve got to learn your market before you just try and open a store. I would say you got to be pretty dedicated. Like you don’t have to have a passion for what you’re doing, you just have to learn how to do it.
What was it? I think Mark Cuban said that “If you follow your passion, you can’t be successful at it.” You have to follow what you’re good at because that’s what’s going to make all the money.” I’m sure he didn’t say it exactly like that, but that’s what I got from it.
Interviewer: That’s funny because I have Mark Cuban on my screensaver.
Alex: Yeah? He’s a good guy. I love watching Shark Tank.
Interviewer: Man, he’s awesome. My screensaver says, “Work 24 hours a day like someone else is trying to take it away from you.”
Interviewer: That’s how you have to think. There’s always somebody out there trying to take something away from you. Like I said, when we opened the store, there were three stores. We became highly successful in it, opened up this huge location. Now all of a sudden there’s 27 other stores trying to take it away from us, so that’s how we look at it.
Interviewer: How many years you guys been in business?
Alex: Seven years in a few days actually.
Interviewer: Congratulations on the anniversary.
Interviewer: You’re telling me that just several years ago, there was no competition in Las Vegas in your sector and today, there are 27 retail stores in your backyard?
Alex: Yeah, it’s crazy. When we did Return to Ravnica, we had a pre-release for it. It was like one of our first ones that we got to finally run. I think we had 180 people for the pre-release and that was for a midnight. There were only two other stores doing it.
Now, I mean Magic’s gone downhill a little bit. I think now we don’t even do midnights anymore because it’s not really worth it.
Alex: 17 other stores are doing midnight prerelease, everybody’s going to get 20 and 30 people. It’s not worth it. Like, my sleep is more important. We can just run the three events the next day and Sunday and capitalize that way.
Interviewer: Yeah, because there’s no way you want to keep standing up on Saturday nights at 4:00 in the morning just to do some events. That’s crazy.
Alex: When we first started, I would say we put in tons of hours. We worked seven days a week running Magic. We tried to push that community so we’d stay until like 2:00 in the morning every Wednesday, Friday, Thursday.
Now we don’t have to do that so much. We’ve gotten the hang of running events, getting them a little smoother, so we don’t have to stay as late. We usually close at like 10:00 or 2:00 in the morning.
Interviewer: No, we appreciate you guys using Crystal Commerce inside your stores. For people that might be in the video game industry or even gaming and hobby industry for that matter that are thinking about using Crystal Commerce for the video games or other games, to you guys, you and your dad, what are the biggest benefits that you’ve enjoyed by using the Crystal Commerce platform to you guys in your opinion?
Alex: Well, I really – It is irritating sometimes, POS is sometimes slow. There’s always issues with anything that you use. Out of all the other softwares, Crystal Commerce is the best one in my opinion. I liked really how I’m able to run the other store without being there. I can see how much money they’re making, what they’re selling. I’m able to change prices.
The POS, it’s pretty advanced in what we do. I run the video game side as I do trading card games. In trading cards you have Near Mint, lightly played, heavily played, moderately played.
On the video game side. I do lose disc, complete and box, game and box only and we break it up that way with another POS software. I’m sure it would just be game, price, done.
Crystal Commerce gives us a little more diversity to help out all the customers. A lot of collectors, they want to know what they’re buying.
Interviewer: No, was great. I appreciate that. So you guys have a big construction thing going on. I’m sure you guys got some other big news at Wii Play Games.
Before I let you go, tell us what’s on the horizon at Wii Play Games from today, going into the future.
Alex: Well, with our expansion, now it gives me a lot more room to carry toys and comic books, so that might be a new thing we’re going to look into. We’re going to start carrying posters, not just like small posters, but you know, showpiece posters that people are going to want to hang and display on a wall and make it the centerpiece of the wall. More statues, more high-end toys, you know, I’m carrying a lot of more Gundam models, so we’re going to see how that goes.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. For the posters, you’ll be doing the – I love posters myself. I got my kid a double-sided Skyfall poster for James Bond, like the official one, the light dives through and comes out through a print in a frame, those things are expensive, but that’s – I really love posters, kind of tickles me you’re going to be jumping into that.
Interview: Yeah. Well, Alex, I want to thank for your time. I also want to thank all the listeners as well for listening to the podcasts out there too.
I want to say don’t forget to check out the two locations of Wii Play Games on the east side or the west side of Las Vegas. If you go to the website, that’s wiiplaygameslv.com, that’s W-I-I Play Games L-V dot com, check out what they have to offer. They have a full spectrum and toys and games and things you guys can pick up. Besides that, a big thank you again. I appreciate Alex, your time today.
Alex: Yeah, I mean thanks for giving me the opportunity. I mean, hopefully, I get a little better at it and we can do more.
Interviewer: Hey, I love to do another one too. I mean, shoot, we can definitely, you know, because everybody is going to be hearing this stuff and so it definitely promote your business out there also. If you want to schedule another one maybe in a month or so, we can do a follow-up.
Alex: Sure. If everybody like listening to me, I don’t mind talking to them.
Interviewer: If you guys are listening to this, feature, click share, check out all the different Los Vegas event pages or community pages that Wii Play Games has and make sure you guys plugin. Again, Alex, thanks for your time buddy.
Alex: Okay, thank you.