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Online company stores spur growth for specialty products firm

John Seelmeyer

More than 4,000 employees of International Game Technology may be spread from Reno to the far ends of the earth, but they go shopping together.

IGT last month launched an online company store, allowing employees to shop for clothing, accessories and other merchandise emblazoned with the company’s logo.

“So far the response has been very positive. We have found that it is a win-win for employee engagement. It will give us a new way to reward and recognize of outstanding employees as well as celebrate special events with unique logo pieces,” says Don Hopkins, IGT’s chief information officer and vice president of global procurement.

The online store is a turnkey operation developed for IGT by Sparks-based Swag/Blue Moon, which handles order-taking and fulfillment.

“Blue Moon really presented IGT a perfect solution. The web portal gives IGT employees easy access to the IGT store through our internal intranet. This turnkey solution was easy to implement and manage, since Blue Moon handles the fulfillment needs and then ships directly to our offices throughout the U.S. and worldwide,” says Hopkins.

For companies such as Swag/Blue Moon, the development of online company stores for clients large and small is driving a substantial part of their growth.

“It’s becoming more and more important,” says Dave Sutherland, the president and chief executive officer of Swag/Blue Moon. “It’s the future.”

Sutherland’s company, which sells everything from printed forms and business cards to logo-emblazoned hats and trinkets, operates a variety of online operations for clients.

For some big customers such as IGT and Employers, the workers compensation carrier headquartered in Reno, Swag/Blue Moon operates a full-blown company store at which employees can purchase logo-wear and hundreds of items that carry the companies’ logos.

A key selling point to potential clients, Sutherland says, is assurance of brand integrity.

All the items sold through the online store carry the same version of the company logo, meet the color requirements established for the brand and make sure that members of a company sales team don’t show up at a trade show wearing a dozen different looks.

It’s all part of what the marketing experts these days call “brand ambassadorship.”

Sutherland says employees who are actively engaged with their companies are most likely to talk about and show off the corporate brand.

For companies such as Employers with far-flung operations the company sells coverage in 31 states an online store provides a convenient single source for employees to buy corporate swag.

And some of Swag/Blue Moon’s customers use merchandise from the turnkey stores as prizes in incentive programs.

In a slight twist on the turnkey concept, Swag/Blue Moon also has contracted with Prospect for Education, the operator of Charter College campuses in the Sutherland says the turnkey stores are a natural outgrowth of the on-demand printing services that his company long has provided for clients such as the University of Nevada, Reno, or Renown Health. Employees of those organizations can place an online order for printed materials such as business cards directly with Swag/Blue Moon. The company is the largest distributor of printed business materials in Nevada.

The on-demand printing business, Sutherland says, allowed the years of experience it’s able to put to use in development of the back-end fulfillment and inventory management systems that now are used for coffee cups and polo shirts.