Q&A with top management | From the president to investors
Disclaimer Responses to questions below are as of the month posted. The situation may have changed, due to various factors including economic conditions and the competitive landscape within the industry, depending on the time of viewing.
The current conditions diffusion index in the Economy Watchers Survey fell by a record amount in November, and we wonder what kind of effect the current deflationary environment will have on the kinds of products PC DEPOT handles?
Declines in the unit sales and average sales prices of consumer durables is a trend we are also seeing among the products we handle. However, the average sales price of PCs fell sharply last year due to a wave of low-priced PC launches, so we do not expect PC prices to fall as significantly this year.
Also, we have not seen a major impact on repair and technical support sales thanks to greater thriftiness among users looking to make their existing PCs last as long as possible. However, customer numbers are declining due to intensifying sales competition within and outside the industry.
Is the trend toward "homebound consumption" a positive trend for PC DEPOT?
We do not expect a direct impact on PC sales, but we believe an increase in Internet usage may increase demand for PC environment products.
Do you expect the Winter Olympics, scheduled for February 2010, to increase demand for PCs?
How have sales been in the one month since the release of Windows 7?
Sales of the operating system Windows 7 are increasing at a faster pace than what we saw after the release of Windows VISTA. Also, sales of Windows 7-based PCs have gotten off to a fairly good start thanks to favorable reviews. New products that play off the strengths of Windows 7's features, such as touch panels, are particularly popular.
Has PC DEPOT readied its technical services to respond to Windows 7 inquiries? If so, have there been any special costs involved?
We have finished readying basic operations and our service menu. The costs involved included upgrading tools and refurbishing equipment. Also, we have been able to train engineers through our regular programs, so we have not seen any major cost outlays.
Does PC DEPOT offer any unique services for Windows 7?
We have over 100,000 members to which we continuously provide maintenance services. We have quickly responded in many ways to provide safe and consistent services to these members, including ensuring smooth upgrades to a Windows 7 environment, and providing technical services and advice regarding peripheral equipment for members interested in upgrading to a Windows 7-based PC.
What is your outlook for the yearend shopping season?
New PCs with touch panels —not just new software— have been launched in conjunction with the release of Windows 7 in late October, so we expect greater than usual interest in such new products this year.
Having said that, winter bonuses are expected to decline this year due to fallout from the protracted recession, and we expect this to reduce the appetite of consumers in the yearend shopping season. Also, the environment for merchandise this year is different from that of a typical year due to the recent surge in semiconductor prices, LCD panel price cuts, and other factors.
In light of this, we think it is essential to accurately understand the needs of customers, and respond to those needs in detail, so we plan to implement various measures in order to ensure brisk sales in the yearend shopping season this year.
Is PC DEPOT considering opening stores in front of train stations?
We currently have no station-front stores in our chain, and have no plans to open any since our store policy is to open only standalone roadside stores.
Will PC DEPOT benefit from consumption related to the shift to terrestrial digital broadcasting?
We do not expect a direct large impact, but we expect sales to increase of peripheral equipment that enables users to view terrestrial digital broadcasts on their PC, and products that convert PC monitors to terrestrial digital.
Does PC DEPOT see an impact from changes in corporate demand for PCs?
Sales to the corporate sector do not account for a large proportion of our sales because we do not have sales division dedicated to the corporate sector. That said, we expect some impact since corporations do make small purchases at our stores.
What sort of impact does PC DEPOT expect to see if the government extends its "eco point" system into next fiscal year?
We can only speculate, but we note that PCs, the mainstay product of the Company, are excluded from the eco-point system. Although overall consumer expenditures by households are not rising, sales of eco-point products are strong which implies a certain negative impact for sales of PC related products. An extension of the system would lengthen the period over which we see a negative impact.
What impact is PC DEPOT seeing from the scheduled launch of Windows 7 on October 22?
We are seeing some impact as customers hold back on PC purchases. Existing-store sales fell in the double digits in August to 84.8% of the year-ago level, and customer numbers declined as well.
What are the advance reviews of Windows 7?
The advance reviews are generally favorable. Windows 7 is said to be more "stable" than Windows Vista due to software compatibility and other factors. Also, Windows 7 supports touch panels, expanding the range of choice for PC functionality. We are also hopeful that over the long run Windows 7 will encourage the development of new PC functions.
Are you revitalizing existing stores in addition to opening new stores?
In addition to opening new stores, we are prioritizing store repairs, remodeling, and the expansion of floor space at existing stores as needed to improve the store environment. Our policy is also to consider scrapping unprofitable stores.
What is the outlook for hiring next year?
We believe securing and training human resources is important for moving forward with the opening of large-scale stores. We plan to hire more new graduates next fiscal year (spring 2010 hiring) than this fiscal year (43 graduates). We are also working to convert part-timers to contract workers, and contract workers to regular employees.
By maintaining stable hiring practices, we aim to prepare an environment for the nurturing of human resources necessary to the Company's long-term growth.
It is said we had a cool summer this year. What if any impact has this had on PC DEPOT?
We do not believe this had any direct impact on us because we handle mostly PCs and related products. However, although requests to repair broken PCs typically increase during this season because PCs are precision machines that are sensitive to heat and moisture, we have seen a slight decline in repair requests this summer.
What impact will 1000 yen highway tolls have on PC DEPOT?
We open stores with large parking lots in the suburbs for the convenience of driving customers.
While some might expect the introduction of 1000 yen highway tolls to encourage more driving to the benefit of our suburban stores, few customers use highways to visit our stores anyway, so we anticipate neither a positive nor negative impact.
Does PC DEPOT sell low-priced private-brand products?
We have developed the original "OZZIO" brand to provide customers with quality products at the lowest prices possible.
Our goal is not so much to expand the brand and increase our lineup of low-priced products, but to develop OZZIO as an original brand that helps distinguish our stores from those of other retailers.
We currently sell desktop PCs and large flat-panel TVs under the OZZIO brand.
Approximately 25% of Internet users are unsatisfied with their Internet experience according to surveys. What is PC DEPOT doing to help rectify this situation?
Internet usage in Japan has advanced to three in four people - approximately 90 million people - as of the end of 2008 according to a survey of trends in telecommunications usage (announced on January 2009) by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
At PC DEPOT, we provide free advice not only for PC trouble, but for users who are having trouble connecting to the Internet and have other Internet problems.
We believe the range of user dissatisfaction will increase as the number of Internet users rises. Based on the slogan of "Providing free diagnosis of PC problems," we strive to provide customers with an environment in which they can use their PCs securely, and to become a reliable source of advice for customers. Regarding Internet connections as well, we will strengthen our services to ensure users can use the Internet ever more safely and securely.
The data shows PC sales to be in a slump industry-wide. This is largely due to a decline in corporate demand, although individual demand has not fallen as much. Indeed, sales of mini-notebook PCs and other low-priced PCs to individuals are firm. PC DEPOT is minimally impacted by trends in corporate demand because it targets home users as its customer base.
The "eco point" system was launched in the retail market, and although one might expect a negative impact since PCs are excluded from the system, PC DEPOT's sales of service products, mini-notebook PCs, and low-priced PCs are above year-ago levels.
Also, PC DEPOT has seen only a limited impact from the holding back on purchases of PCs by prospective buyers prior to the launch of Windows 7 scheduled for October 22, 2009.
PC DEPOT will continue to expand its store network, strengthen its marketing, and grow sales in the face of these various negative factors and an uncertain environment.
Flaws have been pointed out in the internal governance reports of over 50 companies. How is PC DEPOT doing in this respect?
Regarding our results materials, we guarantee operations and results via process checks of fiscal and financial reports, and our internal control system has been judged to be effective.
In addition to the reliability of our financial statements, we perform on-site audits of stores and head office departments, and a "Cyber Sheriff Center" (store risk management center) established within our head office monitors stores for safe management and sales governance to ensure customers can feel secure shopping in our stores.
PC DEPOT recently announced that it would convert a joint venture in Kyushu into a wholly owned subsidiary. What is your purpose?
PC DEPOT Max Co., Ltd. is the company that we plan to convert into a wholly owned subsidiary. This company was established for the purpose of developing PC DEPOT stores in the Kyushu region. PC DEPOT decided to convert the company into a wholly owned subsidiary in order to accelerate decision-making and strengthen its store network in the Kyushu region. The purpose is to expand store openings in the Kyushu region by acquiring greater freedom to open stores independently as opposed to previously just opening stores within "Mr Max" stores.
"Trade in" services are becoming increasingly popular among apparel, furniture, and other retailers; does PC DEPOT offer trade in services?
PC DEPOT has offered trade in services since its establishment because the market for used PCs has existed for some time now. Also, we believe trade in services are important from the environmental perspective of recycling PCs. We continue to sell used PCs as part of our CSR.
Many unused PCs can still be adequately used for Internet and e-mail access, so we plan to strengthen trade in services going forward based on the spirit of "waste not, want not."
WiMAX* services began in earnest this July, and some major volume electronics retailers are offering services; does PC DEPOT have plans to offer this service?
PC DEPOT believes demand for EMOBILE and WiMAX mobile telecommunications services will increase going forward. We have already begun to sell proprietary products combining the mobile telecommunications services of EMOBILE Ltd. with our own services.
We will also begin handling WiMAX services, but because of the limited areas where it can be used, we intend to gradually expand our lineup of services in step with the expansion of area coverage. We expect a variety of mobile data telecommunications services to be offered going forward, and we will examine handling these services as they become available.
*WiMAX is a standard for next-generation high-speed mobile data telecommunications
We have recently seen reports in the news about a peaking out of NTT's fiber optic broadband subscribers. We also notice that your results materials show a decline in broadband brokerage charges. What is your view on the outlook of this field going forward?
We do not expect straight-line growth in the number of homes subscribing for their first fiber optic broadband line going forward. However, we expect greater penetration of mobile Internet telecommunications, that can be used outside of the home like mobile phones, going forward. Also, we still anticipate a respectable level of demand for broadband as users upgrade to high-speed lines to take advantage of the ability to view TV and videos over the Internet. Based on this view, we began selling proprietary products that combine mobile telecommunications services with our own services, from April (MVNO format*). We believe many high-speed mobile telecommunications services will be launched to market going forward, and we plan to pro-actively handle them.
*MVNO stands for "Mobile Virtual Network Operator."
I hear that PC DEPOT provides wireless Internet connection settings for game consoles at its stores, but why would a store that specializes in PCs provide wireless settings for game consoles?
Recent game consoles include a variety of functions including online gaming and Internet browsing, but many users find the Internet settings that are necessary to use these functions difficult.
Going forward we plan to provide settings for all equipment that connects to the Internet as a part of our effort to help customers develop their home Internet environment.
How were your Fiscal 2008 results? Briefly explain.
We posted both revenue and profit growth in Fiscal 2008. Merchandise sales increased, despite a decline in unit prices, as we maintained customer numbers at existing stores at the same level as a year ago, and continued to see "volume benefits" in the second half of the fiscal year due to the launch of mini-notebook PC sales from summer. Also, technical and other service sales and profits increased.
You plan to open large-scale stores, but what is the outlook for profitability? What is the optimal store size, in terms of sales floor space, for PC DEPOT?
We believe the optimal store size for PC DEPOT is 900-1,500 square meters. However, we aim to become a "category killer" in the PC and Internet field. This requires that we provide the "best product lineup" and the "best service" in each community. We think that over 1,500 square meters of sales floor space is necessary to handle all kinds of merchandise that connect to the Internet and expand our services.
How has your Company responded to the new influenza outbreak, and briefly explain how you would respond if a similar outbreak occurs in the future.
PC DEPOT implemented a "just to make sure" safety campaign following the recent outbreak of new influenza to prevent the spread of infection at stores where many customers visit. The campaign included asking customers to sterilize their hands and clothes, having staff wear protective masks while at work, and questioning staff about their health status when they come to work. We implemented these preventative measures with the understanding and cooperation of customers.
We are formulating a response in case a new influenza virus, not just the seasonal flu, becomes a world-wide pandemic that increases the number of infected persons in Japan to a dangerous level.
If the outbreak continues to expand domestically, we will not wait for instructions from the government before thoroughly implementing crisis management measures to protect customers and employees.
Does the introduction of "eco points" impact PC DEPOT?
However, we expect penetration of terrestrial digital broadcasts to cause demand to spread beyond just television upgrades to PCs and game consoles that are compatible with terrestrial digital broadcasts.
We are preparing to accurately understand these trends and tie them to sales promotions.
Also, the Cabinet decided to submit a bill to develop the digital television, computer, and LAN environments of schools in this fiscal year's supplementary budget (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). We expect the improved facilities at schools to raise interest among families in introducing this equipment in their own homes, and we will work to promote sales taking advantage of this heightened "education fervor."
Various data suggests that personal consumption remains weak. Has PC DEPOT also seen an impact in terms of lower sales for example?
The recent deterioration in the economic environment has caused a shift towards thriftiness in personal consumption, and the prices of mini-notebook PCs and other merchandise is declining. In this environment, we have thankfully seen a constant flow of customers to our stores. Customer numbers increased 2% year-over-year at directly-managed existing stores in the 4Q on a monthly basis, and year-over-year sales also trended in line with plans.
We expect only a limited impact from the slump in personal consumption assuming consumers remain willing to purchase our products at low prices.
What is the purpose and aim of opening PC Clinics in other volume electronics retailers?
We began opening PC Clinics in volume electronics retailers that serve as franchisees from August 2008, and have opened 21 stores as of end-March 2009. The arrangement benefits all three parties. We benefit from getting as many people as possible to use the services of PC DEPOT, and by increasing our Company's name recognition and reputation. Volume electronic retailers benefit because they can provide support to customers, and customers benefit because they can receive technical support at the store where they bought their PC.
How many new graduates did you hire in Fiscal 2009? And what kind of talk did you give to new employees?
We welcomed 43 new employees into our Company this year, more than in a typical year. I told employees that it is important "to be useful to society as a full-fledged member of society," "to be useful to society through your work as an employee of PC DEPOT," and "to achieve this by understanding and following the thinking and policies of the Company." I then told them that this will require that each of them become self-reliant, and I have high expectations for their growth.
The OZZIO TR-TX series of low-priced desktop PCs launched in your Company's original brand is of a different genre than mini-notebook PCs popular of late. What types of customers are you targeting with this product?
Mini-notebook PCs have small screens and are easy to carry around, but some customers need big screens because they use their PC mainly at home, or mostly to watch TV, or because they are elderly. To meet the needs of these customers, we decided to launch a low-priced PC that features a big screen and keyboard, and plays DVDs.
We frequently hear in the news recently about the theft or loss of personal information. How does your Company manage personal information?
We manage all kinds of data including personal information very strictly. We have a "room" to manage data, and we limit "who" can enter the room and view the data. We also mechanically manage the data so that the data cannot be stolen, altered, or corrupted.
You opened the large "Sayama Head Store" in May. What kind of store is this?
The Sayama Head Store is Japan's largest suburban PC specialty store with 3,000 square meters of floor space. It offers a top-class lineup of products and services.
The Sayama Head Store is a 30-minute drive from our Sakado, Tokorozawa, Fujimino, and Ome stores. We are working to provide customers with the same service no matter which store they visit. We will pull together with all of our employees to ensure that all customers enjoy the "convenience" of having a store that is easily accessed from their local community.
It appears that many retailers will hold back on new store openings next fiscal year. Indeed, an article just the other day reported that volume electronics retailers plan to restrain new store openings, but what about PC DEPOT?
The economic recession has reduced land prices, increasing the number of properties with favorable conditions.
We look to take advantage of this situation, and plan to aggressively open many new stores in the new fiscal year, and particularly large stores, as we did in the current fiscal year (Fiscal 2008).
Some major volume electronics retailers have begun to sell items besides home electronics, such as daily necessities and drugs. Is PC DEPOT considering any new undertakings?
PC DEPOT provides a total array of products, technologies, services, and networks centered on PCs and broadband. PC DEPOT believes customers will demand technologies, services, and networks centered on PCs going forward, and will therefore pro-actively work to provide highly relevant products and services. However, it has no plans to provide products and services unrelated to its core business.
Sales staff and engineers with specialized knowledge are essential to the aggressive opening of large stores and the development of new products and technologies. How are you educating and training your employees?
PC DEPOT has three pillars to its system of educating and training employees: 1) Depot Business Academy (DBA): a training institute to help employees gain requisite knowledge, and improve skills, to carry out their work: 2) Depot Clinic Academy (DCA): a training institute to improve skills associated with providing technical services; and 3) Rotation On Job Training (ROJT): training at other stores within the Company's network to broaden employees' horizons. Employees also work to improve their skill levels on their own initiative, attending regular study groups held at stores.
Why are unit sales of PCs rising on-year as shown in your Fiscal 2008 third-quarter financial results presentation materials? To what factors do you attribute this?
PC DEPOT attributes rising PC sales to an expansion of the PC user base beyond just adults, to include elementary and junior high school children, and to a rising number of households owning multiple PCs. It believes the availability of more "low-priced PCs" has been a catalyst for these trends.
Consider how televisions became widespread. Increasingly diverse program offerings boosted the average television viewing time per person, and the greater availability of low-priced televisions prompted households to increase television ownership from just one, to two or three, so each family member could enjoy programs individually. PC users spend more and more time using their PCs because they can do things with their PCs besides just e-mail and the Internet, such as shopping, and listening to music and watching videos. Just like with televisions, the greater availability of low-priced PCs has changed the usage style of PCs from just "one per family" to "one per person."
PC DEPOT thinks unit PC sales will continue to rise going forward due to the greater availability of low-priced PCs.
What sort of impact does recent yen appreciation have on PC DEPOT?
PC DEPOT is not directly affected by yen appreciation like the manufacturing industry.
However, we believe yen appreciation is lowering prices considering many PC parts, and popular low-priced PCs, are made overseas.
One might expect that cheaper merchandise would lead to lower sales, but cheaper prices have actually increased the opportunities to stimulate more purchases. A challenge for PC DEPOT going forward is to accurately grasp the situation and boost sales.
The Internet can now be used via television, but what impact will this have on PC DEPOT?
The Internet can now be used not just over PCs and televisions, but a variety of terminals including mobile phones and video game consoles. However, the more time that customers spend on the Internet and are able to do a variety of things, the more they demand additional functions and settings.
When it comes to "using the Internet anytime anywhere" and "using the Internet for all kinds of activities," we believe PCs will always win out in terms of scalability and ease-of-use. We believe PCs best match customers' appetite for enhanced convenience. Additional functions can be added to PCs comparatively easily with software and peripheral equipment, but this is currently difficult to do with TVs. We do not believe PCs and televisions are even in competition with each other in terms of convenience.
A strength of PC DEPOT is its ability to help customers add new functions to their PCs. PC DEPOT benefits from customers thinking "I wish I could do this with my PC."
Why doesn't PC DEPOT have a point system?
PC DEPOT has not adopted a point system since its founding. Point cards issued by stores that customers use only once in a while can be inconvenient because they get forgotten at home, lost, or their points have expired when they want to use their card. PC DEPOT is not a store that customers use frequently like a supermarket. We therefore offer reduced product prices from the beginning so as not to inconvenience customers when they decide to purchase products from us at any time.
We have adopted a system of "straightforward pricing" whereby all customers are charged the same price so they can feel secure shopping at our stores. Prices are not vaguely displayed, and we do not display different prices to individual customers on calculators. As such, we have no point system, nor do we offer membership discounts or have a special sales system for preferred customers.
Benefits from higher unit sales contributed to second-quarter and third-quarter earnings in Fiscal 2008, but how long do you think these "volume benefits" will continue?
Two factors lie behind the "volume benefits.
The first is the consumer trend toward cost consciousness in light of the deteriorating economic environment, and the second is lower prices in the PC market due to the emergence of low-priced PCs. PC prices have declined, making them more attractive in the current economic environment. We believe the perfect confluence of these two trends has increased unit sales of PCs. We believe higher unit sales of PCs will continue as long as prices remain low, so positive benefits are likely to continue through 2009.
Is PC DEPOT involved in any specific CSR activities?
PC DEPOT believes that improving PC, Internet, and data security via its PC Clinics is a type of CSR activity that only it can provide. Regardless of where customers have purchased their PCs, PC DEPOT provides, through its stores, PC safety and security including free diagnosis and repairs for all PCs, activities to enlighten customers about PC problems and warn them about viruses, and free installation of STOP Harmful Websites, a filtering software for PCs used by elementary and junior high school children.
PC DEPOT will continue to work to contribute to society in its own way.
What is your take on the current PC market environment?
It is difficult to expect new demand now that the household penetration rate for PCs has reached 85%. However, PCs are now considered a necessity for daily life, and PC DEPOT does expect "upgrade" demand from customers that have used their PCs for a long time, and "supplemental" demand as each family member requires their own PC. Also, unlike other home electronics, it is not possible to simply replace one's old PC with a new one, as users need to transfer their data and re-configure settings for the Internet, etc. As such, providing technical support and maintenance –not just PC merchandise– is also an essential market in our view.
How does PC DEPOT differentiate itself from volume electronics retailers?
PC DEPOT operates a chain of comprehensive PC retailers that offer a rich lineup of PC related merchandise. Additionally, a major strength of the stores is that they do not just sell merchandise, but also provide technical maintenance and support which volume electronics retailers shy away from. PC DEPOT is strengthening sales of solutions services that combine merchandise with technical maintenance and support. For example, our stores provide maintenance service-type products ("Premium Service") so customers can securely use their PCs continuously.
Can PC DEPOT secure profits in the current PC market where sales prices are falling due in part to the emergence of 50,000 yen PCs?
The average price of PCs is admittedly declining, but PC DEPOT's unit sales of PCs are rising because it offers a wide lineup of PCs to meet customer needs, from mini-notebook PCs to high-spec PCs.
Also, PC DEPOT does not just sell merchandise –it provides technical maintenance and support which is a major factor that differentiates it from other companies. Sales of technical maintenance and support services are growing along with unit sales of PCs, and service sales now account for nearly half of total earnings. PC DEPOT believes firm service sales are a reflection of the favorable reputation it has won for itself among customers.
As PC prices decline and become more affordable, the customer base will broaden from one PC per family to one per person, and as PC usage diversifies, the technical support required by customers will become more diverse too. This will increase the base of customers requiring the type of specialty support in which PC DEPOT excels.
What is the store opening policy of PC DEPOT?
PC DEPOT targets the opening of 4-5 large new stores with over 1,500 square meters of floor space per year. Also, it aims to open roadside stores and stores near existing volume electronics retailers to provide suburban shopping convenience and alternative services to those provided by volume electronics retailers. PC DEPOT is also promoting PC Clinic franchising via "in-shop" stores in volume electronics retailers in order to provide technical maintenance and support at stores outside of its own network. We plan to open many new PC Clinic stores. PC DEPOT will work to further improve its brand recognition among customers by opening both PC DEPOT and PC Clinic stores going forward.
Why are you pushing forward with the opening of large stores? What is the secret that allows you to open large stores as a PC specialist?
PC DEPOT is opening large stores to strengthen its product lineup, and to enhance public space -both free space and space for PC Clinic. PC Clinics within large stores can handle approximately 100 PCs at a time, and we will continue to build out infrastructure to provide technical maintenance and support to as broad a customer base as possible.
We opened Ashikaga Store (in Tochigi Prefecture), with 3,000 square meters of floor space, in November 2008. Lower selling, general and administrative costs in the suburbs compared with the Tokyo metropolitan area made the opening of such a large-scale store possible. We are also working to improve efficiency on the personnel side of operations, and therefore do not expect a large increase in costs.
You state that you saw "volume benefits" in the second quarter of Fiscal 2008, but could you explain in detail the factors behind this?
In the first quarter of Fiscal 2008, PC sales prices declined in the overall market compared with the previous year, and this created a vicious cycle of declining inventory value.
However, from the summer of 2008, the introduction of a series of affordable and distinct mini notebook PCs under 50,000 yen stimulated demand. PC DEPOT decided to strengthen its lineup of 50,000 yen PCs, and this boosted unit PC sales. Also, we provided customers with peripheral equipment and software necessary for the use of PCs, as well as technical services and broadband, and the resulting increase in merchandise and services sales boosted overall earnings. We believe these "volume benefits" will continue even after the second half of Fiscal 2008.
The employment situation in Japan has been deteriorating recently, but what is the status of employment and hiring conditions at your company?
The promotion of long-term employment has been an important policy of PC DEPOT from the beginning. While we employ some temporary staff dispatched from vendors, almost all of our professional and technical staff work actively as either full-time or part-time employees of the Company. One way of promoting long-term employment is to encourage employees to cooperate in adjusting their shifts during busy seasons which coincide with extended public holidays, and then encourage education and long refreshing holidays during the low season. In this way, we try to fill seasonal gaps, and encourage each employee to raise their skill level, to create an environment that is conducive to long-term employment. Although the employment environment is deteriorating dramatically, we will continue to hire on an ongoing basis.