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Buying a full time retail job

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by glengraving, Jun 11, 2019.

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  1. glengraving

    glengraving UKBF Contributor Free Member

    94 40
    Hi, I'm here to type out my situation and maybe get some opinions on how to proceed from your learned selves. There will be a lot of words.

    I work in a small old-fashioned ironmongery/household-goods/'multi-service' (engraving, key cutting etc) store. My boss, in his early 70s, would like to retire and sell the business/property.

    I told him I would like to buy it, and so he has taken it off the market after a couple years of being listed (with one and a half 'serious' buyers who pulled out at the last minute) while we figure out the logistics.

    As a minimum-wage shopworker, I don't have the money that my boss is looking for upfront. I have a chunk of savings in the bank (and could get the likes of a Credit Union personal loan to boost the initial payment - I'd be applying for a loan for renovations regardless).

    He is understanding in this regard and is happy for me to pay off the value of the business in instalments for around (or even less than) the price it would cost for me to rent a similar retail unit (and at the end I'd own the property) - retaining the stock, equipment, 32 years of local 'goodwill' and I'd have him nearby to assist me in any ways I might require. We've talked about £500 per month, which would be good for a rental price.

    So far, so good - the problem is he may be overvaluing the business a bit, and I don't want to be tied to paying it off in for over a decade.

    He wants £90k, all in. £50k for the property, and £40k for the stock.

    The property price is the baseline because that figure was accepted when another party was going to buy the place a year ago - this party wasn't interested in the business as a going concern and as such the plan was to "sell, sell, sell" our old stock before a deadline (whatever wasn't sold by the deadline would've been auctioned, thrown out, or gifted to me for my 'new venture', as I planned to start key cutting in a smaller rental unit). Close to the deadline, not much sell, sell, selling took place and then the prospective buyer pulled out.

    I'm also aware of more of the hidden problems with the property than any other buyer would be, such as some mould in a swelling store-room ceiling and how the kitchen tends to flood every time it rains heavily. As such, I reckon I could negotiate that figure down a bit.

    The stock price is a bit more of a mystery - active stock control is an unfamiliar concept in these here parts, and as such the figure might as well be plucked from thin air. There is a lot of stuff - all kinds of stuff, some is good quality steady selling stuff, some is piled high, some covered in dust, some retaining the price tags from literal decades prior. The obvious answer is to hire a professional stock-taker to wade through it. To come customers, the 'has everything you'd need, just ask the owner to find it' thing is quaint, but I fear that the cluttered nature would terrify a stock-taker. And then it'd beget disagreements about how 'these products aren't worth cost price, unfashionable, dead-stock', etc.

    Is there a simple way to do it fairly? Perhaps to say that I'll pay whatever the invoice totals for the past quarter came to - as that represents 'fresh stock' - or if that's miserly of me, the past two quarters?

    I have every figure for the takings and spendings to hand. Looking at these numbers, it might be daft take on such debt when I'd likely earn more as a store manager elsewhere - but I believe there's potential for growth if I take some radical steps to renovate the store and alter the business focus/model. I have plenty ideas for changes. Exploring that seems like a fulfilling journey.

    So my question is, any tips for valuing a business? Tips for negotiating the price down? Should I be grateful of the chance to pay it off in such amenable terms (to quote: "if you have a slow month, you can pay back a bit less") that would be more advantageous than renting anew? Should I run for the hills because brick and mortar retail is a graveyard? Should I check if there are any 'Youngish-Entrepreneur' grants applicable to my situation? Should I be impressed anyone even read this far?

    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
    Posted: Jun 11, 2019 By: glengraving Member since: Jan 24, 2019
  2. MBE2017

    MBE2017 UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,933 696
    I think you need a lot more information, the last three years accounts, assess the old useless stock and remove it from the figures altogether.

    Location, competition, etc all play a part in the decision, the value is very low for a going concern, but with only two vague offers in the past the owner is going to struggle selling the business to anyone else IMO.

    Retail is going through a tough time, hardware shops are closing all over the place. Key cutting can be very profitable, but you could set yourself up for that at a fraction of the price IMO.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: MBE2017 Member since: Feb 16, 2017
  3. glengraving

    glengraving UKBF Contributor Free Member

    94 40
    I have two years of figures in front of me, could get a third but the averages are about the same. There's no clear way of discerning which stock is old and useless, as we don't keep record of what is sold. Hence why I think a simple "I'll pay the cost of stock bought in the last quarter" - or - "I'll pay the cost of stock bought in the last two quarters, but I don't pay extra for the key cutting equipment". It's hard to judge what is reasonable. £40k is well over a year's worth of stock cost.
    The location is a problem. In a deprived part of town, on a high street that is a shadow of it's former self due to the usual suspects either opening up in nearby retail parks or online. Plus competition closer to home from two similar household goods stores in the immediate vicinity.

    However, these things don't really phase me - my plan is to build an online presence and renovate our sizeable store-room as a workshop for all manner of personalised gift/homeware, greatly expanding on our engraving service. If I can launch a successful online business off of the (literal) back of a stagnant one, I can further differentiate my shop from the local competition and niche down. Having a long physical history will give my online presence legitimacy, and having a proper workshop area will mean I can move the CNC-machine and bandsaw out of my bedroom ;)

    As I hinted at in my essay, my boss had the notion (before the previous sale fell through) that I should take his key-cutting machines and rent myself a much smaller unit and just offer the Timpsonsy-kiosk services. Sounded like a miserable idea tbh - the space we have (as modest as it is) has exciting potential, in my mind. Man cannot live on key-cutting alone, not without the national branding and prime location that allows you to charge whatever you want.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: glengraving Member since: Jan 24, 2019
  4. Mr D

    Mr D UKBF Legend Free Member

    24,273 2,943
    Forget potential, every business has it.
    Your plans for what you could do need to be able to work - a workshop and shop together can be made to work, a workshop without a shop you'd probably find cheaper and better premises almost anywhere.

    You have one bit right, you would be buying a job.

    As a business owner you can earn less than minimum wage. A lot less.
    Or you can earn more.

    Online selling of engraving is nothing new, thousands do it so you would have competition. Getting noticed is usually hard - marketing your business can be expensive.

    Also don't factor in the current owner being around to answer things or assist you - health can fail, people die of old age or whatever so he could be around, could die the day after you take over or become unavailable due to serious illness.
    Nice to have someone who knows the business, just don't bet the business on it.

    32 years of local goodwill - but the area has gone downhill and presumably a lot of customers that were around 32 years ago aren't now...
    Value the goodwill or not.

    Old stock is effectively worthless. Maybe you could shift it for a hundred quid all in selling in bulk on ebay. Maybe it just needs to be dribbled out online over the next 4 years. Maybe its completely unsellable in any condition.
    So work out a figure based on whatever - and discount it.
    To put it in perspective, I sometimes get opportunity to buy older stock from people disposing of it, value is around 10 to 20% of wholesale price. Wholesale, not retail. And that's stuff 6 months to maybe 2 years old that I know I can sell.

    Most of all, be prepared to walk away. If the owner could get a lot of money for the business they would already have done so. Stock he may want £40k for but would he get more than a few hundred disposing of it by bulk sale to someone else?

    Its often very easy for even experienced business owners to talk themselves into spending money buying when they should be running away. Watch out for that, regret is not a great feeling.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Mr D Member since: Feb 12, 2017
  5. glengraving

    glengraving UKBF Contributor Free Member

    94 40
    I'm not certain about that - a cursory browse through modest industrial units in the city roughly the size of our store-room is showing me rents not much lower than the monthly instalments the owner would be happy with - at which point I'd basically be getting a shopfront, stock and equipment for not much extra outlay :p
    (I'll have to properly check the square footage, though)

    Regardless, it would have to be a gradual shift in focus towards the in-house made/personalised products, as I develop lines and customers. And a high street outlet seems like a natural springboard for getting my products noticed, provided I can be creative and agile with it. I feel like one compliments the other - and one can always rely on punters losing their keys or watch batteries failing like clockwork, so the shop is a safety net. Diverse revenue streams and all that.
    aw, bit harsh
    True - I would consider these things possible free perks, but I would need to budget for marketing and to recruit capable new staff.

    This is the tricky fact to deliver. It's obvious to an outsider, but when you've built the stock and live in the midst of it, you dont see the forest for the trees. When I tried to explain my thoughts the other day, his reaction was "every business will come with slow stock, you don't know until you buy it" ... well, I aint buying it.
    It's buyer beware - I'm not responsible for bad decisions in the past, only my decisions in the future.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: glengraving Member since: Jan 24, 2019
  6. Mark T Jones

    Mark T Jones UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    4,792 1,806
    One thing the last 2 years has shown the owner is that it isn’t a desirable business at the asking price

    Also, the property alone isn’t worth the asking price or it would have been snapped up.

    Forget what the owner thinks. Almost by definition he will over value the business. Think about what it is worth to you in its current state. You don’t pay for potential- that’s your reward

    Going online is a very different world. Years of High Street presence will have no value - you will need lots if marketing and a clear differentiator

    Making giftware might be an angle - you’d need to research the market.

    However, the huge alarm bell to me is that you are entering a business that clearly needs sizeable investment (and a property that might become a money pit) with absolutely no capital. There are no grants. You might get a Start Up Loan, but that is repayable personal debt which I don’t think your current income can cover.

    I can’t help wondering if you are selling yourself this idea with your heArt rather than your head?
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Mark T Jones Member since: Nov 4, 2015
  7. mattk

    mattk UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    2,296 844
    There is some really good points above, but here are my thoughts.

    Firstly, the property. You say the price has been baselined by a previous offer. This means nothing. What is the market value of the property? The reason this is important is that if it all goes pearshaped you will still have an asset which can realise some value. If the market value is more than £50k then fine. If not, then you are likely overpaying. Also remember, the high street is dead, so properties on the high street are falling in value rapidly.

    The stock is more difficult. £40k sounds a lot, but it depends what is contained.

    The third area I would be focusing on is the profits for the business AS IS. Potential is fine (others have covered the pros and cons above), but you need to be taking into account how much profit the business will generate in its current guise.

    Finally, I think you need to do your sums over the repayment schedule. How much do you plan to pay up front versus £500 a month? You say you plan on getting a loan for renovations, have you approached anyone to find out the viability of a loan for the part-purchase and a loan for the renovations? If you don't pay a lump sum for the business up front then £500 a month will take you 15 years to cover the £90k asking price. Will your 70 year old boss me happy to wait that long?

    In reality it sounds as if your boss if going to use the £500 a month as a nice little retirement income, which sounds fair to both parties.

    Overall, I wouldn't want to put you off this venture. It sounds as if you have lots of good ideas and this is a great opportunity for you to put them into practice. You simply need to protect yourself to ensure you're not taking on too much debt or any personal liabilities which may come back to bite you.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: mattk Member since: Dec 5, 2005
  8. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

    11,853 2,465
    You know the industry you are in which is a huge bonus, why not carry on working there whilst also setting up a online shop in your spare time, you can start by buying a good selection of either single or maybe 2 or 3 items to sell and see how it goes with a online web site and operate from home.

    This will give you a stead income from your present work and you gain online experience at home
    You can then judge if there is a living either way

    I would also have a look at what items have been sold over say the last 12 months and in what numbers to get a real idea of what is dead stock
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  9. MBE2017

    MBE2017 UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,933 696
    Just echoing Mr D post, slow moving stock is anything from 5 - 20% of wholesale cost, and there is loads of it around. Hence why I mentioned removing any slow sellers from the valuation.

    In an old industry I worked in electrical wholesale, the average was six stock turns a year, ie each item sold six times per year as an average. When I took over a failing wholesaler and was given six months to turn things around, I returned slow moving stock and replaced it with exclusively very fast moving stock, ordering in anything else as required. The exercise saved 12 jobs, my stock turns went to 72 per year, nothing had dust on it after six months.

    I was lucky, I had thirty other branches I negotiated national deals for, replaced any returns at twice the value in fast moving stock to sweeten the bitter pill for the manufacturers, you might not have that luxury.

    Almost any business can be profitable, but it always comes down to buying right at the beginning. Best of luck.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: MBE2017 Member since: Feb 16, 2017
  10. webgeek

    webgeek UKBF Big Shot Full Member - Verified Business

    4,026 1,476
    Have you taken a look at what happens to dieing streets filled with 1/2 the shops closed? They become streets filled with 3/4 of the shops closed.

    While iron mongers are a specialty that people will go out of their way for - all it takes is one other shop in a prominent location doing what you do to make you an inconvenience.

    A lot of business owners suddenly become interested in retiring and selling when the accountant shows them just how unviable they have become.

    For a business owner who knows that this is going to continue being a thriving business - they might accept a % of top line revenue, rather than financed fixed sum. A form of owner finance really. Personally, I've seen this first hand with a restaurant, where we paid 9% of top line to cover the established location. Then again, we were in a high footfall, vibrant downtown mall.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: webgeek Member since: May 19, 2009
  11. Mr D

    Mr D UKBF Legend Free Member

    24,273 2,943
    We get some people setting out to buy a business where they are just buying a job. Maybe it will become a business with some effort and be worth considerably more. But in the meantime can be a job that pays £2 an hour for a 70 hour week. And pay a fortune for it.

    Stock should turn over.
    MBE2017 had 6 turns a year. Stuff that does not sell quickly enough is just tying up capital.
    You may always end up with stuff that does not shift quickly, it should be a minimal part of the business though.

    Just out of interest, does the owner ever do a stock take once a year?
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Mr D Member since: Feb 12, 2017
  12. MBE2017

    MBE2017 UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,933 696
    The failing wholesaler I took over actually had a history of two stock turns a year, the average in the whole industry was six, I managed to get it to 72 stock turns after six months by being utterly ruthless, I had no choice.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: MBE2017 Member since: Feb 16, 2017
  13. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Legend Full Member

    10,217 4,211
    £50k for the building and £40k for the stock - and it's on a failing, run-down street???

    Nobody can give you any real advice without seeing the place. If what you are saying is anything to go by, the place is probably not worth anything - except at fire-sale prices. i.e. put the entire stock on eBay at any price and rent out or sell the building.

    To put some perspective on the matter, we have a really higgledy-piggledy hardware store near us. It's more or less a collection of sheds with chainsaw repairs and screws, hammers and nails of every shape and size. It does £42m turnover and has net assets of £8m and total assets of £20m. It started as a shed in a field after the war and an industrial estate grew up around it. Their direct competition is almost exactly the same size.

    In other words, £40k of stock may be enough to cover the cost of a range of screws, nuts and bolts, but that's it. There are businesses one can start with £40k's worth of stock, but a hardware store ain't one of them (IMO).

    Tips -
    • Shops should not be on a High Street, because nobody can park there.
    • I spent about £100 yesterday on bits and pieces. All online!
    • When buying a business, you only find out what the owner failed to tell you AFTER you have bought it!
    • I know a guy who sells odd-ball medical supplies like catheters, lubricants, syringes, thermometers, orthopedic socks, stuff like that - all online! He started by importing a few boxes of catheters from Sweden. All online.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  14. Noah

    Noah UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,249 315
    Repeated for emphasis.

    I'm not as pessimistic as some other posters here though - you have given this plenty of consideration and do seem prepared to be objective - but you're not there yet. Crucial part to me is your reasoned confidence in your ideas for reviving the business, and your stamina for long hours and paltry income while you wait for your gamble to pay out.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Noah Member since: Sep 1, 2009
  15. Root 66 Woodshop

    Root 66 Woodshop UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    5,097 1,377
    If you have non-moving stock, sat on the shelf and it's over a year old... it's dead money, it's not your investment...

    Key blanks, will sit on your keyboards for years, we've got some old Rolls Royce key blanks from 1958 - they're no longer made, they're like rocking horse s*** - we could sell them for £20 each without hesitation but we don't have a buyer... therefore they're worthless.

    Your investment is the building and the company name... nothing more... you could hold £100,000 worth of random stock, but if they're not selling you don't have a business...

    You need to look at the products you have on the shelves that are not moving, and delete them from the stock valuation, you also need to look at what is moving, and look at what it'll cost to re-stock, do you have the funds to do it... if not, when it's gone... what are you going to do?

    £500 a month - sounds and is pretty much an absolute steal of a bargain, but have you factored in the running costs of the building, your salary etc etc... is the business sustainable - will you have enough to take on an additional staff member or even a business partner, someone to help you run the shop and grow the business with you...

    TBH If I had the offer, I'd go for it... but as folk have stated above, there's only really you that can justify your next step or even answer your questions.

    If you have doubts, then forget it... it won't work

    If you have that gut feeling that it's going to be the best move you've ever made... go for it... at the very least, it will fail... but at least you gave it a shot!

    Having a workshop is my ultimate goal in life, somewhere I can work from and relax in... doing what I love, but it's a long way off for me, so good luck in whatever you choose to do.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Root 66 Woodshop Member since: Nov 22, 2011
  16. Financial-Modeller

    Financial-Modeller UKBF Enthusiast Full Member

    782 272
    There are many considerations, some of which have been covered by others. A significant one relates to the property. Are you buying the freehold, or a lease? Is there accommodation above the shop? Is this included in the sale or excluded and currently rented by the current owner? What are the rights and obligations regarding other occupiers?

    Moving to your original question of valuation @glengraving , in my professional capacity, I would be suggesting you build a robust business case, and derive a valuation that is precise, with clear assumptions to withstand rigorous due diligence etc etc. But in this case I think you just need to arrive at a valuation that is acceptable to both you and the retiring owner and retains the strong relationship that you enjoy.

    On the basis that the owner has no options other than you, I suggest the purchase comprises three elements:
    1. engage a surveyor to conduct a full survey of the property, and pay the agreed GBP50k less the cost of repairs (to eliminate dampness etc) identified by the surveyor. A survey and a few quotes from tradespeople are likely to be money well spent.
    2. given the lack of stock valuation, identify the most valuable items of stock/equipment and pay either cost or an agreed value for them
    3. put the remainder of the stock including anything that has been on the premises for more than a year or so, and sell it at auction with no reserve, splitting the net proceeds between you and the current owner.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Financial-Modeller Member since: Jul 3, 2012
  17. glengraving

    glengraving UKBF Contributor Free Member

    94 40
    It's a freehold. There are unrelated flats above. It was originally listed, stock included, for 126k, then naturally reduced after a while to a more reasonable figure.
    In fairness, the business was never listed as a property alone, only as a going concern. The prospective buyer last year negotiated down to 50k for the property alone. Perhaps it would have gathered more interest if it was actually listed as such.

    50k sounds about right, in fairness. IIRC, the charity shop a few doors down sold at auction for the same figure a few months ago.

    The prospective buyer who pulled out instead bought a significantly smaller unit around the corner for 30k [his business doesn't require the space so his interest in this place was baffling anyway].

    I'd just want to deduct whatever the estimated cost of certain repairs is from the total.
    True, but I don't think I'll accumulate much capital by working a meagre-wage job for another five years either. I don't have much to lose, and this is a gamble with my savings and energy, but the worst case scenario isn't too scary either.

    I'm focusing on that number, but I don't really know what to do with it. It puts the total cost being asked in perspective, but I've never bought a 'going concern' before.

    My next step is to ask my Credit Union what my chances are of getting their maximum personal loan - I've been saving with them for a while, hopefully that counts for something.

    Small repayments going on for over a decade is the thing that concerns me [just phobia of commitment, not lack of confidence], but it doesn't seem to phase the seller, despite his years. Perhaps it's the knowledge that there'll be something coming in for his family in the event of the unfortunate. I'm being offered good terms, for sure.

    Because my home isn't large enough to run the type of business I'm interested in from.
    And my suggestions over time of how we could bring different services to the business, expand the workshop etc, have fallen on deaf ears - the vibe is that he's not interested in changing the place, I can do what I want when it's mine.

    Not sure what that means - does it mean a cut of profits or of turnover?

    Indeed. Which is why I'm glad of our competition on the street - it brings people to the area at least, it's just a case of continually differentiating our product/services from them. There are a few empty units, and I blame landlords expecting too much in rent and preferring them to sit empty for that. I've got a florist friend who would love to move to the empty unit next to our shop [same rough size] but the landlord is looking for 1k per month, which is steep.

    No, I think the schedule is once every 33 years. So not long now.
    I think we're comparing apples and pears here. Think less of an industrial operation and more fork handles and bill hooks. Turnover of 93k.

    Anything I don't know about this business at this point would only be through phenomenal ignorance on my part.
    Indeed, online is the future. The time I spend waiting for customers on slow days - where I have enough time stood here to craft lengthy diatribes on internet forums - would be better spent building an online presence and processing online sales from where I stand.
    Mind, some things are still well suited to a brick and mortar store. We drew over 100 quid in our first hour this morning, mostly from key cutting and watch batteries/straps - services not so simple to get online. They get people through the door.

    Indeed - having an exhaustive, bordering on ridiculous, stock of key blanks is something that keeps us ahead of our local peers [other key cutting shops phone us up for advice]. But the obscure old keys are not something I would place monetary value on, due to the fact that half of them will never sell and the other half I wont be able to find when I need to :p

    The best way to measure the age of stock is with a dust-chart. I don't think restocking would present a cashflow issue - I managed to run the place day-to-day for over three weeks with no restocking while the gaffer was on a holiday, and after three weeks I wasn't losing too many sales. We generally buy in small amounts of what sells from cash and carrys, unless there's a good bulk deal.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: glengraving Member since: Jan 24, 2019
  18. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Legend Full Member

    10,217 4,211
    You may remember in another thread in which you posted, a posting from someone who had taken over a restaurant from their father. They had worked in that restaurant for over ten years - but when they actually ran the place, they discovered all kinds of gotchas, inducing a raft of unpaid bills!

    There's nearly always something! A guy I know sold his 100-man manufacturing plant in Manchester to a US company. MBAs and lawyers crawled all over the place and through all the paperwork in an orgy of due-diligence, but failed to notice that all the designs were licenced and those licenses were due to run out shortly. They spent a seven-figure sum, buying practically nothing!

    My friend on the other hand, spent a six-figure sum on a nice house with a big garden!

    Brilliant! (eBay beckons!)
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  19. Mr D

    Mr D UKBF Legend Free Member

    24,273 2,943
    Credit union may not be a great interest rate. My local one years ago had an APR about 5% above my bank for a loan and size of loan depended on balance held and savings made.

    Just be aware that any loan you get has to be paid for from the profits - same as the lease and all your other bills.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Mr D Member since: Feb 12, 2017
  20. Mark T Jones

    Mark T Jones UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    4,792 1,806
    Whilst out walking the dog (in the rain) my thoughts were remarkably similar to those of @Financial-Modeller

    At this moment, you are in a pretty good position - no pressure to buy, nobody is going to steal this from underneath you (and on the offchance they do, it might be for the best).

    Whilst there is clearly some respect and loyalty, this must be a business purchase - something to be reflected in both price and in formalising any agreement reached - these things have a habit of going horribly wrong!

    Rather than costing out repairs, get a valuer to provide a 90 ERRP (AKA auction or fire sale) valuation. This is the true worth of the building at this moment!

    Cut a deal immediately with the owner to offload all dusty stock - split the profits or whatever - as this is a liability rather than an asset

    With regards to loans, to repeat as long as you are clear you will have the cashflow to repay then Start Up Loans is likely to be your best avenue. There is absolutely no point comparing to bank rates, this really isn't a bank proposition.
    Posted: Jun 12, 2019 By: Mark T Jones Member since: Nov 4, 2015
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