June 29, 2009

Carrefour Restores Low-Price Strategy In Hypermarkets To Fight Discounters - WSJ.com

Six months after Lars Olofsson became chief executive of French retailer Carrefour SA, his efforts to tame the problems that felled two of his predecessors are on display at a huge "hypermarket" south of Paris.


June 28, 2009

June 24, 2009

Curated marketplace shares one product story each day - Springwise

Product life stories can be used to demonstrate sustainability—as in
the case of Made-By, which we just recently covered—but they also
simply make new products more interesting. Such authenticity-boosting
status stories are at the heart of the Daily Grommet, a curated
marketplace that highlights one such tale every day.


June 17, 2009

Tracking & tracing fashion brands' product stories - Springwise

Vendors of T-shirts, jewellery and wool clothing—not to mention
bananas, coffee and spinach—have been using product life stories for
some time now to demonstrate their efforts at sustainability. Whereas
most such efforts have been individual ones, however, Made-By offers a
more central approach to transparency by tracking and documenting the
efforts of all participating fashion brands.


Random acts of kindness for Hyatt's most loyal guests - Springwise

Members of Hyatt's Gold Passport loyalty program already enjoy
numerous benefits when they visit one of the company's hotels. Soon,
however, they'll also benefit from a new initiative at the company to
deliver random acts of kindness.


P&G Acquires Male-Grooming Brand Zirh

In a move that signals to competitors that beauty is indeed the new
area of focus for incoming Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald, the
world's largest advertiser today announced it has acquired another
prestige male-grooming brand: Zirh.


June 14, 2009

China's luxury market can be tough to crack | LUXUO Luxury Blog

China may become the world's biggest luxury market in some years but
cultural challenges to win customers' hearts for certain types of
products remain, industry executives said this week.


June 11, 2009

For Chocolate Bunny, It's Still Legal Limbo - WSJ.com

BRUSSELS -- Europe's highest court bounced a chocolate-bunny case back to the Austrian Supreme Court with a ruling Thursday that still left open whether Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spr√ľngli AG is entitled to a trademark for its foil-wrapped Easter treat.


It all Happens So Suddenly - WSJ.com

Viral events on the Web often are short-lived. Their effects may not be.


Europe's High Court Tries On a Bunny Suit Made of Chocolate - WSJ.com

This morning in Luxembourg, five crimson-robed and white-scarved judges of the European Union's highest court will issue a ruling on this most gnawing question: Can you trademark a chocolate bunny?


June 9, 2009

(BN) Georgetown Classmates Ditch Wall Street Path for Salad Bars, Frozen Yogurt

June 9 (Bloomberg) -- When Nicolas Jammet and two of his Georgetown University friends decided to pass up careers on Wall Street to open a salad and frozen yogurt restaurant in Washington, potential investors and landlords laughed at them.

"They said, 'You're going to close. What are you doing?'" Jammet recalled.

Now, Jammet and business partners Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru are having the last laugh. Two years after cutting the ribbon on their first Sweetgreen in swanky Georgetown, the trio of 24-year-olds just opened a third restaurant in suburban Bethesda, Maryland. They're now scouting sites for a fourth Sweetgreen in the D.C. area and are talking about going national with their environmentally friendly, gastronomically healthy eateries.

"We created something from nothing," Jammet said. "We work 15 hour days and it doesn't feel like work because we're passionate about creating a brand."

Opening restaurants is always a risky business -- and never more so than during a recession, when people tend to stay home to eat. A recent study by AlixPartners LLP, a global business- advisory firm, showed that up to 40 percent of U.S. restaurant chains could suffer severe financial problems in the next year.

So far, Sweetgreen is bucking the trend.

Recouping Investments

Neman said the group's financial backers -- they include former college classmates and Joseph Bastianich, business partner of celebrity chef Mario Batali -- are already close to recouping their original investments. (It cost $1.85 million to build the first three restaurants, 80 percent of which came from investors and the rest from the three founders, Neman said.)

Self-described "food and music snobs," the three college buddies said they started Sweetgreen because they had a hard time finding restaurants with nutritious, affordable food in Washington.

"At dinner one Saturday night, my friends and I were sitting there talking and we decided a salad place would kill," Neman said.

The first Sweetgreen is on M Street, across the street from the apartment Neman and Ru shared during their senior year at Georgetown. The 500-square-foot takeout restaurant cost $170,000 to build and grossed $1.3 million in its first year, Neman said. (The other two Sweetgreens have small seating areas.)

Skateboarder, DJ

Despite their success, the former classmates still act like college students. Neman rides his skateboard (made from recycled bamboo) everywhere and Ru moonlights as a deejay. Jammet, whose parents owned New York's famed La Caravelle restaurant before it closed in 2004, engages in passionate debates about the worthiness of serving frozen yogurt in ice-cream cones and adding falafel to the salad bar.

Neman said their youth has actually been an asset in the restaurant business.

"It was our naivete -- not knowing how difficult it would be" Neman said.

Neman quit his job as an associate at the Bain & Co. consulting firm in New York in November 2008 to join his friends full time in the restaurant business. Jammet, who interned at UBS's private-wealth management division in Washington, says he's happy he didn't pursue a traditional business career.

"If you do the entrepreneurship thing right away after college you have nothing to lose," he said. "The minute you enter that corporate world you're not leaving. The minute you get your 401(k) and health insurance, it's over."

Bowling Alley Seats

All the Sweetgreens run on wind energy, use biodegradable utensils and compost all their garbage. The wooden tables and seats are made from pre-1980s bowling alleys and the takeout menus are lined with real wildflower seeds. You can buy $12 reusable canvas bags and $18 "non-leaking and toxin-free alternatives to plastic bottles."

On a recent Friday night, dance music was blaring on the stereo at the Sweetgreen on Washington's Dupont Circle. It was so loud that the woman taking my order had to strain to hear me.

I sampled a pair of $9 salads, the tangy Bondi (grilled chicken, avocado, corn, hearts of palm and wasabi peas) and the run-of-the-mill Chic P (grilled chicken, cucumbers, roasted red and yellow peppers, chickpeas and garlic pita chips, drenched with too much dressing).

Salad Bar

Building your own salad is the best option. The ingredients range from humdrum broccoli and red onions to candied walnuts and roasted almonds. The dressings are designed for the yoga- loving crowd, from pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette to mandarin sesame ginger.

The frozen yogurt reminded me of the popular Pinkberry. It's all natural, fat free and more like a cup of Dannon than Ben & Jerry's. It's even better when topped with sweet agave syrup, blueberries and chocolate chips.

Last month, the Sweetgreen group launched the "Sweetflow Mobile," a version of the traditional ice-cream truck that goes to baseball games and parks around Washington. You can pinpoint the truck's current location via Twitter, which should appeal to the always up-to-date Sweetgreen crowd.

(Kate Andersen is a reporter for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

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June 3, 2009

Reputation Management: The Other Side of Social Media Marketing

So, you've Twittered about 20 times today, updated your Facebook page
twice, LinkedIn on 10 groups and generally increased your marketing
circle four fold. Excellent. You've got the communicating side down to
a science.

Now what about the reciprocal side? How are you at receiving
information from all these shiny new contacts? If your marketing plan
is rock solid, chances are pretty good that at least some of the
chatter going on in the ether (-net, that is) is about you and your
brand. What are you using to monitor this invaluable feedback?


June 1, 2009

(BN) Designers Tout Luxury for Less With $3,500 Vera Wang Gown, $300 Coach Bag

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Designers Tout Luxury for Less With $300 Coach Bags

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Vera Wang and her fellow designers are getting a reality check.

Wang, known for her $9,500 wedding gowns, has cut the average retail prices for her bridal wear by almost a third as shoppers become increasingly cost-conscious in the recession. Coach Inc. is selling more handbags for less than $300, and Saks Inc. dispatched managers to Europe to help suppliers come up with lower-priced products for its stores.

The moves are part of an industrywide push to expand a tier of luxury that uses simpler designs and less costly materials after years of ballooning prices. Sales of brands that cater to the wealthy may drop 10 percent this year after holding steady at 170 billion euros ($240 billion) in 2008, according to estimates from luxury adviser Bain & Co. in Milan.

"The luxury consumer now wants to understand why the price is what it is," said Michael Fink, a consultant in New York and former women's fashion director for Saks. "It's not going to return to the hype and the waiting lists" for designer goods.

Between 2005 and 2007, the average wholesale price of luxury goods increased 10 percent to 15 percent each year, Fink estimates. A shrinking global economy is reversing that trend. While some shoppers still will buy at the highest end of the luxury range, more consumers will balk at cocktail dresses that cost more than $2,000 and shoes above $1,000, he said.

Wang Gowns

"It has definitely made us all reconsider what we're doing, how we're doing it, and who we are trying to reach as a customer," designer Wang said at a May 20 event in New York. "In a way, it has been a reality check for all of us."

The average price of a Vera Wang Spring 2010 wedding gown is $3,800, with nine dresses under $3,500. Previously, the average price of a gown was $5,500, Elizabeth Musmanno, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Thakoon, the Thai-born couturier whose bold-print dresses are favored by Michelle Obama, started selling a less costly second line in stores in May. Liz Claiborne Inc., based in New York, is bringing in lower-priced goods at Kate Spade and Juicy Couture, its most expensive brands.

"The luxury consumer wins," Liz Claiborne Chief Executive Officer Bill McComb said in a May 21 interview.

Liz Claiborne had dropped 75 percent in New York Stock Exchange composite trading in the 12 months before today, while Coach fell 29 percent. Liz shares rose 27 cents, or 6 percent, to $4.77 at 11:01 a.m. today. Coach advanced $1.99, or 7.6 percent, to $28.26.

'Intelligent Experiment'

For the industry, the ideal scenario is that the new goods will encourage consumers to buy more, which would help the sellers hold on to market share, said Luca Solca, a luxury analyst. The danger is that they will cannibalize their own higher-priced sales, he said.

"It is an interesting and intelligent experiment worth trying," said Solca, who is based in London with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

In the short-term, the effort to generate demand has come at a cost to profit margins, Thakoon and Coach executives said.

Designer Zac Posen says he manages to avoid compromising both on quality and profitability by designing earlier to allow more time for better pricing of materials. He is sometimes using stock textiles instead of developing his own fabrics, and on one gown reduced the volume of the skirt, he said.

Posen has created more daywear, with dresses priced at $990, while still making $10,000 couture pieces.

"It is a daily push and fight to stay alive," Posen said in a May 26 telephone interview. "I don't think it's about dumbing down clothing, but making more intelligent, more focused and more wearable clothes on a fast delivery time at more accessible prices."

Eel-Skin Jacket

Demand will switch to goods that are true luxury, in terms of quality and craftsmanship, from those that are merely status symbols, according to Fink, the fashion consultant.

Fink identified examples of luxury value at Neiman Marcus Group Inc.'s Bergdorf Goodman store in New York. Among other items, he pointed to a $1,900 Oscar de La Renta black lurex tweed motorcycle jacket hanging next to a $3,590 red eel skin version.

At New York-based Saks, general merchandising managers traveled to Europe for 10 days in recent weeks to meet "with brand after brand after brand with ideas of how to exploit each of their businesses within a new pricing model," President Ron Frasch said on a May 19 conference call.

Coach, also based in New York, has begun to rebalance its collections so that at least 50 percent of its handbag choices will fall into the $200 to $300 range, compared with 30 percent previously, Chief Executive Officer Lew Frankfort said on an April 21 conference call. Sharper pricing has pressured margins, Chief Financial Officer Michael Devine said.

Thakoon's second-line "Addition" dresses sell for $600 to $800, compared with $900 to $1,200 for the main collection. Thakoon doesn't want to compromise on materials, and can ultimately make up the lost profit margin with volume, said Maria Tomei Borromeo, Thakoon's chief executive officer.

"We have to adjust," Borromeo said in a May 19 telephone interview. "We have to hit these sharp price points and eat the costs, until the business grows."

To contact the reporter on this story: Cotten Timberlake in Washington at ctimberlake@bloomberg.net

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