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Financo Dinner Draws Retail Heavyweights

Call it hustle and flow. That was the game at the 18th Annual Merchandising Industry Chief Executives seminar and dinner, hosted by Financo Inc. at the Harmonie Club...

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He was quick to note that, in fashion and retail, "brands matter."

When asked for their favorite brands, other than their own, three of the five panel participants cited Apple. Brooks liked Cathay Pacific because it provides first-class service to all passengers. Gold has a preference for Apple, BMW, Loro Piana and Chanel. Hanson cited Apple, as did Jóhannesson. Ullman also liked Apple, but added Louis Vuitton, noting that it is a brand that "never goes on sale and it has a 40 percent operating profit."

Elsewhere in the room, Crate & Barrel's Gordon Segal said 2007 was "an amazing year with nine great months. All of a sudden, Christmas disappeared. One of the great things about this dinner is that you realize all of the problems of retail aren't unique to you. There seems to be a worldwide slow up."

"I'm the neophyte in the room," said Lord & Taylor chairman Richard Baker. In the 14 months since his NRDC Equity Partners firm bought L&T, he said he's received plenty of advice from many who were on hand. "I'd really appreciate more help and having someone tell me what I'm supposed to do in a recession. It's my first one."

A bit of wisdom came from Matt Rubel, ceo of Payless ShoeSource. If you provide shoppers with "freshness and new ideas, they are still coming," he said. "Focus on excitement. You can't focus on price."

— Vicki M. Young, David Moin, Lisa Lockwood and Jean Palmieri
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