Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

iSkyscraper? If you were Apple, why not?

If you had paid $3.5 billion for a skyscraper named after bankrupt automaker General Motors, wouldn’t you want a tenant to come in and pay you another few million to rename the building, with the added bonus of giving it a name not associated with a failed recipient of government largesse?

Boston Properties, which bought the building last year, located at the southeast corner of Central Park in Manhattan, is not known to be shopping around the naming rights to the building, but a top real estate broker in Manhattan, known as the “Queen of the Skyscraper” has one suggestion if ever it is : Apple.

The GM Building is home to Apple’s sleek flagship store, well known to the hordes of tourists and New Yorkers alike, and the maker of the iPhone enjoys top brand name recognition and public affection that Apple is a logical choice.

“If I were Steve Jobs I would be negotiating now,” said Darcy Stacom, the CB Richard Ellis broker who handled the transaction. (She hastened to add she has no knowledge of whether Apple is or might be interested.)

Retail in recession: bottoms, bananas and breeding

So, what did we learn from executives in the hard-hit luxury and main street retail sectors this week at the Reuters summits?

The idea of a “new normal” age of lower consumerism was in vogue, with many executives expecting consumers to continue to be thrifty for some time. Conspicuous consumption may be dead, they say.

Tiffany unlikely to sell lawn chairs

Tiffany & Co has no intention of selling garden furniture and risking brand dilution, steering clear of the product mix of bankrupt rival jeweler Fortunoff , CEO Michael Kowalski hinted this week at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in New York.

Fortunoff filed for bankruptcy in February in part because of dismal holiday sales in 2008 and the high expense of expanding into Lord & Taylor stores, and was bought by liquidators, marking the end of an 87-year iconic presence in the New York area during which it was known for its jewelry and home furnishing.  It had been bought by Lord & Taylor’s owner NRDC Equity Partners, in March 2008 for $100 million.

The savvy shopper is here

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Liz Claiborne CEO William McComb has noticed that certain shoppers are getting smarter.  Hear what he had to say at the Reuters Global Retail Summit about the new savvy shopper.

(Reuters photo)

Using the recession to teach kids key life lessons

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Nina Kampler said yes to a pair of sneakers, but no to a new prom dress.

Kampler, executive vice president of strategic retail and corporate solutions at Hilco, said she has cut back on some spending during the recession, but hasn’t skimped on items that her four children really need or experiences that educate or enrich their lives.

While the other members of her family nixed the annual Spring vacation to a resort, they will be taking a trip to Africa this summer. “One is an educational and growing experience, the other is sitting in the sun. It’s very different,” Kampler said during the Reuters Global Retail Summit in New York.

Your skin care for the cost of a cup of coffee

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Estee Lauder is doing its best to ensure its customers’ skin routines are not falling victim to the recession.

The makeup and skin care maker is offering more products at its cheapest prices, and having its sales people pitch the value of its merchandise to the customers that visit its makeup counters in department stores. 

Where are you spending?

This week we’re getting inside views from some of the biggest names in retail…from high-end fashion houses like Hermes to department store chain J.C. Penney. Optimism among those in the industry about a turnaround toward the end of 2009 springs eternal…but what are you seeing? Where are you spending? Or, are you trading down? Ditching Saks and heading to Target? Barclays retail analyst Bob Drbul says the key for consumers in the current economic environment, no matter where they shop, is “value.” Click here to hear his thoughts:

Are you changing your buying behavior? from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

Jonathan Adler’s big banana hit

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Want to know what quirky housewares are selling during the recession?  Designer Jonathan Adler talks about one item that has taken off here.

(Photo by Dan Wilby, for Jonathan Adler)

Gay rights a key concern for Jonathan Adler

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As a designer, Jonathan Adler is not too worried about the recession crimping sales of his home goods.  As a newlywed, one issue that does concern him is the rights of gay couples.
 
Adler married Simon Doonan, the creative director at Barneys, in San Francisco last September.

As Adler told the Reuters Global Luxury Summit, he is “just trying to get my civil rights.”  He said most people do not understand rights that gay couples – even those married under state law – do not have.

No more green shoots, but lots of bottoms

From the start, “green shoots of recovery” was not necessarily the British government’s wisest choice of words and after a few months of being on everyone’s lips, has given way to a more lowly metaphor.
Business Minister Baroness Vadera raised the hackles of the political opposition in January when she spotted “a few green shoots” on a day of large-scale job losses and collapsing share prices.
Evidence of economic revival is still elusive, but there are ever louder hints that we have at least seen the worst — or bottomed, to use the mot du jour.
Bottom as a noun and a verb was widely brandished by speakers attending Reuters Global Energy Summit this week, who based on their analysis on a slight increase in available credit, a tentative pick up in energy demand and rising commodity prices.
OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri has an interest in spotting the kind of confidence that has driven oil prices up from a low below $35 a barrel in December to almost double that.
“I have no doubt that the recession has bottomed out, but is it a V shape or a U shape?” he asked during a Reuters summit session.
Others were less convinced and the most bearish of them all was a representative of the very oversupplied tanker market, where freight rates have sunk to their lowest levels in decades, with not a green shoot in sight.
“We have seen lower than the bottom,” said Erik Ranheim, a manager at oil tanker association Intertanko.

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