Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Gregg sees Republican victory in November as keeping Obama in check


SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/GREGGIf Republicans are able to capture either chamber of the U.S. Congress in the November election, they will use that power to try to block any further expansion of the federal government by the Obama administration, Republican Senator Judd Gregg said on Wednesday.

“I think clearly going into the next Congress, if you have one or the other houses controlled by the Republican party, you’re going to have much more financial discipline, there’s no question of that,” Gregg, who is from New Hampshire and is retiring after the election, told the Reuters Washington Summit.

Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate in the last two election cycles, in part because they strayed from their position of holding the line on federal spending during the Bush administration. As the economy slowly recovers from the worst recession in decades, the deficit and the mounting debt have become major themes in the 2010 congressional elections.

“We won’t be able to set the agenda in the sense that the president sets the agenda, but we will at least be able to control the expansiveness of the government and slow the rate of growth and start to raise the issues that are important for being fiscally disciplined,” Gregg said, noting that “we can’t overpromise because we don’t control the presidency.”

Check Out Line: World Cup boost to Europe sales peetering out


SOCCERCheck out how European retailers are a little downcast now about the ”World Cup” effect.

France had a spectacular flameout, and Germany, Spain and England have been struggling, leading experts to tell the Reuters Global Retail Summit that they were less optimistic about the boost sales could get from the World Cup mania sweeping the Old Continent.

Old media still works for advertising- Newell Rubbermaid marketing chief


newspaperWho says advertising spending is heading in only direction: the net? A bunch of retailers such as Zales Jewelers and VF (they own The North Face, among other brands) have said in recent months they would focus some more on TV advertising. They’re not the only fans of traditional media among consumer product companies.

The marketing chief of Newell Rubbermaid, the maker of  of Sharpies pens among other products, told the Reuters Global Retail Summit that TV is still the best medium.

Public school student? Bring your own supplies


schoolboyI have no children and I left the public school system in 1991, so perhaps it’s not news to some of you that parents of public school children are paying for things that we never would have dreamed we’d pay for when I was in school. To OfficeMax Chief Operating Officer Sam Martin, who visited our Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Wednesday, this stuff is no surprise at all because he’s the one selling it to the parents.

On his short list of products that parents in some school districts are paying for: markers, chalk, tissues, paper towels.

‘That’s a cheap suit!’ isn’t a compliment


suitMemo to the men of the United States of America, including myself: it pays to invest in a suit, and it pays even more to invest in a few. When I was growing up, my father and other older guys told me that if I spent more money on a small number of suits, they would last a long time.

Apparently much of the rest of America’s men have decided that durability and classic style count for less now that their wallets have gotten a little lighter in the past few years. Perry Ellis Chairman and CEO George Feldenkreis, speaking at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit, said that men are wearing fewer suits these days. “Not only that,” he said. “Men are buying cheaper suits.”

America: It’s in your country and it’s feeding your culture -Iconix CEO


The aura of the land of Britney Spears, Madonna and everyone’s favorite cartoon beagle — Snoopy – helps move products in growing markets like China, according to Iconix CEO Neil Cole.

Iconix, which bought the Peanuts brand earlier this year owns, licenses and markets all-American brands such as Candie’s, London Fog, Material Girl and Rockawear. And the company is betting that U.S. names will help bring international sales to 30 percent of its overall business within three years, up from 6 percent now.

Barbie does Beijing: The adventures of a Malibu girl in China


BarbieModern day national influence, some smart people like to argue, spreads through the “soft power” of brand appeal and attraction rather than the “hard power” of coercion. In China, one avatar of U.S.  soft power tends to be trim and busty, and come with blue eyes and a long mane of blonde hair. Her name is Barbie, she is made of plastic, she was born in Malibu and Chinese girls want to be like her.

Barbie comes in all sorts of versions, according to the man who introduces her to her foreign friends, Mattel’s international president, Bryan Stockton. Still, in China, the No. 1-selling Barbie doll is the sunny surfer girl who cruised across the Pacific from southern California to bring millions of young Chinese girls a new vision of the world, not to mention themselves.

The Nina Kampler manifesto: don’t waste space, buy less stuff


shoppingSometimes it’s refreshing to meet people like Hilco Real Estate’s Nina Kampler. They work up to their eyeballs in finance, debt, bankruptcy and the business of making and salvaging profits, yet think that there is more to life than money and private enterprise.

Kampler, who runs the retailer real estate group, visited us at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Monday, and talked about all sorts of business-y topics that we love to write about on our wire. But on this blog, I’ll highlight one or two of her more interesting thoughts about public spaces and how people shop — ideas that seem to exist in opposition to the profit motives of, well, everyone who’s in business.

Ethan Allen fills up its (tastefully upholstered) bench

The recession wasn’t kind to Ethan Allen’s manufacturing plant workers, but now that the economy is recovering, so are the employment rolls. Last year, the Danbury, Connecticut-based furniture maker and retailer slashed its manufacturing workforce by about 30 percent, Farooq Kathwari, the company’s chairman and chief executive, told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit in New York on Monday. That included closing a plant or cutting jobs in Chino, California; Andover, Maine;  Orleans, Vermont and elsewhere.

I could not pinpoint exactly how many jobs he was talking about, and Kathwari did not immediately have the numbers handy, but according to the Ethan Allen website, it looks like they lost 65 workers in Chino and about 320 in Maine and Vermont. Meanwhile, the company said in 2009 that it planned to add some 300 more jobs to its larger facility in  North Carolina, where it had 540 employees as of a year ago.  The published numbers suggest that Ethan Allen cut a little more than 40 percent of its manufacturing staff, while Kathwari at today’s interview said it was about a third. Either way, he told us, “In about six months, about half have been added back.”

Q+A with Corcoran CEO Pamela Liebman

Pamela Liebman

Pamela Liebman

I sat down with Corcoran CEO Pamela Liebman after she came in for the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit and spoke with her about how she got into the real estate business and why she’s stuck with it for so long.

Where did you grow up in New York?
Staten Island. I went to Curtis High School

Do you live still in New York?
I live in Warren, New Jersey and have another home in Miami, Florida.