Taking Stock: Chamberlain’s New Gig… CIT in Ch. 11…

CHAMBERLAIN’S NEW ROLE: Former Stride Rite Corp. CEO David Chamberlain has formed a restructuring and crisis management firm called Eaglepoint Advisors LLC, based in San Francisco. Eaglepoint, founded by Chamberlain and two of his longtime business contacts, Peter Harris and Joe Alouf, operates as an affiliate of well-known retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates and focuses on helping distressed firms in the middle-market retail and consumer goods sectors. According to Chamberlain, crisis management is a service Kurt Salmon had shown interest in offering, and through various contacts, the partnership between the two firms was formed. As such, Eaglepoint will tap into Kurt Salmon’s knowledge base to help clients as well as to provide access to resources and funding. “For us, [the partnership with Kurt Salmon] is a real plus because they have a lot of credibility in the retail consumer space and we have access to their 400-plus professionals.” Harris, a 30-year retail veteran, has run firms such as FAO Schwartz and West Marine and has served on the boards of Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. and Mrs. Fields. Alouf is formerly SVP at Prudential Capital and has been involved in numerous restructurings over a 20-year career. Following his retirement from Stride Rite in July 2007, Chamberlain was executive chairman at stationery company Papyrus for one year. — MEREDITH DERBY

CIT in Chapter 11: Now that factoring giant CIT Group has officially filed a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Manhattan federal court, footwear execs said they don’t expect any major disruptions to business. However, the bankruptcy process is always filled with unknowns, and a reorganization has the potential to reduce retailer inventories, execs said. “I don’t think it will interfere with business in any significant way,” said Chinese Laundry CEO Bob Goldman. “[The factoring unit of the company] is a profitable business. They do have a bigger debt load than a year ago, but their profits are there.” Still, Weyco Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Tom Florsheim Jr. said CIT’s new status could hamstring the flow of merchandise into retail stores. “They’ve been struggling [for a long time], so some of their ability to factor is reduced, and nobody is sure how the bankruptcy is going to affect that,” he said. “For vendors, [it could] hamper the amount they’ll ship to retailers who are a credit risk. So it might have an effect on how much merchandise retailers can bring into stores.” — WAYNE NIEMI

SHOES BOOST RALPH LAUREN: Footwear was one of Ralph Lauren Corp.’s strongest performers during the firm’s second quarter when profits rose 10 percent, despite a decline in sales. “During a period of time, when department stores were trimming their open-to-buy and eliminating resources, we’ve successfully established ourselves as a true footwear resource and secured space in hundreds of department store doors for our Lauren brand. And we have been getting strong reorders this season,” Roger Farah, the firm’s chairman and CEO, said on a post-earnings conference call. Ralph Lauren footwear is found at high-end retailers globally, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Galleries Lafayette, Farah said. On RalphLauren.com, Farah said “solid growth performance” occurred in footwear, which was among several categories boasting the strongest gains on the Website. Looking ahead, he said, “This holiday season will teach us a lot. … Orders for spring ’10 — placed in July — were still cautious. Most retailers felt that if they are [going to run] short, they can chase sales a little bit. They planned carefully to get through holiday, and in January and February, they’ll evaluate how they feel about fall ’10.” In the three months ended Sept. 26, Ralph Lauren net income rose to $177.5 million, or $1.75 a diluted share, from $161 million, or $1.58, in the year-ago quarter. Earnings per share exceeded analysts’ consensus estimates by 44 cents. Revenues fell to $1.37 billion from $1.43 billion. Sales at RalphLauren.com posted a 12 percent gain. — M.D. & VICKI M. YOUNG


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