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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ruling Affects Adoption Agencies

The Virginia Board of Social Services made a decision this week that setback efforts to allow communities throughout the state to create families through adoption. In addition, the board showed signs of disregard for interests of children within the foster care system of Virginia.

The board decided against new proposed regulations that would end discrimination based on sexual orientation by licensed child adoption agencies. Opponents argued that these new regulations conflicted with Virgina state policy and faith-based child welfare agencies.

These state officials and agencies neglected to take into consideration that Virginia’s foster care system is in desperate need of waiting adoptive families. Currently, there are over 6,000 children in the state's foster care system and over 1,500 children waiting for adoption. Additionally, more than 45% of the youth in the system are transferred through three or more placements and currently 32% are forced out of the system at age 18 without ever finding a home.

In addition, adoption agencies, even those with religious affiliations like the Grand Rapids adoption agency Adoption Associates Inc., have one overriding obligation. That is to act in the best interests of each individual child. All domestic adoption agencies must judge the quality of prospective parents based solely on their character, their capabilities as a parent, and their capacity to provide a loving home.

Virtually every established and professional child welfare organization supports the rights of qualified gay and lesbian married couples as well as individuals to foster and adopt. Over 30 years of scientific research confirms that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have the same advantages and same expectations for health, social and psychological adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Supporters work to sustain best of brownfield tax credits

Expert urban developers and local officials throughout Michigan are quietly working to maintain key aspects of what they believe to be the most significant economic program for rebuilding struggling Michigan cities, a tax credit for the redevelopment of areas that at one time were home to deserted factories or old industrial complexes.

Anxiety grips developers of projects, such as Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, as they wait to see what lawmakers will do. Parties supporting the Presbyterian Villages are trying to finalize the finances needed to build the $38 million redevelopment project in a Detroit neighborhood. The Villages would provide housing, health care and other community services for the elderly.

While the project's closing date nears, Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, has spiked concerns after proposing to omit such tax credits for brownfield redevelopment, historic renovation and other improvements.

"Everyone's kind of standing and waiting," said Brian Carnaghi, Presbyterian Villages' senior vice president of finance and business development. "This one is a little bit out of our control."

The proposed changes Snyder put forward are still being debated in the budget process. He added that businesses, whether they are in the building industry or auto transport industry, will be better off if the state takes on a 6 percent corporate income tax on corporations with shareholders rather than hosting several incentive programs that don't always yield jobs and can be quite costly.

State officials advise that current commitments to projects will be honored with credit. They plan to work with project applicants during the transition phase.

However urban development experts and supports argue that the brownfield redevelopment credit must be kept if economically challenged cities are to be revived.

"If you want to see... revitalization of some of our core urban areas, where you have existing infrastructure and old, unused buildings, you have to continue to use tools like this," said John Byl, chair of the Michigan chapter of National Brownfield Association and a Grand Rapids lawyer. "If they simply eliminated the program or minimized it so drastically . . . we would see downtown urban development come to a screeching halt."

Byl, who is currently working with the Snyder administration on creating a new brownfield program, said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the state can "continue some of the great achievements with the current program."

He said brownfield credits have been crucial to the success of several statewide projects, including the restoration of Detroit's Book-Cadillac hotel, reviving a vacant, century-old high school in Grand Rapids now the Union Square Condominiums, and redeveloping the lawn care and long abandoned complex of the Traverse City State Hospital into a residential and retail community called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

One concern now being addressed is how much of a budget should be allocated to such redevelopment credits. Initially, Snyder proposed a $50 million appropriation that would include Michigan Economic Growth Authority incentives, however he has noted that amount could see an increase of as much as $100 million. Some growth incentives could indirectly help companies ranging from the car shipping business to real estate agencies.

"He understands the feedback" from economic development leaders throughout the state, said Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. "It's unclear whether we'll be able to do as many projects as we did in the past, but we're willing to make some movement in the amount of money available."

One critical component, Finney claimed, is straying away from unlimited tax credits in a budget-sensitive state and setting aside certain sums of money.

"There are projects that have been incentivized as high as 80 percent," Finney said. "When it takes that level and there's very little private investment, there's something that's fundamentally wrong."

Finney added that the governor's proposed 6 percent corporate income tax could also aid many would-be Apex homes developers. If lawmakers approve replacing the Michigan Business Tax with the new tax, an estimated 95,000 businesses would not be required to file a state business tax return, even if they're constructing Raleigh homes.

"We now have a lower starting point for companies so the need to incentivize them at a really high level is reduced," Finney said.

But Detroit Economic Growth Corp.'s vice president of board administration, Art Papapanos, is worried that several projects in the city's works will not earn state approval for brownfield credits, hindering progressive efforts to redevelop Detroit, one of the state's largest and economically challenged cities.

"You cannot expect (developers) to spend money to on a what-if basis," he said. "I don't know where we'll be in line."

The Detroit project of Presbyterian Villages, which was among eight projects this month to receive approval from the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, now waits for state economic development officials to give the green light to begin the car hauling.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Puppet Shows Are Back In Demand

In front of a group of children, puppet shows can present fables with a moral of the story, teach different subjects using puppetry as the medium, and entertain the children with skits, comedy, and music. Puppet shows, the traditional children's entertainment, are back in demand with the same techniques but with a host of new stories, contemporary topics, and of course dolls and puppets that attract today’s generation.

Says one puppeteer, “From birthday parties to traditional events and even at the summer camps, the demand for puppet shows is increasing day by day. In fact, many of the parents are preferring to go for puppet shows as compared to magic shows just because of the storytelling aspect involved in it.”

For any art to survive, changing with the times is something very important, and children's birthday puppet shows are no different. Today, puppet shows are also a common feature in schools, library shows, and other events featuring kid's entertainment. One such place that holds regular puppet shows has recorded an increase in the number of children of all ages watching the shows. Surprisingly, a huge population of senior citizens has been coming to watch the puppet shows.

Another area where puppet shows are making their mark is social awareness. As another puppeteer puts it, "Puppet shows in New York featuring subjects like dealing with shyness and peer-pressure, caring for nature, and to respect the feelings of others are becoming very popular."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Storm Shelter Sales Surge After Recent Tornadoes

A surge of tornadoes that hit across the United States Thursday through Saturday resulted the deaths of at least 46 people, and it is forecasted for more severe weather today. Due to the recent tornado activity suppliers of storm shelters have seen a record number of inquiries about their products.

Granger Plastics of Middletown, which makes in-ground storm shelters, reports that it received a record breaking number of website inquires on Sunday and the phones were ringing off the hook on Monday. The company’s most popular product is a five-person shelter that cost $5,000-$6,000 plus cost of installation. Consumer reactions show that the costs do not seem to be a concern. The Granger shelters, just over 5 feet high and 5 feet across and designed to be buried underground, fit five adults or more in a real emergency. They take half a day to install.

StormSafeRooms.com in Collinsville, Oklahoma, started receiving waves of calls starting on Thursday when the tornado squall line started hitting Oklahoma. Their biggest-selling shelter is a five-person, 4-by-6-foot steel room that can be installed in a garage and costs between $4,000 and $6,000, depending on location.

Buyers should look for a seal from the National Storm Shelter Association, based at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. NSSA certifies that a shelter conforms to safety standards.

Storm shelter businesses have also been getting calls for safe rooms for companies looking to protect their employees. After losing a building last Thursday to a tornado, the Tushka, Oklahoma school district is putting out a bid for 150 person safe room.

With more storms predicted, the storm shelter business is expected to continue its increase in business.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Arizona Governor Supports Anti–Gay Adoption Bill

Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, signed a bill enabling married heterosexual couples to have priority consideration when adoption agencies are placing children for up adoption or foster care.

Despite receiving over 500 pieces of mail from Equality Arizona supporters asking her to veto the bill, Brewer to the action to sign the bill on Monday. The board chairman for Equality Arizona, Tom Mann, criticized the Brewer's actions in a statement.

"The governor’s action today is harmful to children in foster care and group homes who are seeking a permanent home and the support of a loving, caring family," Mann said. "SB 1188 takes the focus off of what’s in the best interest of a child when adoption decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, according to what’s in a child’s best interest. Each case is unique. For example, adoption authorities may have the choice between placing a child with a beloved single aunt — or complete strangers. The only consideration should be determining what’s in the best interest of the child."

The bill is under the radar among domestic adoption agencies in Arizona and throughout the southwest. Many gay rights activists are siding with Equality Arizona, adding even more heat to the debate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trade Shows a Business Bang for Branding

Trade shows can offer the ideal avenue to connect with your target market. When planning to market your brand at a trade show, there are many considerations to take into account. Below are a few major points to bring more branding bang to your trade show presence.

* Have a game plan before you set up shop
Trade shows are costly affairs from both a time and financial perspective. Take the time to some goals for company's trade show presence. If the objective is to gain market intelligence, you may only need one person at the trade show exhibit rental at any given time. If the goal generate leads, bring your sales game face and the empty bowl for the business card giveaway. If there are no goals other than to attend the trade show, revisit your budget and evaluate whether or not funds can allocated in a better investment.

* Know your target market and plan accordingly
Understand the target market of the event and the relevant interests of the audience. If you want people to talk to you, make sure your messaging fits. If it doesn’t, you may want to work with your marketing team to ensure you have the right talking points — or it’s going to be a long day.

* Get a feel for the layout
Make sure you are familiar with the layout of the event as well as the ways you are permitted to engage with prospects. Companies spend a lot of time and marketing dollars into these events. For this reason, it is smart to pick the right booth location to better your reach.

* Create a backup plan
Whether its marketing materials or applications, things can get lost, so ensure you have a back-up plan of attack. Even it it's something as simple as a slide presentation that can run on your laptop or flashdisk containing a few key documents, some precautions are critical. If at all possible, have everything sent to your hotel the day before the trade show just to make sure you have time to regroup in case of an incident.

* Offer actionable advice.
Before you hit the floor filled with trade show displays, prepare a deliverable with practical tips or memorize a few useful URLs so that people who are interested in your product have an easy way to act on what they just learned.

* Although planning is essential, a follow-up plan is also critical.
Too often attendees overly focus on pre-event and on-site tasks with no strategy for following up. Understand who the stakeholders are in your company and among your audience in order to prepare a system to follow up with prospects and add value across all constituencies.

Conferences and trade show exhibits provide a great opportunity for sales reps and marketing managers to physically meet a prospect or existing client. It is incredible what a difference a handshake makes, even when amidst the world of social media marketing.

IPO for Zipcar more than A-Okay

Thursday morning, the car-sharing company Zipcar raised $174.3 million in an initial public offering, breaking the ice as the first for a segment once ruled by nonprofits and local organizations. The profit prone IPO could be a boon for new business opportunities targeting alternatives to vehicle ownership as a potential revenue stream.

“It’s great to see Zipcar go for an I.P.O.,” said founder and CEO of Boston-based RelayRides, a start-up backed by Google Ventures that has hopes to promote individual, or “neighbor-to-neighbor,” car sharing. “It adds credibility for car-sharing as a viable business” he added.

In Zipcar’s 11-year existence, the provider has established a network of over 8,000 vehicles in 14 metropolitan areas and on more than 230 college campuses, mostly in the United States but also in Canada and Europe. The company staffs more than 560,000 members, and as RelayRide's CEO put it, Zipcar has “taken car sharing from a niche thing for environmentalists to a hip lifestyle choice.”

But Zipcar has yet to turn single dollar into a profit. In fact, the company has accumulated losses of $65.4 million, including a 2010 net loss of $14.7 million.

One of the biggest costs for Zipcar is acquiring, leasing and maintaining vehicles, which usually remains part of the company's fleet for two to three years. Entrepreneurs, like RelayRides, are among a group working on car-sharing business models that eliminate the high fixed costs of maintaining a fleet (and parking places). The idea is to establish a platform that allows members to conveniently rent their personal vehicles to other members.

Personal car-sharing platforms have emerged also across the country and in Europe. In California, which recently passed a law that clarifies insurance regulations for these auto transport services.

Zipcar’s initial public offering could help heighten exposure for and create excitement about these alternatives to car ownership, said global automotive aftermarket program manager at the research firm Frost & Sullivan.

That’s not a small feat, she said. Although Zipcar’s brand cache is more popular among many college students and some city dwellers, RelayRide's CEO noted “even in the most popular cities,” car sharing has not reached more than 5 percent of licensed drivers.

Yet companies like RelayRide feel that car sharing could reach as much as 50 percent of licensed drivers in cities. These business models see personal car-sharing services and car mover service as complementary, with Zipcar offering predictable service in dense areas, compared to the distributed model.

Innovative models of car-sharing could reap value from many of the trends that helped Zipcar render a solid public offering. The cost of owning and operating a vehicle, like in many car shipping is an overriding factor.

“People become far more interested in alternative forms of transportation,” ranging from public transit to car sharing, said one car hauler professional. This is especially the case in a down economy, the individual added.


Many economies in the world, including the United State, are working on stimulating their struggling economies. China, on the other hand, is working on the opposite. The rampant economic growth in China raises concerns that inflation will get out of control.
China recently ordered banks to set aside more cash reserves. This in turn will reduce money available for loans, a strategy used to slow the market. The decision on Sunday to raise the capital reserve ratio for banks, to 20.5 percent of their cash, was the fourth such increase this year. This decision follows the government announcement on Friday that China’s economy was growing at an annual rate of 9.7 percent, by far the strongest performance by any of the world’s biggest economies.
Because China is now the world’s second largest economy, after the United States, and because the country has been a leading source of global growth during the last two years, money problems here can reverberate across the globe.
High inflation endangers China’s status as the low-cost workshop for the world. And if the government’s efforts to fight inflation cause the economy to stumble, that will cloud the outlook for international businesses.
Beijing is currently engaged in an economic tug of war, trying to encourage sustainable growth while struggling to control inflation. Food prices are soaring, and the government said on Friday that the consumer price index had risen 5.4 percent, its sharpest increase in nearly three years. Hoping to tame inflation, in the last six months Beijing has tightened restrictions on bank lending to discourage borrowing and raised interest rates to encourage savings.
The government has also increased agricultural subsidies to curb food prices, and tried to forbid some Chinese companies from raising consumer prices. These efforts stand in contrast to those in the United States, where inflation is low and the debate centers on how much to stimulate the economy given the size of the deficit. Inflation is also running low in Europe, where some countries are imposing harsh austerity measures to pare their budget gaps.
But analysts say the results of this economic management have been mixed. Growth has begun to moderate from its torrid pace of about 10 percent annual growth but inflation has become worse.
For example, housing prices continue to climb even though Beijing has long promised to curb the property market and to spend billions of dollars over the next few years on affordable housing. The average apartment in central Shanghai now costs more than $500,000. Even in second-tier cities like Chengdu, in central China, the price of a typical home costs about 25 times the average annual income of residents.
Analysts say too much of the country’s growth continues to be tied to inflationary spending on real estate development and government investment in roads, railways and other multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects.
In the first quarter of 2011, fixed asset investment, a broad measure of building activity, jumped 25 percent from the period a year earlier, and real estate investment soared 37 percent. Some of the inflationary factors, like global commodity and food prices, may be beyond Beijing’s ability to influence. Gasoline prices have also jumped sharply, in line with global oil prices. As the world’s largest car market, China’s demand for fuel is soaring, and gasoline prices are close to $4.50 a gallon, up from $3.82 a gallon in late 2009.
The massive growth that China is experiencing is due to drastic measures in 2009 when Beijing initiated a $586 billion stimulus package that included loose sanctions on lending by state run banks. This led to record lending but added to the problem of skyrocketing property costs and increasing inflation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Custom Display Rentals From E&E Exhibit Solutions

TEMPE, AZ--(E&E Exhibit Solutions April 13, 2011) - No matter the current economic climate, smart trade show and event marketers continually look for ways to reduce costs and improve return on investment. However, the cost of custom displays can quickly escalate beyond your budget. This year, consider custom trade show booth rentals and save about 60 percent on your display budget.

While show management companies do offer booth rental kits at a fraction of the cost of custom booths, these basic kits lack the ability to be customized to your specific functional needs -- which may include interactive kiosks, large presentation areas or conference rooms -- in addition to not adequately showcasing your corporate images and brand messaging. Frankly, show management booth rentals look rented. Protect your brand image with trade show booth rentals that can be customized to look purchased at a third of the cost. Custom trade show booth rentals look like you own your display without the same financial investment.

Four Reasons Trade Show Display Rentals are the Smart Choice:

1. First-time or minimal trade show participation. If this is your first trade show experience or if you only participate in one or two events a year, you may balk at the expense of fully custom displays. That's when it makes sense to consider trade show booth rentals. Your trade show display will look professional and include custom graphics with your corporate colors, logo and brand messaging.
2. Enhance or expand existing trade show booth elements. Custom booth rentals are convenient and affordable and allow you to easily build on to your existing trade show display properties. Rent additional custom modular display units, pop-up displays, furniture, flooring or hanging signs to add spice and functionality.
3. Create different trade show exhibit looks without breaking the bank. With trade show display rentals, you can create a different booth layout for each event. You can reuse your trade show graphics from one show to the next, but the structural elements of your exhibit can vary depending on the size and shape of your booth spaces at each show.
4. Conflicting trade show events. Don't miss out on a second event because your display is already committed to a trade show in another part of the country. Trade show booth rentals allow you the ability to participate in multiple events at the same time without investing in a second display.

Trade show display rentals are an affordable way to create the illusion of a custom-made purchased booth without the same investment. E&E Exhibit Solutions has designed and built trade show displays for over 15 years and offers a wide selection of custom exhibit rentals, including green displays, trade show graphics and accessories. E&E's trade show exhibit consultants will work with you to design the perfect custom booth rentals, complete with your company logo, branding and marketing message.

About E&E Exhibit Solutions

Founded in 1995, E&E Exhibit Solutions is an exhibit company specializing trade show display rentals. E&E Exhibit Solutions has a long-standing record of success serving more than 1,850 clients in 45 U.S. states and 15 countries and is recognized as a four-time Inc. 5000 honoree. As expert trade show professionals, our award-winning solutions include custom displays, custom exhibit rental designs, trade show display graphics, shipping, installation and exhibit storage. For more information, visit www.ExhibitsUSA.com or www.RentExhibitsUSA.com.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Blockbuster was once the leader in the movie rentals business but with the fast growth of digital and mail order competitors, the business found itself filing for bankruptcy last September. In February Blockbuster had to put itself up for sale when reorganization failed.
Dish Network Corp won Blockbuster Inc in a bankruptcy auction for about $320 million, a move that could see the second-largest U.S. satellite TV provider tapping the movie rental chain's online content to strengthen its offerings.
Dish, led by satellite billionaire Charlie Ergen, trumped at least three other bidders, including activist investor Carl Icahn, for the one-time leader in video rentals. A $308.1 million bid from Cobalt Video, a group of hedge funds headed by Monarch Alternative Capital LP, was the highest bid before the auction was moved to an attorney's office not open to the press. Icahn had bid $310.6 million, but his bid included less money than Monarch's for notes rolled up into a bankruptcy loan and was thus considered a lower bid.
Dish might find Blockbuster's online content appealing as the company could use it as a base for an online product to deliver movies. Blockbuster will complement Dish’s existing video offerings while presenting cross-marketing and service extension opportunities.
The deal marks the second purchase of a bankrupt company by Dish. Last month, Dish got a nod from a bankruptcy court to buy hybrid satellite and land-based communications company DBSD North America for about $1.4 billion.
The Blockbuster deal is not yet finalized. The Federal Bankruptcy Court on Thursday is expected to approve the bid submitted by Dish Network Corp.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Microsoft files antitrust complaint against Google in Europe

Last week, Microsoft filed complaint against Google in Europe regarding issues of antitrust. Among many distraught companies, Microsoft has reason to believe Google's practices in promoting its products are unfair to others in the industry. The underlying example that is sparking the interest of the oppositions top attorneys is how the search giant uses its Google Price Search to promote its smart phone software through its search engines.

Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, stated last week that “Our filing today focuses on a pattern of actions that Google has taken to entrench its dominance in markets for online search and search advertising to the detriment of the European consumers.” Smith added that the search giant owns 95% of the search market in Europe and that Google has targeted other firms to discontinue their ability to create a competitive search alternative. Smith also argued that since Google's acquisition of YouTube in 2006, the company has restricted other search engines like Bing and Yahoo from properly accessing YouTube videos for search results.

In a related dispute, Smith said Google does not allow Windows Phone 7 devices to adequately search content on YouTube. Conversely, the company does allow the iPhone and Android smartphones to perform such searches. For instance, a company that specializes in financial analysis software was surprised to discover only iPhone users were finding their products designed for smartphone specific searches.

Among other matters of legal interest, Google reportedly restricts access to content owned by book publishers, disables online advertisers from accessing their own data, and blocks European websites from implementing search boxes from competing search engines.

“We readily appreciate that Google should continue to have the freedom to innovate,” Smith said. “But it shouldn’t be permitted to pursue practices that restrict others from innovating and offering competitive alternatives."

Young professionals prefer more urban living environments

Young and educated professionals among the USA's largest metropolitan areas are moving closer to urban, downtown living spaces. The emerging popularity of city dwellers has resulted in the transformation of old, abandoned warehouses into modern historic apartments.

In almost over 70% of nation's 51 largest cities in the past decade, the population of college-educated individuals grew twice as fast within 3 miles of the urban center as in the rest of the metropolitan area. For states like Pennsylvania, that means more Philadelphia apartments for rent, with many unique living features.

Even in city of Detroit where the population decreased by 25% since 2000, the downtown area has witnessed 2,000 young and educated residents new residents, according to a Census analysis by economic consulting firm Impresa Inc.

Cities all over the nation are realizing an influx of young talent, and many developers and car moving companies are taking advantage of profitable opportunities.

Reinhold Residential is one company that specializes in architecturally unique, urban apartments designed with a luxurious and contemporary approach. Reinhold renovates historic warehouse buildings into quality living atmospheres. From luxury apartments in Chicago to glamorous pads in St. Paul, MN, the company is expanding parallel to the trends of migrating city residents.

In Cleveland, Ohio, the downtown area added 1,300 college-educated people ages 25 to 34. That growth of 49% has upped the demand for places to live.

Apartments in Pittsburgh have also been of higher demand with respect to the latter trends. More and more young professionals, especially in the fields of medicine, are seeking popular living hot-spots like Shadyside apartments, which neighbor the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Hospital.

David Egner, president and CEO of Detroit's Hudson-Webber Foundation, claims such data hints that they city of Detroit is on headed in the right direction. Three of the city's anchor institutions — Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center — recently launched a campaign called "15 by 15." The program is designed to bring 15,000 young, educated people to the Detroit's downtown area by 2015.

The campaign boasts a powerful arsenal of cash incentives, including a $25,000 forgivable loan to buy (need to stay at least five years) downtown or $3,500 on a two-year lease.

Also seeing tremendous growth are the Loft District apartments in Baltimore. These contemporary living spaces are the ideal comfort retreat for the emerging mass of young city professionals.

As these trends continue, developers like Reinhold Residential will continue to pursue unique living spaces or potential warehouses capable of apartment makeovers.

Fashion Magazines of the Future

With magazines loosing sales they look for ways to make up revenue. Consumers are tech savvy and are going online for information and shopping. Magazines have great information, but are losing customers who prefer to go online.

Vogue and Elle have long influenced what clothes and handbags image-conscious consumers buy. Now, in a bid to reverse flagging sales and stay relevant, fashion magazines may sell the products they feature in their articles.

As Apple Inc.’s iPad and other mobile devices change the way people stay informed and shop, e-commerce is creeping onto editorial agendas. Fashion magazines that have gone as far as to add links on their websites to online vendors such as Yoox SpA, may integrate the reading and buying experience, a move that would transform the likes of Vogue and Elle from just trendsetters into virtual shopkeepers.

Gone are the days when consumers want to flip through the back of a magazine to find an index. Combining retail and editorial is natural from an economic standpoint and natural from a consumer standpoint.

Hearst Magazines, publisher of Cosmopolitan and Esquire, will introduce a series of e-commerce partnerships this year. Vogue, Conde Nast Publications’ flagship fashion title, allied last month with Yoox, the Italian Internet clothing and accessories retailer.

Fashion magazines, grappling with a slide in circulation and advertising revenue, are looking to claw back ground lost to shopping websites such as Asos Plc and Net-A-Porter, owned by Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA, that are winning sales and influence. Fashion brands are also elbowing their way into the market, introducing digital titles like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA has done with Nowness.

About $1.57 billion was spent last year on apparel and accessories ads in U.S. magazines, down from more than $2 billion in 2008, as luxury goods companies cut budgets or put funds elsewhere.

Both Hearst and Conde Nast closed magazines during the global economic crisis. At Time Inc., the publisher of InStyle and Essence, publications’ ad revenue plunged 22 percent in 2009 and rebounded only 3 percent last year. Paris-based Lagardere SCA, which owns Elle, saw a similar weak recovery in 2010 after a 24 percent drop a year earlier.

Fashion magazines’ print circulation is flat or falling as more readers move online. Vogue’s circulation fell 1.5 percent in 2010 to about 1.25 million. Elle’s slid about 0.5 percent to 1.11 million, Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show.

Meanwhile, sites such as Net-A-Porter are gaining ground. Founded in 2000 by former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet, Net-A-Porter was acquired last year by Richemont and features catwalk footage, style tips and designer interviews as well as a catalogue of clothes and accessories.

Turning into e-tailers may be challenging for magazines. In addition to logistical and technological hurdles, magazines may have to contend with an erosion of editorial independence. Fully integrating shopping into editorial content would mean allowing readers to jump from a handbag or shoe in a photo spread to a page offering it for sale in a single click, rather than forwarding them elsewhere for purchases.

Adding content to e-commerce is easier than adding e-commerce to content. EBay Inc. hired a former editor at Conde Nast’s Lucky and Heart’s Harper’s Bazaar magazines as creative director for its fashion portal. Building the logistics and technology required for e-commerce would be a substantial challenge for Vogue. Vogue isn’t built to sell products. That partly explains why magazines haven’t done more than add links to fashion brands’ e-commerce websites.

Harper’s Bazaar partnered with Net-A-Porter last fall to pick out bags, shoes and clothing available from the shopping site with a single click. Vogue Italia and Yoox followed last month, focusing on products by young designers that could be bought from Yoox’s multi-brand shopping site thecorner.com. It’s not clear how revenue from the online transactions will be divided between the partners.

Because readers trust recommendations by magazines, they have to find the proper ways to monetize that. Yoox will benefit from increasing e-commerce and luxury demand growth because of rising global wealth.

Determining who gets control of or access to user information, credit-card details, addresses, and surfing and shopping histories that can be used to target advertising and offers, may represent a major hurdle. Retaining data from a significant number of people means you’re in business for anything you want to sell.

It is too early to tell if e-commerce is the magic answer to lost magazine revenue. It is clear that this cannot be the sole initiative by magazines. They must diversify their strategies to keep up with technology and the advanced consumer.


China's increasing wealth means more money spent on luxury items like yachts. This is great news for the Brunswick Corporation, owner of the Boston Whaler and Sea Ray brands. They forecast sales growth of 25 percent in China this year as boating gains popularity.

They believe the long-term potential in the marine business is larger than anywhere else in the world. With unique wealth, the boating culture is expected to take hold very strongly.

Government attempts to clean up the country’s lakes, a growing appreciation of family-oriented leisure pastimes and rapidly increasing prosperity are driving demand for vessels from dinghies to yachts.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based Brunswick sold about 55 boats in China last year, accounting for 35 percent of the 180 boats shorter than 40 feet long (12 meters) imported into the world’s second-biggest economy. This makes Brunswick the Chinese market leader in that class.

Brunswick, whose share price has surged 37 percent this year, expects sales growth in China this year to match the 25 percent posted in 2010. The stock rose 0.6 percent to $25.59 on April 1 in New York trading.

Demand for larger boats is growing in China, and the company plans to introduce its Meridian and Hatteras yachts that are as long as 100 feet.

Princess Yachts, owned by French luxury goods maker LVMH Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey SA, started selling in China in 2009. It’s already sold five luxury boats in China, including a 95-foot yacht bought by a Dalian property developer last year.

China had 447,000 millionaires in 2009, a 31 percent increase from the year before ranking it behind the U.S., Japan and Germany.

A Brunswick vessel such as a 47-foot-cruiser, the Meridian 441, sells in China for 7.8 million Yuan ($1.2 million) inclusive of taxes. China imposes a 43 percent levy on imports of boats. The nation accounts for 1 percent to 2 percent of global yacht sales of $3.4 billion in 2010. Brunswick entered the Chinese market in 1998 and has sold over 600 private luxury yachts to Chinese customers.

With Brunswick’s past success in China, the future economy in China holds even more promise.

Friday, April 1, 2011


The Obama administration announced in September that it would set aside $30 billion for a program to revive small-business lending. But only 7% of banks have participated in it.
About 526 community banks have requested $7.6 billion in funds from the program, which is available to the nation's nearly 7,700 lenders that have less than $10 billion in assets. That is far short of the amount allocated by the Treasury Department. The program, the centerpiece of Small Business Jobs Act, included enticements such as low interest rates to encourage banks to get money into the hands of small-business owners.
But relatively few community banks, which had until March 31 to apply for the program, signed up. Earlier this week, the Treasury Department extended Thursday's deadline to May 16.
The extra time may still not be enough incentive for banks to sign up. Many say they have plenty of capital but little demand from small businesses. Banks have also long complained that increased scrutiny from regulators has made it difficult to underwrite risky small-business loans. A government program, especially one with strings attached, may not be the solution.
Small banks that draw from the fund will make repayments at different interest rates, ranging from 1% to 5%. Banks that increase their small-business lending by at least 10% would pay the lowest rate, while banks that increase lending by less than 2.5% would pay the highest rate. That will require detailed and continuing paperwork, which some bankers say they don't have the resources to handle.
The Treasury says that the program has received support. The goal is to spur as much small-businesses lending and create as many jobs in communities across America as possible. The deadline was always meant to be extended, and the agency wants to ensure that every interested bank has the information they need to apply. The Treasury also says the application process was developed to be straight-forward, and the application is less than a page in length.
But some community bankers say they already have sufficient capital to meet loan demand from qualified borrowers, which tend to be the larger and well-collateralized small businesses.
Compared to recent years, fewer small-business owners are receiving loans—and many complain that they are still being rejected despite healthy financial statements. The total value of small-business loans declined by $43 billion last year. Community lenders, which hold 52% of all small-business loans, were accountable for nearly half of that drop.
The Treasury estimates that about $17.4 billion will ultimately be borrowed from the fund. The Independent Community Bankers of America, a lobbying group that supports the fund, has projected that the funds could amount to $170 billion in loans because for every loan that banks make, they need to hold only a small fraction of capital.
Some community banks applied for funds to be prepared in case the economy improves more quickly than anticipated.
Detractors of the fund say some banks are applying for money to refinance outstanding government debt rather than to boost their small-business lending. Some members of Congress, including Sen. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine), have been critical of the program.
Ms. Snowe, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has said other actions, such as expanding existing Small Business Administration programs, would better help small-business owners.
On Tuesday, Ms. Snowe filed an amendment to improve the fund's oversight, administration and accountability.
She continues to oppose this fund, which she believes had not been fully vetted before it was signed into law. She also feels it risks taxpayer funds and provides a perverse incentive for banks to make poor lending decisions in order to reduce the interest rate on the money they receive.
The Treasury says the program is designed to motivate banks to maintain high-quality underwriting standards and that it won't share in loan losses banks would incur by making bad loans. It will also consult with each bank's regulators to ensure the bank can repay the funds.
The program was meant to help banks that were already financial stable. It would only consider banks that had the ability to repay funds in the event that a business loan was not repaid.