Africa is open for business.
That was the overarching message shared during the African and Caribbean Business Council’s Business Roundtable.
Held at the Penn Museum, the event brought together Philadelphia region business leaders and ambassadors and representatives from six African and Caribbean countries to discuss the theme of driving economic development and building access to the global market.
Stanley Straughter, chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs launched the roundtable by encouraging businesses to tap into the African marketplace.
“Seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. It’s just phenomenal what’s going on in Africa, and unfortunately for some reason the United States just hasn’t caught up to it yet,” said Straughter.
During the four-hour roundtable, ambassadors from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, gave an overview of their respective countries and potential investment opportunities.
Investment potential exists in the areas of alternative energy, oil, fisheries and sustainable agriculture for many of the countries represented. In South Africa, opportunities exist in the areas of aerospace technologies, automobile and defense and agri-processing.
During the event, David Briel, Executive Director, Center for Direct Investment, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, addressed how the state assists international trade efforts.
The center will assist 10 companies in a trade mission to South Africa from February 21 to March 2. The mission includes meetings in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Barbara Span, vice president of Western Union, touted the African Diaspora Marketplace competition. Funded by U.S. Aid and Western Union, the business plan competition is geared towards connecting Diaspora entrepreneurs with the country of their origin. This year’s competition focuses on entrepreneurs in three sectors including information and communications technology (ICT), agribusiness and alternative energy. Winners will receive grants of $100,000 to start and grow small and medium sized businesses in 18 African countries. Official details about the competition will be announced later this week.
Founded in 2006, the ACBC promotes the business interests of African and Caribbean entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Sylvia’s, a famed Harlem mainstay, has celebrated 50 years of serving up soul food.
Founded in 1962 by the late Sylvia Woods, the restaurant was known for offering staples such as fried chicken, ribs, corn bread and candied yams that earned Woods the nickname “Queen of Soul Food.”
What was once a small luncheonette at 328 Lenox Avenue in New York flourished into a popular eatery that drew noted politicians, tourists, celebrities and local residents.
Woods died July 19 at the age of 86, just before she was to receive an award from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg commemorating the restaurant’s 50th anniversary. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Her family is striving to keep her legacy alive.
Woods’ granddaughter, Tren’ness Woods-Black says planning to mark the restaurant’s anniversary was a bittersweet moment for the family.
“It was really important to her for the anniversary to be marked in a way that the legacy that was being built just showed,” says Woods-Black.
She says there is a great sense of pride in the strides made by her grandmother and family.
“It’s not just something for us. I think for Harlem at large, for the African-American culture, for the American culinary scene — a restaurant marking 50 years is no small feat,” Woods-Black says of the restaurant’s milestone.
“I think that the restaurant making 50 years is just a testament to staying true to the foundation and the goals that the restaurant was built upon — and that was family and community first — and staying true to bringing the very best soul food that we have to offer.”
Woods-Black says that the restaurant’s ability to keep its core ingredients, yet adapt its menu with changing times by offering healthier alternatives and offering a welcoming atmosphere have been key aspects of its success.
“There’s three generations in the business and everyone is very much hands on. We talk to our customers. We know them by name. We spend a lot of time in the restaurant, and so you have to make it a home away from home,” says Woods-Black, who went from busing tables at Sylvia’s as a teenager to vice president of communications.
Woods-Black says many of Sylvia’s customers hail from Philadelphia, as many bus tours from schools, churches and organizations frequent the Harlem eatery.
Sylvia’s marked 50 years in business by hosting a Golden Jubilee celebration sponsored by Target on August 1. The community breakfast event drew more than 300 Harlem residents, celebrities and dignitaries.
“They’ve really helped us to make this 50th anniversary extra special,” Woods-Black says of the retailer.
“As a family business, we’re always conscious of who we partner with and Target was so perfect because we share the same values. We’re all about the community and giving back through education.”
When Target opened its first Harlem store in 2010, it stocked store shelves with products from Sylvia’s food line of canned vegetables, sauces, spices and mixes. Now, select Target stores nationwide carry Sylvia’s products.
“Target is a retailer that shares Sylvia’s same passion for the Harlem community. Target intentionally chose Harlem as its first Manhattan store because the community embodies the retailer’s values of community, diversity and being a good neighbor,” Target officials said in a statement.
Woods, who hailed from South Carolina, opened Sylvia’s in 1962. It was once a 35-seat luncheonette where she once worked as a waitress. She and her husband Herbert borrowed money from her mother, who mortgaged her farm in South Carolina to purchase the restaurant. Since then it has grown into a famed entity that includes the restaurant, a catering company and a nationwide line of Sylvia’s food products. She also penned “Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, To Harlem” and “Sylvia’s Soul Food.”
Woods maintained Sylvia’s until her 80th birthday, when she passed the torch to her children and grandchildren.
In 2001, the family launched the Sylvia and Herbert Woods Scholarship Fund that benefits students from Harlem. Since its inception, the fund has awarded scholarships to 76 students. A second anniversary dinner will be held October 26 at Sylvia’s to benefit the scholarship fund.
The Woods family has set ambitious goals for the future, which include developing real estate along Lenox Avenue.
“We’re looking to build a new facility — something that will harness the charm that maintains that 1962 feel, but also have a modern, Southern soul food ambiance as well,” says Woods-Black.
Plans are also in the works to launch a new cookbook, open new locations in Maryland and Florida, and bring a new lifestyle cooking show to television.
“Soul food is a very important cultural identity marker for African Americans, and we consider ourselves to be ambassadors for that,” added Woods-Black.
The National Black McDonald’s Operators Association has joined the massive push to drive voters to the polls in November.
McDonald’s restaurants across the country are displaying “Exercise Your Right to Vote” window posters. The poster encourages people to visit the website www.exerciseit.net for information on registering to vote.
Kenneth Youngblood, president of the Black McDonald’s Owner Operator Association of Philadelphia, says the initiative helps increase the awareness that every citizen, regardless of their party affiliation, should vote.
“One of the few things that have been given to you is your right to vote, and you need to exercise it,” said Youngblood, who operates the McDonald’s at 7911 Ogontz Avenue.
“Everyone needs to participate so that they know they can have a part in the direction that the country is headed in.”
The initiative comes at a time when many are concerned that new voter ID laws will deter many from turning out for the upcoming election.
Rita Mack, who recently served as chair and CEO of the NBMOA, says the initiative has been embraced system wide.
“We thought this would be a good service for us to offer to our community by just reminding them to vote because it is very important to exercise their right,” said Mack, who operates two McDonald’s restaurants in Atlantic City, N.J.
The NBMOA is the largest organization for African-American franchisees in the country. Members of the organization own more than 1,400 restaurants through the U.S. with collective annual sales exceeding $3.4 billion dollars.
McDonald’s is a global food service retailer with more than 33,500 restaurants worldwide.
DALLAS — The parent company of American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, seeking relief from crushing debt caused by high fuel prices and expensive labor contracts that its competitors shed years ago.
The company also replaced its CEO, and the incoming leader said American would probably cut its flight schedule "modestly" while it reorganizes. He did not give specifics. American said its frequent-flier program would be unaffected.
AMR Corp., which owns American, was one of the last major U.S. airline companies that had avoided bankruptcy. Competitors used bankruptcy to shed costly labor contracts, unburden themselves of debt, and start making money again. Delta was the last major airline to file for bankruptcy protection, in 2005.
American — the nation's third-largest airline — was stuck with higher costs and had to match its competitors' lower fares or lose passengers.
Other airlines also grew by pursuing acquisitions and expanding overseas. American was the biggest airline in the world in 2008, but has been surpassed by United, which combined with Continental, and Delta, which bought Northwest.
In announcing the bankruptcy filing, AMR said that Gerard Arpey, a veteran of the company for almost three decades and CEO since 2003, had stepped down and was replaced by Thomas W. Horton, the company president.
Horton said the board of directors unanimously decided to file for bankruptcy after meeting Monday in New York and again by conference call on Monday night.
In a filing with federal bankruptcy court in New York, AMR said it had $29.6 billion in debt and $24.7 billion in assets.
With reductions to the flight schedule, Horton said there would probably be corresponding job cuts. American has about 78,000 employees and serves 240,000 passengers per day.
For travelers, American said it would continue to operate flights, honor tickets and take reservations.
AMR's move could also trigger more consolidation in the airline industry — some analysts believe American is likely to merge with US Airways.
The company will delay the spinoff of its regional airline, American Eagle, which was expected early next year.
AMR, however, wants to push ahead with plans to order 460 new jets from Boeing and Airbus, plus more than 50 previous jet orders. New planes would save American money on fuel and maintenance, but the orders will be subject to approval by the bankruptcy court.
AMR stockholders will be wiped out. The stock had already lost 79 percent of its value this year on fears of bankruptcy. The stock fell to 35 cents Tuesday afternoon, down $1.26 from the day before.
AMR has lost more than $12 billion since 2001, and analysts expect it will post more losses through 2012. Speculation about an AMR bankruptcy grew in recent weeks as the company was unable to win union approval for contracts that would reduce labor costs. The company said it was spending $600 million more a year than other airlines because of labor-contract rules.
On Tuesday, Horton said no single factor led to the bankruptcy filing. He said the company needed to cut costs because of the weak global economy and high, volatile fuel prices. The price of jet fuel has risen more than 60 percent in the past five years.
Ray Neidl, an analyst with Maxim Group LLC, an investment banking company, said AMR was wise to file for bankruptcy while it still had about $4 billion in cash. That way, the company will have a cushion to keep operating without worrying immediately about lining up new financing, he said.
Neidl said the company has strong assets but needs to find labor peace and more revenue. He said American might be pushed into a merger with US Airways.
The president of the pilots' union, Dave Bates, said his members were concerned about what the bankruptcy will mean for them. Other airlines used bankruptcy to terminate pension plans.
"While today's news was not entirely unexpected, it is nevertheless disappointing that we find ourselves working for an airline that has lost its way," Bates said in a message to pilots.
Darryl Jenkins, a consultant who has worked for the major airlines, said that AMR will be able to cut costs in bankruptcy, and that employees and stockholders would be the big losers.
"Labor is going to take a major hit," Jenkins said. "Their pensions are in danger."
James C. Little, president of the Transport Workers Union, which represents mechanics, baggage handlers and other ground workers at American, was harsh in his assessment of the impact on labor.
"This (bankruptcy) is likely to be a long and ugly process and our union will fight like hell to make sure that front line workers don't pay an unfair price for management's failings," Little said.
AMR, which has headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, lost $162 million in the third quarter and has posted losses in 14 of the past 16 quarters.
American was founded in 1930 from the combination of more than 80 smaller airlines. Its hubs are New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago and Miami. Its major international partners are British Airways and Japan Airlines.
News of the bankruptcy swept through Fort Worth-based AMR's hometown.
"American Airlines is an institution in Dallas-Fort Worth, and when institutions start to crumble, you look at everything around you," said Elaine Vale, a jewelry store owner who flew back from a Thanksgiving holiday on American. "After American, then who?" -- (AP)
NEW YORK — Bank of America will cut about 30,000 jobs over the next few years in a bid to save $5 billion per year. The cost-cutting drive is part of a broader effort to reshape and shrink the nation's largest bank as it copes with fallout from the housing bust.
The bank announced the job cuts in a statement shortly after Brian Moynihan, the bank's CEO, disclosed the cost-saving goals in an address to investors in New York. "We're a much simpler company than we were 24 months ago," Moynihan said.
Bank of America stock was up 2 cents at $7 at midday. The stock has lost half its value this year, largely over problems related to poorly-written mortgages it acquired with its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp. The bank faces lawsuits from investors and regulators over the sales of mortgage-backed securities that lost value after the housing boom collapsed.
The job cuts follow a revamp of the bank's top management team last week. Two senior executives, wealth management head Sallie Krawcheck and head of consumer banking Joe Price, left the bank. The bank also elevated commercial banking chief David Darnell and investment banking head Tom Montag to co-chief operating officers, reporting to Moynihan.
The latest job cuts will lead to a 10 percent reduction in the bank's work force of 288,000. The cuts come on top of 6,000 positions the bank has already eliminated through the third quarter of this year.
The Charlotte, N.C. company said it expects many of the cuts to come through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions. The bank says the number of job cuts isn't fixed, but that it expects they will total 30,000. It hopes to save $5 billion in annual costs through 2014 under a cost-cutting plan dubbed internally as "Project New BAC." -- (AP)
October will mark a significant business milestone for Ray Murphy.
The owner of Tommy’s Men's Shop will celebrate 40 years of helping his customers look their best.
Throughout the years, men have been relying on the shop, on the bustling 22nd Street commercial corridor in North Philadelphia, for their apparel needs.
The men’s store stocks a large selection of hats, casual wear, shirts, slacks, suits, tuxedos and shoes in various brands ranging from Kangol to Stacy Adams.
Murphy will mark his business milestone by hosting an anniversary celebration on October 20 at the shop, located at 2917 North 22nd St. He is also running an anniversary sale from October 1 through the 20th.
To Murphy, his years in business seemed to speed by.
“It went by so fast that it feels like it wasn’t very long ago that I just got started,” says Murphy, who is 63.
When Irving Thompson, the son of original owner of Tommy’s Men Shop, put the store up for sale, Murphy decided to make a foray into the clothing retail business. At the time, he was operating a shoe concession known as Murphy’s Shoes, located across the street from the apparel store.
He opted not to change the name Tommy’s Men Shop because the store was already well established in the community. At that point, the shop had been located on 22nd Street for almost 50 years.
Murphy faced various challenges when he sought to purchase the business.
“The only thing that I had was the backing of my family, and the experiences that I had growing up,” says Murphy.
Like many entrepreneurs, he had a difficult time accessing bank financing. He was a young man in his early 20s who lacked business acumen and knowledge about how the loan process worked.
Despite being turned down multiple times, Murphy was determined to obtain the funding that he needed. When bank officials turned him down, he demanded to know why.
After approaching five different banks, he finally secured a $50,000 loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration in September 1972. He credits Sen. Philip Price, who was then the director of the Allegheny West Foundation and Don Redcross Sr., a certified public accountant, with helping him get the bank financing.
Next he faced the hurdle of obtaining lines of credit from clothing manufacturers so that he could stock the store. He ended up working with an outside entity named Men’s Retail of America to receive credit from major manufacturers. Credit lines are crucial to the success of clothing retailers, and Murphy entered the business at a time when manufacturers weren’t extending credit to African Americans.
“In this business you have to have credit. Ninety-eight percent of everything that comes into the store is on credit,” Murphy pointed out.
While growing up in North Philadelphia, Murphy worked at a grocery store while where he learned skills in customer service, merchandising, and supply and demand that he utilized in the clothing business.
“I always try to buy what my customers need. I always try to supply the needs — and that’s the basics,” said Murphy, a native of South Carolina.
There are fundamental tenets that have held Murphy in good stead throughout the years and allowed him to weather the rough times.
“Through years of going through the recession and the slow periods, I tried to use a formula that worked for me — and it’s very simple. You don’t buy steak when you can only afford chicken — and what that means is, me being the retailer, I know what is going to sell all the time. You don’t overbuy,” says Murphy, who is a board member of the North 22nd Street Merchants Association.
Murphy has leveraged proceeds from the store into other business ventures such as a hat shop in Center City and RM Estates, LP, a real estate development company.
Murphy has gone from being a fledging entrepreneur who struggled to get his first loan to becoming an established businessman who can get financial institutions to back his real estate development projects. Murphy has developed properties such as a wine and spirits store, a dollar store, a physical therapy practice and a supermarket in North Philadelphia.
As someone who was mentored by other African-American business owners when he first started out, Murphy believes in keeping the practice of helping others going.
“I believe that you have to bring somebody along,” he stressed.
To that end, he’s proud to have mentored African-American men who went on to launch retail shops and has provided summer employment opportunities for young men from the community. He’s employed at least 100 people in full and part time positions over the years.
Alvin Little, a former president of the North 22nd Street Merchants Association, says Murphy’s business has been a stabilizing force on the commercial corridor.
“You have to have key businesses that not only have attracted consumers as customers, but have developed a track record of loyalty because those kinds of businesses bring people back to the corridor. His business has kept a steady flow of customers who have helped to keep the life of the business corridor vibrant,” says Little, who owns a women’s and children’s apparel store.
Little noted that Murphy purchased the shop at a time when the demographics of the neighborhood changed and many of the businesses owned by older Italian and Jewish Americans left the corridor. He’s watched Murphy expand Tommy’s Men Shop over time.
“It’s a better place today than it’s ever been before,” he says of Murphy’s business.
“He had a dream as a young man and he saw that dream to its fulfillment. Being in a retail business — with the big box stores coming in in the early ’90s and the competition that’s around you and being African American — it’s a very challenging thing to do and yet with his determination, he did it. For him to grow it that way and to maintain it in this economy is a tribute to his business acumen and his determination to keep things moving forward. I tip my hat off to him and the things that he’s been able to do,” Little added.
While growing up in North Philadelphia, Murphy says his parents encouraged their children to go into business for themselves.
“What we got from my mother was that, ‘I’m raising business people. I’m not raising workers,’” says Murphy.
Erik Honesty has brought his collection of stylish vintage finds to Old City.
Earlier this month, Honesty opened the doors of Galerie D’Cultured Couture, a vintage high fashion boutique and fine art gallery.
When consumers walk into the shop at 240 Church Street, they can enjoy the sounds of jazz while browsing through original paintings, men’s and women’s designer clothing, and upscale furniture.
The shop currently features an array of high-end vintage clothing and accessories from designers such as Burberry, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Saint Laurent and authentic Louis Vuitton luggage.
The new shop is a spin-off of Honesty’s first retail location, Cultured Couture Vintage at 703 West Girard Avenue, which specializes in menswear. Back in 2005, Honesty decided to develop the Cultured Couture menswear line, after shopping at flea markets and thrift outlets for his personal clothing. This led him to brand his first retail store under the same name.
“When you come into Cultured Couture you encounter pieces that represent the individual. It’s almost like they were made for you,” says Honesty.
By offering a boutique-like environment, Honesty aspires to bring a different flair to how vintage clothing is presented. Shoppers usually have to rummage through thrift stores for vintage goods. With that in mind, Honesty wanted to offer shoppers a pleasant shopping environment.
“I just wanted to curate and edit the clothing in a way where people can look at it and almost question if it’s new or if it’s old. There’s some good quality out there. You just have to present it in a nice way,” says the 27-year-old native of North Philadelphia.
The combination of the presentation of his stylish apparel and an attractive price point held Honesty in good stead through a challenging time in the economy.
He launched Cultured Couture with the focus on providing high-end vintage at an affordable price.
“I believe that the concept allowed me to stand out. My price point is very respectable for what I’m selling, so that allowed me to stay afloat,” says Honesty, who studied business administration at Lincoln University.
After operating Cultured Couture for more than a year in Northern Liberties, Honesty decided to scout around for a second location. He partnered with artist Ayinde Purnell to open the shop. Some of Purnell’s paintings line the walls of the Galerie.
Honesty enjoys the thrill of traveling through the city and to New Jersey, Boston and Maryland to hunt for goods to stock the store racks.
“That’s what I love the most. I love hunting and I love merchandising,” says Honesty.
In her role as director of customer experience for Janssen Biotech, Inc. Nicole Black gains valuable insight from both doctors and patients.
“The best way that I would explain my position is I’m a chief listening officer,” said Black, who is a native of Philadelphia.
“As the director of customer experience, I’m responsible for listening to patients and professionals to share with the organization what are some of the unmet needs that are out there, that can help patients be more successful on our treatments and in utilizing our tools and services that are helping better health outcomes.”
Janssen Biotech is a division of Johnson & Johnson that specializes in immunology, oncology and nephrology therapies.
“Janssen Biotech has fantastic drugs that truly revolutionizes patients’ lives,” said Black.
“The reason that I was brought into the organization was in this changing health care landscape, how can we at Janssen, really help patients move along that continuum of diagnosis to having better health outcomes? We are really looking to partner with healthcare professionals so that patients have the access and can also afford the medicines.”
While pursuing an undergraduate degree at Howard University, Black discovered that she had a true passion for unmet consumer needs. This would ultimately lead her to Johnson & Johnson.
In her more than 15 years at Johnson & Johnson, she held a variety of roles including vice president, Enterprise Marketing and Research at J&J Healthcare Systems, group product director with McNeil Consumer Healthcare, group product director for McNeil Nutritionals’ portfolio of base brands and worldwide director of innovation where she served as a member of their McNeil Nutritionals’ Global Management Board.
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, she held marketing positions with American Express and the DuPont Company.
In addition to spending a significant amount of time visiting doctor’s offices, Black meets with the Janssen’s customer experience board and mentors up-and-coming professionals in the company. She also serves on the board of Janssen Biotech.
“One of the true beauties of my job is that every day is very different,” said Black.
“It’s such a broad role, but what we’re doing is impacting the lives in a positive way, of so many people that is fulfilling, whether it’s helping somebody who is suffering from prostate cancer or it’s that person who may have psoriasis.”
Black’s role is the only one of its kind within North America Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. She’s held the position for the last 14 months.
“Nicole leads a cross-functional team at Janssen Biotech, Inc. to execute against the organizational priority to enhance customer alignment throughout the business. At Janssen, we center our efforts around the needs of the customer, which we have identified through extensive research, said Monica Neufang, communications leader, North America Janseen.
“More importantly, but centering our efforts around the needs of the customer, we win for patients. Nicole and her team's efforts help patients gain access and start on our therapies prescribed for them and aides them with adherence and compliance tools and programs to stay on therapy, all in effort to generate the best possible health outcomes.”
Black has been recognized by Advertising Week as one of the Top 100 marketers and also appeared in Savoy Magazine as a “Rising Star in Corporate America.”
Black offered some advice for those with similar career interests.
“For those who are in undergrad now, use this time while you are in college to expand your networks and broaden your horizons,” said Black.
“When you’re in college you have a unique position where people love to give advice.”
She said up and coming professionals should be clear about what they hope to achieve. Black also stressed the importance of seeking out industry leaders for advice and mentorship.
Black resides in North Wales with her husband, Kenyatta, and their sons, Jaden and Christian.
NEW YORK — Netflix Inc. is separating its DVD-by-mail business from the online movie streaming service it sees as the future of entertainment consumption.
In announcing the changes, CEO Reed Hastings also apologized to subscribers for the way the company communicated its decision to split the two services, which raised prices for those who want both.
The mail order plan will be renamed "Qwikster." In a few weeks, Netflix subscribers who want to get DVDs by mail will go to a separate website to access Qwikster. The streaming business will continue to be called Netflix.
Members who subscribe to both services will have two entries on their credit card statements. Instead of Netflix, the distinctive red envelopes that end up in customers' mailboxes will now say Qwikster.
It's a risky gamble. The amount of streaming content the company offers is still far less than the number of DVDs in its catalog. And competition, from Hulu, Amazon, Coinstar's Redbox kiosks and other services, is growing. Netflix could even alienate customers further by asking them to now deal with two separate websites and accounts instead of just one.
Hastings apologized for the way the company communicated the price changes, but not for the price hike itself.
"I messed up," the CEO wrote in a blog post Sunday night that was also emailed to subscribers.
The changes come as the company faces increasing scrutiny from customers and shareholders over the decision announced in July to separate its mail order and Internet streaming services into two separate plans. The change raised the prices for users who want both services, by as much as 60 percent for some.
"Our view is with this split of the businesses, we will be better at streaming, and we will be better at DVD by mail," Hastings wrote.
Last week, Netflix lowered its U.S. subscriber forecast for the third quarter and the former stock market darling's shares took a beating as a result.
Hastings said he "slid into arrogance based upon past success" when he did not adequately explain the reasons behind the plan separation and effective price hike. He said the reason is that instant streaming and DVD-by-mail are becoming "two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently."
Explaining the reasons behind the plan change "wouldn't have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do," Hastings wrote.
Netflix announced its move just as the once-mighty Borders Inc. shuttered the last of its bookstores around the country. Hastings' blog post seemed to take heed. He said that for the past five years, his "greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming."
"Most companies that are great at something — like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores — do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices," he wrote.
Hastings said the DVD service will be the same as ever, "just a new name." But customers will see a video games upgrade option for game rentals on the Qwikster website. Andy Rendich, who has been working on Netflix's DVD service for 12 years, and leading it for the past four years, will be the CEO of Qwikster.
Hastings also said Netflix will add "substantial" streaming content in the next few months, and reassured that there are no more pricing changes.
Shares of Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix fell $5.19, or 3.4 percent, to $150 in afternoon trading. The stock is down about 48 percent since July 12, when the company announced the plan pricing changes. -- (AP)
When Sebastian McCall realized that there was a need for quality jeans to fit various sizes, he was spurred to launch his own line.
“We launched our brand pretty much out of necessity in the market,” says McCall, who launched Sebastian McCall Jeans in 2010.
McCall started his brand at a time when the economy slowed down, and many jeans vendors started cutting back on quality to increase their profit margins.
“I figured that I could control the consistency of the manufacturing with my own brand. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to be a premium brand,” said McCall, who is the owner of Charles Porter Boutique, Inc.
McCall used experience culled from 12 years of interacting with customers at his retail stores Charlie’s Jeans, to design the brand. He aspired to create jeans that were superior in quality and fit.
The jeans retail for $150 and up and come in skinny, straight leg, slim boot cut, boot cut and trouser varieties. Sizes range from 23 to 36 (00 to 16) for women, and 29 to 40 for men. They are currently sold at the Charlie’s Jeans stores located at 233 Market Street and 1733 Chestnut Street.
“The jean was designed so that a person could just take it off the rack and it fits. That is what I think sets us apart from other jean brands,” says the 38-year-old Philadelphia native.
McCall spends a significant amount of time designing his jeans, tweaking patterns and flying back and forth to the manufacturing plant in California. McCall says 80 percent of his fabrics are from the U.S., while 20 percent is sourced from Italy.
The McCall label accounts for 75 percent of the Charlie’s Jeans denim sales. In addition to the Sebastian McCall label, Charlie’s Jeans carries 30 other brands, including 7 For All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Hudson and J Brand. The stores sell approximately 1,000 pairs of jeans per month.
While the focus is on denim, Charlie’s Jeans also feature blouses, shirts, dresses and jackets.
Meredith Albert, general manager, Charlie’s Jeans is often on hand to advise customers about finding their ideal fit in denim. She helps customers narrow down their selection.
“When women come into the store, they want jeans that fit them well. They’re so used to going into stores (where) they’re taking everything in on their own, spending a lot of time in the fitting room and coming out with nothing, feeling discouraged because they don’t find anything that fits them,” Albert said.
Despite the state of economy, McCall says his business has fared well during the recession. He was able to hire employees and has experienced growth.
“I’m proud that we started our brand during the recession and as far as our books, we didn’t miss a beat,” McCall added.
According to McCall, the brand’s core market is comprised of professional women over 25.
McCall’s next step is to take the brand beyond his retail stores and into premium retailers such as Barney’s Co-op, Saks and Neiman Marcus.
McCall is tapping into a burgeoning segment in the apparel industry. According to retail research firm The NPD Group, the premium denim market has grown to about $2.2 billion of the almost $14 billion in denim sales. The NPD Group classifies premium denim as jeans priced above $50.