Designer Brands Has More Work to Do

Often, companies that are going through major transformations change their names to give themselves identities that match up more accurately with their new strategic directions. That was the case for Designer Brands (NYSE:DBI), which formerly carried the name of its DSW Shoe Warehouse unit, but which has made significant acquisitions in order to expand its market and pursue new opportunities in the footwear and accessories space.

Coming into Designer Brands’ fiscal first-quarter report, shareholders had hoped for signs that the company’s recent moves were beginning to bear fruit, and signal that the business was headed toward a full recovery. The retailer did indeed generate some enthusiasm with its report, but a closer look at the numbers shows that it has a long way to go before it can claim complete success in its restructuring efforts.

How Designer Brands started off 2019

Designer Brands’ Q1 results clearly reflected the impact of the acquisitions on the company’s overall business. The retailer posted revenue of $870 million, up 22.5% from year-ago levels. Adjusted net income of $33.6 million was up a more modest 7% over the same period, and adjusted earnings of $0.43 per share were in line with the consensus forecast among analysts following the stock.

Mosaic-designed wall with Vince Camuto sign on it.

THE VINCE CAMUTO CONCEPT IS NEW TO DESIGNER BRANDS. IMAGE SOURCE: DESIGNER BRANDS.

Overall, Designer Brands had some good things to say about its performance. Comparable sales rose 3%, and although that wasn’t as strong a gain as it reported three months ago, it was also being measured against a solid year-ago quarter. Meanwhile, its new Canada retail and brand portfolio segments contributed roughly $91 million in sales to external customers — a small, but meaningful, portion of Designer Brands’ total revenue.

The footwear and accessories retailer delivered a more mixed message on the fundamental front. On one hand, gross margin climbed by half a percentage point to 29.4% as it improved its U.S. retail unit’s efficiency. That was a nice rebound from last quarter’s gross margin decline. However, costs associated with Designer Brands’ acquisitions significantly weighed on operating profit, causing operating margin to drop to just about 5%.

CEO Roger Rawlins said he was happy with all three of Designer Brands’ key businesses. “Our DSW banner, the Shoe Company banner, and Camuto Group all performed at or above our expectations,” he said, “with the U.S. retail and [Affiliated Business Group] segments delivering positive comparable sales.” The CEO also pointed to good progress in Canada and the recent Camuto Group acquisition as encouraging signs for further growth.

Looking ahead

Designer Brands has high hopes for the future. In Rawlins’ words, “The infrastructure we have created, combined with the talent of our teams, has elevated our operating model, giving us the platform to accelerate market share growth in North America.”

The retailer let that optimism work its way into its earnings guidance: It boosted its full-year projections to a new EPS range of $1.87 to $1.97, which was $0.07 higher than its previous forecast. Elsewhere, the company didn’t make any major changes to guidance, keeping its projections for low double-digit percentage growth in revenue and low single-digit comparable sales gains.

Investors were initially quite pleased with the report, sending the stock sharply higher on Thursday following the announcement. Yet by Friday, shares had settled back down toward their recent lows. The market seemed gratified to see some progress, but at the same time, investors want more concrete signs of Designer Brands’ ability to produce lasting growth from Camuto and its Canadian operations, as well as good results domestically.

[“source=fool”]

Fashion has shockingly few female CEOs

Something is off in the fashion business. Say a woman and a man who graduate school with comparable educations, grade point averages, and internships enter the fashion industry at the same time. As they start moving up the ranks, everything is fine for a while. But eventually, the woman is much more likely to get stuck in middle management while the man continues to rise.

As a consequence, while there are plenty of women in middle management roles in fashion, just 12.5% of clothing companies in the Fortune 1000 today have female CEOs, according to “Unraveling the fabric ceiling,” a report by the global accounting and consulting firm PwC. That’s less than companies in the aerospace and defense industries, which are about 20% female-led, and financial services, where 18% of companies have women as their chief executives.

The discrepancy exists despite the obvious fact that women are the main audience and biggest spenders on fashion. Even by modest estimates, “women make some 80% of all fashion-related purchasing decisions—representing as much as $15 trillion—not just for themselves but for a much wider circle of family and friends, especially spouses and children,” PwC notes. Even so, among 61 womenswear companies in the Fortune 1000, 75% had mostly male corporate teams.

What gives? That’s the question PwC set out to answer.

The problems

The report documents a number of structural barriers preventing women from getting into the top jobs, even though government and industry data show that nearly 80% of students at fashion schools are women. And data shows that there’s good reason to put them in charge. PwC notes that “among apparel companies in the Fortune 1000 (including apparel retailers), female-led companies are almost twice as profitable as companies with male CEOs.”

Yet according to PwC’s analysis, while companies are spending billions on diversity training and promoting the need for diversity, CEOs are too often failing to make concrete commitments on diversity, and companies aren’t establishing metrics by which they can measure success. Statements of commitment to equality are nice, but they’re no substitute for results. Company pipelines also aren’t working: the report found that just 25% of female CEOs got there by rising up through the company, compared to 54% of male CEOs. In the clothing industry, men have typically gotten into executive training programs in higher numbers than women, PwC pointed out.

Women can suffer from institutional blind spots and unconscious bias within companies as well. Men may not recognize (paywall) that women are underrepresented in top positions, for instance, and companies on the whole can overlook the need for internal change. The way women themselves are socialized contributes, too. Women often won’t apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements, where men will apply if they meet 60%, creating a so-called confidence gap. Plus, women pay the price when they have children—their pay and their rate of advancement suffer for the duration of their careers.

PwC based its analysis on interviews with current and former CEOs, insights from experts on diversity and inclusion, and a variety of data. It’s not the first to notice how few women are making it to the C-suite in fashion. Last year, a study conducted by Glamour magazine in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and McKinsey & Company consulting group similarly found that women in fashion are hitting a wall mid-career.

The solutions

There are steps companies can take to solve these problems. First off, leadership needs to live up to its name. “There’s no substitute for the tide-changing influence of a committed CEO,” PwC writes. A board that’s balanced between genders can also help make balance within the company a priority.

And it’s critical that companies measure progress. Vague goals aren’t going to be as effective as setting clear diversity targets at every level of the company, and then supporting programs to make sure those targets are met. The report recommends giving “teeth to targets” by holding people accountable for hitting trackable goals (it doesn’t offer any suggested penalties; companies will have to decide what’s appropriate on their own).

Bias training for staff is also useful to ensure staff are spotting it where it appears, and companies should review how they handle hiring and promotions, as well as investigate any anomalies they see. If women are leaving the company more often than men, or not getting promotions at similar rates, the company should be asking why. Tools such as surveys and interviews with employees, including exit interviews, can help.

For employees who have families, companies can work out “nonlinear” career paths so those who need to juggle their duties at home and in the office aren’t being penalized for it. They should also offer flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies—for men as well as women. When men use their family leave and take advantage of work-from-home policies to care for kids, it helps counter the stigma against women doing the same.

Individuals have their own part to play. Men can take the time to understand their own biases and blindspots, and be willing to mentor junior female colleagues. Women can raise each other up, and make it a point to ask for the things they need.

These actions aren’t just for companies to consider when they get around to it. They’re necessary now. They can help attract and retain talent, making businesses more profitable and innovative.

They’re also the right thing to do. Companies today are expected to stand for a set of values. Those values start from within.

[“source=qz”]

This Latina Fashion Designer Shares All She Has Learned Since Selling Her First Dress

Alexia Maria Alexia Maria

Alexia María started designing clothes for herself long before she ever designed a look for anyone else. Over time, and thanks to word of mouth and a strong social media presence, María was able to build a brand that has led to actors like America Ferrera and singers like Gwen Stefani wearing her looks.

In growing the brand from a business that sold primarily to friends and family to one that can be shopped at two flagship locations – one in California and one in New York — as well as online, María had to learn to juggle the demands from both the creative and business side of any new business.

“It takes a lot of discipline and a great team to give your 100% to both sides,” shares María. “With the help of my amazing team, I am able to completely focus on design when I need to. With their support I am able to let go of the business side for a while and just dive into designing.”

As an immigrant and Latina in the fashion space, María understands that women are layered and that the clothes they choose to wear reflect their heart above all.

“If you are comfortable with what you are wearing, you will be confident and be the best version of yourself,” notes María.

Below María shares her advice to other designers and entrepreneurs, how her Latinidad has influenced the trajectory of her career, and how she navigated making the jump to being a fashion designer.

[“source=forbes]

Former Facebook Manager Says The Company Has A ‘Black People Problem’

Bloomberg Royalty Free© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Today, Mark S. Luckie, a former manager at Facebook, posted a memo about how Facebook treats its Black employees. In the memo, Luckie indicates that “Black people are finding that their attempts to create ‘safe spaces’ on Facebook…are being derailed by the platform itself.” Luckie explained claims of mistreatment in more detail throughout the memo mentioning that Black people’s content has been removed without notice. Luckie also mentioned that underrepresented groups have been excluded on both Instagram and Facebook, with less visibility and access given to them. He went on to also explain that increasing diversity does not solve the inclusion issue; diversity without inclusion is ineffective. Luckie also explained how microaggressions have created hostile work environments to many different Facebook employees he’s spoken to. When employees complain and report these issues to Human Resources (HR), they are made to feel as if the incidents are “a figment of [their] imagination.” Some Black employees may be hesitant to express their feelings about the mistreatment for fear of losing their job or retaliation. Despite the efforts Facebook has made to be more inclusive (employee resource groups, their diversity team), the company is unsuccessful at truly fostering a culture of inclusion for its Black employees.

How can the tech industry foster not only a more diverse environment but also a more inclusive environment that is more welcoming to Black people and other underrepresented groups?

    1. The first step in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment is conducting an audit of the current diversity climate within the organization. Enlist the opinions of employees, as well as customers, on how to improve different aspects of the organization. Luckie suggested implementing focus groups with people of color, which is an excellent suggestion. Focus groups can play a fundamental role in helping organizations assess how to make their products and services better. If multiple users are complaining about a specific issue (i.e. Black Facebook and Instagram user posts being removed and accounts being suspended), this should be addressed and dealt with.
    2. Luckie mentioned one solution is cultural competency training. An addition to this suggestion is that the training should be done on a frequent and ongoing basis. Research indicates that diversity training is successful when it is delivered over a significant period of time. Training can also impact the frequency of microaggressions, making the workplace a more inviting environment. Leaders should be required to participate in training, as well as each staff member in the organization.
    1. Diversity goes beyond just the numbers. The attraction of diverse talent is just one piece of the puzzle. The often more challenging aspect of diversity is figuring out how to foster a culture of inclusion for all. Are you allowing diverse talent to have a seat at the table? Assess team-building activities in the organization. Is everyone invited to the after-work events and parties? What is being done in the organization to foster interpersonal connections? Evaluate what is currently being done and figure out what could be done better.
    2. HR departments are often the first line of defense when employees feel that they’ve been mistreated. The HR department should have a clear plan for addressing these issues. Complaints made should be investigated and examined frequently. If there is a consistent or recurring claim being made, it should be dealt with. Luckie suggested creating “internal systems for employees to anonymously report microaggressions.” This can be an effective strategy. Employees may want to complain or report an incident but fear it will impact their job and status at the organization. Companies may benefit from integrating an anonymous system in which employees can report issues that occur, without fears of repercussions.

[“source=forbes]

What Deepika Padukone’s wedding saree designer has to say about Sabyasachi credit controversy

Deepika Padukone's wedding saree designer speaks out about Sabyasachi controversy.

Deepika Padukone ooked like a vision in all of her wedding looks. While earlier it was believed that Sabyasachi had designed and conceptualised all of her wedding looks, it was later revealed that that was not the case.

Deepika’s gorgeous red and gold saree was bought by her and her mother from a very famous silk store in Bengaluru called The House Of Angadi.

Sabyasachi and his team, who had earlier taken credit for dressing up Deepika on her Konkani wedding day ‘head to toe’ later issued an apology after the original designer K Radharaman contacted famous fashion journalist Shefalee Vasudev about the same and she brought the matter to light.

Sabyasachi issued a written apology and gave credits to the original label immediately.

Deepika’s saree for the Bengaluru reception was also designed by K Radharaman.

Anyway, a long time after the controversy took place, the man behind the gorgeous designs finally decided to speak about it. Here is what he said:

“I do not and never did have any intention of being critical of Sabyasachi Mukherjee or anyone else. I do not have any negative sentiment towards anyone and we did thank him publicly on social media for giving credit to us after we pointed the error to him.”

He continued:

“That said, when I was informed that another design label had claimed credit for my work, I felt obligated to speak up on behalf of the entire design community of which we are all a part of.”

[“source=ndtv”]