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Operating experience

S.I. Investments & The Sakowitz Corporation
Detailed innovations & responsibilities

Increasing sales: Increasing sales from $38 million to $140 million and quadrupling the profits during the period as President of Sakowitz, Inc. 1975-1985.

Initiating new in-store marketing concepts: Initiating new in-store concepts of European designer ready-to-wear boutiques of America. Utilizing a European apprenticeship experience from Galleries Lafayette, he collaborated with French couture designers, who were both unfamiliar with ready-to-wear in general as well as the U.S. market in particular. In a series of personal meetings, convincing the first “grand couturier” member of the Chambre Syndicale to make standardized fit, graded and patterned for the U.S. market sizes to be launched for entry into the U.S. at Sakowitz in Houston, Texas – a “first” in fashion and apparel marketing in America; and thus brought Andre Courreges, Jackie Kennedy´s favorite French designer, to the Sakowitz stores to launch his first ready-to-wear boutique in America in 1967. The boutique was successful from its opening day, and the concept of an in-store replicated French boutique, recreated exactly as its Paris architecture, was later emulated by many competitors. This began the series of what was to become the “boutique/Europeanization of America” in many other retail stores subsequently-

Introducing a number of other couture and high-fashion European designers to the United States: After Courreges, Mr. Sakowitz personally negotiated the first distribution agreements with Richard Solomon for the first American Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche boutiques, with exclusivity for Texas for seven years. Other such negotiations and first launchings in America were with Ermenegildo Zegna, Kenzo, Fendi, Fiorucci and Jean Muir, to name but a few most notable. This gave the company a market niche and label exclusivity it (and most others) had previously lacked since it's competitor, Neiman Marcus, controlled all of the top U.S. women's designer labels. For innovations with French Ready-to Wear, in 1972 he received the Epingle D'Or(“Golden Needle”)award from the French Fashion Federation.

Initiating annual theme-oriented festivals: Initiating annual theme-oriented festivals in 1964, including international cultural and commercial merchandising concepts sparking events with community-wide participation for trans-industry corporate visibility, that became part of the basis for the now word-recognized Houston International Arts Festival. Education programs were coordinated with the public and private schools throughout the city for organizing student attendance. Themes such as Festival of Fantasy, Festival of the Renaissance and Festival of Great Religious Cultures, among others, were produced from 1964 until 1984. These festivals required Government and corporate negotiations at the highest levels, convincing Ministries and Corporate executives to invest in joint promotional ventures with the Sakowitz Company. That they continued and grew for over fourteen Festivals, with participation of numerous countries and many Fortune Five Hundred companies, is an indication of their acceptance and success.

Negotiating manufacturing and export programs: Negotiating manufacturing and export programs with European and far Eastern countries for these events, and for these commercial and cultural successes, led to personal decorations by President Giscard D´Estaign, Republic of France, as Chevalier de l´Ordre National du Merite in 1976; and subsequent decoration by Premier Craxi, Republic of Italy, with the honor of the Cavaliere dell Ordine Al Merito, in 1984.

National Association of Display Industry: Planning and supervising over one million square feet of innovative fashion specialty store design, layout, décor and display, construction and merchandising, receiving the National Association of Display Industry (NADI) Outstanding Achievement Award for Retail Management in 1976, and appointed to the NADI Hall of Fame in 1984.

Product Development: Creating a product development process, and later a separate division, for private label merchandise in the late 1970´s, in fashion apparel, basics, cosmetics and fragrance, accessories and gifts, supervising piece goods and patter system selection; ultimately made into a separate corporate (profit center) division. Sourcing was organized from domestic as well as Italian , English, Japanese, Philippine, Hong Kong and other Chinese facilities. Developed and launched a men´s fragrance, “Rampage”, as a corporate men´s fashion signature.

Fine and Rare Wine Auctions: Initiating the concept of fine and rare wine auctions (conducted at Sakowitz by Michael Broadbent of Christies, London), Innovating one of the first in-store upscale gourmet and specialty foods and wine education classes and world-publicized rare wine auctions for over eighteen years.

Restaurant operations and an outside catering: Developing in-store restaurant operations and an outside catering business to a regionally-recognized and awarded status, creating products that were private-labeled from the Sky Terrace and Old Colony recipes and menus sold at retail.

World wide media recognized catalogue: Building a substantial catalogue and direct mail order business, converting stores-sales seasonal mailers into a stand-alone year round business, operationally separate from the stores. This created and developed a world-wide-media-recognized mail-order catalogue business, featuring the Christmas Catalogue with “Ultimate Gifts”. These were featured annually on Television by Johnny Carson, Good Morning America and The Today Show, as well as in numerous periodicals from Time Magazine to Der Sterm, newspapers and in other international publications. The catalogues also served to encourage vendors and suppliers to offer new products and exclusivities first to Sakowitz on a day-to-day basis for better profitability and market differentiation.

Commercial fashion magazine: Conceiving, developing and publishing the first modern-day commercial fashion magazine for a retail store, “The Magazine”, highlighting fashion trends, lifestyles, and product information through use of custom European fashion-runway photography and own text.

Fashion trend analysis system: Inventing a fashion trend analysis for Buyers and Merchandisers to better structure the vendors and merchandising timing, increasing cross-communications between merchants. The system outline was subsequently published in industry media as a marketing innovation for consideration by others.

Restructure the company: Creating alternatives for a family-owned privately held retail enterprise with limited access to capital to survive. Given the competitive requirements to either expand or expire in the face of national and international encroaching competition, vendor pressure for greater purchases to maintain lines and exclusivities, high interest rate, and ever-increasing minimum wage scale hikes, the challenge was to maintain profits while convincing real estate developers, bankers and vendors that expansion and survival of the Sakowitz company was in everyone´s best interest. Mr. Sakowitz was successful in doing so until the Southwestern home-based economy unexpectedly and devastatingly reversed in the mid-80´s. With consumer confidence destroyed in a depressed regional economy, sales revenues diminished and no longer supported these previous commitments. In the face of calls by its bank consortium (60% of whom faced their own credit call problems from the U.S. Office of the Controller of the Currency) in 1985, Sakowitz was forced to seek protection and reorganize. For twenty-nine months Mr. Sakowitz worked with attorneys, accountants, vendors, bankers, creditors and creditor´s committees, employees and customers to restructure the company and downsize for efficiency and debt repayment.

Managing a turnaround by personally leading the search for and finding new investors to assist the company in emerging from the reorganization. By crafting a plan with Chemical Bank for merging Sakowitz with Bonwit-Teller and Garfinckels during their offered “de-accessioning” by Allied-Federated, the offer reached the final round of negotiations, only to be “pre-empted” at the last moment at an “overprice” by the Australian firm of L. J. Hooker. Mr. Sakowitz contacted them to discuss this plan, and subsequently succeeded in creating a new company to help Sakowitz emerge with a joint consensual creditor plan.

The successful turnaround was halted when in 1990 Sakowitz’ then- two and one-half billion dollar Australian partner, L.J. Hooker, was itself forced into reorganization. While preventing Sakowitz from being part of a mandatory inclusion in the reorganization, Mr. Sakowitz could not stand alone under the “parent cloud” to return to profitability.

Given only ninety days to arrange for the repurchase of his former company, financing was not timely forthcoming in spite of all efforts. The parent/partner, L.J. Hooker, could no longer sustain world-wide operations and chose to liquidate all assets.

All Executives were released, and Sakowitz Inc. was liquidated by Hooker's overseers, (along with Bonwit Teller and B. Altman in New York).

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