By  on November 10, 2009

NEW YORK — The 13th annual WWD Retail/Apparel CEO Summit opened Monday at the St. Regis Hotel here, with speakers touching on the importance of designers following their instincts, the outlook for the economy and the future for Chinese consumers. Speakers included Stella McCartney; Eric Wiseman of VF Corp.; Wesley R. Card of Jones Apparel Group Inc.; Emanuel Chirico of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.; Jim Glassman of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Bruce Rockowitz of Li & Fung (Trading) Ltd.

Here, some highlights of the first day:

• McCartney on the impact of the recession on her design process: “We’re an agile company, and we’re very young. We run a tight ship anyway. I’m the kind of designer who likes to challenge every single thing. I treat garments as individual garments, not just [outfits].” Most importantly, McCartney noted, she connects with her customer. “I really admire people who earn money and part with their hard-earned money for my product. To me, that’s the biggest compliment.”

• Ceo roundtable: the big picture: Card, Chirico and Wiseman, chief executive officers of vendors with a combined $14 billion in revenues, weighed in on the lessons of the past year, potential acquisitions and shoppers’ attitudes. “I don’t think that consumers have fundamentally changed,” said Wiseman. “There’s a confidence issue.”

• Deflation and sourcing: Rockowitz, in a keynote address, said price deflation could be about to reverse course as the dollar weakens and new consumers in China and elsewhere flex their muscles. He also warned that, in years ahead, there actually will be production shortages. “There are one billion consumers now in the world and, in 10 years, that number will double. There definitely will be pressures on the supply chain.”

• Economic outlook: Glassman, managing director and senior economist, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., told summit attendees to plan on a recovery because one is beginning to take shape. Still, with unemployment at 10.2 percent, even if it falls half a point a year, it will take a decade to reach the Federal Reserve’s long-term goal for unemployment, which is 4.8 to 5 percent.

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