At their core, factors are little more than financial middlemen for brands, but client loyalty comes from looking beyond the bottom line.
That at least seems to be the case with Rosenthal & Rosenthal, a New York-based factor founded in 1938 by Imre Rosenthal, who started out by making personal loans when companies couldn’t get financing from traditional banks.
Uri Minkoff, cofounder with his sister and chief executive officer of Rebecca Minkoff, said his company likely would not have made it were it not for the early and continued backing of Rosenthal.
“When Rebecca and I started the business, I funded it myself for a couple of years, but building a global fashion brand is very financially intensive,” Minkoff said. “Had we not had the support of Rosenthal, and the people there, we would not be here today.”
This relates well to one of Rosenthal’s early advertisements, tagging the company as “The Important Factoræ…To Remember,” which appeared in WWD throughout the late Fifties and early Sixties.
Minkoff added that he counts Rosenthal as his company’s “single most important external partner” in the decade they’ve been working together. But Rosenthal’s hand in Rebecca Minkoff’s success goes beyond the interim invoice-based financing expected of any factor.
“I remember dealing with vendor selections at the beginning, and we were a very small company at the time, so I was meeting with bankers and agents and the like, and during my initial meeting [with Rosenthal], I was arguing with them over like, an eighth of a percentage point on interest,” Minkoff recalled. “The Rosenthal guy eventually said ‘I’ll give you the point, but you’re not asking the right question.’ He told me that the important question in this business is, ‘When you need support, who’s going to support you?’ That’s rung true time and again, because Rosenthal has really been there for us.”
Part of what’s developed the “close, trusting, familial” relationship Minkoff said he has with Rosenthal is that the company doles out advice and guidance when asked, much as it has always done.
“When there were things that we wanted to do, they looked over our business plan,” Minkoff said. “If we needed more advisory support, or there was a new area of business we wanted to get into, they introduced us to great people. We could always call them and say, ‘What do you think?’ about this or that.
“I think this really has been partly a mentorship, because they really helped us understand who were good accounts, which paid their bills and where we could grow and be stable, as well as our financial structure and how much inventory we should carry,” Minkoff went on. “They helped us with that whole back side of the business.”
In particular, Minkoff singled out Michael Stanley, saying Rosenthal’s managing director and head of factoring has the financial acumen expected of a banker, but also has “that heart part that you don’t always connect with banking.” He also noted the personal touch that the company’s president, Peter Rosenthal, still gives to his family’s company.
“He’s never treated us like a stiff formal banker,” Minkoff said of Rosenthal. “He’s there, he’s real.”
Michael Haddad, the president and owner of Fashion Options, a New York apparel company founded in 1981 focused on men’s wear, agreed that Rosenthal as a company maintains the feel of a much smaller operation, probably because it is still privately owned and largely operated by the family.
“We started working with them [in the early Nineties] because we liked their size and their hands-on approach and the personalization they give, and they’ve kept it up,” Haddad said. “The day-to-day relationship is very amicable, friendly.”
But there’s no doubt that Rosenthal is a major financial player in the fashion industry. Last month the company made its first acquisition with the takeover of BB&T Corp.’s $2 billion factoring business. This will bring Rosenthal’s annual factored volume to approximately $11 billion and see the company expanding more into furniture, casual living, fabrics and textiles, while maintaining its deep interests in apparel and fashion.
This growth, and the prospect of Rosenthal getting even bigger, doesn’t bother Haddad, however — nor, probably, any of Rosenthal’s other clients.
“If there’s one overriding theme with Rosenthal, it’s that although they are very large in scale, they operate as if I’m their only account,” Haddad said. “They just operate like a smaller factor.”