NEW YORK — Hoping to fill a need by private equity firms for in-depth information about trends in the merchandising sector, investment banking firm Financo Inc. is sponsoring its first Merchandising Equity Investors Conference next month.

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The summit is scheduled for Oct. 21 at the The Harmonie Club. Presentations begin at 2 p.m. Financo is aiming to hold this conference annually.

John McManus, editor in chief of American Demographics, is slated as the keynote speaker. Financo chairman Gilbert Harrison will moderate a panel on “Industry Perspectives and Latest Trends.” Participants include Harold Kahn, former chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s East, and Arthur Martinez, former chairman and ceo of Sears, Roebuck & Co. A second panel moderated by Financo managing director Michael O’Hara will focus on “Lenders’ Views on Financing Trends,” with participants including James Hogan of GE Capital and Edward Siskin of Bank of America Retail Finance.

“The agenda was put together exclusively for presentation to the private equity firms. What we’ve found is that they want to be updated on trends in the merchandising sector, and we thought it would be productive for us to hold this conference and develop it over time,” Harrison said.

O’Hara explained that the investor base has “changed dramatically,” with private equity firms increasingly looking for investments that provide consistent cash flow. This is because the deals that are structured tend to involve the use of debt capital.

“The debt needs to be paid [down], and retail and merchandising firms, unlike start-ups, generate a sufficient amount of cash to pay it off,” O’Hara said.

He said one benefit for firms attending the conference will be networking opportunities during cocktails following the program. “Everyone should bring plenty of business cards. We’re creating an atmosphere where investors from many disciplines will be attending…with all the resources to [make deals happen] in the same room at the same time,” O’Hara added.

— Vicki M. Young