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Fashion store chain Esprit pins hopes on new CEO.
Fashion retailer Esprit, which recently said it had “lost its soul” as it lost customers to rivals such as H&M and Zara, has hired a former Zara manager to turn its fortunes around.
Jose Manuel Martinez, a 42-year-old Spaniard and former manager of Inditex, the world’s leading fashion retailer which owns the Zara brand, is to take over as Esprit’s new chief executive replacing Ronald van der Vis who quit in June.
The announcement sent Esprit shares, which are listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, soaring by as much as 28 percent.
But analysts warned investors against pinning their hopes too high.
“The appointment is positive, but it’s still only a first step,” said Deutsche Bank analyst Anne Ling.
And her colleagues at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch predicted that Martinez has a “long and bumpy road” ahead of him.
Esprit is, indeed, not doing well.
Last year, its operating profit shrank to just 70 million euros ($86 million) from close to 400 million euros a year earlier, owing to the cost of a 1.7-billion-euro restructuring programme which will weigh on profits again this year and next year.
At the same time, rivals Zara and H&M are continuing to grow.
On its website, Esprit boasts it is “an international youthful lifestyle brand offering smart, affordable luxury and bringing newness and style to life.”
It operates more than 800 directly managed retail stores in more than 40 countries worldwide.
But outgoing CEO Ronald Van der Vis complained that the group has “gradually lost its soul in recent years.”
In its drive to expand internationally, the “brand’s heritage has been neglected and customers were no longer the centre of attention,” he said.
Esprit is indeed a long way from its beginnings in 1968 when its founders, hippies Douglas and Susie Tompkins — who also set up the North Face brand — sold their clothes from a VW camper van in California.
But the Tompkins left long ago. And Esprit has been listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange since 1993, with its dual headquarters in Ratingen near Duesseldorf in Germany and in Hong Kong.
Sales have been in decline since mid-2008, with its fashion collections failing to capture customers’ imagination.
The departure of its main designer, the Korean-American Melody Harris-Jensbach, in January 2008 has not helped.
Ronald Van der Vis tried to pull the group around by launching a worldwide restructuring last year, including the closure of more than 170 unprofitable stores, notably in North America, Spain, Sweden and Denmark.
At the same time, Esprit is focussing its energies on its main European markets where it plans to open 185 new stores in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and the Benelux countries by 2015.It is looking to rejuvenate its image with new concept stores.
Another part of its offensive will be China, its second national market after Germany, where the number of sales outlets will be increased to 1,900 by 2015 from around 1,000 at present.Finally, Martinez is hoping to recapture some of Esprit’s “soul” with the return of designer Melody Harris-Jensbach.

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Neiman Marcus Group’s Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan recently expanded its children’s wear department by a third to devote more space to Gucci and the new lines like Oscar de la Renta. For fall, the prices range from $4 for hair bows to $5,200 for an exclusive Christian Dior silk party dress handmade in France.

“We’re definitely growing,” says Andrew Mandell, Bergdorf Goodman’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of home and children’s wear. “This is a whole new realm. And when you have our customers so fashion forward, they eat this up.”Colleen Sherin, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, says both parents and grandparents are willing to spend on “unique, special” fashion items. “They’re just not looking for basics.”The bigger trend, however, is designers creating free-standing shops devoted to kids, says Faith Hope Consolo, who leads retail leasing and marketing at Prudential Douglas Elliman.Following in the footsteps of Gucci, Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani will be opening this fall its first U.S. store devoted to children in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Armani launched its children’s business in the U.S. in 2009.The Armani store, which targets newborns to teenagers, will feature items priced from $50 to $500, says Armani spokesman Christian Langbein.Some parents who are splurging say they also mix in shopping trips to Gap or other less-expensive stores, but see the designer duds as a confidence booster.”I really believe when she dresses like this, she feels better about herself,” added Sandler, who shops for pricey children’s clothes at Barneys New York as well as a New York women’s clothing store called Edit, which now has a designer children’s wear section.Manhattan resident Kelly Mallon, 39, says she’s proud that her 9-year-old daughter Madeleine has developed her own fashion sensibility.”I love seeing my child well-dressed. It makes me happy. It makes her happy,” says Mallon who outfits her daughter in accessories from Italian designer Missoni and tops from designer Milly’s year-old children’s line called Milly Minis. “It’s not a little girl playing dress up. She’s in her own clothes made for her.”

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Men who prefer women younger than themselves, and women who choose older men are not only under the influence of cultural stereotypes. Those and other age-related preferences in the field of sex and marriage were defined in the process of evolution.

According to the scientists, both men and women of children is greater when the father for a few years older than the mother. They believe that through natural selection of both sexes developed a consistent age-related preferences.

As the study conducted in Austria, the men are making the greatest progress in childbirth, when the lady for six years younger, women have the same child more than anything in the event that the father of five years or older.

One of the most well-known prolific marriages in the UK confirms these figures are almost one hundred percent. The queen, who is now 81 years old, for four years and ten months younger than the Duke of Edinburgh. They have four children – is more than twice the average for British families.

However, in couples where the man is much older, this advantage is not observed. Women whose partners are older than ten years, on average, as many children as those whose spouse is younger than five years.

Results of the study are the most convincing of the evidence that the union, in which the older man and a woman younger, became the norm for heterosexual couples in the course of evolution. So it is accepted in most human societies studied, and it gives an advantage at birth of offspring.

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