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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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Relationship

Dating Girl: Our relationship has come to an end.

Dear Dating Girl: I’ve been seeing this guy for a couple of months and I thought things were going quite well. We’re both extremely tentative about getting into a relationship, so we took it very slowly and all seemed well. He even told me he was really enjoying the way things were going. Then suddenly, out of the blue, he tells me in a very cruel way that he no longer wants to see me. No discussion. Just, “It’s over. I don’t want to see you anymore.” I’m completely floored. What the hell happened?
Shocked and Shaken.
Dear Shocked and Shaken: I’d say the guy is suffering from the old fear-and-flight reaction. Maybe things were going a little too well and he’s not ready for that. But you can forget trying to find out. And no blaming yourself. Both are futile exercises. I mean it. You must also resist all urges to call up your mob connections and have him taken out. And repeat after me: I deserve better, I deserve better. As far as I’m concerned, all humans deserve respect, even when they’re being dumped. Someone who can’t be decent about breaking up with someone can’t be decent in a relationship. Now get out there and buy yourself a hot new outfit and go dancing with your best girlfriends. Right now!
That was my first Dating Girl letter and response back on July 12, 1999, just over 13 years ago. Wow – that’s longer than I’ve been married.
Like the young woman in this letter, I was tentative about getting into a relationship with The Gazette. After all, I was writing my slightly more risqué weekly column My Messy Bedroom over at the now sadly defunct Hour magazine when The Gazette approached me for a more, shall we say, family-friendly version of a relationship column. Could I be as honest, as frank, as bold in a daily?
Ultimately it didn’t matter. Sure, maybe I couldn’t use the word booger back in 1999 (ed: can I use that word yet?) and I couldn’t advise you when it came to the more X-rated aspects of your relationships, but there was so much to explore without even getting into any of that, from how to meet someone to how to get over them.
Some letters were less universal in theme than others (I’ll never forget the guy who wanted advice on sleeping with his cousin), but I tried my best to make my advice such that anyone might be able to call upon it when needed. I didn’t always succeed, but just as with relationships, there is no reward without risk.
And when it comes to relationships, just as I wrote in that very first column, “as far as I’m concerned, all humans deserve respect, even when they’re being dumped. Someone who can’t be decent about breaking up with someone can’t be decent in a relationship.”
Now I’m getting dumped. Thankfully, I didn’t get dumped like the poor woman in the above letter. There was no, “It’s over. I don’t want to see you anymore.” It was completely respectful. I’m sad, but not floored. I am well aware, as someone who has been in the media for over two decades now, that the times they are a-changin’. I am thankful for my years in this space. I am thankful for all the love, support, criticism and genuine gratefulness I have received from you for helping you navigate your way through the weird, wonderful and sometimes painful experiences of love. Not all relationships are meant to last forever. It’s been a good one. Thanks.
Now I think I’ll go out and get a hot new outfit and go dancing with my girlfriends.

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