What happens if you reach Tanzania when you had planned for Italy instead?

After a long and arduous wait, you’re finally en route to your dream destination (in my case, Italy). You’ve spent endless hours planning the travel logistics, researching all the tourist spots etc., and you just can’t wait to touch and embrace the scenic beauty you have envisioned for so long. The aircraft has finally landed. You open your eyes and BOOM! You are in an entirely different location (say, Tanzania), not Italy.

Expect the unexpected to say the least, right?

Take a moment to imagine the excitement, emotions, and the amount of planning that a couple goes through when expecting a newborn (especially if it’s their first baby). What do you think happens to all these feelings when their baby is born with Special Needs instead? All dreams come crashing down in an instant, and the mind goes numb.

Of course, Tanzania does not offer the architecture of Rome or the beauty of Venice, but it has its own charm in the form of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Safaris. One does need to learn and acquire special skills though, such as climbing, in order to be able to explore and fully enjoy these landmarks. That’s exactly what parents of Special Needs children do—learn several new skills to raise their kids. One of the most common challenges that they come across is to find playmates for their kids. Life Enrichment Options and Camp Prime Time are two such organizations that actively provide the kind of support and playing activities that these special kids need.

As the parent of a Special Needs child myself, I can vouch for how happy and adventurous the journey of raising my son has been so far. My son loves racing cars at LEO events, which have been designed especially for kids with special needs. In addition, he enjoys the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest which offer fishing, boating, and the wilderness with free lodging and food at Camp Prime Time.

Find more inspirational stories by clicking the links provided above.

I am sure all of you are already making a difference to the community by donating to your favorite charities, churches, temples, etc. Please consider donating some amount to these wonderful organizations as well to make an impact on the life of Special Needs kids and adults. If you are Microsoftian, you work for an amazing employer as it matches your donation amount. I am sure other employers are as good as Microsoft is:), consider your employer based program to donate if it matches your contribution. Your individual generosity is always much appreicated. thanks for making impact on the life of special eed kids and adults.

Reference

WELCOME TO HOLLAND, by Emily Perl Kingsley; http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html
Posted in Personal- Ahsas, Reflections- Zindgi | 1 Comment

New York: The Empire State

New York City!…in a word “Amazing”. I cannot describe this city in words. You need to go, visit and breathe this city. I studied in Bombay (Now Mumbai) and couldn’t stop comparing Mumbai with New York. Both cities, never sleeps. Even at 1 AM, you can catch local in Mumbai and subway in NYC. Atlantic and Arabian ocean respectively both cities. Skyrocket buildings in both cities. Wall street & NY stock Exchange in NYC and Dalal street and Indian stock exchange in Mumbai. Mumbai expands its portfolio with Bollywood but New York says that you need to go to LA to get Hollywood. Similar super fast life in both cities. Similar traffic, similar diversity. I know it is not apple to apple comparison but folks who have visited both cities will not disagree with me. When I was in Mumbai, I couldn’t imagine living in any other city in India. When I left Mumbai and went Delhi, I missed the pace of life. Now after living in Seattle, do I want o live in New York; probably not unless I am getting a condo with a view in Manhattan :). But your world trip or your travel dreams cannot be completed until you visit this city. It is a must visit city.

With a skyline that’s recognizable worldwide , New York City is a one-of-a-kind destination with diverse population. From world-class dining to shopping to nightlife to culture, New York City’s streets pulsate with an unmistakable rhythm that attracts more than 45 million visitors annually.

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Iconic, hip, trendsetting and ever-changing, New York City lives up to its superlatives. Underneath the Big Apple’s jagged skyscraper skyline, museums dazzle with the latest collections, celebrity chefs unveil their newest creations, and Broadway continues to stage elaborate, glittering shows.

Best thing we did in NYC that we took 3 days hop on hop off double decker bus tour. Most convenient way to visit NYC.

Tour bus and guides helped us to visit The Empire State Building, Central Park, the Top of the Rockefeller Observation Deck and the South Street Seaport—to name just a few— while strolling around Wall Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, mid town and uptown.

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It’s home to myriad familiar sights and neighborhoods, Manhattan is actually the smallest of New York’s five boroughs. The majority of the City’s land mass and population are found in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. We headed to the Bronx to catch a baseball game at the Yankee Stadium.

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How can we miss historic Brooklyn Bridge which is a great way to start exploring the City’s most populous borough, home to Coney Island, the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park and picturesque brownstone-lined streets. Without the Brooklyn bridge walking tour it looks like Karan Johar’s movie without NYC or Kajol.

New York City is also a shopper’s paradise. Tea shops in Chinatown to chic designer flagships on Fifth and Madison Avenues. SoHo’s artistic legacy inspires the many boutiques that now line its streets, while hip vintage and thrift stores abound in the East Village and Williamsburg, in Brooklyn.

With some 20,000 restaurants, New York offers a culinary experience like no other city. Discover ethnic foods from around the world in Queens or nosh on a pastrami sandwich and a knish at Katz’s, one of the City’s oldest, and most beloved, delis.

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Most famous attraction in my mind since I was a small kid- Times Square. Every year, we use to see new year celebrations at Times Square where you see bright lights shine on elaborate stage productions in Broadway ‘s theaters.

We had downtown trip including Empire State Building, Rockefeller center, Brooklyn bridge on day 1 &2 , mid town and uptown on day 3 and Status of Liberty, Ellis Island trip on day 4. Day 5 was dedicated for relaxing mid week at central park and times square in night. What a super city it is. Go, visit NYC.

Reference

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/newyorkcity/0021010001.html
http://iloveny.com/Cities-And-Towns/new-york-city.aspx

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New Jersey: Liberty & Prosperity in Garden State

From Philadelphia, we traveled to state of New Jersey. It was Atlantic City, a seaside resort and gaming capital of the east coast. It is a thriving destination featuring world-renowned casinos and hotels, brand-name restaurants, unique attractions, headliner entertainment, championship golf, relaxing spas, upscale shopping and much more. We stayed in Trump hotel. Trump Taj Mahal is designed as a replica of Taj Mahal. Although it is not the replica but tried to represent that white marble beauty in front of Atlantic Ocean compare to River Yamuna in Agra. It is across the world-famous Boardwalk of Atlantic City. Lined with shops, restaurants and food stands, casinos and more, it’s a people-watcher’s delight. The Boardwalkstill stands as a historic American symbol of good times and rich culture. In addition to the casino hotels. The Atlantic City Art Center on Garden Pier provides visitors an unparalleled opportunity to view the work of noted national and regional artists with the beautiful Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop.

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New Jersey’s tallest lighthousewas walking distance from Casino. I think it is one of the oldest lighthouses in the country and we got to see the breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline .

Lost some money in casino the other day and then traveled to Newark where we stayed. Had great food at Jersey cityand vicinity. Lot and I mean literally lot of Indians, Gujju bhai…funny part was at Atlantic city hotels, Newark hotel, Jersey city restaurants, NJ transit, gas station…everywhere found Gujju’s. That’s a little India. Keep on traveling with me to our next destination New York.

Reference

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g29750-Activities Atlantic_City_New_Jersey.html
http://visitnj.org/new-exciting-attractions-atlantic-city%E2%80%99s-move

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I Love Washington D.C.

I was super excited about traveling to my favorite city in US. I call that as World capital. For many Americans it is almost a pilgrimage. If you want past and future in One Place, travel to this city where and its institutions are not only the seat of our federal government, but also a symbol of our past as a nation and the promise of our future as a people. One moment you are looking at the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, and soon you are standing shoulder to shoulder with reporters in the “Senate Swamp,” a spot on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol where senators often hold outdoor press conferences. You know I am talking about Washington, District of Columbia.

From Baltimore, we reached our hotel in Capitol hill. What a beautiful location, a mile from capitol building. I couldn’t resist going to Pennsylvania Avenue :). Once you travel on that road, you fell that you are at a special place where all states meet together…Standing as the central point of interest in the Capitol Complex, The United States Capitol is considered to be one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in the world. It’s the home of the United States Capitol and Grounds, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and Botanic Garden.

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Once we finished capitol tour, saw that Washington monumentis pretty close…but actually it is not (not as close as it looks). It is Qutub Minar of US. It is the symbol of the city of Washington DC, 555-foot marble obelisk on the National Mall honors the nation’s first president. About one-third of the way up the obelisk is a visible change in the marble, evidence of the onset of the Civil War.

My FIL (father in law) was getting super excited about the next destination…president house. Although it is 1/3 or lesser size from Indian president house but many times bigger in rapport. White Housewas our next destination. The second president, John Adams, was the first to live in the White House in 1801. Originally called the “Executive Mansion,” it earned the nickname “White House” after its marble exterior was whitewashed to cover burn marks from damage by the War of 1812.

Enough of day 1, next day morning our destination was the memorial of the one of the most respected person in the world- Lincoln. The Lincoln Memorialis a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln and the nation he fought to preserve during the Civil War. The Lincoln Memorial resembles a Greek temple, and its 36 Doric columns represent the 36 states that existed when Lincoln died. The Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the south wall of the memorial, Lincoln’s second inaugural speech on the north, and a painted mural shows the angel of truth freeing a slave. But the real attraction of the Lincoln Memorial is Lincoln himself, and the gigantic seated statue that seems to embody his spirit. In the hearts of the people for whom Lincoln saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever. Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States—the Great Emancipator and preserver of the nation during the Civil War—sits immortalized in marble. As an enduring symbol of freedom, the Lincoln Memorial attracts anyone who seeks inspiration and hope.

DC has no shortage of memorials, rest of the day we spent visiting other museums and memorials.

Adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Memorialfeatures a large mural wall with sculpted soldiers and inscribed with the words “Freedom is not Free.”

Vietnam War memorialis intended to remember the American military who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War.

The National World War II Memorialhonors the 16 million Americans who served in WWII and the more than 400,000 that died.

Third day, our destination was to visit the person who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of United States. Jefferson Memorialhas19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson surrounded by his most famous writings stands as the centerpiece of the memorial.

Then to Supreme CourtBuilding which is majestic in size and rich in ornamentation, serves as both home to the Court and the manifest symbol of its importance as a coequal, independent branch of government.

Finally our destination was Gandhi memorial. What an honor…I felt proud that I come from the same country where Gandhi is known as father of our nation. To honor the life and achievements of Mahatma Gandhi, DC has Gandhi memorial center, one of the popular tourist destination showing spiritual and cultural heritage of India.

That’s why I love DC. Keep on traveling with me.

Reference:

http://seniorliving.about.com/od/travelsmart/a/washingtondc.htm
http://www.aoc.gov/cc/visit/index.cfmhttp://www.washingtondc.worldweb.com/WashingtonDC/Washington/SightsAttractions/HistoricSitesInterpretiveCentres/index.html
http://www.nps.gov/linc/index.htm>

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Understanding Market Needs Through Customer Visits

When conducted effectively, the information gleaned from real-world customer environments can be an important part of your product definition and marketing efforts. By Gopal Shenoy.
http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/4/5/0610gs/?searchterm=Understanding%20Market%20Needs%20Through%20Customer%20Visits

Most successful marketing strategies for creating product demand require the use of customer feedback to assess just how well a product actually impacts market needs. While the success of some products rely more heavily on factors that are sometimes difficult to define—such as impulse buying, stylistic preferences, and market trends—the essence of most product marketing is finding ways to satisfy actual, functional customer needs. Successful product marketing is as much about developing products that provide solutions to real customer problems, address necessary tasks, or fulfill documented needs, as it is about communicating product benefits. Market adoption of many types of products often depends on how well a particular product satisfies its customer’s requirements.
While companies employ a variety of tools for soliciting customer feedback and assessing market needs—including enhancement requests, customer surveys, customer-service reports, sales feedback, and focus groups—there really is no substitute for actually standing in the shoes of a customer. Understanding market needs requires the ability to see the world from your customers’ points of view, and acquiring those perspectives demands an ongoing program of visits to customer sites.
As with any research endeavor, the effectiveness of customer visits and the value of the information gathered for improving and marketing your products are directly related to how well you plan, conduct, document, and utilize customer visits. When conducted effectively, the information gleaned from real-world customer environments can be an important part of your product definition and marketing efforts. The information in this article is the result of more than 200 visits conducted over the past decade to companies in more than 10 countries that use a mechanical design software product.
Become an explorer
Before visiting a customer, you need to clearly define the purpose of the visit. Ask yourself why you need to visit customers. What are your motivations and what are your goals? How can visiting customers result in a better, more marketable product? By carefully considering these questions, you will be able to define the objectives of your customer visit program, determine how many visits to make, select the specific customers to visit, and choose the geographies you should cover.
Customer visits may not be the appropriate market research vehicle if your intent is to forecast potential sales in a new market or determine a customer’s preference for one product over another. The single, overarching purpose of product management customer visits should be to explore the customer’s environment, problems, and needs, so you can understand how to
improve the functional performance and marketing of your product. To do this effectively, you have to assume the role of an explorer.
By assuming such a role, you will discover how your customers actually use your product and determine what is working well or not so well. Does your customer have a need that your product does not satisfy? How does your product fit within your customer’s ecosystem and what are the opportunities for improving your product’s usefulness to the customer?
Such visits contrast markedly with sales or support calls, during which the sole objective is to either develop workaround solutions to overcome the customer’s objections or troubleshoot a critical customer problem. You are not there to tout product features or an upcoming product introduction, as you probably would at a conference or a trade show. You should commit yourself to listening and absorbing information, like a sponge.
The reason a customer visit is different from other market research vehicles is that it truly gets you out of the “feature” world, where you are thinking in terms of features, technology, and assumed priorities, and realigns you with your customer’s “product” world. Your customer is more concerned with completing tasks (independent of specific features or technology used), meeting product deadlines, and beating the competition. As an explorer, you can take off your blinders and get a sense of the real priorities your customer faces. From a product marketing standpoint, your visit should be a learning exercise with most of the information moving in one direction: from the customer.
While many product marketers believe they know their customers inside out, there is much to be learned from visits to customer sites and more than a few surprises. Customers have a tendency to reveal more in an open, frank discussion on their own turf than they would over the telephone, on a survey, or in a focus group.
Some important discoveries are even unspoken. For example, during one of my customer visits, I noticed drawings marked up in red ink on a customer’s desk. I asked myself, why so many markups? Should we provide additional markup tools? Or why does the customerhave to do so much rework? Is it because we need additional design validation tools? Or do new designs always start as reworked old designs? Is there an opportunity for design reuse tools? These examples illustrate how unspoken discoveries can be made during customer visits that will enable you to improve your products and enhance their marketability. Such discoveries are not possible through telephone calls, customer surveys, technical support logs, or other research methods. You need to be on-site to observe what I call “unadvertised customer exhibits” and see the problems the customer may be facing. Sometimes, customers do not realize their pain points themselves, until you, as a product marketer, ask probing questions based on observations made during these visits.
Who to visit?
Once you have decided that a formal program of visiting customers would be beneficial to aid your product definition and marketing, you need to determine which customers to visit. In compiling a profile of the types of customers you want to visit, establish some general objectives.
Are you more interested in learning about customer needs in emerging or established markets, among new or experienced users, among existing customers or prospects, among users or actual buyers, at the user or management level? The ideal customer profile will depend on the nature of your product and how customers purchase and deploy it.
You should also assess how your customers break down geographically. If your product is used globally, you should design your customer visit program based on the geographic distribution of your customer base, such as 40% of visits in North America, 28% in Europe, 19% in Asia, 8% in Australia, and 5% in South America.
Another consideration is developing a list of customers who are open to a visit. Sources for names include sales staff, support personnel, and customer surveys. It’s easier to generate names if your company values, acknowledges, and promotes your customer visit program. We visit more than 250 customers a year and promote the program at all customer interactions, including trade shows, conferences, and user group meetings. We tell our customers that we would like to visit them for two hours at their location so that we can better understand their products, processes, and needs. By participating, the customers help us shape the future of our products so that they can better meet customer needs. We make it explicitly clear that such visits are not sales calls or product demos. In fact, I make it a point not to carry my laptop with me so there is no way I could get drawn into a demo of existing functionality. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is not about your product: it is all about the customer.
After you have established a list of prospective customers to visit, you will need to qualify each customer by convincing them that they need to participate. In order to make the visit as productive as possible, you want to visit customers who are cooperative and enthusiastic about the visit. This doesn’t mean you should only visit happy customers who will say “nice” things about your product but customers who are willing to provide insights into their design processes and give you an honest scorecard on how your product stacks up. You also need to clear the visit with your field/sales professionals so you know as much about the customer in advance as possible. You need to know if there are landmines to avoid or skeletons locked away to be left unearthed before scheduling a visit. Set expectations regarding the purpose and duration of the visit, as well as determine the availability of the appropriate personnel. Then, schedule the visit.
Who should visit?
Ideally, a customer visit should be made by a cross-functional team of people, representing key product management and development functions. For example, in the software realm, the team should include the product manager, the development manager, and the lead quality assurance professional. Individuals with similar roles should be involved in customer visits for manufactured products. The reason why this diversity is necessary is to include different perspectives in identifying and resolving customer issues. Because each member of the team has a distinct role, each will view customer problems and possible solutions from their own unique point of view. The combination of these viewpoints results in more pragmatic, suitable responses, in terms of product definition and marketing, to address newly discovered customer needs.
By a similar line of reasoning, the same team of professionals should participate in multiple visits to gain a wider perspective encompassing as many customers as possible. One cannot generalize the findings of a single visit across the entire customer base. Word of caution: software developers tend to go through the motions of doing a single customer visit so that they can claim they know what all customers want. It’s rarely that simple. Customer needs and desires vary as widely as the businesses they are involved in, and assessing what customers really need and want requires multiple visits to many different customer sites.
Another reason to establish a cross-functional customer visit team is to facilitate greater interaction and collaboration across functions through the natural bonding and familiarity that occurs through business travel. When individuals share airplanes, cabs, rental cars, hotels, and restaurants during a customer visit, they get to know one another on a personal level, which can result in closer professional relationships and greater cohesion in applying information gathered during customer visits to product definition and marketing activities. I joke that it is difficult for people who have suffered through traffic jams, missed flights, and rushed meals to argue over product features.
Preparing for the visit
Scheduling the visit is merely the first step in preparing for a successful customer visit. Be sure to research the company extensively to have a thorough understanding of the customer’s products and services.
Visit the company’s Web site, review all prior communications with the customer—such as bug reports and enhancement requests in the software industry—and go over whatever notes or communications came out of previous visits.
After you have completed your research, develop your interview questionnaire that includes a list of specific questions to ask customer representatives about the company’s operations and use of your product. Send the questionnaire to the customer for them to review and prepare ahead of time so you can maximize the time allotted for the visit. Reconfirm your visit a week before and a day prior to the scheduled date. And don’t forget to take along “goodies” for the customer, such as company hats, shirts, bags, and other promotional items. Don’t underestimate the value of these “goodies.”
Special preparation is required for international visits because of language barriers and cultural differences. When visiting a customer overseas, have your local office or representative arrange every aspect of the visit, from the dress code required to the expected forms of greeting. Including a local representative who not only speaks the language but also is steeped in the particular culture, ensures you respect cultural differences and avoid causing offense out of ignorance of local customs and norms.
The day of the visit
When the day of the customer visit eventually dawns and you have completed the necessary preparations for a successful, productive day, remind yourself to leave your personal opinions
and biases behind so you can become an objective listener. As Ries and Trout said in their book Bottom-Up Marketing,“Too many marketing people go through the motions of visiting customers, looking for facts that will confirm their previously formed opinions of what should be done.” You are there as an explorer, a listener, and must try to refrain from making the visit about you instead of the customer. Take the advice of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who said, “Nature has given to me one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”
Your visit should last no longer than two hours. Following greetings, a sample agenda would include an introduction, a plant/facility tour, a review of the customer’s products/services, a discussion of the customer’s operations, and lastly, a discussion of the customer’s “pet” requests for your product.
Use the introduction period to set expectations and be sure to ask about both the good and the bad news relative to your product. This is your chance to set your customer at ease to get them talking and keep them talking. You are there to collect information, not defend positions, and must convince the customer that you need them to be as honest and forthcoming as possible in order to help you to help them. Start with simple questions and remember to remain polite and genuinely interested. Do not put customers on the defensive, challenge them, or question their professionalism by asking them, for instance, about why they choose to use one method over another. Usually, if I am visiting a customer who has manufacturing facilities on-site, I request a plant tour. This enables me to familiarize myself with their products, their way of doing things, and the terminology they use, keeping an eye out for the “unadvertised customer exhibits.”
Visit dos and don’ts
Our experience in conducting numerous customer visits has led to a list of dos and don’ts for conducting effective customer visits.
Do:
 Employ the principle of the five whys to get to the root of the problem. Customers tend to propose solutions rather than describe problems, so ask them why they need a solution in at least five different ways to truly understand an issue.
 Observe the human dynamics within the room, taking note of the customers’ expressions and emotions to determine who is being most candid about a problem or issue.
 Facilitate discussions by asking follow-up questions.
 Take notes, more notes, and even more notes. In other words, take as many notes as possible. It helps to designate certain roles within the team, such as a moderator, an observer, and a note taker.
 Write down customer quotes verbatim. Actual customer quotes are valuable for reporting back to management and promoting the potential resolution of an issue.
Don’t:
 Begin the discussion by asking for their “pet” product requests. If you do, it will dominate the discussion throughout the visit.
 Ask convoluted, overly complex questions. If “X=Y” and “Y=A” and “Z=D,” will it satisfy your need? Keep it simple.
 Ask leading questions, such as: “Don’t you think this solution is better than the other?” Be as objective as possible.
 Ask biased questions, such as: “We are thinking about this great idea. What do you think about it?” Even if they didn’t think the idea was great, they might agree with you rather than offend you. Don’t color your questions.
 Get defensive if a customer snubs the project you slaved away on.
 Take control of the computer mouse to show a customer how to use the software. Instead make a note and wait until the end of the meeting to educate the customer about any existing functionality that will satisfy his or her need.
 Tell the customer that his or her need is satisfied by an existing feature. Even if this is true, the customer may feel either insulted or stupid for not being aware of it. Continue listening to ensure that the feature will address the need and inform the customer of the fact during the closing stages of the visit.
What to do when things go wrong
Like anything else, Murphy’s Law applies to customer visits, where things can and do go very wrong. Here are a few examples: A customer can fixate on a particular “pet” product enhancement and monopolize the entire visit. The discussion can go off on a tangent completely unrelated to the customer’s needs relative to your product. The customer can criticize and insult your product, your company, and every person or partner related to it. The customer can contradict himself. The customer can speak primarily about another competing product.
When and if these things happen, do whatever you must to keep your cool. The worst thing you can do is to become angry with the customer. Never cut off the customer but don’t agree with him or her if he or she is wrong. Acknowledge what the customer is saying but don’t ratify it.
At the conclusion of the visit, prioritize the customer’s product enhancement requests as must have, should have, and nice to have. Remember to thank the customer for his or her time, hospitality, and candor, and send another thank-you note when you return to your office.
After the visit
As soon as you leave the customer site, conduct a debriefing session with your team to capture the salient points you learned during the visit. Note any problems that you may not have heard before. Compare the visit with other customer visits and determine whether there are any mid-course corrections to make.
When you return from the visit, write a report of your findings. It’s a good idea to write individual trip reports for each customer site. You can combine these individual reports into summary “group” or “segment” reports later. Your report should contain only “qualitative,” not
“quantitative,” information. Include customer quotes and outline the possible next steps in terms of product definition and marketing as a result of your findings.
Your customer visit reports should be sent to anyone in your company who is a decision maker regarding the definition of your product and how it is marketed. Sales and support personnel should be kept informed as well. By conducting an ongoing, effective program of customer visits, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your market’s requirements, improve your product to satisfy customer needs, and continue to differentiate yourself from your competition.
If you are interested in learning more about customer visits, I would strongly recommend reading Edward McQuarrie’s book titled Customer Visits: Building a Better Market Focus. To me, this book is the definitive text on how to do customer visits right and has aided my efforts to establish a productive customer visit program.
Finding a budget
I presented this topic at a few conferences and was asked how I was able to get a budget for customer visits. Like anything else, I suggest you start small, make it work on a smaller scale, promote the benefits of the program and then ask for more money. Asking for money to get on a plane and visit customers in Asia or Australia is not going to be easy without a proven track record of successes. If you have local customers, visit them first—it is not only cheaper to do that but also allows you to beta test your interview questionnaire and your program before spending a lot of money. Invite some of the managers whose support you will need later to justify the program to visit with you. Once you are able to justify how some of these visits have had a positive impact on your product/service and hence to your bottom line, money will come. Good luck!!


Gopal Shenoy is Strategic Marketing Manager at SolidWorks Corporation (www.solidworks.com), a leading producer of 3D computer-aided mechanical design software that has more than 525,000 users worldwide. Shenoy manages a group responsible for understanding the future requirements of the customer base and ensuring that the functionality delivered in the software meets customer needs. For more than ten years, Shenoy has visited customers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to mom-and-pop shops worldwide. In the past, he has also served as the Director of Educational Programs for the Boston Product Management Association and has spoken at the Software Marketing Perspectives conference. Contact Gopal at gshenoy@solidworks.com

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Marketing- Environmental Analysis

The marketing environment surrounds and impacts upon the organization. There are three key perspectives on the marketing environment –

  • Macro-environment
  • Micro-environment
  • Internal environment

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The micro-environment

Micro environment includes suppliers that deal directly or indirectly, customers and other local stakeholders. It describes the relationship between firms and the driving forces that control this relationship. It is a more local relationship and the firm may exercise a degree of influence.

The macro-environment

This includes all factors that can influence and organization, but that are out of their direct control. A company does not generally influence any laws. It is continuously changing, and the company needs to be flexible to adapt. There may be aggressive competition and rivalry in a market. Globalization means that there is always the threat of substitute products and new entrants. The wider environment is also ever changing, and the marketer needs to compensate for changes in culture, politics, economics and technology.

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The macro-environment e.g. Political (and legal) forces, Economic forces, Sociocultural forces, and Technological forces-

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Political Factors

  • Monopolies legislation
  • Environmental protection laws
  • Taxation policy
  • Employment laws
  • Government policy
  • Legislation

Political support is an influencing factor in developing business overseas as this is not only important at host country but the originating country as well. Political factors affect our overall strategy in terms of business set up such as lower taxation and governing/ administrative support, government support to tourism industry, other globalization factors etc. We also need to have our supporting mechanism such as insurance to cover the lawsuit and other legal implications.

Economic Factors

  • Monopolies legislation
  • Environmental protection laws
  • Taxation policy
  • Employment laws
  • Government policy
  • Legislation

Economy is another important consideration in any business plan. Poor economic conditions may mean that our target consumer has cut back on spending, and won’t be willing to pay as much for our services.

Socio Cultural Factors

  • Demographics
  • Distribution of income
  • Social mobility
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Consumerism
  • Levels of education

In global environment, we deal with multi-cultural people. Consumer opinions, trends and buying patterns varies by country or ethnic group and we are taking that into consideration to provide the better customer service to our global client’s. Due to ethnic, population density, language, food and religious diversity, our services needs very closed attention to serve our customers better.

Technological Factors

  • New discoveries and innovations
  • Speed of technology transfer
  • Rates of obsolescence
  • Internet
  • Information technology

We always need to prepare for dynamism in technology area. Communication is another important factor to consider in global market with teams at various global locations world wide.

Reference

How to Prepare a Marketing Environmental Analysis , retrieved on 19- Aug from eHow.com, ehow.com/how_5001707_prepare-marketing-environmental-analysis.html#ixzz0x7GEUQd4

Marketing Environment retrieved on 19- Aug from Marketing Teacher, marketingteacher.com/lesson-store/lesson-marketing-environment.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Evaluating Financial Information- White Paper

Table of Contents

Step 1: Objectives of the analysis

· Who are we?

· Who is Oxford Industries, Inc.?

· Why do they need the funds?

· What are the main goals for Oxford Industries, Inc.?

Step 2: The firm’s industry

· The Global Economy vs. The U.S. Economy

Step 3: Knowledge of firm and quality of management

· How well does the firm seem to be run?

· Are they taking advantage of opportunity?

· Are they innovative, forward thinking, etc.?

Step 4a: Evaluation of financial statements

Step 4b: Oxford Industry: View from Global Bank Inc

Step 5: Summary

References

Step 1: Objectives of the analysis

Who are we?

We are creditors for Global Bank, Inc., and we are responding to the request of Oxford Industries, Inc., for a very large investment loan. So, in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not it would be in our best interest to grant them the loan, we took the time to evaluate their company, and their financial standings, and we are here to report to you our findings.

Who is Oxford Industries, Inc.?

Oxford Industries, Inc. is an international apparel design, sourcing, and manufacturing company that was founded in 1942 and is based out of Atlanta, Georgia with over 4,800 employees worldwide. Their net sales for the fiscal year, 2007 was $1,128,907 and as an international apparel design company, they sale their apparel designs both domestically and internationally. As a sourcing and manufacturing company, Oxford Industries, Inc., uses third party buying agents that are located in Hong Kong to manage the production and sourcing of its leading product line, Tommy Bahama and, its global product line, Ben Sherman. They also have a third party buying agent in Europe, and other locations, but their concentration for manufacturing is located in Asia.

According to their website, Oxford Industries, Incorporated “…distribute(s) their products through several wholesale distribution channels including national chains, department stores, mass merchants, specialty stores, specialty catalog retailers and Internet retailers.” Their company is comprised of four distinct life style clothing brands: Tommy Bahama, Ben Sherman, Lanier Clothes, and Oxford Apparel. A few brief details about each are:

1. Tommy Bahama is a line of clothing that embraces an elegant tropical paradise feel and targets consumers, both men and women 35 years and older, who “…embrace a relaxed and casual approach to daily living” and have high amounts of income at their disposal and stable fashion preferences. The Tommy Bahama apparel consists of fabrics made of silk, linen, tencel, cotton, or blends which include a combination of one or more of these fiber types.

2. Ben Sherman is an “edgy” lifestyle brand that was acquired in 2004 and consists of apparel and footwear that targets youthful-thinking men and women between the ages of 19 to 35. Its operations are headquartered in London, England. The Ben Sherman apparel line is made from several fabric types including cotton, wool or other natural fibers, synthetics, or a combination of any one of these fabric types and with over 90 suppliers worldwide, the Ben Sherman products are produced on an order-by-order basis. Products are sold via Internet, certain department stores, a variety of independent specialty stores, and Ben Sherman retail stores.

3. Lanier Clothes consists of branded and private labeled apparel for men. The Lanier Clothes products are sold under trademarks that include: Nautica, Kenneth Cole, Dockers, Oscar de la Renta, O Oscar, and Geoffrey Beene, which are licensed to Oxford Industries, Inc., through third parties. The Lanier Clothes products are sold nationally throughout the United States by some of the largest retailers including: Macy’s, JCPenney’s, Sears, Men’s Wearhouse and Nordstrom. The product line is manufactured from a variety of fibers including wool, silk, bamboo, linen, cotton, and other natural fibers, along with synthetics, and a blend of these materials.

4. Oxford Apparel products are designed at the Oxford Apparel offices located in New York. They are designed for consumers of many tastes. The product line consists of branded and private labeled clothing ranging from dress shirts, suited separates, sport shirts, dress slacks, casual slacks to outerwear, sweaters, jeans, swimwear, westernwear, and golf apparel. Oxford Apparel is sold through some of the largest retailers in the United States including: Sears, Men’s Wearhouse, Costco, Walmart, and Macy’s. These five retailers represented 50% of the net sales of Oxford Apparel for the fiscal year, 2007. Oxford Apparel is manufactured from fibers including cotton, linen, wool, silk and other natural fibers, synthetics, and a blend of these materials.

Why do they need the funds?

Oxford Industries, Inc., is interested in borrowing funds from Global Bank, Inc., in order to create new lines for expansion that will appeal to customers on a global scale and increase their customer base both inside and outside of the U.S. Happy with the success from 2007 where they transformed themselves from being a “predominantly private label manufacturer into a lifestyle brand marketer,” Oxford believes that their best growth opportunities are yet to come. So, this is why they are interested in borrowing funds, through an investment loan, from Global Bank, Inc., in order to expand.

With the money, they are anticipating, for the fiscal year, 2008, to open an additional five to ten Tommy Bahama retail stores. They are estimating that each store will cost approximately $1.1 – $5.9 million to build. They also plan to launch the ecommerce of their Tommy Bahama products on their tommybahama.com website so products can be sold directly from the Internet. Just as well, during fiscal year, 2008, Oxford Industries, Inc., is expecting to open five additional stores for the Ben Sherman brand. And, they are estimating that each retail store will cost $0.7 million to build.

What are the main goals for Oxford Industries, Inc.?

The main goals for Oxford Industries, Inc. are:

- To develop a strong, loyal customer base. They believe that if their products can create an emotional connection with their target customers, it will draw them to purchase their life style brands therefore, resulting in higher profits.

-“Create new value for [their] customers and shareholders alike” by continuing to refocus their efforts in those areas that meet their criteria for generating profits and long-term growth.

- Streamline their focuses in order to improve their fiscal performance for 2008so they can have strong returns on their invested capital.

Step 2: Study the firm’s industry

The primary industry which Oxford operates in is the fashion apparel industry where it is very fragmented and competitive, both domestically and internationally. Currently, there is no one single apparel firm dominating the industry, either domestically or internationally. However, at this time, consumers seem to be favoring foreign-based retailers a little more than American retailers, not just because of the failing U.S. economy which has caused U.S. sales to decline but, because consumers are desiring trendy and fresh apparel that is affordable and made with quality as opposed to boring and predictable apparel. Right now, foreign-based apparel retailers have what consumer’s tastes and preferences are demanding versus what American retailers are offering. Therefore, “as a result, most of the fashion apparel store growth in 2008 will come from international firms, especially chains that focus on affordable prices and rapidly changing inventories” (www.printthis.clickability.com).

· The Global Economy vs. The U.S. Economy:

“Prior to globalization, the United States dominated the global economy” however, due to the rise of industrialization and technology, the U.S. share of the global economy has now shrunk to approximately 25% (www.en.wikipedia.org). So, of course, what happens with the U.S. economy affects the global economy but not as much as times past.

Now, thanks to the Internet, apparel retailing through ecommerce is on the rise and, at the same time, countries such as China, Turkey, and the European Union are also enjoying gains in the apparel and textile industry.

Still, most consumers spending are strongly influenced by the “overall economic conditions that affect [both the United States and the rest of the world. So, domestically and internationally, the global economy, as well as, the U.S. economy both have an impact on]…employment levels, energy costs, interest rates, tax rates, personal debt levels and stock market volatility” however, in regards to U.S. manufacturers, their products continue to suffer a long period of decline versus the gains that are being made with foreign-based manufactures (www.oxfordinc.com).

With that said, a number of economists fear that the U.S. economy has been on the verge of its first recession since 2001 [due to]…the housing market’s collapse, a credit crisis, and galloping energy prices [that] are crimping spending and investing (www.iht.com). Also, according to Joseph Stiglitz, a noble-winning economist, he says that “the Iraq war has [also] contributed to the U.S. economic slowdown and is impeding an economic recovery” (Trotta, D.).

To acknowledge the economies downturn, in a recent press release dated February 6, 2008, J. Hicks Lanier, the Chairman and CEO of Oxford Industries, Inc., said,

“We expect that the current economic issues, both in the United States and the rest of the world, will continue to impact our business at wholesale and retail [and, even though] over the years we have seen our share of economic downturns [,] we are confident that our team is well prepared to weather this environment through conservative planning and careful, prudent inventory management.”

Step 3: Develop knowledge of firm and quality of management

· How well does the firm seem to be run?

· Are they taking advantage of opportunity?

· Are they innovative, forward thinking, etc.?

The senior management and Board of Directors at Oxford Inc. are filled with experienced business men in the clothing and retailing industries. Led by J. Hicks Lanier, Chairman of the Board and CEO, the Oxford team has diversified their holdings to fill high end niche markets taking advantage of current trends and strategic acquisitions.

CEO since 1981, Mr. Lanier was also President of the company since 1977 and serves on the board of several other companies. Under his guidance, Oxford Inc acquired Viewpoint International Inc, owner of the Tommy Bahamas clothing line, in 2003 which has become core to the operations and profitability of the company. Showing great foresight into that high end market, Oxford has seen a year over year increase in revenue and of 13.7%.

The company has also created a solid set of operating principles which hinge on, according to their website (http://www.oxfordinc.com/AU_SO.asp), “compelling, high value added products” and “customer driven service”. I believe that they have a core transformation strategy which will inevitably move their company away from being a private label manufacturer to becoming a lifestyle brand marketer. This is mostly customer driven as their lifestyle brands have been their greatest source of growth over the last several years. Their lifestyle brands, both Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman, have grown with increased distribution through third party high end retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom in the United States. Meanwhile, their private label brands like Oxford shirts and Lanier clothing has helped to stabilize profits during this transition and continue to perform steadily in the face of increased pressure from ongoing consolidation in the retail industry.

clip_image002

Growth had also been seen in the wholesale distribution category by creating compelling sub brands to fill gaps in their target market. Including, see chart below, footwear, furnishings, tailored clothes, and sportswear. Oxford and its leaders have also created a diversified business model allowing multiple revenue streams and multiple distribution channels. This will help build in revenue assurance in the long run as a diversified portfolio can lead to greater growth and stability over time as the company can take advantage of certain strategic alliances and develop quicker in identified growth segments.

clip_image004

One strategy that seems to work well for them is the diversification of operations based on brand and product its customer segments. They not only manage and manufacture their own products, but they also manufacture goods under other brands that they do not directly manage. This helps cut back office operations cost and still keep profits rolling in; especially with the high end brands they sell. Their strategic acquisition or 3 smaller companies (Tommy Bahama 2003, Ben Sherman 2004, Womenswear group 2006) has led to growth in retail and margin on products. One specific strategic shift they took advantage of was closure of manufacturing plants in Latin America leaning more heavily on 3rd parties manufacturing lessening the impact of breakage and other cost associated with manufacturing of goods. This has led them to decrease their COGS from 61.1% in 2006 to 60.3% in 2007 in turn helping their gross profits.

Step 4a: Evaluation of financial statements:

 

Oxford Industries Inc.

Ratio Analysis
Fiscal Years ended June 01 2007, June 02 2006, & June 03 2005
6/1/2007 6/2/2006 6/3/2005
—————– —————– —————–
Overall Performance Measures:
Price/earnings ratio 15.59 10.36 14.06
Return on assets 7.36% 9.83% 7.62%
Return on invested capital 8.73% 12.34% 9.96%
Return on shareholders’ equity 11.56% 17.68% 16.42%
Profitability Measures:
Gross Margin percentage 39.66% 38.92% 33.36%
Profit margin 4.62% 6.35% 3.79%
Earnings per share (net) (basic) $2.95 $4.03 $2.97
Cash realization 1.69 1.44 1.04
Investment Utilization:
Asset turnover 1.24 1.25 1.45
Invested capital turnover 1.47 1.57 1.89
Equity turnover 2.50 2.78 4.33
Capital intensity 12.93 15.06 20.19
Days’ cash 12.73 3.78 1.91
Days’ receivables 44.63 46.83 54.76
Days’ inventory 73.59 66.59 70.59
Inventory turnover 4.96 5.48 5.17
Working capital turnover 5.89 6.26 7.26
Current ratio 2.35 1.98 1.85
Quick ratio 1.23 0.85 0.96
Financial Condition:
Financial leverage 2.02 2.22 2.98
Debt/equity 101.52% 122.12% 198.48%
Debt/capitalization 41.15% 43.47% 56.23%
Times interest earned 4.54 4.09 3.59
Cash flow/debt 44.12% 50.68% 17.86%
Dividend Policy:
Dividend yield 1.44% 1.36% 1.22%
Dividend payout 22.52% 14.05% 17.09%
Oxford Industries Inc.

Ratio Analysis
Fiscal Years ended June 01 2007, June 02 2006, & June 03 2005
6/1/2007 6/2/2006 6/3/2005
—————– —————– —————–
Actual numbers used for ratio calculation:
(in thousands, except per share amounts)
Market price per share $45.98 $41.77 $41.75
Dividends per common share $0.66 $0.57 $0.51
Net earnings $52,137 $70,471 $49,827
Interest expense, net $22,214 $23,971 $29,147
Tax rate 33.46% 30.94% 34.07%
Total assets $908,738 $885,595 $905,877
Net income + Int (1 – Tax rate) $66,918 $87,025 $69,044
Long-term liabilities $315,349 $306,575 $389,927
Total shareholders’ equity $450,945 $398,701 $303,501
Total current liabilities $142,444 $180,319 $212,449
Total invested capital $766,294 $705,276 $693,428
Net sales $1,128,907 $1,109,116 $1,313,609
Cost of goods sold $681,147 $677,429 $875,355
Gross profit $447,760 $431,687 $438,254
Cash from operations (incl. discontinued) $87,922 $101,372 $51,637
Property, plant, and equipment (net) $87,323 $73,663 $65,051
Total expenses $1,076,770 $1,038,645 $1,263,782
Total non-cash expenses $19,517 $26,553 $22,242
Total cash expenses $1,057,253 $1,012,092 $1,241,540
Cash and cash equivalents $36,882 $10,479 $6,499
Accounts receivable $138,035 $142,297 $197,094
Inventory $137,333 $123,594 $169,296
Total current assets $334,241 $357,581 $393,395
Working capital $191,797 $177,262 $180,946
Monetary current assets $174,917 $152,776 $203,593
Operating income $100,847 $98,116 $104,727
Long-term debt $199,294 $200,023 $289,123
Dividends $11,741 $9,899 $8,515

(http://w3.lexisnexis.com.proxy.cityu.edu/dossier/companyreporting/contentfs.do? prod=CD&host=Rosetta_US_Academic&cdcomp=6_T95038097&reportKey=financial_report)

(http://quicktake.morningstar.com/StockNet/StockReturns.aspx?Country=USA&Symbol=OXM)

Oxford Industries Inc.

Common-size Balance Sheet
Fiscal Years ended June 01 2007, June 02 2006, & June 03 2005
6/1/2007 6/2/2006 6/3/2005
Assets: —————– —————– —————–
Cash and Equivalents 4.06% 1.18% 0.72%
Marketable Securities 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Inventories 15.11% 13.96% 18.69%
Other Current Assets 2.42% 9.17% 2.26%
Total Current Assets 36.78% 40.38% 43.43%
PP&E 19.71% 17.96% 16.69%
Accumulated Depreciation & Depletion 10.10% 9.65% 9.50%
Net PP&E 9.61% 8.32% 7.18%
Intangibles 25.76% 26.47% 46.74%
Other Non-Current Assets 3.37% 2.33% 2.65%
Total Non-Current Assets 63.22% 59.62% 56.57%
Total Assets 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Inventory Valuation Method LIFO LIFO LIFO
Liabilities: —————– —————– —————–
Accounts Payable 9.29% 11.86% 11.70%
Short Term Debt 0.04% 0.01% 0.38%
Other Current Liabilities 3.46% 5.46% 4.54%
Total Current Liabilities 15.67% 20.36% 23.45%
Long Term Debt 21.93% 22.59% 31.92%
Deferred Income Taxes 8.27% 8.65% 8.53%
Other Non-Current Liabilities 4.51% 3.39% 2.60%
Minority Interest 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Total Non-Current Liabilities 34.70% 34.62% 43.04%
Total Liabilities 50.38% 54.98% 66.50%
Equity: —————– —————– —————–
Preferred Stock Equity 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Common Stock Equity 49.62% 45.02% 33.50%
Common Par 1.96% 1.99% 1.86%
Additional Paid in Capital 8.98% 8.45% 5.07%
Retained Earnings 37.57% 33.99% 26.54%
Treasury Stock 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Other Equity Adjustments 1.11% 0.60% 0.03%
Total Capitalization 71.55% 67.61% 65.42%
Total Equity 49.62% 45.02% 33.50%
Total Liabilities & Stock Equity 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Cash Flow 8.55% 10.80% 8.47%
Working Capital 21.11% 20.02% 19.97%
Free Cash Flow 3.19% 6.25% -12.76%
Invested Capital 71.55% 67.61% 65.42%
Oxford Industries Inc.

Common-size Income Statement
Fiscal Years ended June 01 2007, June 02 2006, & June 03 2005
6/1/2007 6/2/2006 6/3/2005
Income Statement: —————– —————– —————–
Operating Revenue (Revenue/Sales) 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Cost of Sales 60.34% 61.08% 66.64%
Gross Operating Profit 41.36% 40.50% 34.73%
Research & Development 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Selling, Gen. & Administrative Expense 31.62% 30.57% 25.62%
Operating Income b/f Depreciation (EBITDA) 8.90% 8.85% 7.97%
Interest Income 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Other Income, Net 1.46% 1.19% 0.92%
Special Income/Charges 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Total Income Avail for Interest Expense (EBIT) 8.93% 8.85% 7.97%
Interest Expense 1.97% 2.16% 2.22%
Pre-tax Income (EBT) 6.97% 6.69% 5.75%
Income Taxes 2.33% 2.07% 1.96%
Minority Interest 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Net Income from Continuing Operations 4.63% 4.62% 3.79%
Net Income from Discontinued Ops. -0.02% 1.74% 0.00%
Net Income from Total Operations 4.62% 6.35% 3.79%
Extraordinary Income/Losses 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Income from Cum. Effect of Acct Chg. 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Income from Tax Loss 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Other Gains (Losses) 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Total Net Income 4.62% 6.35% 3.79%
Normalized Income 4.63% 4.62% 3.79%
Preferred Dividends $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Basic EPS from Continuing Ops. $2.96 $2.93 $2.97
Basic EPS from Discontinued Ops. ($0.01) $1.10 $0.00
Basic EPS from Total Operations $2.95 $4.03 $2.97
Basic EPS, Total $2.95 $4.03 $2.97
Basic Normalized Net Income/Share $2.96 $2.93 $2.97
Diluted EPS fr Continuing Ops. $2.93 $2.88 $2.87
Diluted EPS fr Discontinued Ops. ($0.01) $1.08 $0.00
Diluted EPS fr Total Ops. $2.92 $3.96 $2.87
Diluted EPS, Total $2.92 $3.96 $2.87
Diluted Normalized Net Inc/Shr $2.93 $2.88 $2.87
Dividends Paid per Share $0.63 $0.56 $0.38

(http://w3.lexisnexis.com.proxy.cityu.edu/dossier/companyreporting/contentfs.do?prod=CD&host=Rosetta_US_Academic&cdcomp=6_T95038097&reportKey=financial_report)

Step 4b: Oxford Industry: View from Global Bank Inc

 

Apparel (Textile) Industry Analysis & Trends
Most trends affecting the apparel and footwear manufacturers today are driven by consumer demand and relate to the size of the various demographic groups and their particular wants, shopping patterns and spending power. Private equity firms are buying up apparel companies along with that there is consolidation among manufacturers entering new markets and product lines.

Demand for apparel remains relatively constant compared with prior years. Because of slow down in US economy, lowering the demand for apparel.

According to “Standard & Poor’s” Apparel industry survey dated May 24, 2007; sales of both apparel and footwear in the US are rising; retail sales of apparel rose 5% in 2006 compared to 4% increase in past 3 years.

Oxford’s (OXM) Analysis

For fiscal year 2008 which ends on January 31, 2009, the Company is projecting net sales of $1.01 billion to $1.06 billion. We expect that the current economic issues, both in the United States and the rest of the world, will continue to impact the business at wholesale and retail. The Company is expecting a decline in first quarter net sales due to number of reasons including economic slowdown, decline in Ben Sherman whole sale, increased marketing spends, additional investments in retails and web sites.

Strengths- Oxford provides retailers and consumers with a wide variety of apparel products and services to suit their individual needs. Oxford’s wholesale customers are found in every major channel of distribution, including national chains, specialty catalogs, mass merchants, department stores, specialty stores and Internet retailers. The Company also operates retail, restaurants and Internet websites for some of its brands.

Weaknesses– Oxford needs to show a high presence in web market. Oxford needs to continue to improve their sourcing and efficiencies, broaden product offerings, and target unfilled niches through a mix of acquisitions, licensing, and brand extensions to give the healthy competition in the market.

Threats- Because the customers are more value conscious and demanding with respect to fashion, apparel firms that sell proprietary labels to growing national chains such as J.C.Penney’s and Kohl’s would be in better position. Mass and national chain channels (J.C. Penney) exhibited the strongest growth at 7.9% and 7.6%, respectively.

The luxury apparel sector remains unaffected by economic conditions and firms such as Polo Ralph Lauren will likely benefit from this trend.

Oxford industry is mature but has to face high competition in the market. Sales are influenced by customer sentiments and disposable income.

Opportunities – Diversifying: The Oxford industry must come up with new designs and product line extensions in order to survive and cope with market competition.

Buying into New Markets: Acquiring another company is a way to eliminate current or potential customers, however, in the global economy, Oxford needs to enter into new potential markets.

Offshore sourcing: In the ongoing push to cut expenses, Oxford can move their production facilities to low cost markets.

Liquidity- Oxford’s current ratio has increased in the last 3 years, which shows a good sign in terms of liquidity assessment. Oxford’s primary source of revenue and cash flow is its operating activities in the United States. Liquidity requirements arise from the funding of working capital needs, which include inventory, other operating expenses and accounts receivables, funding of capital expenditures, payment of quarterly dividends, repayment of indebtedness and acquisitions.

As of June, 2007, the accounts receivables were 17.45% compared to the accounts payable at 9.29% and, cash and cash equivalents increased to $36,882 in 2007 compared to $10.479 in 2006.

Profitability– Return of Assets decreased to 7.36% in 2007 from 9.46% in 2006. Similarly Returns of equity went down at 11.56% from 17.68% in 2006.

The profit margin declined to 4.62% from 6.35% in 2006 and EPS was reduced from $4.03 in 2006 to $2.95 in 2007. The net profit margin was slightly lower than the industry while revenue growth was at an average that is better than some of Oxford’s top competitors.

Industry (Textile- Apparel) Statistics (03/03/08)

Apparel Industry Oxford
Market Capitalization: 38B 340 M
Price / Earnings: 21.9 8.14
Price / Book: 5.6 0.81
Net Profit Margin : 4.80% 4.62%
Price To Free Cash Flow : 90.4 30.5
Return on Equity: 11.00% 11.10%
Total Debt / Equity: 0.9 0.675
Dividend Yield: 1.50% 3.4%

Oxford & Apparel Industry leaders comparison

 

Statistic Industry Leader OXM
Market Capitalization VFC 8.34B 339.28M
P/E Ratio LULU 106.32 8.14
PEG Ratio OXM 1.68 -
Revenue Growth (Qtrly YoY) LULU 83.90% 1.20%
EPS Growth (Qtrly YoY) LULU 330.80% 4.90%
Long-Term Growth Rate (5 yr) LULU 42.29% 12.50%
Return on Equity HBI 70.43% 11.10%
Long-Term Debt/Equity HBI 8.089 0.675
Dividend Yield (annual) SGC 5.50% 3.40%

LULU- Lululemon Athletica

HBI- HanesBrands Inc

SGC – Superior Uniform Grp

Direct Competitor Comparison

 

Oxford

(OXM)

HartMarx (HMX) Van Heusen

(PVH)

Polo

(RL)

Industry
Market Cap 339.28M 88.39M 2.06B 6.33B 38B
# Employees 4,800 3,800 5,600 14,000 160K
Q Rev Growth (YoY) 1.20% -7.30% 22.50% 11.00% 14.70%
Revenue 1.09B 564.87M 2.40B 4.67B 489.03B
Gross Margin 40.53% 32.00% 49.14% 54.00% 40.11%
EBITDA ( 111.58M 13.15M 348.76M 821.00M 46.00B
Oper Margins 8.13% 0.62% 12.70% 13.55% 8.13%
Net Income 46.40M -4.18M 179.74M 389.50M 10.14B
EPS 2.597 -0.116 3.118 3.671 0.35
P/E Ratio 8.14 N/A 11.71 16.94 13.38
PEG (5 yr exp) 1.68 0.7 0.75 1.18 1.03
P/S 0.32 0.16 0.9 1.43 0.59

Summary:

In closing, we here at Global Bank, Inc. believe that Oxford Industries, Inc., would be a good investment of our capital. What we have seen in the past is their ability to grow and acquire smaller brands which help stabilize cash flow and allow focus on growth and long term strategy. Oxford has said that the additional money will be used to shore up one of their main weaknesses, lack of a retail presence which will improve distribution. A point of note, as we enter what looks to be a recession, consumers become more price sensitive. This will lead to overall less spending. We do think, however, that Oxford will not lose as much revenue because they do a very good job of showing their product value to a customer. There are also no comparable substitute brands to compete with Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman. Oxfords debt to equity ratio is almost at 1 and with high liquidity; we see no issue in their repayment of the full loan amount.

References

Bush, central bank chief see US weathering economic storm; recession not on the

horizon. Retrieved March 2, 2008, from

http://www.iht.com/bin/printfriendly.php?id=10564091.

http://www.hoovers.com/oxford-industries/–ID__11133–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
Retrieved March 4, 2008 – Oxford’s financials.

http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.cityu.edu/us/lnacademic/search/companyDossiersubmit

Form.doRetrieved March 3, 2008 – Company Competitors and Market position.

http://www.mergentonline.com.proxy.cityu.edu/compdetail.asp?company_mer=6347&co

mpany=-1Retrieved March 4, 2008 –Oxford’s financials and key competitors

analysis.

http://www.netadvantage.standardandpoors.com.proxy.cityu.edu/NASApp/NetAdvantage

/simpleSearchRun.do?ControlName=HomePageSearch

Retrieved March 3, 2008 – Industry Statistics.

http://www.portal.euromonitor.com.proxy.cityu.edu

Retrieved March 3, 2008 – Oxford Company Analysis.

Lexisnexis.com. Retrieved March 01, 2008, from

http://w3.lexisnexis.com.proxy.cityu.edu/dossier/companyreporting/contentfs.do?prod=C

D&host=Rosetta_US_Academic&cdcomp=6_T95038097&reportKey=financial_report.

Misonzhnik, Elaine. (2007, December 1). Foreign Intrigue.

Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=International+apparel+chain.

Morningstar.com. Retrieved March 01, 2008, from

http://quicktake.morningstar.com/StockNet/StockReturns.aspx?Country=USA&Symbol=OXM.

Oxford Industries, Inc. – Press Release. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

http://www.oxfordinc.com.

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