FINANCE

Retailers launch campaign to eliminate Alibaba ‘threat’

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – The Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF) launched a television advertising campaign to educate lawmakers on what is says is the imminent threat posed by China's online mega-retailer Alibaba as it enters the U.S. retail market. Retailers are asking the U.S. House of Representatives to join the U.S. Senate by passing e-fairness legislation that closes the online sales tax loophole this year.

Alibaba is on pace to become the largest online retailer in the world. In one day, Alibaba had more online sales ($9.3 billion) than all U.S. online sales during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend. According to AMSF, Alibaba's emergence in the American retail market will allow them to exploit the online sales tax loophole that allows online retailers to avoid charging sales tax in states where they do not have any physical operations (stores or distribution facilities).

In 2013, the U.S Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would close the online loophole and require all remote sellers to collect and remit sales tax just like their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

"Lots of politicians talked a good game this weekend, posting warm and fuzzy statements about Small Business Saturday and support for small businesses on their Facebook pages,” saidJoshua Baca, spokesperson for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness. “But we need Congress to do more than talk, we need them to act to support small businesses. There will be fewer small businesses to choose from next year if Congress continues to delay and gives companies like Alibaba a special tax advantage over local retailers."

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REAL ESTATE

Restoration Hardware opens Atlanta gallery

BY Dan Berthiaume

Corte Madera, Calif. – Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc. has opened RH, The Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead, Georgia. Featuring six floors and nearly 70,000 total interior and exterior square feet, the new retail concept features dramatic interior and exterior installations of home furnishings in a gallery setting.

RH Atlanta sits on nearly two acres and was designed by design architect James Gillam of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger. Conceptualized as a contemporary version of a Southern estate, the Gallery’s exterior featuring an expanse of windows with more than 100 pairs of French doors and a 36-foot tall Entry Oculus with dramatic 17-foot gates set against a backdrop of charcoal grey Venetian plaster. The grounds provide an expansive green composition year-round. Looking overhead, guests will see a progression of garden terraces featuring tracery metal trellises accented with climbing star jasmine, which culminate with the Rooftop Park & Conservatory. As night falls the building’s architectural details and gardens illuminate in a warm dramatic glow.

Customers approaching the main Peachtree Road entrance will pass through the striking gates into the grand entry rotunda with an antique French cast iron fountain. Lit by natural light emanating from the open air oculus three stories overhead, this space will be punctuated by an elliptical dome and lit by an eight-foot Foucault’s OrbcCrystal chandelier at night. Customers will then arrive at a two-story, arched glass wall before entering the central hall with an interior atrium rising through the space. All of this will be experienced along a single visual axis, enabling an unobstructed view through the entire main floor to the outdoor Estate Gardens and reflecting pool. At the periphery, Palladian-inspired barrel-vaulted passageways will lead to a classical arrangement of rooms with outdoor courtyards, featuring collections from renowned designers and artisans across the globe.

Arriving via the estate’s rear entrance off Buckhead Avenue, customers will see the Estate Gardens and motor court with valet parking. Atop a canvas of decomposed granite, symmetrical rows of Bosque Elm trees – each set within an organic planter of clipped boxwood – flank both the drive and the 50-foot-long infinity reflecting pool. Intimate, open-air pavilions lush with fig ivy, billowing shade canopies, glimmering chandeliers, trickling fountains and a monumental fireplace will showcase the RH Outdoor furnishings.

Customers will then ascend a six-story, grand double staircase spanning 36 feet, with custom-designed iron handrails inspired by the late 20th-century Venetian architect, Carlo Scarpa. An installation of 36 beaded crystal chandeliers hanging nearly 100 feet overhead plays off mirrored walls and windows to create an endless reflection, illuminating the climb to the floors above.

The first three floors feature the largest expression to date of RH Interiors’ curated collections of Living, Dining, Bedroom and Bathroom Furniture, Lighting, Furnishings and Accessories. The brand’s first physical representation of RH Small Spaces and an RH Baby & Child gallery occupy the entire fourth and fifth floors at nearly 8,000-sq.-ft. each. Here, customers will see sophisticated children’s furnishings that blend seamlessly with the rest of the home and petite versions of the brand’s iconic sofas, sectionals and chairs in a progression of intimate, light-filled rooms.

At the top of the grand stair, guests will arrive at a conservatory and rooftop park, complete with wraparound terraces featuring sculpted evergreen trees and topiaries, exotic succulents and panoramic views of Buckhead and downtown Atlanta’s skyline.

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C-SUITE

HSN names Fruit of the Loom exec Cornerstone president

BY Dan Berthiaume

St. Petersburg, Fla. – HSN Inc. has named Jeffrey Kuster as president of Cornerstone and executive officer of HSNi. Kuster, 48, has held various leadership positions in the apparel, fashion and retail industries, most recently as executive VP, chief marketing and strategy officer for Berkshire Hathaway's Fruit of the Loom.

In his new role as president of Cornerstone Brands, Kuster will assume responsibility for HSNi's portfolio of aspirational home and apparel lifestyle brands that include Frontgate, Ballard Designs, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road, Chasing Fireflies, Improvements, and TravelSmith. He will lead the strategic vision, drive growth and expand Cornerstone's digital presence to continue to increase customer acquisition and overall profitability.

Kuster has held various leadership positions in apparel, fashion and retail. He managed a portfolio of iconic brands including Fruit of the Loom, Vanity Fair, Spalding, and Russell Athletic. In particular, he had marketing and merchandising responsibility for Fruit of the Loom and Vanity Fair, and led strategy for the corporation.

Prior to this role, Kuster held a number of positions of increasing responsibility in Europe, where he was based for eight years. Kuster served as the company's CEO for EMEA and India, which followed four years as president of Vanity Fair Brands Europe. He joined VF Corp. in 2001 after four years at McKinsey & Company. From 1988 to 1995, he served at the World Bank, Doctors without Borders, the Bureau of Labor Statistic and The Peace Corps.

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