FINANCE

Starbucks Chief’s Venture-Capital Firm Buys Stake in Pinkberry

BY CSA STAFF

Seattle, Maveron LLC, the venture-capital firm co-founded by Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Schultz, announced Wednesday it has made a $27.4 million investment in the white-hot frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry.

This is the first outside investment in Pinkberry, which had previously been funded by its founders, Shelly Hwang and Young Lee. The two founded the company in 2005 in West Hollywood, Calif., and its tart, low-calorie yogurt—available in two flavors only, with a variety of fresh toppings—quickly become a phenomenon, spawning a cult following and long lines outside its doors.

“It’s very rare to see a retail company, so early on, create the kind of customer loyalty and emotional attachment that they’ve been able to create,” Schultz told The Los Angeles Times. “In 30 years, I can count on one hand the number of time I’ve witnessed it.”

Pinkberry now has five stores in New York and 28 in Southern California. According to Schultz, it has the chance to grow a national and global footprint.

Pinkberry founders Hwang and Lee will retain “significant equity” and remain actively involved in the company. Schultz reportedly will set strategy, and, along with Maveron co-founder Dan Levitan, sit on its board.

Seattle-based Maveron has been courting Pinkberry for some time. Other venture-capital firms and individual investors were also hot on its trail.

“We hope that our expertise and enthusiasm in brand building will be a great catalyst for Shelly, Young and their team as we join together to grow the Pinkberry brand,” Levitan said in a statement. “It is an honor to be selected from the field of investors that pursued Pinkberry and their choice represents another remarkable opportunity for Maveron.”

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Samsung appoints top marketing officer

BY CSA STAFF

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. Samsung Electronics America has named Steven Cook as its new senior vp and chief strategic officer for its North American headquarters.

Cook has a 26-year career in strategic brand retail marketing and most recently served as vp of worldwide strategic planning and business development for Coca Cola. Prior to that, Cook worked for Proctor & Gamble.

“Steven has extensive skills in brand differentiation, which have been honed in equally competitive industries where brand differentiation is critical,” said Samsung Electronics America president D.J. Oh.

 In a statement, Cook said he looks forward to helping Samsung build on its reputation as a brand that “delivers on its promise of the best consumer electronics experience.”

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Report: RFID top priority for Wal-Mart

BY CSA STAFF

San Francisco Speaking at an industry conference in Taiwan, Ron Moser, RFID strategy leader for Wal-Mart, said that RFID technology is important to the company and that it recognizes its role as a leader in this area, reports said.

At the Taiwan International RFID Applications Show in Taipei, Moser reportedly said that Wal-Mart could improve sales greatly by fixing its inventory issues using RFID technology. Moser added that he anticipates RFID to have a greater effect on Wal-Mart than bar codes did when they debuted in 1984.

According to reports, Moser said that he expects RFID will lead to getting products on store shelves faster, thus reducing lost sales and making missing merchandise a soon-to-be phenomenon of the past.

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