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Frank Ruperto joins Rayonier

BY HBSDEALER Staff

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Rayonier has hired Frank Ruperto as senior VP corporate development and strategic planning, effective March 31, to assist the company with achieving its future growth priorities. Upon the previously announced separation of the Performance Fibers business, Ruperto will lead the strategic growth and long-range planning initiatives for the new performance fibers company.

Ruperto has about 25 years of investment banking experience in mergers and acquisitions to Rayonier. Most recently, he served as managing director, mergers and acquisitions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch and previously served as head of global industries M&A for Banc of America Securities. Prior to that, Ruperto served as managing director, M&A at Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith. 

“We’re pleased to have Frank join our senior management team at this critical stage in our company’s development. Frank will lead our strategic, long range planning process and additionally begin identifying strategic opportunities that will position us for future adjacent growth,” said Paul Boynton, chairman, president and CEO of Rayonier. “Frank’s strategic thinking and experience in corporate transactions, along with his knowledge of the industrial and specialty chemical sectors, will allow him to play a critical role in our future. We have worked with Frank for more than a decade and know that adding his skill set to our team will enhance shareholder value.”

Rayonier is an international forest products company with three core businesses: Forest Resources, Real Estate and Performance Fibers.

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See which companies are the ‘least engaging brands of 2014’

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Kmart and Sears are among a group of companies identified as “the least engaging brands of 2014,” in a recently released index of customer loyalty.

"A brand can’t do well in today’s marketplace if it can’t engage consumers, no matter how many ads are run, and no matter how much social networking one does," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a New York-based brand loyalty and emotional engagement research consultancy.

Passikoff adds that brand engagement correlates very highly with positive consumer behavior, sales and profits.

“All you have to do is look and see how the brand is doing in the marketplace to confirm customer assessments,” he added. 

Brand engagement — defined as the degree to which a brand is seen to meet the expectations consumers hold for the Ideal in the category — is a leading-indicator of positive consumer behavior and brand loyalty. They are the ultimate measure for the brand, which according to Passikoff, should always be the beneficiary of any marketing or advertising effort.

“People can be engaged with a show or a social network or an event or an experience, but those are methods of engagement. Brand engagement is the ultimate goal,” he said. 

By examining how well 64 brands — each at the bottom of their respective categories in the 2014 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index — did at meeting those expectations for their Ideal (100%), Brand Keys identified the 10 least engaging brands for 2014. From the lowest level of engagement, brands ranked as follows:

1. Blackberry, 52%

2. Quiznos, 57%

3. Kmart, 59%

4. Sony (e-readers), 60%

5. WOW search engine, 60%

6. Sears, 64%

7. American Apparel, 65%

8. Budweiser (regular), 70%

9. Coty Cosmetics, 71%

10. Volkswagen, 79% 

“Brands compete in specific categories,” said Passikoff. “By seeing how well customers think a brand measures up to meeting their Ideal retailer, or beer or smartphone, allows for cross-category rankings like these.”

Numerous validation studies have proven that the benchmark for brand success is something higher than 85%.

“Below that, you are generally looking at a brand in trouble. Where engagement is high consumers behave better toward a brand and the brand sees more sales and, along with that, should also see increased share and profits. Where engagement is low, the reverse happens,” added Passikoff. “Always.” 

For the Brand Keys 2014 survey, 32,000 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers (top 20%). Seventy percent were interviewed by phone, 25% via face-to-face interviews (to include cell phone-only households) and 5% participated online.

Assessments are based on an independently validated research technique that fuses rational and emotional aspects of the categories to identify the behavioral drivers for each category-specific Ideal. The Ideal describes a precise path-to-purchase, describing how the consumer will view the category, how they will compare brands and, ultimately how they will engage with the brand, buy and remain loyal. Then the assessments measure how well the brands own customers see the brand meeting expectations consumers hold for the Ideal (100%) for a specific category.

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NRF: Imports to increase in March

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 12.4% in March 2014 as retailers begin to stock up for the spring and the summer season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.36 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 5.3% from December and 4.1% from January 2013. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.17 million TEU, down 8.8% from the same month the previous year. March is forecast at 1.28 million TEU, up 12.4% from the prior year; April at 1.36 million TEU, up 5.1%; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.7%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.3%, and July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.4%. The first half of the year is expected to total 8 million TEU, up 3.5% from the same period in 2013.

The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence.

“Retailers are bouncing back from the annual post-holiday slowdown and getting ready for the surge in activity that comes each year as the weather warms up,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy. “Shelves are going to be well-stocked with everything from bathing suits to barbecues.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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