CoMetrics Partners LLC Appoints John La Lota as Managing Director

NEW YORK, N.Y. October 10, 2019 – CoMetrics Partners, LLC (CoMetrics) is pleased to announce that John La Lota has joined the firm as Managing Director.

Most recently John was the President of the Commercial Services division of Sterling National Bank where he led specialty lending teams in a highly regulated banking environment. Under John’s 20 year leadership, Sterling grew to one of the largest factoring companies in the United States. Previous roles included senior-level positions with Heller Financial and Congress Talcott. John is a member of the Commercial Finance Association, the International Factoring Association and The Turnaround Management Association.

“I am looking forward to working with Gary and the CoMetrics team”, said La Lota. “Over the years I have experienced firsthand their results-oriented approach and responsiveness in critical situations.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about John joining the firm” said Gary Herwitz, Managing Partner. “I’ve worked closely with John in a myriad of situations over the last 30 years.  We share a very similar work ethic of rolling up our sleeves and getting difficult things done.  John brings a unique perspective and skill set to CoMetrics.”

About CoMetrics Partners LLC

CoMetrics Partners LLC is a management consulting firm that provides middle market companies the strategic vision and leadership to integrate operations, technology, and finance to optimize business processes and maximize profitability. The firm prides itself on working with executive management to solve complex challenges and achieve meaningful outcomes while mitigating risk. CoMetrics was named by The Silicon Review as one of the 50 smartest companies in 2016.

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California Apparel News- Industry Focus: Finance—How would you advise your apparel-industry clients to prepare for a potential recession?

Around the globe, trusted economic forecasters are predicting a slowdown over the next year, yet there is disparity regarding whether they feel a recession will occur. As previous spans of negative economic growth have shown, the most effective method of navigating through recessionary periods is to prepare in advance, expecting the worst while hoping for the best.

In the apparel industry, there have been drastic shifts in the retail segment, consumer shopping habits and ongoing international-trade challenges. Adding an extended period of economic downturn could prove disastrous for companies in the apparel industry if they don’t take the necessary steps to safeguard their businesses. While economic decline into a recessionary period isn’t imminent at this point, as 2019 enters the fourth quarter and 2020 is on the horizon, we asked financial experts: How would you advise your apparel-industry clients to prepare for a potential recession?

Darrin Beer, Western Regional Manager, Commercial Services, CIT

Apparel manufacturers have experienced several challenges the past couple years including a changing and volatile retail environment, a threat of increasing tariffs and, now, a potential slowdown in the U.S. economy. Despite these challenges, consumer spending has held up well and unemployment is close to historical lows.

Apparel manufacturers need to focus on keeping expenses down while remaining disciplined in managing inventory levels. It also remains prudent to diversify the supplier base in the event the trade wars escalate.

On the financial side, apparel companies should maintain adequate capital levels and the financial flexibility to withstand potential downturns in retail. Preserving cash flow and focusing on core competencies is good business practice and all the more important if economic conditions soften. In addition, working closely with an experienced financing source in good times and bad can be very helpful. That’s especially true for younger companies that have never experienced an economic downturn. For all these reasons, apparel companies should develop plans now for how they can best respond to a softer retail climate.

Mark Bienstock, Managing Director, Express Trade Capital

First off, those clients that have seen the light regarding tariff implications will be the ones that have a path to success. Having your production concentrated in any one country is a recipe for disaster for multiple reasons. Additionally, the online model is a key component of a blended revenue stream that will be required in order to offset the continued contraction of stores at the bricks-and-mortar level. Finally, crossover product diversification will be critical. Many traditional retailers are slowly taking away apparel floor space for products in the growing home-furnishing and nonperishable-food and organic-product categories. This can be a challenging transition but far from impossible. Those clients that are looking at the real big picture will be the ones standing at the end of the day.

Sydnee Breuer, Executive Vice President, Rosenthal & Rosenthal of California

Our apparel-industry clients have had a lot of noise in the marketplace to deal with such as the soft retail environment, the direct-to-consumer business and tariffs. Adding a potential recession to the mix would be another challenge to the industry. In order to survive (and hopefully thrive), they need to continue to watch their inventory levels and speculate less than they currently are. Too much inventory—and inventory that the consumer won’t buy—has and will continue to wreak havoc on the cash flow of the business. More diversification in selling, whether expanding to include new customers, both foreign and domestic, and having an online presence will help to ensure that softness in one part of the business can be offset by increases in others. This would need to be done by maximizing existing resources and staff so as to not increase overhead—and maybe even tighten up on the expenses—to try to stay one step ahead of the economy and any potential recession.

Gino Clark, Executive Vice President, Managing Director, Originations, White Oak Commercial Finance, LLC

We are certainly hearing a cautionary tone in the marketplace from our clients. While economic indicators remain largely positive, the trade tensions between the U.S. and China have created a sense of uncertainty in the market. A recent client conversation highlighted the importance of focusing upon the strengths of the organization. In other words, know what you are capable of and make sure you do it well. He emphasized that “now is not the time to take every order.” This type of conservative approach combined with an attention to detail allows companies to prosper in good times as well as prepare for any potential uncertainties in the future.

Eric Fisch, Senior Vice President, National Sector Head, Retail & Apparel, HSBC Bank USA N.A.

The best advice I could provide to a company to manage through any disruption, be it macroeconomic or industry specific, is to maintain flexibility. Growth and success should be supported with investment and ambitious objectives. However, regardless of whether it is a retailer, wholesaler or digital-native company, maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism supplements a strategy to manage a downside scenario. Too often we see businesses investing in long-term assets, leases or systems that can support exponential growth and then end up stuck with expensive overhead when that growth is slower than expected.

Another key element of flexibility is more short term—a company’s inventory. Inventory is key to success and growth but is difficult to monetize profitably if sales slow down. The companies we see as most successful in this area make strategic bets on inventory to drive revenue but then liquidate it quickly if it isn’t needed. This is a healthy practice to have in place to allow a company to take advantage of higher than expected demand but quickly improve liquidity if needed.

Joshua Goodhart, Executive Vice President & National Sales Manager, Merchant Financial Group

Recession concerns are very real in the apparel industry going into the fourth quarter of 2019 and 2020. The entire credit market continues to see retailer after retailer struggle financially in 2019, with more bankruptcies on the horizon. There have been several contributing factors to today’s retail environment including the increase in e-commerce, the trade war with China, and customer demand for immediacy and newness. The drastic shift to a more-online shopping model has hurt the traditional bricks-and-mortar retail market. In addition, the trade wars with China and other foreign countries have also been at the forefront of apparel manufacturers’ minds, adding to the recession concerns.

Merchant has advised clients and prospects to manage their overheads and to mitigate any unnecessary risks during these uncertain economic times. We urge importers to seek other alternative production paths outside of China in order to minimize the potential tariff risks. Merchant also recommends clients and prospects tighten up their customer list based on each customer’s creditworthiness. Wholesalers should not ship goods to any customers that are not covered by a factor credit approval or credit insurance. These are not the times to be taking added credit risks. An alternative to ramping up growth to combat the tough economy, we encourage clients to develop or continue to expand their online presence.

Our belief is that during times when there is an economic decline, there are also plenty of opportunities that can strengthen businesses in the long run. Taking advantage of potential strategic mergers and acquisitions is one way for an apparel manufacturer to endure a recession. We encourage owners to think out of the box but also not lose sight of their core business and build on those existing successful retail partnerships.

Rob Greenspan, President and Chief Executive, Greenspan Consult, Inc.

While I don’t have a crystal ball—nor do I know anybody who has one—it is always difficult to predict the future, especially in the apparel industry. For the past few years the economy, for the most part, has been good, but recent events have given rise to economic uncertainties.

It is during these times that apparel companies should be developing their Plan B in order to react quickly and efficiently to any economic changes.

Some immediate issues of concern for apparel companies either selling fabric or finished goods into the wholesale market or to the retail trade should be the creditworthiness of their customers. There are many companies where factor credit approvals or accounts-receivable insurance is not available due to their current financial position. If the economy goes in the wrong direction, the financially weaker companies are usually the first ones to go out of business. Apparel companies should stay on top of their customers’ ability to pay. Be mindful of the problems of selling to companies with poor credit—you might not get paid. Also, understand what could happen to your top line sales revenues if one of your significant customers is no longer in business and how this impacts your ability to continue to stay in business.

Still of concern are the effects of increasing tariffs. Your Plan B should include alternative sources of production if possible. Make sure your flow of goods won’t be disrupted. Conversations with your suppliers and customers about increasing costs should be had.

Your Plan B should include plans for new inventory purchases or a liquidation of excess or older inventory. During an economic downturn, you do not want to carry any old, obsolete or excess inventory. You should try to not speculate on inventory, or, if you have to buy before you have orders, you should consider bringing in lesser amounts to be safe. If you do have to speculate on inventory, your plan should include having a second home for any excess inventory, and it should be sold as quickly as possible. Cover your costs, if you can, and get out from under it.

As always, you should be looking at your current overhead costs to see what could now be eliminated and, then, what should be eliminated if the economic situation gets worse. Do not wait to make these decisions when you are under pressure. Have a plan that encompasses decisions such as cutting back on your product line, eliminating nonprofitable divisions, or finding or developing new lines of business to replace what might be lost.

During an economic downtown, cash is always king. Stay liquid, be nimble, and don’t hold on to nonperforming assets. Your Plan B should focus on all of these and more, but the focus should be on liquidity and of course continued profitability.

Gary Herwitz, Managing Partner, CoMetrics Partners, LLC

It’s all about inventory management. Retail bankruptcies and credit risks coupled with retailers delaying or canceling purchase orders has resulted in an abundance of goods available for the off-price channels. It’s become a buyers’ market, whereby getting anything close to cost is extremely challenging. This will be exasperated if the economy cools off. Apparel companies must emphasize inventory management and the flow of product and not speculate on inventory purchases.

Kee Hyung Kim, CEO, Finance One, Inc.

Despite a decadelong economic prosperity, the apparel sector remained an anomaly and did not enjoy the growth of other businesses in the last few years. An economic recession will add another crushing blow to the apparel industry, which already suffered from rising costs of goods, increased overhead and additional tariffs. The record-breaking number of retail-store closures has also reduced the number of bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Since the industry is already in a slump, only the fittest and most resilient companies will survive through an economic downturn. One way to prepare for a recession is to diversify the customer and vendor bases to mitigate concentration risk. In addition, verifying the financial strength of suppliers will ensure uninterrupted production and the flow of new merchandise. Another way is to raise efficiency by outsourcing non-core parts of operations. It will be prudent to secure a bank line of credit or financing in advance and diligently monitor both personal and business credit ratings. Timely assessment of buyers’ financial strength will be important to avoid credit risk. Factors will be an invaluable business partner to all apparel manufacturers during an economic recession.

Sunnie S. Kim, President & CEO, Hana Financial, Inc.

A recession damages consumer confidence, affecting retailers and ultimately manufacturers. However, there may be hidden opportunities. Retailers and manufacturers that survive a recession may emerge with a more-engaged and loyal set of customers, fewer competitors, and additional assets and prospects. Companies need to prepare for a period of rapid change, and they must be ready to invest and innovate even in the midst of the economic upheaval. In the last two recessions, in 1999 and 2007, retailers suffered falling sales and shrinking margins coupled with rising store closures and bankruptcies.

Digital sales, instead of slowing, actually accelerated; a number of new competitors to legacy brands emerged; and discount outlets grew. These changes have continued to shape retail, while e-commerce continues to drive change in the industry; direct-to-consumer brands and private labels are chipping away at established names; and low-cost retailers are flourishing while mid-market brands are shrinking.

Companies should consider redefining the customer-value proposition and narrowing focus; also, in this information age, it makes sense to narrow your focus with data and computational statistics to help navigate through these times of uncertainty. Businesses might sell underperforming assets and build reserves. In addition to computational statistics, automation and partnerships with others, even temporarily, may help offset costs in their supply chains as only a handful of successful vertical manufacturers exists in this country today.

Robert Meyers, President, Republic Business Credit, LLC

We advise our clients to diversify, diversify and diversify. Diversification is the varying of its range of products or fields of operations. We strongly suggest that apparel companies reduce their reliance on any single customer or any single go-to market strategy. We would generally suggest less than 10 percent or 20 percent of sales with any one customer. At the same time, we advise apparel manufacturers to look at products or services that even out seasonality wherever possible. That might include the addition of a Winter/Summer/Spring line, accessories or a direct-to-consumer strategy. We strongly advise against a wholesale-only strategy at this stage as the additional stress on a long cash-to-cash cycle can be very difficult to navigate during a recession.

Dave Reza, Senior Vice President, Western Region, Milberg Factors

I suspect that all of our apparel-industry clients follow the news with special attention paid to the reports on the economy, trade, tariffs, retail spending, etc. With some economists citing indicators that are similar to those that were present in 2007 and 2008, there is speculation that the economy is headed for a recession. If we are headed toward a downturn, then I believe that the apparel industry as a whole is better positioned to sustain itself than it was a dozen years ago.

Let’s face it, apparel manufacturers and importers have been dealing with a challenging macrobusiness environment for years. The hits just keep on coming: retail bankruptcies, liquidations, massive reductions in doors, shifts in consumer buying channels, eroding prices and tariffs, to name a few of the obstacles facing companies on a daily basis. That’s in addition to the day-to-day grind of late production, meeting cancellation dates, dealing with never-ending retail markdowns and more challenges. So, while the possibility of a recession cannot be ignored, our apparel clients are already battling a litany of challenges, so many operators are reasonably well prepared to navigate a soft economy. Of course, if we have a recession, further belt tightening will be required.

If a recession occurs, unemployment will rise and consumer spending will contract. But as we saw in the last recession, some sectors of the apparel industry are counter-cyclical and can actually perform well, for example discounters, while other areas, for example fashion brands, lose ground. That underscores the need for companies to better understand how a downturn will impact both their retail customers and the consumers who have typically bought their products. The good news here is that social media has made gathering intelligence on consumer purchasing so much easier. Further, we would urge clients to assess which if any of their suppliers might feel the pinch due to a sharp drop in production orders.

We would certainly remind our clients that a recession will present both opportunities and threats. It may be time for some to play more offense, that is, creating moderate or downstairs lines for existing customers and/or discounters. Of course, the defense can’t be ignored. We will certainly reinforce to our clients that lower inventories should be maintained, they should increase their buy against orders and proactively manage expenses.

Ken Wengrod, Co-founder/President, FTC Commercial Corp.

There is always turmoil and change in our industry: a potential recession, rising interest rates, retail closures and world events, to name a few. However, manufacturers, importers and exporters should not react to events they cannot change. Companies need to focus their attention on the following principles to avoid losing their existing customer base. In order to stay connected to the customer, remaining razor focused while understanding what their socio-demographic analytics indicate their uber-consumers are looking for, is key. Consumers are looking for authenticity, value and the ease of purchasing and returning merchandise. Discriminating consumers have both more time, based on internet access, as well as money. It’s critical that companies understand how consumers think and what they want. Inspiring consumers will pull dollars from their wallets. Companies should be mindful that they need to explore avenues of exporting their merchandise since 95 percent of potential customers are outside of our United States borders. On the global front, Asia, Europe and parts of Africa continue to have a strong demand for U.S.-designed apparel. Africa’s consumer spending is growing significantly.

Manufacturers, importers and exporters who seem to be in tune with the flux of the current market conditions are able to maximize their opportunities in such conditions. These business owners do not need to chase sales to support their overhead and will do exceptionally well under any market condition. Their operations are lean and mean so when the market opportunity arises, they maximize their position. Today, a smart business owner must properly level all aspects of the business side and create merchandise that customers have to have once seeing the designs. Creating the proper financial foundation at the right point will afford them a better cash flow later. Searching inside themselves for a solution while focusing on areas they can change will help clients prepare for a potential recession.

https://www.apparelnews.net/news/2019/sep/26/industry-focus-financehow-would-you-advise-your-ap/

 

CoMetrics Partners Sells Lenders Advisory Services LLC

CoMetrics Partners Sells its Specialty Lending Advisory Division to Adeptus Partners

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Mar. 29, 2018) — CoMetrics Partners LLC (CoMetrics) announced the sale of its specialty lending advisory division, CoMetrics Lenders Advisory Services LLC (LAS), to Adeptus Partners LLC, a noted solutions-based public accounting firm. LAS is a professional services firm that specializes in assisting banks, financial institutions, and other lenders  determining the accuracy of their borrowers’ collateral and quality of earnings.

“Since establishing LAS in 2013, the practice has grown significantly,” says Gary Herwitz, Managing Partner of CoMetrics. “Adeptus provides the LAS team with a national platform to continue that expansion and better serve the valued clients of LAS.”

“We are pleased to integrate such a high-caliber firm into our operations,” Krant says. “LAS’s extensive expertise lends itself well to the collaborative, problem-solving approach that we employ for the benefit of our clients. With this added strength we will be able to offer additional service areas, such as credit risk consulting and internal audit advisory services, to collateral field examination clients.”

Brian Ash, Managing Director of LAS since 2013, will continue to lead the team.

“I am ecstatic about the acquisition and joining forces with Adeptus,” Ash says. “As a result of the acquisition, LAS will have the immediate capability to serve its customers from four regionally-located offices in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Maryland. The acquisition will also give our clients access to a whole new class of experienced professionals with notably diverse business backgrounds.”

About CoMetrics Partners LLC

CoMetrics Partners LLC, led by Managing Partner Gary Herwitz, is a management consulting firm that specializes in providing middle market companies the strategic vision and leadership to integrate operations, technology, and finance to optimize business processes and maximize profitability. CoMetrics developed a proprietary Supply Chain Management Solution that was contributed into a joint venture with All-Ways Forwarding, one of the largest forwarding, customs brokers and logistics providers in the northeast. CoMetrics was named by The Silicon Review as one of the 50 smartest companies in 2016.

About Adeptus Partners LLC

Adeptus Partners, LLC, is a solutions-based certified public accounting firm located in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, and Maryland.  For over 30 years, the firm has serviced individuals and businesses on both a national and international level.  Through their collaborative problem-solving approach, Adeptus helps clients make sense of their financial situations.  Their experienced professionals stay informed of today’s ever-changing tax and business regulatory laws and assist clients in applying these complex rules to their business and personal affairs.  Adeptus is led by founding and Managing Partner Howard Krant.

For more information about CoMetrics and their services, visit www.CoMetrics.NYC or contact Olga Scotto at (212) 381-0871.

For more information about Adeptus and their services, visit www.adeptuscpas.com or contact Cindy Wronko at (732) 595-3110.

Cometrics Partners LLC Synergizing Finance, Operations and IT To Maximize Profits by Fashion MANNUSCRIPT

Consumer product companies are facing unprecedented business demands from their retail partners. As revenues and margin pressures continue to be more challenging, having an extremely efficient operating platform is often the difference between profitability and loss, or even survival, said Gary Herwitz, Founder and Managing Partner of Cometrics Partners, a New York City-based management consulting firm. Named one of the 50 “smartest” companies by The Silicon Review, the firm offers strategic advisory and supply chain management services to consumer product distributors including but not limited to apparel, accessories, footwear, electronics and toys. CoMetrics works with successful firms seeking to maximize profits through operating efficiencies as well as troubled companies that require turn around/crisis management services.

“We have a unique skill set to synergize Operations, Finance and IT,” to drive profits, Herwitz said.

The lack of synergy is understandable. Few CFOs have a strong background in operations, while operations executives rarely are financial and management reporting-focused. Somewhere in between is IT, which reports to either the CFO, Operations or even the President.

“To maximize operating efficiencies these three groups (who often operate in silos) must work closely together,” said Herwitz, a former President of one of the 20th largest accounting/consulting firms in the United States, as well as an apparel company CFO/ COO, who founded CoMetrics in 2009. “Many companies have great design and product, but you have to be efficient. Money is made these days as much in the operations as the front end of the business.”

CoMetrics’ client relationships generally commence with referrals from satisfied clients, as well as banks and factors hoping to help a struggling borrower. Typically, CoMetrics begins by visiting with the company for several weeks, examining every aspect of the operations.

“Most engagements begin with a Business Diagnostic. We do a huge amount of data analytics, then return with a report to management of where we think the challenges and opportunities are,” Herwitz said. In middle market companies, often business owners and their key management team are consumed with day to day, transaction by transaction issues and lack the time, and perhaps the independence, to step back and objectively and unemotionally evaluate their business. “That’s where we come in,” says Herwitz, “we bring a perspective that simply put is difficult to obtain internally.”

CoMetrics also works with companies on their e-commerce strategy. There is a confluence of issues for companies that know they need to grow their brand online yet they must co-exist with their retail partners.

“Designer fashion companies are dependent on the big four department stores—Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomingdales,” he observed. “But that channel of distribution is negatively affecting their own e-commerce.” The consumer isn’t going to pay more on your site and the retailers have been driving sales through markdowns.

“That’s a big factor—in order to have price integrity on your own site you need to negotiate out of friends and family and control the markdown cadence. Doing this while you are still dependent on the department store distribution is extremely challenging. We spend a lot of time navigating that,” he said. “In addition, you’re also competing with the department stores on search engine placement. That drives up customer acquisition costs. It’s not easy.”

Many companies may not be making money because they’re not managing inventory well, or have unusually high logistics costs. Though each company has specific nuances, issues often are quite similar, Herwitz said. “We spend quite a bit of time analyzing SKU productivity. Too many stock keeping units (SKUs), results in material inefficiencies ranging from not maximizing production negotiations, excess development, and number of pick faces required in the warehouse that drives shipping costs and poor inventory management. We find in most companies 25 percent of the SKU’s account for 75 percent of revenues,” Herwitz noted.

The difference between  CoMetrics and other management consultants is an in-depth understanding of Finance, Operations and IT.

“Ownership may be investing in divisions that may not have direct contribution to G&A, or the Company is not even reporting by division. Their logistics costs could be inefficient. Their overhead could be too high,” Herwitz said. “We look at all of that.”

A unique aspect of CoMetrics is its technology platform to help companies manage their own supply chain management.

“When we founded CoMetrics, we realized that most of our clients were very sophisticated in how they were managing their retail partner supply chain,” using EDI [electronic data interchange] to achieve efficiencies,” Herwitz said. “But when it came to their suppliers, the process from issuing PO’s to the freight arriving in their warehouse was manual excel work.”

CoMetrics developed a proprietary technology product that interfaces with the importers ERP system that essentially reverses EDI into the supply chain without integrating with factories overseas. The system is state-of-the-art; however, many importers didn’t want to pay for it, accepting the status quo even though it was extremely inefficient.

“We found a great solution whereby we contributed the technology and formed a joint venture with All-Ways Forwarding,” Herwitz said. All-Ways is a full service logistics provider and one of the largest customs brokers in the Northeast. “Last year we moved 200,000 containers and with our technology the JV has revolutionized Cargo Management. We also have 1.5 million square feet across four 3PL facilitates we own, and accordingly offer complete end to end supply chain solutions. Use some or all of our services and you essentially get the supply chain software solution for no cost through All-Ways.”

For consumer product companies after product and payroll, inbound/outbound logistics is their third largest spend!

“Yet you’d be surprised at how many companies are not sophisticated in how to price and negotiate logistics,” Herwitz says. CEOs are delegating decisions to import managers who may not be achieving optimal results. “Through our cargo management platform, we generally can achieve savings of 10 to 15 percent.”

The company has offices across the world, with a data center in Shanghai with 35 people exclusively focusing on cargo management. Systematizing the entire process, from purchase order through shipment through receipt at the warehouse, not only makes the process more efficient, it also integrates with the general ledger and accounts payable and provides systematic landed cost calculations.

“And because we move more than 200,000 containers a year, we can be very competitive in costs,” Herwitz noted. “We drive the costs of the logistics down and the technology provides huge efficiencies.”

“We learned a lot about software development when we built the logistic platform,” Herwitz said. “We are now developing a financial business intelligence application scheduled to be unveiled in Q3 of 2017, which we think is going to be extremely impactful.”

The difference between CoMetrics and other management consultants is an in depth understanding of finance, operations and IT. “Quite frankly, most consulting firms are good at one or two of those” Herwitz said, “that’s what differentiates us.”

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