Santa Barbara hires consultancy Kosmont for downtown revitalization

22 January 2019

The city of Santa Barbara has hired economic development and real estate advisory firm Kosmont Companies to prepare a strategic plan to attract more shoppers to the city’s central business district. The consulting firm will present its findings to City Council in June.

Santa Barbara is looking to get rid of the vacant storefronts dotting its downtown area. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, previous studies have concluded that downtown retailers rely too heavily on tourist dollars and not enough on locals.

To siphon more shoppers into the downtown area, the City Council decided to enlist a consulting firm with the aim of creating an effective downtown revitalization strategy. After running a request for proposals which attracted five firms, a group of business community stakeholders and the city council both selected Kosmont Companies as the top candidate.

Founded in 1986 and based in Manhattan Beach, California, Kosmont delivers economic development and land use consulting services to cities, counties, public agencies, private corporations, landowners, and developers across the state. The firm has an additional office in San Diego.

Santa Barbara hires consultancy Kosmont for downtown revitalization strategy

According to a city council agenda report, Kosmont has “a strong track record of working with cities and public agencies on economic development, downtown retail market analyses, and evaluating real estate projects. They bring a strong understanding of current retail trends and real estate investment and experience working with a wide range of cities.”

Kosmont will be paid $84,000 to create a strategic plan based on informed research and stakeholder analysis. The plan will focus on economic development, transportation and infrastructure, parking, pedestrian experience, regulations, and signage, among other areas.

The plan will include recommendations on shifting the tenant mix to address to the needs of residents, aiding business retention and cutting down vacancies. Kosmont will also share the best practices of other cities in this regard. Relatedly, the plan will recommend strategies for land use planning, identifying the ideal mix of retail, office, and residential.

The plan will also evaluate the effectiveness of economic development business organizations in the city and make recommendations therein. The City of Santa Barbara currently has no official economic development staff.

Next, the plan will address infrastructure and facility upgrades, examining and recommending strategies in regards to streetscapes, sidewalks, and public seating. Kosmont will also look at the option of temporary street closures, pedestrian malls, and a potential Downtown-Waterfront shuttle.

Based on stakeholder consultation, the firm will also review permit, signage, events, and outdoor dining regulations to identify any that are stifling business startup and growth. Finally, the plan will make recommendations on current marketing, arts, and events which promote economic vitality.

The $84,000 for the downtown revitalization plan – expected to be delivered in June – was sourced from salary savings in the Police Department due to vacancies.

Related: Consultancies to build economic strategy for Pittsylvania County and Danville.


Struggling retailer Pier 1 Imports names AlixPartners advisor as interim CFO

23 April 2019

Texas-based home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports has appointed Deborah Rieger-Paganis, a managing director at AlixPartners, as its interim chief financial officer.

As the bricks-and-mortar retail sector continues to be hammered by consumer shifts to online shopping, Pier 1 Imports is one of many traditional retailers attempting to stay afloat.

The retail market has been a fairly inhospitable environment to big incumbents in the past decade, despite a strong overall economy. Payless Shoes and Gymboree filed for bankruptcy recently, and will shutter all or most of their stores. The US division of Toys R Us shut down last year, while Sears filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. After winning a bankruptcy auction, Sears aims to forge ahead with a streamlined footprint of 400 stores.

Things aren’t projected to get better for retailers in the short or long term, however. Coresight Research expects more than 6,500 stores to close in the US this year, while UBS Securities estimates that 75,000 stores will be shuttered by 2026 if e-commerce penetration rises from its current level of 16% to 25%.

Struggling retailer Pier 1 Imports names AlixPartners advisor as interim CFO

Pier 1 Imports, meanwhile, closed 30 of its stores in the fiscal year ending in March. The firm reported that its same-store sales fell 13.7% in the quarter that included Christmas.

According to Bloomberg News, the company – which sells furniture and home décor – has been working on a comeback plan for months. In December, however, the firm canned its CEO and scrapped his turnaround plan, bringing in interim CEO Cheryl Bachelder, who previously righted the ship at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

Pier 1 also brought in AlixPartners, a consulting firm known for its expertise in restructuring and turnaround, to help build a new strategy.

The company has now named AlixPartners managing director Deborah Rieger-Paganis as its interim chief financial officer, replacing outgoing CFO Nancy Walsh. Rieger-Paganis has over 30 years of experience leading and improving retail firms’ finance organization and business operations.

During her 17 years at AlixPartners, Rieger-Paganis has served as an advisor and interim CFO to numerous companies, including Aritzia, Toms Shoes, and Cirque de Soleil.

Before joining the consultancy, she was senior vice president of financial planning and analysis at MasterCard, and vice president of finance at clothing retailer Ann Taylor. Rieger-Paganis began her career at Touche Ross (now Deloitte), where she spent over a decade. She holds a BS in accounting from the State University of New York at Albany, and is a certified public accountant.

“Deb has a wealth of finance, retail industry and turnaround experience, and we are pleased to have her join the Pier 1 team,” Cheryl Bachelder, interim CEO, said. “Deb has worked closely with the leadership team in a consulting capacity in recent months, and I am confident her expertise will continue to be a valuable asset in leading our finance organization.”

According to Bachelder, the company and its advisors have built a fiscal 2020 plan to reset cost structures and build momentum. Rieger-Paganis’ expanded role will help the firm execute on its turnaround plans.

“I look forward to working closely with Cheryl and the rest of the management team as we continue to focus on Pier 1’s priorities for fiscal 2020,” Rieger-Paganis said. “Over the past four months, Pier 1 has been building more structure and rigor into the planning processes across key areas of the business and operations. I am committed to instilling financial discipline across the organization as we work to drive a successful turnaround and create value for shareholders over the long term.”

After reporting its troubling fiscal year results last week, Pier 1’s share prices fell 22%. The company’s stock risks being delisted from the NYSE if it spends much more time below $1, according to Bloomberg News.