Thursday, July 26, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Lawyers Carve Out 'Divorce for Men' Niche
They Target Husbands Who Fear Being Underdog in Battles Over Child Custody, Property, Money
Divorce lawyers seeking an edge in a crowded legal marketplace have found a niche they say pays off in good times and bad: appealing to men who fear getting a bad deal.
With sports magazines in the waiting room and radio and TV spots that promise to put men first, "divorce for men" law firms position themselves as the best defense a soon-to-be-ex-husband could have in the struggle to keep his kids, his house and his money.
They say their expertise lends firepower in situations where other lawyers might cave, and they coach men on how to avoid certain snares. For instance, if you want to stay in your house, steer clear of confrontations -- especially in front of witnesses -- that could provide fodder for a restraining order.
"We have experience swimming upstream," said Bill Goldberg, co-founder of Goldberg Jones, a Seattle-based men's divorce firm with offices in Portland and San Diego. "We don't pretend that we are going to pull miracles for men. But we are very, very familiar with the biases and challenges."
Such firms charge about the same hourly rates as other family-law practices -- generally in the range of $200 to $350 an hour, plus a retainer.
Getting divorced isn't cheap. An amicable separation that doesn't end up in court could run in the low thousands of dollars, while custody disputes or battles over property can cost many more thousands, or even millions, by the time a divorce is final.
The "divorce for men" pitch has proved a durable one. Some lawyers have been working this angle for decades, since men's rights groups began pushing back in the 1970s and 1980s against divorce and custody laws that they said favored women at the expense of their former spouses.
Now it's easier than ever before to find such lawyers as firms expand their online profiles with Web sites and blogs laden with keywords designed to boost them to the top of Internet search results.
When Mark Faulkner of Round Rock, Texas, was looking for a divorce lawyer last year, his sister emailed him a link to the website of Cordell & Cordell, which says it is one of the country's largest family-law firms specializing in male clients.
The firm maintains three separate sites: one promoting the law firm, one for divorced dads, and a third focused on men's rights that features headlines such as "Child Support When Paternity is in Doubt" and "Are There Laws to Protect a Man From an Ex-Wife's False Report?"
They struck a chord, said Mr. Faulkner, who runs a repair shop that fixes parts for high-end private airplanes. "Even the marriage counselor said, 'Make sure you get a good attorney because the system is prejudiced'" against men.
Not everyone is convinced of the need for such specialists. Some family-law practitioners say the outcome of a divorce depends largely on state law, what judge you get, and whether you have competent representation.
"Look at the marketing for men saying, 'We're going to help you keep the dollars you've earned.' Wait a minute -- you can't change Missouri law," said Ann Bauer, a St. Louis family-law practitioner and past chair of the Missouri Bar's family-law section. "Pretty much we're going to divide the property down the middle."
To be sure, some men do get the short end of the stick in divorce proceedings. But attitudes -- and divorce statutes -- have shifted in recent decades.
"In this day and age, fathers have lots of rights," said Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "We have shared custody, and the law in most states is really gender neutral."
Some states are moving to cap spousal support so that recipients, who are often but not always women, no longer get lifetime alimony. Mothers are increasingly paying child support, according to a recent survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. And as women's earnings equal or, in some cases, outpace those of their partners, some ex-wives even end up paying alimony.
"I always see judges wincing when they order women to pay alimony," said Mr. Altshuler. "But it's a trend....Now we have so many families where both parents are working, the whole 'man takes care of the woman' syndrome has diminished."
Despite those changes, some lawyers who specialize in representing men say their clients still encounter discrimination from judges who are reluctant to view men as equally capable parents or deserving of spousal support. Joseph Cordell, the co-founder of Cordell & Cordell, said women may also resort to a tactic few men employ: accusations of domestic violence. "It could be as little as a shove or a raised voice," said Mr. Cordell. "The cascade of events triggered by that affect property distribution, custody, attorney fees."
Other firms focus on educating clients on the rights they already have but may not be exercising.
"Men don't know what they need to know," said Santa Monica divorce lawyer David Pisarra, who said his firm, Men's Family Law, "is about empowering men, not bashing women." He and his partner focus on making sure their male clients don't unwittingly sabotage their own goals -- for instance, by moving 35 miles from their children's school, then seeking joint custody.
Mr. Goldberg started his firm in the mid-1990s after his father, who worked in advertising, devised a campaign for a Detroit men's divorce firm known as ADAM, or American Divorce Association for Men. "He had always thought that as a business-opportunity concept, this is something that would work well on the West Coast, in Seattle," Mr. Goldberg said.
The angle has also been fruitful for Mr. Pisarra's firm. "In the giant ocean of data on the Internet, you've got to become as niche-focused as possible," he said.
Marketing seems to be key. When Cordell & Cordell decided to focus on a male clientele in 1996, the firm invested heavily in its websites -- a bet that Mr. Cordell said paid off a few years later and helped fuel the firm's expansion to more than 60 offices across 24 states. The firm also runs radio spots and tasteful, high-end TV ads.
The pitch certainly resonated with Taylor Myers, an electrical technician who lives in Memphis, Tenn. When Mr. Myers' wife served him with divorce papers last year, he opted for a Cordell & Cordell attorney after hearing one of the firm's radio spots.
"From the first time I heard their ad -- that they cater to men and put them first -- that's how I felt through the whole process," said Mr. Myers, 36 years old. "I don't think it's a ploy. He's hit on something right."
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 07/24/12)
||Malls' New Pitch: Come for the Experience
Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns and manages shopping malls, is experimenting with making them Internet-proof.
The company concedes that if shoppers can buy something online, they will. So it is trying to fill one of its malls, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with businesses that do more than sell stuff.
There are still clothing-only retailers at the mall, Scottsdale Quarter, but more than half of the stores offer dining or some other experience that cannot be easily replicated on the Web. That has Glimcher executives taking some unconventional approaches to finding suitable tenants -- like testing out laser salons, getting hairstyling lessons and watching movies in a theater that serves food.
Executives in suits descended last year on a prospective tenant in Manhattan, Make Meaning, where they mulled over making ceramics, candles and jewelry as their town cars waited outside.
While a Scottsdale shopper can buy clothes on the Web, "she can't go out to lunch with her girlfriends and have a glass of wine and a salad online," said Michael P. Glimcher, chairman and chief executive. "She can't get her hair done online. She can't go and make pottery or soap or a cake online."
Just about every mall owner in America is looking for ways to compete with the Internet. R. J. Milligan, a real estate analyst for Raymond James, said that developers were slowly adding more service-oriented elements to malls -- for instance, dividing a closed Sears anchor store into multiple cafes.
But Glimcher is pushing the envelope even further than the standard model of restaurants and expanded food courts, he said, with tenants like Make Meaning (a membership store where people make crafts, cakes and other things) and Drybar (a salon with no scissors, just stylists with blow-dryers).
"They've done a good job of getting the right tenants in there," Mr. Milligan said.
Scottsdale shoppers can have their hair blown into beachy waves at Drybar, create picture frames at Make Meaning, try a tree pose at Blissful Yoga and grab a kale salad at True Food Kitchen before going to a movie, where they can have drinks and snacks delivered to their reserved seats.
They can also take advantage of in-person-only opportunities at standard retailers, like the so-called booty cam at Industrie Denim, a jeans store, that lets women study their rear view. A Restoration Hardware scheduled to open soon will offer fresh flowers and cups of tea for sale.
"We want to be a place that people go to frequently, more than one time a week," said Mr. Glimcher, so the emphasis is on classes and other hands-on experiences.
Scottsdale Quarter opened in 2009 without a bang. Consumers were pulling back on spending and real estate was troubled. Only a handful of the stores were leased.
Glimcher soon realized that traditional retailing would not work by itself, and leasing agents began collecting intelligence on game-changing candidates.
Jacqueline Fitch, a leasing agent, slipped incognito into a Make Meaning in Manhattan one evening and reported back that a group of older women were discussing a book as they made bracelets.
She also visited Los Angeles to evaluate how well Drybar dealt with her curly hair. This type of retailing "is also a form of hospitality," she said, so checking it out in person was important.
Make Meaning and other businesses of its kind do not typically make as much money per visit as apparel stores. Memberships there cost $36, and an average activity costs $24. But, Mr. Glimcher said, because the store offers seven different crafts, some people come back weekly or monthly instead of dropping in once or twice a year.
Higher foot traffic often translates into higher sales per square foot -- Make Meaning says it makes up to $600 a square foot in some stores -- and concept stores like Make Meaning can buoy other business at the mall.
Daniel Nissanoff, Make Meaning's chief executive, said it "offers people a reason to come into a mall." Activities at Make Meaning often have wait lists -- so shoppers have to kill time at the mall -- and visitors must return to pick up fired pottery or glass jewelry, which means an extra mall visit.
Glimcher's revenue is rising again after a big dip during the recession. Its first-quarter sales rose 9 percent to $69.8 million, with the Scottsdale mall a major contributor to the increase. Scottsdale Quarter makes $1,000 per square foot, the highest figure of any Glimcher mall.
Glimcher is now applying lessons learned in Scottsdale to its other malls, which are largely midrange or outlet properties. While Glimcher malls initially consisted of apparel stores and a food court, Mr. Glimcher said, now service- or experience-oriented stores represent 20 percent of the company's portfolio, and that percentage is increasing. At Scottsdale, 30 of the 53 stores offer dining or some other experience in addition to pure retailing.
Because many retailers signed short-term leases in 2009 and 2010, when the economy was highly uncertain, many leases are up for renewal now, and Glimcher is ousting standard stores where it can.
At its Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, Ohio, for instance, it recently replaced a Gap with an Apple store. At River Valley Mall in Ohio, it replaced a Dollar Tree with Ulta Beauty, a test-it-and-buy-it cosmetics store.
At a New Jersey outlet mall, Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, it ousted a Benetton and brought in a Lego store, which offers Lego-construction classes.
"It's retail Darwinism," Mr. Glimcher said.
Rick J. Caruso, the chief executive of Caruso Affiliated, developer of The Grove, an outdoor mall in Los Angeles, said the shift had shoppers rethinking what a mall could be. The Grove features a concierge and the filming of the entertainment show "Extra."
"It's not just about shopping -- it's multidimensional; it's a place you can just hang out and go for a stroll," he said. "You're not doing that in a mall."
Traditional malls were "intended to put the old Main Street out of business and divert that shopper," Mr. Caruso said. "It's wonderfully ironic that that whole thing has come back around."
Tanya Gagnon, a creative director of a design firm who lives in Scottsdale, buys most of her clothing from vintage stores and online. But, she said, she still spends a fair amount of time -- and money -- at Scottsdale Quarter.
"You could spend a whole day there," she said. "They have a range of clothing, but I just forget about it for some reason -- I always think of it for restaurants or entertainment."
(Source: The New York Times, 07/18/12)
||Running Boom Helps Sport Defy Economic Downturn
For hundreds of thousands of Americans, now is the time to start preparing for four months of blistered feet, chafing nipples, and hitting the wall. And the industry serving this population is more than prepared to help people pound the pavement.
It's training season for fall marathons in cities like Chicago, Washington, New York, and Minneapolis. Thanks to a confluence of new interest, new technology, and rich runners, the running business is defying other economic troubles.
"Running is at an all-time high," says Bart Yasso, who has the honor of being Runner's World magazine's chief running officer. He would know -- he has worked there for 25 years and is a bright star in the running universe, with a popular marathon workout (the grueling "Yasso 800s") named after him.
"Marathons are selling out in record numbers. Running stores are doing so well. So, yeah -- it's a fun time to be in the sport," he says.
By many measures, running has seen astounding growth. According to Running USA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sport, the number of marathoners is setting new records every year. In 1976, there were around 25,000 marathon finishers. By 2000, that figure had broken 350,000, and it hit an all-time high in 2011, at 518,000.
According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers of America, year-over-year growth continues across the spectrum of runners. 50 million people ran at least once in 2011, up 7.3 percent from 2010, and the population that ran 100 or more days grew by 9.3 percent.
Even in the sport's mega-distance fringe, popularity has soared. According to UltraRunning magazine, runners completed nearly 52,000 ultramarathons -- races longer than a standard marathon's 26.2 miles -- in 2011. That's a remarkable 12 percent growth over 2010, and triple the number of such runners just 10 years ago.
Even for people steeped in the sport, like Yasso, explaining the boom is a matter of conjecture, but everyone has their theories. "I still am under the assumption that women are driving the sport," says Yasso, referencing figures that show a surge of women marathon runners during the 1990s. In 1980, just 10 percent of marathoners were women, according to Running USA. Women's share of marathoning grew to 26 percent in 1995, and by 2005, women made up 41 percent of marathon finishers, where the figure is today. Women have also taken over the half marathon, at 59 percent of participants.
It may also be that Americans see the sport as more accessible than it was 20 years ago.
"In 1990, I think the community here in Chicago, or across the country really, looked at marathon running as kind of an extreme sport," says Carey Pinkowski, executive race director at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Now, he says, "It's become really a social phenomenon and an activity."
Yasso adds that people are simply discovering that it's an easy, stress-busting activity for people with busy lives, and can be done with minimal time and equipment.
While minimal equipment can mean minimal bumps in profits, Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst at market research firm NPD Group, says that's not the case. "Just because running goes on the rise, it doesn't always translate to running business in certain products to be better -- you can run in whatever shorts you have," he says. However, he says that boosts in running technology have meant bigger boosts in running profits.
Running shoe sales totaled $2.46 billion in 2011, a record high and up 6 percent from 2010, according to Running USA, with sales expected to grow another 6 percent in 2012. Market research firm NPD has an even higher estimate for annual growth -- in a 12-month cycle ending in May, running shoe sales were up 15.2 percent over the previous year, more than triple the total athletic footwear sales growth rate over the same period.
Step into your local running store and you'll see what the plethora of advances in running looks like. GPS watches tell runners how far, how long, and how fast their workouts are. Energy gels with varying levels of proteins, sugars, and electrolytes line the walls. Sticks of BodyGlide, an anti-chafing balm, entice sore runners. And salespeople play matchmaker between shoes and runners of all types -- be they flatfooted, overweight, or underpronators.
"When you have this new technology, you have a lot of questions. So where do you go to get those questions answered?...Service has now become an important part of the equation," says Cohen.
Even runners who eschew complicated shoe technology can be enticed to open their wallets -- so-called "minimalist" shoes, with flexible soles and minimal padding, are all the rage. Sales of Vibram's Five-Finger shoes -- the odd-looking, toe-separating shoes that resemble gloves more than sneakers -- have exploded, with 2011's figures doubling their 2010 level. Even these stripped-down shoes can run over $100.
All of this is a far cry from the experience of runners of eras past, says Yasso.
"I remember going into running stores 35 years ago, and there were just running shoes on the wall, and a little bit of apparel and maybe some running watches," he says.
And it's not just gear. Runner's World has managed to survive in a faltering medium. Though the magazine does not discuss its financial specifics, a spokesman reports that 2011 was a record year for ad revenue, and the publication's circulation was up 6.1 percent year-over-year -- particularly impressive compared to total magazine sales, which were down by 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the Association of Magazine Media.
How does all of this gear sell so well amid a prolonged downturn? Loyal and rich adherents certainly don't hurt.
"It's a very educated group of people and a very wealthy group of people, so they can afford this stuff and take advantage of it," says Yasso.
As of 2011, Running USA reported that 77 percent of "core runners" -- active, competitive participants who train year-round -- had a college diploma, compared to around 30 percent of the U.S. population. And 72.9 percent reported a household income of more than $75,000 per year, compared to around 32 percent for the total population.
That disparity seems to grow as distance grows: 93 percent of UltraRunning magazine readers have college degrees, according to publication figures, and 54 percent have post-graduate education. Altogether, its readership's median household income is $122,000.
Running has seen steep growth before. The first boom was in the 1970s, and is credited in part to Frank Shorter's gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, which inspired Americans to lace up their sneakers. Some in the running community refer to the current growth as the "Second Running Boom." And a third may be close behind.
"The 'Third Running Boom' is going to come from the baby boomers' kids," says Ryan Lamppa, researcher at Running USA. He believes that the echo boomers, having grown up on the sidelines of their parents' races, will be inspired to join the pack.
Then again, there are hopes that the current uptick could continue.
"Think about this: there's more than 310 million Americans," says Lamppa. "We still have a lot of Americans that still haven't done a road race of any distance. There's plenty of room for growth."
Runners may want to stock up on the BodyGlide while they can.
(Source: U.S. News & World Report, 07/16/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Selling to Inexperienced Buyers
When dealing with inexperienced buyers, there's great uncertainty and indecision, creating stops and starts in the sales process. You can help accelerate the deal by guiding the prospect through the buying process. Be prescriptive and follow this three step approach:
1. Map out the process.
With the prospect, create a step-by-step timeline for the buying process and a plan for what implementation or delivery might look like. Share the plan with your prospect so you're both on the same page. Take time to walk them through the plan in detail, solicit feedback, refine, and gain a shared commitment to following this process. Working with the prospect like this to spell out who does what, and when it all happens, raises the comfort level of an inexperienced buyer.
2. Leave every meeting with a specific and scheduled next step.
Having a timeline is a great first step, but you have to execute and keep the deal moving. Take the lead, plan, and know where you want to take each interaction. Before every meeting have a specific next step in mind. As the meeting comes to an end, schedule a time for that next step on the spot. Only the unprepared waste valuable time chasing prospects by email and phone.
3. Be patient and persistent.
Uncertainty festers if you press too hard or attempt to close too soon. It's a delicate balance between keeping things moving forward and moving too fast. In situations like this, realize that the deal is never going to move as fast as you want it to move, so don't force things. The goal is steady and consistent progress.
Source: Sales consultant/manager Bob Croston