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If you've recently walked by Kitson Robertson, you may have noticed its new window display that boldly asks Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: "Why won't you talk to us? What are you afraid of? The Truth?" complete with a #getusameeting hashtag. After exclusively speaking to the iconic LA retailer this morning, we now know exactly what this is all about.
In short, Kitson is pissed that Garcetti is refusing to take a meeting with them to discuss their distain with the Hudson Group, which licenses both of Kitson's stores at LAX Terminal 7 and Tom Bradley International Terminal. "Hudson Group does not adhere to best business practices or to the standards and guidance of its licensors. Some of their violations include: overcharging; selling chocolate from a prominent local company well after its expiration date; defamation of our brand and those we carry, including exclusive, licensed product from Warner Brothers and Dreamworks, and items from Disney and the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Dodgers," Kitson director of stores Courtney Saavedra exclusively tells us.
The whole situation is really juicy; read Saavedra's full statement below and stay tuned for (hopefully) a response from Garcetti.
For 15 years, Kitson has weathered economic storms and promoted LA lifestyle. Our legions of loyal, local customers and vendors have supported us and helped us to grow to 26 stores, an online business, and a customer base that now stretches around the world.
The two stores at Los Angeles International Airport, opened in Terminal 7 in 2012 and Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) in 2013, are licensed through Hudson Group, a New Jersey based corporation. Our stature as an iconic, LA brand and our sales results as the second largest volume, specialty retailer in the nation for Hudson, according to one of their executives, contributed to Hudson Group's having won the bid with Westfield which had been granted the contract for the redevelopment and management of the retail, dining and amenities at TBIT. Without Kitson in the assortment, TBIT is just another Westfield shopping center.
Billions of dollars of Los Angeles taxpayer money has been invested, and the airport has actively promoted its local shopping. External billboards proclaim, "Bringing Los Angeles back to LAX," and LAWA's site instructs its readers to, "SHOP LA. Set the trend. Buy local," but there is no taste of Los Angeles in the retail offerings, except Kitson.
As you know, we carry LA designers and manufacturers, introducing and incubating new brands, as well as upscale gifts that promote LA, like our hand embroidered Los Angeles pillows. When a traveler steps off a plane in Sao Paulo, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo, their blue bag reads, "Kitson Los Angeles." Others may not be familiar with Kitson, but they certainly recognize Los Angeles, and this directly promotes tourism.
Despite construction setbacks, Kitson opened and quickly produced sales results that kept it in the number 1 or 2 position at Tom Bradley, many days beating large, public companies like Michael Kors, Tumi, Hugo Boss, Victoria Secret and Bulgari.
We have had huge issues with the partnership. Hudson Group does not adhere to best business practices or to the standards and guidance of its licensors. Some of their violations include: overcharging; selling chocolate from a prominent local company well after its expiration date; defamation of our brand and those we carry, including exclusive, licensed product from Warner Brothers and Dreamworks, and items from Disney and the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Dodgers; and attempting to mine and profit from Kitson's intellectual property in other businesses.
The working relationship has become untenable, and Kitson cannot continue to work in a corrupt atmosphere. We are being forced to terminate the contract to protect our brand.
Kitson approached executives at LAWA (Los Angeles World Airport) to discuss how to capitalize on its unique position in the marketplace and to present its findings, hoping to somehow salvage the situation, but Gina Marie Lindsey,LAWA's Executive Director, Debbie Bowers, LAWA's Deputy Executive Director for Commercial Development, and Sean Burton, President of the Airport Board of Commissioners, a close friend of the Mayor's, failed to assist us.
Westfield, the largest commercial real estate holder at the airport, a corporation based in Australia, and Hudson Group, based outside of California, both have ties to the Mayor's office. In October, the HSAC, the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which Westfield Co-CEO, Peter Lowy, founded, gave Eric Garcetti an award. Several present and past members of Los Angeles government serve on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. In turn, Peter Lowy received an award at the LAANE gala in December, which was co-chaired by Amy Wakefield, the Mayor's wife.
Despite these ties, in early November, Kitson reached out to the Mayor's office, believing Mr. Garcetti would support local, Los Angeles business. For the last two months, our representatives have worked through the International Trade Specialist, Felipe Cusnir, Deputy Counsel to the Mayor, Manav Kumar, and Director of Communications, Yuseff Robb, but to no avail. While in discussion with a representative of the Mayor's office, a Kitson spokesperson learned that the Deputy Mayor communicates with the CEO of Hudson Group. This out of state corporation is granted access, while our Los Angeles based business is not. We have failed to receive support or assistance in investigating our claims and have been denied a meeting with the Mayor without reason.
Sizeable corporations have the means to lobby on their behalves and to peddle influence, but where is Kitson to turn? We have not seen evidence of a check and balance system in the highly sensitive, airport environment or visible enforcement of the practices by which retailers and other airport entities must abide.
LAX is an incredible asset to the city. We want to ensure it represents the best of Los Angeles business, including the customer service, product, and standards it presents to the world. We summarized our position and fairly informed the Mayor's office of our intention to seek the public's help, if we did not have the opportunity to speak with him. He is essentially allowing our airport stores to close.
Kitson's top executives want to meet with the Mayor of Los Angeles to discuss the generation of additional tax dollars and creation of more jobs. We have worked hard to enhance and promote the culture and diversity of Los Angeles and feel we deserve to be heard.
Why would the Mayor not want to grant us some of his time?
There must be more to the story.
· Kitson [Kitson]
· Inside Kitson's Homies-Heavy Shop at LAX Tom Bradley [Racked]