Articles in "News"

Channel Islands Helicopter Harbor Rides

by Ventura County Now

November 7th, 2013

Are you ready for the weekend... This weekend FALL special is amazing.. $25 helicopter rides. Saturday November 9. First come first serve. If you want to experience the beach and harbor by the air come on down for your first helicopter experience!

Channel Islands Helicopter Harbor Rides 

 Humpack-whale-aerial    Humpbacks-lunge-feed-from-air  

The Loft Hair and Nails

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
November 7th, 2011

Located in old town Camarillo on the corner of Lewis Road and Ventura Boulevard, an upscale, casual salon with an urban chic atmosphere where everyone is welcome, nine talented hair designers and two hand and nail, feet specialists are available for all your styling desires. Our friendly crew will greet you with smiles. We exclusively use Davines products, one of Europe's leading beauty lines.

Precision cuts for men, women and children, blow dry, styling, gray coverage, color blending, rich Davines color, high lighting, keratin blow out, relaxers, straightener and extensions are just a few services we offer. We also specialize in special occasion hair and bridal parties.

A kaleidoscope of colors await you. Our nail specialists are skilled in gel polish, fiberglass and natural nail manicuring and pedicuring. Our spa pedicure was designed with every comfort in mind.

We are here to pamper you and indulge you, so relax and enjoy yourself at The Loft. For all your beauty and grooming needs.

Please give us a call at 384-2393 or just stop by, The Loft, hair and nail salon.

The Loft Hair and Nails

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
November 4th, 2011

Located in old town Camarillo on the corner of Lewis Road and Ventura Boulevard, an upscale, casual salon with an urban chic atmosphere where everyone is welcome, nine talented hair designers and two hand and nail, feet specialists are available for all your styling desires. Our friendly crew will greet you with smiles. We exclusively use Davines products, one of Europe's leading beauty lines.

Precision cuts for men, women and children, blow dry, styling, gray coverage, color blending, rich Davines color, high lighting, keratin blow out, relaxers, straightener and extensions are just a few services we offer. We also specialize in special occasion hair and bridal parties.

A kaleidoscope of colors await you. Our nail specialists are skilled in gel polish, fiberglass and natural nail manicuring and pedicuring. Our spa pedicure was designed with every comfort in mind.

We are here to pamper you and indulge you, so relax and enjoy yourself at The Loft. For all your beauty and grooming needs.

Please give us a call at 384-2393 or just stop by, The Loft, hair and nail salon.

Canada Edges Out US in Smartphone Penetration

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 12th, 2011

More advanced devices means more access to mobile coupons, barcodes

 

The rise of the smartphone has accelerated mobile marketing around the world. Though that rise has happened at different paces from country to country, the pace in Canada has picked up, with smartphones currently in the hands of a third of mobile users. For the many brands that manage their mobile presence in both the US and Canada, it pays to know how usage is developing north of the border.

According to comScore, there were 6.6 million smartphone owners in Canada as of March 2011, or 33% of the total mobile subscriber base. This places Canada among the world’s leaders in smartphone adoption, narrowly edging out the US, where eMarketer estimates 31% of mobile owners have a smart device. A March survey conducted by Quorus Consulting for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Associationmirrors that figure, also finding that 33% of Canada’s mobile phone users have a smartphone.

 

Traditional Mobile Phone vs. Smartphone Users in Canada, by Age, March 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Meanwhile, related research by Ipsos Reid expands the smartphone base to nearly a third of all internet users in Canada, a figure which has grown more than 50% since early 2010.

Younger generations are leading the shift, as 46% of internet users ages 18 to 34 have already made the switch to smartphones, according to Ipsos. The CWTA found that penetration spikes at 55% among mobile phone users ages 18 to 24.

Usage is likewise growing more sophisticated. Talking is now a secondary consideration, with the Ipsos survey finding that 54% of all smartphone usage is for something other than voice calls. One-fifth of Canada’s smartphone owners access the internet on their devices more than 5 hours per week.

Smartphones are also helping to spread awareness of QR codes and other barcode formats. According to the CWTA, 65% of smartphone users are aware of 2-D barcodes, while 28% have scanned one with their phone.

For marketers, the smartphone’s emergence means that Canada’s mobile base grows more viable as an advertising channel with each passing month. The CWTA survey found that 19% of smartphone users would be interested in receiving mobile coupons in exchange for viewing ads, compared to only 9% of feature phone users. When asked about interest in location-based mobile offers, the figure jumped to 44% of smartphone users.

 

Interest in Select Mobile Ad Offers According to Mobile Phone Users in Canada, by Gender, March 2011 (% of respondents in each group)

 

“[Smartphone growth] is transforming the way Canadians interact with each other and with brands, offering businesses new and innovative ways to connect with their customers,” said Steve Mossop, president of Ipsos Reid’s Western Canada practice, in a statement. “Marketers need to consider how mobile fits in to their overall plans of how to reach consumers if they are going to succeed in the digital marketplace.”

 

eMarketer

 

Where the Jobs Aren't: 10 Doomed Industries

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 5th, 2011

The recovery may be rocky at the moment, but when it picks up steam, confidence will increase, jobs will return and the Great Recession will become an unpleasant memory (and perhaps a useful subject from which to draw policy lessons).

Even so, some industries will never recover because they're destined to go the way of milkmen and carriage makers. Which ones? Market research firm IBISWorld Inc. recently combed through a trove of data to determine the answer to this question.

The result: A list of the 10 worst industries in America, ones that had a steep decline in revenue in the last decade and are forecasted to further contract even more in the next one. Some of the industries on this list will not shock you, but others will be surprising.

Extinction is a hard word, but unfortunately that's what all these sectors are facing, due to external competition, technological change and lack of innovation. If you're looking for work in one of these doomed fields, you may want to consider a career transition, and quickly.

 


Courtesy: vancouverfilmschool/flickr

 

Calling Cut on Video Postproduction Services

One of the least publicized industries in terminal decline is video postproduction services. This field encompasses everything needed to prepare a film for distribution after the cameras have stopped rolling (or in the current age, after that little red recording light goes dark on the video camera).

Why the decline: Consolidation in the entertainment business is to blame. Movie studios are moving post-production in house. Meanwhile, technological advances have boosted efficiency -- as anyone who has seen the controlled chaos of a traditional celluloid cutting room versus the neat efficiency of digital editing software can attest. The results:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -24.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -37.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: Anthony L. Solis/flickr

 

Extra! Extra! Newspaper Publishing on Its Last Legs

While book publishers avoided making the list this time around, another often discussed casualty of our all-conquering obsession with everything digital is on it: newspaper publishing.

Why the decline: The move to online news and the competition from a plethora of new media information sources are obvious culprits. Will paywalls, iPad apps and frantic innovating online save the traditional newsroom even if it doesn't save old-style inky paper? Maybe, but don't hold your breath. The numbers facing the newspaper biz are stark:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -18.8 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -17.6 percent.

 


Courtesy: Kheel Center, Cornell University/flickr

 

Apparel Manufacturing Unraveling Fast

People certainly buy plenty of clothes these days, but with the price they're willing to pay for them, the chances of finding a "Made in the USA" tag is increasingly slim. So it's no wonder domestic apparel manufacturing is on the list of soon-to-be-extinct fields.

Why the decline: Cheap labor costs overseas, combined with consumers' expectation for a bargain at home, have put this U.S. industry in its death throes. Consider this:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -77.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -8.5 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -11.3 percent.

 


Courtesy: Vibrant Spirit/flickr

 

Textile Mills Still in Existence ... Barely

No New Englander would be surprised to see American textile mills on this list. In New England, "mill town" is practically synonymous with industrial decay, conjuring images of boarded up factories, sky-high unemployment and the generalized gloom of inevitable decay.

Why the decline: Cheap competition from abroad, which has halved revenue in the last decade alone. That rattling sound? It's the last gasps of an industry:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -50.2 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -12.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: Mr. T in DC/flickr

 

Formal Wear and Costume Rental Can't Disguise Decline

The formal wear and costume rental business is a surprise entry on the list. After all, high school kids continue to need fancy outfits for prom and Halloween rolls around every year.

Why the decline: An influx of cheap alternatives from abroad is the culprit again, with more cost-conscious Americans opting for disposable options each year. Purchasing, rather than renting formal wear is apparently also on the rise, but there is one tiny bright spot for the sector. "The tuxedo rental segment will keep the industry afloat," predicts IBISWorld, "because consumers are still likely to prefer the tuxedo rental service."

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -14.6 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -17.2 percent.

 


Courtesy: aechempati/flickr

 

Digital Killed the Record Store

DJs, collectors and hipster enthusiasts may argue, but the numbers don't lie. Record stores are on their last legs.

Why the decline: No mystery here. Consumers have been happily downloading and getting their occasional CD purchase from big box discounters like Walmart. IBISWorld argues that a recovery will slow the industry's decline, but those record stores that fail to get with the modern world and adapt to the new realities of music distribution will continue their downward slide no matter how buoyant the economy gets.

• Decline in revenue last decade: -24.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -10.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -38.8 percent.

 


Courtesy: yapsnaps/flickr

 

R.I.P. Video Rental

The advance of technology and the internet isn't just a death sentence for the bricks and mortar music stores; it's pretty much the nail in the coffin for video rental business as well.

Why the decline: Why head to the local Blockbuster when NetFlix will deliver or offer for download any film you want? -- and that's not even mentioning the hundreds of movies available on cable TV. The industry's decline has been swift and irrevocable:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -35.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -19.3 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -11.2 percent.

 


Courtesy: NYCgal/flickr

 

Death of the Local Photoshop

Another business destroyed by advances in technology: photofinishing shops.

Why the decline: Digital cameras and online image sharing make your local photo developer obsolete. Consumers also no longer need to pay to develop 20 pictures of squinting relatives to get one decent image. Check out the grim revenue figures:

• Decline in revenue last decade: -69.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -39.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -33.3 percent.

 


Courtesy: haven't the slightest/flickr

 

Homes on the Move ... Downward

Manufactured home dealers prefabricate homes offsite and deliver them ready for installation. You might think they'd be an appealing option for consumers looking for inexpensive alternatives to the usual site-built home, but this is a case where the industry made some very bad strategic decisions and destroyed its market (as well as having the misfortune to suffer plummeting demand due to the housing crisis).

Why the decline: The industry has been squeezed between more innovative competitors and a drop in the price of traditional homes. Attempts to cut costs meant a less appealing product but not prices low enough to lure customers. The result: "Some of the steepest declines in revenue and establishments over the past decade," IBISWorld says.

• Decline in revenue last decade: -73.7 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -62.0 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -58.7 percent.

 


Courtesy: Trace Meek/flickr

 

Unplugging Wired Telecommunications Carriers

When the whole world is buzzing about wireless and mobile communications, it's got to be depressing to be the traditional wired communications carriers. Who wants to be pinned down to an actual physical cord anymore when you can use Skype?

But this is one sector where IBISWorld thinks companies may be able to evolve rather than go completely extinct. There won't be too many traditional telephone companies in the future, but that's because the major players will "close their traditional wired services and direct funds to segments with growth potential, like VoIP and broadband internet."

• Decline in revenue last decade: -54.9 percent.

• Forecasted decline in revenue in the next decade: -37.1 percent.

• Forecasted decline in the number of establishments next decade: -15.9 percent.

 

By:Jessica Stillman

How ICANN’s Approval of New Domains Will Change the Web

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 1st, 2011

The final barrier to a new era for the Internet was lifted Monday morning, when the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted 13 to 3 in favor of introducing new top-level domains (TLDs) to compete with .com, .net, .org and country codes like .ca and .mx.

The vote, held in Singapore before a thousand-strong audience of tech insiders and broadcast live online, was met with a standing ovation. A core deliverable of ICANN since its inception, new TLDs have been the subject of six years of intense debate contributing to ICANN’s bottom-up approach to policy making. As one board member put it, “every imaginable aspect has been examined six ways from Sunday.”

A hundred potential applicants have gone public over those years with their ambitions to acquire new top level domains. These range from cities like .paris and .nyc, to brands like .canon and .hitachi, to verticals like .gay and .ski. Hundreds more have kept their plans secret, particularly due to the uncertainty that previously clouded the topic.

Why the need for these new TLDs? ICANN’s mission includes introducing more consumer choice — a blessing for everyone frustrated with finding that the ideal domain name for their new project is unavailable at the existing extensions.

For trademark owners, acquiring their own TLD creates a completely brand-safe online zone free from phishing, domain spoofing, knock-off sites, counterfeiting, and the gamut of other damaging activities that plague the Internet. Plus, a .brand TLD gives marketers the choice of any domain they want ending with their trademark. No matter what name you come up with for your new product or promotion, with your own .brand, the domain is available.


A More Equitable Internet


On a global scale, the need for new TLDs derives from the drive for an altogether greater good — a more equitable Internet. Regional communities such as the Galicians in Spain, the Venetians in Italy and the Kurds in Iraq have been active in asserting their need for domains that reflect their languages and cultures.

Moreover, recent developments will permit new TLDs to be in characters other than ASCII text (the letters and numbers on English-language keyboards). These new top level domains will usher in a true globalization of the Internet, with URL support in Chinese, Japanese, Cyrillic, Arabic, and dozens of other scripts.

Supporting the view that the public wants new top level domains are the recent successes of “repurposed country codes” like .co (officially the TLD for Colombia, but sold as an abbreviation for “company”) and .me (officially for Montenegro, sold for “unique personal brands”) as well as new SLDs (second level domains) like us.org in the United States and .com.de, about to be launched in Germany.


Opposition


There are of course opponents to new TLDs. Complaints about the cost (an $185,000 application fee plus the cost of producing a 200-odd page application, plus the set-up and running costs) have been responded to by ICANN with the announcement of a $2 million grant program designated for applicants from developing countries. But the main objections actually come from major brands that already spend hundreds of thousands of dollars registering domains “defensively” to prevent others from using them, and which are concerned that a proliferation of new domains will cause these costs to escalate vastly with no added benefits.

ICANN has sought to mitigate this risk by introducing far more stringent protections for trademark owners than those that exist under the current generic TLDs, including a system that allows the rapid takedown of domains that abuse trademarks.


The Process


The timetable announced for the introduction of the new top level domains starts immediately with the preparation of complex application documents. As running a TLD involves taking responsibility for core infrastructure of the Internet, specialist technical providers are required to support each new TLD, and the applications must include comprehensive and fully-funded business plans and detailed policy documents governing the rules for usage of the new domains. The application window is between January and April 2012, and the applications are scrutinized by ICANN and then made public, so that objections from any quarter may be heard before the domain is granted.

The earliest we are likely to see one of these new TLDs in our search engine results is early 2013.

For new TLDs that are contested — for instance where multiple applicants apply for the same or similar domains — assuming all applications are of equal merit, the domain will be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder. As premium dot com domains occasionally sell for millions of dollars, we can expect these bidding wars to reach tens of millions of dollars. Toys ‘R’ Us paid $5.1 million for the domain toys.com in 2009. What does that mean for the value of .toys?

 

By:Ben Crawford

9 Things You Need to Know About ICANN’s New Top Level Domains

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 6th, 2011

On Monday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), approved the creation of generic top-level domains(TLDs) for brands and organizations.

Historically, only 22 general use-approved TLDs, which include .com, .org, .net and a host of others, have existed across the web. A number of country code top-level domains (like .me and .ly) also exist and throughout the years, many individuals not from those countries have used those domains to give their domain or brand a more memorable (or in some cases, shorter) URL.

The promise of more generic TLDs is immense because it could conceivably open up new domain extensions and opportunities for a wider variety of brands, organizations and services.

 

SEE ALSO: How Big Is the Web & How Fast Is It Growing?

 

Still, the entire TLD process is complicated and difficult to understand. We’ve been sucked down the rabbit hole of ICANN and the gTLD application process in the past, and it isn’t something we recommend for the faint of heart.

We read (or at least skimmed) the 352-page draft New gTLD Applicant Guidebook [PDF] to get to the bottom of what the gTLD process is, how much it costs, and ultimately, why regular users should care.


1. How Many New TLDs Will Be Issued?


ICANN has said between 300 and 1,000 new gTLDs could be created per year under the new program.

Still, this number assumes ICANN can process and deal with that many applications in a timely matter. Thousands of applications could take years to evaluate and process.

ICANN says it is limiting the first batch to 500 applications and subsequent batches — or rounds — will be limited to 400 applications.


2. What Is the Application Period?


Applications will be accepted for new TLDs between January 12, 2012 and April 12, 2012. This will be for the first round — or batch. Subsequent application periods will become available in the future.


3. How Much Will Registration Cost?


The evaluation fee from prospective applicants is $185,000. According to the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, a $5,000 deposit is required “at the time the user requests an application slot within TAS, and a payment of the remaining $180,000 submitted with the full application.”

This is just to start the evaluation process. Additional fees may be required during the course of the application review process, and this fee doesn’t include additional infrastructure fees that a gTLD may generate.


4. How Long Will the Evaluation Process Take?


ICANN estimates that the evaluation process could be as short as nine months or as long as twenty months, depending on the application, intended usage and other issues.

ICANN expects the first new gTLDs to appear within the year, but it’s likely going to be 2013 before end users see the new domains in action.


5. What Happens if Two Entities Apply for the Same gTLD?


It depends on the timeline. If one of the users has already completed process before another party has applied, the TLD will be delegated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If neither applicant has completed the process, ICANN has a more detailed resolution process in place. The applicants will be given points in four different categories. The applicant that amasses the most points, based on this set of criteria, will win the domain. In the even of a tie in points, an auction will take place and the TLD will go to the highest bidder.

Additionally, community-based applications (that is, applications from an organization or entity and not a specific brand or company) will have the opportunity to have a priority evaluation in this process.

ICANN will notify applicants who are part of a contention set. Applicants can decide to try to reach their own resolution together (for instance, a compromise might be able to be reached for a more generic TLD like “soda” or “pizza”).


6. What About Trademarks?


This is going to be a very, very tricky situation for ICANN to mitigate. Although users do not need to own a Trademark to apply for a new TLD, the evaluation review will take any existing trademarks (from all over the world) into account when looking at the application.

Users cannot “reserve” a TLD of a trademarked name, they must go through the same process as everyone else. In addition to checking for trademarked names for a TLD, ICANN will also look at similar names that may be trademarked or might be confusing.

Additionally, trademark owners or other interested parties can file an objection during the evaluation process.


7. How Much Does Filing an Objection Cost?


The Applicant Guidebook is still just a draft, so we don’t have the final figures; but it will cost the thousands of dollars to file an objection — not including any additional mediation or court costs.

One of the reasons that ICANN is charging so much for its evaluation fees is that it is doing lots of due diligence to try to settle the feasibility of a TLD before granting it to an organization. Moreover, ICANN wants to prevent domain squatters from grabbing TLDs.


8. If I Get a New TLD, Do I Have to Let My Competitors Use It?


Once a new TLD is granted, the owner essentially becomes a registrar. That means that if he or she wants to let anyone willing to pay a registration fee get their own domain on that TLD, they can. Alternatively, the owner could limit the use of the domain to certain entities or prevent people without certain qualifications from gaining access to the TLD.


9. Will This Have Any Real Impact on My Life as a Web User or a Brand?


Not in the immediate future. However, it’s important to remember that it took years for the current TLD structure to become a viable and affordable strategy for individuals and non-Fortune 100 companies.

Twenty years ago, it wasn’t common for brands, small businesses or individuals to have their own domains. Today, a staggering number of registrars exist. It took a long time for the TLD market as we know it today to really start to open up.

I bought my first domain name in 1999, I think I paid $45 for registration that first year. Prior to 1998 or so, domain registration was a multi-hundred or multi-thousand dollar investment. I now pay $8 or $9 for a .com or .net domain, and that includes private registration.

It will take time for the process and oversight aspect of the new gTLD policies to be worked out and automated. However, we expect that community-driven TLDs for things like .music, .sports and .film become more available in the future.

Yes, actually owning a customized TLD, like .google or .apple or .facebook might be something that only large corporations or government entities can afford to do, but with time, we expect that even that process will start to change, just as they did in the .com and .net space.

by: Christina Warren

Simi Town Center to get major facelift

by Ventura County Now

July 26th, 2011

Six years after it opened, the new owners of the Simi Valley Town Center are planning a multimillion dollar renovation of the open-air shopping mall, including possible tear-downs and reconstruction, and adding a top-flight park with an ice-skating rink to attract shoppers to the faltering plaza.

Construction at the 612,000-square-foot mall north of Highway 118 overlooking the city is scheduled to begin next year, developer Donald Provost told the Simi Valley City Council last week.

The center will have its grand reopening in 2013, said Provost, founding principal of Colorado-based Alberta Development Partners.

"The slogan we use at our firm is 'creating permanence,' " Provost said during a presentation depicting a mixed-use development in suburban Denver that his company opened in 2009. "Creating assets that stand the test of time, and can live for 50, 60, 70 years, not just 10 or 20 years.

"You'll see a lot of photos of people because that's what town centers in great places are all about — people," Provost said. "And creating the environment for these people to congregate and adopt as their own."

Provost gave the council an overview of the plans his group has for the struggling town center, which his partner, Chicago-based Walton Street Capital, LLC bought in December for an undisclosed price.

The recorded deed showed the property was encumbered with more than $112 million in debt.

When it opened in 2005, the center was valued at $350 million.

The former owners, Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises, cited several factors in putting the mall up for sale.

They included the economic downturn that began in 2007 and more retail competition in the region, including the renovated shopping center in Thousand Oaks, The Oaks.

Provost provided the council with few details of the planned overhaul, saying they are still being worked out by designers.

But some of the center's new features have been settled on, he said. They include:

n Construction of a large community park, including an ice-skating rink, for various events such as arts fairs and tree-lighting ceremonies.

"Great public spaces are very important and I don't think Simi really has that one great public space today," Provost told the council.

n Enhanced landscaping and signage at the center's entrance and perimeter "to set a different welcoming tone" for shoppers.

n A large pop-jet fountain.

"We're not going to change the architecture per se," Provost said in an interview Thursday. "But I think there needs to be a significant repositioning effort, which will probably involve some new construction. It could be new construction ground up, some tear down of some of the stuff that's there and new buildings built in their place."

He said the cost of the redesign will be in the eight figures.

Describing the current financial state of the town center as "difficult," Provost said the goal of the renovation is to "create long-term value for us as the investor and create long-term value for the resident."

Simi Valley Economic Development Director Brian Gabler said from the city's perspective, the goals will be to provide a "gathering place for the community, shopping opportunities for the community that don't currently exist, job opportunities and generation of sales tax revenue."

Provost said since buying the town center, his group has stabilized the erosion of tenants.

At the same time, the developer is continuing to negotiate deals with potential new anchor tenants, hopeful it can consolidate the center's two Macy's into one.

The mall is currently 86 percent occupied with 93 tenants, said Megan Campbell, senior marketing associate for Alberta Development.

Tenants include Abercrombie & Fitch, California Pizza Kitchen and Coldwater Creek.

Dennis Torres, Pepperdine University's director of real estate operations, has doubts the redesign will restore the town center's revenues to 2005 levels, calling it a potentially "high-risk venture."

Torres said commercial real estate vacancies remain high and that while retail sales are up overall, according to reports, "if you take out the price of gasoline and food, retail is actually down."

Furthermore, he said, he believes hyper inflation will kick in about 2015, shrinking consumers' spendable dollars.

The town center will also continue to face competition from ever-growing Internet retailers, he said.

"So I think brick and mortar retail in the next five years is still going to be tough," Torres said. "Who knows where it will go after that?"


by: Mike Harris Ventura County Star

State sales tax drops to 7.25%

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 1st, 2011
Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

The owner of the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop in Camarillo only became aware this week that he needed to change his cash registers to drop the state sales tax by 1 percent on Friday.

Ryan Morgan said notices sent to him by the state usually say he owes money, not that he must start collecting less. But he was eager to look into the situation because he expects it will be good for business.

"By them lowering tax rates, it'll help increase sales, absolutely," he said.

Beginning Friday, the basic sales and use tax rate statewide drops to 7.25 percent from 8.25 percent as a temporary increase, passed in April 2009 as part of a state budget agreement, expires.

In addition, a new state law effective Friday requires large out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on online purchases made by California customers. If a retailer is not subject to the law, the purchaser still may owe use tax — a levy on the use, storage or consumption of personal property in the state, according to the Board of Equalization.

To notify retailers about the reduced sales tax, board spokeswoman Anita Gore said, a notice was posted on its website, the media was alerted, emails were sent to 680,000 retailers and letters went out to the top 1,000 taxpayers.

At the Bunnin Automotive Group in Oxnard, owner Leo Bunnin thinks the cut in sales tax will be a big win for auto dealers. A 1 percent reduction adds up on big-ticket items such as vehicles, he said.

"We are just figuring out now the best way to get the message out to the people," Bunnin said. "The government is so nice to reduce it by 1 percent that maybe we'll give an extra 1 percent to reduce it by 2 percent (on his auto sales). It's on the drawing board but highly likely."

With the change, buyers should check receipts carefully. Gore said it is the buyer's responsibility to bring up inaccurate taxation with retailers. Retailers who over-tax must either refund the money to the consumer or send it to the state.

"They cannot keep it," Gore said.

Be aware, however, that on top of the state's new 7.25 percent rate, some cities tack on their own voter-approved sales taxes.

In Ventura County, only the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme have local sales taxes, bringing the rate to 7.75 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown tried but failed to convince legislators to maintain the higher 8.25 percent rate to help close a budget gap that stood at $26 billion early this year before severe cuts were made. The Board of Equalization estimated the 1 percent increase generated $11 billion for the state since April 2009.

George Runner, a member of the board, supports the drop. "This is great news for overtaxed California consumers and retailers who bear the sixth highest overall tax burden in the nation," he said.

Besides the sales tax, vehicle registration fees return Friday to 0.65 percent of a car's depreciated value, down from 1.15 percent — another temporary tax increase that was not extended.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has not sent out notices about the change, according to spokeswoman Jan Mendoza. Notices will be sent beginning Friday. People who have to register vehicles in July or August will get a 30-day grace period before facing late penalties.

Also, a 0.25 percent personal income tax surcharge in 2009 and 2010 expired Dec. 31.

Brown wanted to ask voters to extend the three temporary tax increases but could not get Republicans to agree to put them on the ballot.

For a listing of California sales and use tax rates by city and county, go to http://boe.ca.gov/cgi-bin/rates.cgi.

- vcstar.com PHOTO BY ROB VARELA 

LinkedIn IPO Is Set for Thursday

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
May 18th, 2011

LinkedIn is set to go public May 19. The business-oriented networking site hopes to raise as much as $274 million this week in what will be one of the first major social media IPOs.

LinkedIn will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LNKD. Its shares are expected to trade in the $32 to $35 range and 7.84 million shares will be available. The company will likely be valued around $3 billion after the IPO.

LinkedIn announced its intention to file for an IPO in January. At the time, the company was valued at $2.51 billion based on shares traded on secondary market SharesPost.

The eight-year-old company hit the 100 million user mark in March and became profitable in 2010 with a net income of $10.1 million and net revenues of $161.4 million in the first nine months of 2010. In Q1, LinkedIn’s revenues hit $93.9 million, a 110% increase from the year-ago period. Net income was $2 million, compared to $1.8 million in Q1 2010.

LinkedIn is the first of a slew of anticipated social media IPOs set for the next year or so. Others include FacebookZyngaGrouponPandoraKayakYelpRovio and ZillowRenren, billed as the “Facebook of China,” went public this month and raised $743.4 million.

 

By: Todd Wassserman

Microsoft Acquires Skype for $8.5 Billion

by Ventura County Now

May 1st, 2011

After rumors that first Facebook and then Microsoft were in talks to acquire Skype, the latter announced that it has acquired the VoIP giant for $8.5 billion in cash.

Skype will be integrated into Microsoft devices and systems such as Xbox and Kinect, Xbox Live, the Windows Phone, Lync and Outlook, Microsoft said in a statement. The company has pledged to continue supporting and developing Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms as well.

The deal, which was spearheaded by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with assistance from Charles Songhurst, the company’s head of corporate strategy, was completed Monday evening, AllThingsD reported earlier.

The acquisition is an expensive one for Microsoft. Not only is it the largest price Microsoft has paid for a company in decades, Skype is not yet profitable. Despite revenues totaling $860 million last year and operating profits of $264 million, the company lost $6.9 million overall, according to documents filed with the SEC. And the company carries $686 million in debt.

Much of the company’s appeal rests in its largest user base of 663 million, 145 million of which use Skype monthly (Update: Microsoft says Skype has 170 million regular users), and 8.8 million of which are paying customers.

There is one clear set of winners here: Skype’s investors. A group including Silver Lake, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board purchased the company from eBay for $2.75 billion in September 2009.

In August, Skype filed for an IPO but put plans on hold after Tony Bates joined the company as CEO in October. Bates will take on the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division and report directly to Ballmer.

 

by Lauren Indvik

Designer for stars sets up business in Ventura

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
April 1st, 2011

When Amy Michelson moved from Los Angeles to Ventura last summer, the bridal gown and celebrity evening wear designer wanted to expand her brand and business so she could work from her new home.

This spring, she branched out to become a personal style and bridal style expert, as well, launching an online style consulting business called Your Private Designer Eye.

Using the Internet, Skype and Facebook, plus other online marketing and communication tools, Michelson mentors brides through their wedding style decisions involving their gown, jewelry, shoes, hairstyle, cake, wedding décor and other wedding issues. Her online business offers personalized wedding and style help and access to a wider range of style options than what is available in stores. She advises brides by taking into consideration features such as their hairstyle, coloring and facial shape, and she is developing an e-newsletter to send to her contacts and clients.

"It's available for non-brides, as well — real women. It's completely personalized," said Michelson, who also offers shopping tips. Clients can sign up for as many online sessions as they want or begin with a basic style assessment.

"I usually charge $275 for a private online intake and celebrity consultation but as a special through the bridal month of June, for Ventura residents (bride or non-bride) it's $197, which includes Amy's intake photo analysis, one-on-one personal Skype or phone session," she said in an email.

The online business is the next logical step for Michelson, 51, who moved to Ventura from Sherman Oaks. She is engaged for the first time, and her fiancé lives in Ventura, so she said it made sense for her to move.

She joked that she was "always the designer, never the bride," and, of course, she will design her own wedding dress.

"I know what I'm wearing, but that's a secret," Michelson said.

"I'm really interested in living here in Ventura and in this lifestyle. It's more who I am. I love living here. Ventura suits me and my sensibility and my style; it's beautiful, but it's relaxed," she said.

Michelson made her name and style known in the fashion world for her bridal gowns that have an elegant, sleek and breezy style mixed with a bit of old Hollywood glamour and a casual flair, and as an evening dress designer for celebrity clients. She's designed red carpet gowns for a long list of actresses and singers, including Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Kim Basinger, Gladys Knight, Michelle Pfeiffer, Salma Hayek, Geena Davis, Anita Baker, Sandra Bullock and Marie Osmond.

She made many celebrity connections yeas ago while working as an actress and fashion designer, becoming comfortable with glamour, high style and working with stars.

Her design style evolved much the same way. In the mid-1990s, Michelson had a young, hip, assistant who was getting married but didn't like the fancy wedding dresses being shown at the time.

"We ended up buying her a vintage Greta Garbo-style dress and reworking it. A light bulb went off in my head. I said, 'Nobody's doing that look for bridal, and it's classic and timeless, sexy and feminine.' "

Destination and beach weddings were becoming popular at the time, too, creating a market for Michelson's style of bridal dresses, which she describes as "sexy in an appropriate way, effortless, not fussy, fluid, flowing, elegant, chic, classic and timeless."

Michelson said her style just happens to appeal to celebrities.

"I didn't seek them out. They liked my wedding gowns, and we transferred them into color for the red carpet," she said. "Movie stars need to pull focus. They need to show up on the red carpet and look perfect. A bride is in the same position. She is going to be photographed, and she needs to feel confident."

Michelson's dresses have been featured on many wedding, style and reality TV shows such as "Say Yes to the Dress," "She's Got the Look," "Entertainment Tonight," the "Today" show, "Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition," "Hollywood Insider" and "Wedding Day."

Next, she will appear as herself on the reality show "Brides of Beverly Hills," with the episode airing later this year. Her gowns also have graced the covers of wedding magazines including Brides, InStyle, Modern Bride, Inside Weddings, Brides UK, Bridal Guide and Los Angeles Magazine, and her formal gowns have been shown in other magazines such as Vogue and People.

She initially studied fine art at Bard College in New York, but she didn't want to be a painter. She liked fashion and had a summer job one year on Long Island, where she met a lot of people working in New York's garment district.

"I said, 'I can do that,' " she said. "I came from an artistic family. My grandmother was a painter and my mother was an art teacher. I was supported in being creative."

She transferred to Parsons School of Design in New York City and earned a bachelor of arts in fashion design. She moved to Hollywood to work for a designer and also as an actor, appearing on the TV shows "Falcon Crest," "China Beach" and "Head of the Class," and in the John Belushi biographical film, "Wired," among others.

 By:Amy Bently