When workers hoisted the giant Carter’s logo to the top of the sparkling new Phipp’s Tower in Atlanta, Richard Westenberger(ACCT ’90) was standing in the crowd watching with no small amount of pride. You could say it was his crowning achievement.
Westenberger came aboard as CFO for the iconic children’s clothing company in 2009 amid the gloom and doom of the recession. “Consumer and retail in particular were headed into a dark period,” he says. Even worse, the next year saw a tsunami-like surge in cotton from 60 cents a pound to well over $2.
“Virtually everything we make is made out of cotton,” says Westenberger. “Eighty percent of what we sell sells for less than $10 an item. It’s a very value-centric product category. We didn’t feel it was the right thing to try and recoup all that simply by raising all of our prices.”
The decision to absorb half of the increase in product costs was, perhaps, surprising. “Our hope was we would be able to pick up market share over that period of time and then when cotton came back down we would be in great position,” Westenberger says. “And that’s what ended up happening.”
Westenberger also spearheaded the company’s successful foray into international and e-commerce waters as well as the consolidation of geographically scattered business operations into a new headquarters building in Atlanta. “We’re a big company in town,” he says. “But you wouldn’t know we’re here. We’re going to punch up our visibility in Atlanta.” The color of the sign’s letters, he adds, can be changed at different times of the year. “The big joke here is that I’m going to turn it blue and gold when Notre Dame plays for the national championship,” he laughs. “But I’m not sure it’s on the approved color palette.”