Posts Tagged ‘catalog’


Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011


According to all the statistics I read, one in every three employees is desiring to change jobs when another opportunity comes along. Should every employer be concerned?

As the economy improves, executive search firms will be seeking the best talent for their clients. Top talent will be contacted and wooed with opportunities at other companies. This has been the way things work for the past fifty years and I expect it will continue for the next fifty years.

Just because 1/3 of executives are looking to move does not mean it should be of major concern. I feel the question each company should ask itself is … “who are the 1/3 willing to leave?”  If your key and high potential executives are willing to leave, you have a problem. It is time for you to evaluate your key executives to make sure their compensation is in-line with competition and that you have the benefits and stock options in place to keep these executives motivated and owners in the company. At the same time, you need to let them know the importance they play in the company and the future they should expect.

On the other hand, if the one-third willing to leave are not your top team members, maybe this is not a bad thing. If they leave, it will give you an opportunity to recruit and/or develop top talent. Turnover at the bottom performance level often allows new stars to develop and flourish.

Organizations which compensate key employees well, that lock them in with strong benefits and stock option programs, and that offer a bright future, seldom lose their best executives. Executive recruiters know that!


Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1908 New Store After Fire

In 1875, David Lubin, a Polish émigré via New York opened Lubin’s One Price Store in downtown Sacramento. This first store was 16 by 24 feet. A year or two later, his half-brother, Harris Weinstock, and his sister,  Jeanette Levy, joined the business as it expanded from just a store to a major mail order house and the company name changed to Weinstock Lubin. Soon after, the store was expanded to 80,000 square feet with four stories. In 1875, the company was the largest mail order house on the Pacific Coast.  The company grew and soon opened buying offices in New York and San Francisco. In 1888, the company was incorporated and renamed Weinstock Lubin & Co. A store in San Francisco was opened in 1897. In January, 1903, the downtown Sacramento store was destroyed by fire. A fireman was killed. Not to be stopped, the company quickly proceeded to build a new store, a building which became the biggest in Sacramento. The company targeted the value driven customer. As time continued, the retail business took over and became the majority of the business.

The company developed a culture which allowed employees to have a stake in the business. The company started a profit sharing plan which shared profits by employee level. The company also hired teachers to provide younger employees with skills in writing and mathematics.

David Lubin was impatient and wanted to do more than just run the family department store and mail order house. He let Harris Weinstock become the CEO while he engaged in agriculture. He started orchards in the Sacramento area and brought European farming methods. His knowledge of agriculture assisted him when he helped found the California Fruit Growers’ Union. He then helped settle Eastern European Jewish refugees who worked on various farms in the area and, in 1891, he became the director of the International Society for the Colonization of Russian Jews. He then began to campaign for subsidies and protection for farmers, initially in California but eventually on an international scale. His son, Simon, helped him develop a proposal for an international chamber of agriculture; in 1896, David Lubin moved to Europe to implement the proposal. In May, 1908, with the sponsorship of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III, the International Institute of Agriculture (the IIA) opened, in Rome. The Institute’s goals were to help farmers share knowledge, produce systematically, establish a cooperative system of rural credit, and have control over the marketing of their products. In 1906, David was permanently appointed as the U.S. delegate to IIA. (Note: The IIA was folded in 1945 and merged into the United Nations.

In 1949, Weinstock Lubin & Company was acquired by its arch rival, Hale Bros. In 1979, the new parent company Carter Hawley Hale Stores expanded Weinstock Lubin & Company (now just called Weinstock’s) into Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1991, Weinstock’s was combined with the Emporium division which took over all operations including merchandising.

The downtown store in Sacramento is now an office building.

What happened???      Weinstock Lubin & Company was once a powerful retailer in Central California. It unfortunately became a part of Hale Bros which later merged with Broadway Stores and became Broadway Hale and later merged with Emporium Capwell to become Carter Hawley Hale Stores. Wall Street jokingly called the company EGO, Inc. The parent company immersed itself with debt as it went on a drive to acquire other retail chains in an effort to become the biggest retail chain in the U.S. The impact of this debt reduced the amount of capital available to maintain the stores. Macy’s became a better competitor in California and Nordstrom also entered the market along with a host of specialty retailers and big box retailers. The department store divisions of Carter Hawley Hale no longer were relevant to the customers. After Carter Hawley Hale Stores were sold to an investor group, Zell/Chilmark, the new management team made key marketing mistakes which finished off the parent company and resulted in the 1995 sale to Federated Department Stores. With the sale, all divisions, including Weinstock’s were either converted to Macy’s or sold.

I visited Weinstock Lubin & Company when I was young as I only lived 80 miles south in Modesto. Although Weinstock Lubin had an enjoyable lunch bar for kids, it was not as magnificent as the stores in San Francisco. Weinstock Lubin was a major participant in the holiday festivities and always had wonderful window displays.

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1906

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1924

Weinstock Lubin & Co. Sacramento 1927

I encourage you to leave your memories of this store and department store chain in the comments section below.

Department Stores in Southern California – J.W. Robinson & Co

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

The Boston Store – Los Angeles – 1910

J.W. ROBINSON & CO – Los Angeles

James Winchester Robinson opened his first store in 1881 under the banner of The Boston Store. The original store was located at Spring and Temple Streets. In 1914, the name was changed to J.W. Robinson & Company and it moved to a new location at 7th and Grand in a building designed by Noonan and Richards. In 1934 the building was modernized by Edward L. Mayberry. The downtown store had six floors of selling space. On the seventh floor were the restaurants, the beauty salon, and customer service. The women’s rest area and lavatory were reputed to be exquisite.

Robinson’s catered to the carriage trade as did Bullock’s and Coulter’s. The store presented better fashions and offered excellent customer service. For years the store competed well with Bullock’s in the downtown market because it was located west on 7th street in an area attractive to the upper-end customers.

In 1957, the company was acquired by Associated Dry Goods and became their fashion headquarters for the West.

In 1952, the company opened its first branch store in the Beverly Hills market. Robinson’s needed that store to capture the carriage trade: customers that were now shopping at Bullock’s, I. Magnin’s, and Sak’s stores located out on Wilshire and at the specialty shops on Rodeo Drive. Even Coulter’s had closed its downtown store and moved to Wilshire. Later, Robinson’s opened a winter-only store in Palm Springs to serve the customers who wintered there. Other suburban stores opened in Panorama City, Anaheim, Santa Barbara, Glendale, Pasadena, Newport Beach, Cerritos, Woodland Hills and the City of Industry.

In 1986, Associated Dry Goods was acquired by The May Department Stores Company (St. Louis). In 1993, the Robinson’s division of Associated Goods was merged with the May Company Southern California division to form Robinson’s May. This was a difficult marriage as May Company was targeting the moderated market and Robinson’s catered to the carriage trade. In 2005, after the acquisition of The May Company Department Stores by Federated Department Stores, the stores were either renamed Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or were sold.

What happened????      Although Robinson’s had relatively good positioning in Los Angeles, it relied too long on its one store downtown. It did not have the clout with vendors to develop exclusive relationships. As the customers moved west to Beverly Hills and south to Orange County and  when the downtown retail market declined, Robinson’s was slow to expand and gave up market share to Bullock’s, I. Magnin’s, Sak’s, and other retailers. Robinson’s started to rebound when Michael Gould became the CEO, but he did not get full support from the parent, Associated Dry Goods. When it merged with May Company, the company quickly lost the carriage trade customer.

I knew Robinson’s well as a competitor when I worked at Bullock’s. The downtown LA and the Beverly Hills stores were well-maintained and operated at high customer service levels. The management was not known as sophisticated. The management development program was not strong so the company was never able to develop talented merchants. I remember when the Attorney General for California looked into price fixing amongst the Southern California department stores. They found a folder amongst the corporate office files at Robinson’s entitled “Price Fixing Agreements”.

I wish there were postcards showing the interior of this wonderful store. I have only one which shows the women’s restroom. As soon as I locate it I will post it.

New Downtown LA J.W. Robinson Store Drawing

J. W.Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1917

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1920′s

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1920′s

J. W. Robinson & Company – Los Angeles – 1940 – After ‘Remuddling’

Utopia Yarn/ J.W.Robinson & Co – 1940

Rogers Peet Suits/J.W. Robinson & Co. – 1941

J.W. Robinson & Co. – Beverly Hills Store

J. W. Robinson & Company – Newport

Department Stores in Southern California – Bullock’s

Monday, January 3rd, 2011
  Bullocks Downtown Los Angeles – 1907 – Grand Opening

In 1907, John Gillespie Bullock and Percy Glen Winnet opened Bullock’s at the corner of 7th & Broadway Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The two had worked at The Broadway and convinced Arthur Letts, Sr, founder of The Broadway to back them in this new retail venture  targeting the more up-scale customer. The store grew over the years as it acquired buildings on 7th Street between Hill and Broadway; one of the buildings was a competing department store. In 1923, John Bullock and P. G. Winnet bought out Arthur Lett’s interest.

In 1929, the company opened its first branch store on Wilshire Boulevard. This luxury Art Deco designed  store targed the wealthy as they moved to the nearby Hancock Park neighborhood from the downtown’s West Adams district.  Later, the Bullock’s Wilshire store became a separate division within Bullocks. For years Bullock’s Wilshire merchandised the store in Palm Springs which only operated in the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. The Palm Springs store served the Hollywood community with winter homes in that area.

Bullock’s was known as a chain which targeted the better customer and provided unparalled customer service. The company had approximately 65 buyer/managers in each store until 1970. Up until then, the company believed that having buyers in each store for each department helped provide a localized assortment. However, it was hard for Bullock’s to buy from larger manufacturers as each store could not meet minimum quantity orders. The company did have exclusive relationships with key better vendors which helped it retain the better market position.

The third suburban store was opened in Pasadena (it was designed to be converted into a hotel if it did not succeed as a store). Later the chain continued to expand with stores in Westwood, the San Fernando Valley, Santa Ana, Torrance, Lakewood, San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, Las Vegas, Pheonix, and San Diego.

Bullock’s acquired  I.Magnin & Company in 1944 to form Bullocks-Magnin. In 1964, publicly held Bullocks-Magnin was acquired by Federated Department Stores. This was a hostile takeover. P.G. Winnet, the founder, opposed the sale. His son-in-law, Walter Candy who was President, was for the sale and gathered support of the management team.  Abe Fortes, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, was the attorney representing Federated. (Note: Bullock’s in Northern California was a separate division of Federated Department Stores.) This acquisition affected both Bullock’s and Federated for many years.  First,  many of the management team were protected for supporting Mr. Candy and the Federated acquisition so it was agreed that directional and management changes would not be made for five years. That is one of the key reasons Bullock’s did not convert to central merchandising until 1970. P.G. Winnet mostly continued working out of the Bullock’s-I Magnin offices but did visit stores and was known for pinning candy on sales people who he recognized as outstanding. Secondly, Federated was restricted from further growth through acquisition. The Justice Department was concerned that Federated was gaining too much share of the department store sector which at the time was the largest individual segment in the retail industry.

In 1988, Bullock’s was sold to the R.H.Macy Company as Federated was owned by Campeau and needed cash. As Macy’s-Atlanta took over merchandising,   Bullock’s lost its better positioning. As I understand it, under Macy’s store gross margin production shrank dramatically. In 1995, Bullock’s name was formally changed to Macy’s. Now, all the Bullock’s sites are known as Macy*s or Bloomingdales since the R.H. Macy Company was acquired by Federated Department Stores.

Bullocks was known for:

  • Merchandise assortments which trended towards better.
  • Higher quality salespeople who were focused on customer service.
  • Strong fashion presentation with upgraded and well-maintained stores.
  • Special events.

What happened???       When Federated Department Stores acquired Bullock’s it was a leader in Southern California but was marginally profitable. As management changes were made the company became highly profitable and in a dominant market position because the company secured top merchandising talent, invested in systems, and had the capital from Federated Department Stores to upgrade facilities and to expand into new markets. The downtown store continued to slide as the market demographics changed, the Southern California transportation system collapsed, and as customers shopped more at shopping malls. Bullock’s flourished until Nordstrom’s entered the Southern California market. At that time, Bullock’s began losing some of its fashion edge as markdown programs were reduced with the intent of increasing profitability but in reality allowed fashion to become stale in comparison to Nordstrom’s. Bullock’s remained dominant but should never have allowed Nordstrom’s to gain a foothold in Southern California. (Note: Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s (Federated Department Stores) started with Bullock’s as a trainee. Keep in mind, the Bullock’s motto was….” to build a business which shall know no end”.

Today, the former downtown Bullock’s store building is divided between a St Vincents Jewelry Mart, a parking lot, and small retail stores. The Bullock’s Wilshire store now houses the Southwestern Law School. The Bullock’s Wilshire store is kept in its original Art Deco splendor and serves as a reminder of department store retailing in the grander days.

I started my retail career with Bullock’s. Although I grew up in Modesto, California, about 300 miles north of Los Angeles, I knew Bullock’s especially well. My mother was from Los Angeles. My grandmother used to knit infant clothing for Bullock’s downtown. My godmother, Ms. Paquita Machris, used to take me twice a year to Bullock’s Wilshire to pick out clothing. Her personal sales person, Ms. Dineen, met us at the MotorCourt and took us through the store followed by a lunch in the tea room where I enjoyed my first taste of Babas au Rhum. Years later,  I always made sure Ms. Dineen was well taken care of as she had the largest sales book in the entire Bullock’s chain. I joined Bullock’s when I taught Statistics at U.S.C. I then became a part of the Personnel department in the corporate offices. I remained with Bullock’s until 1978 when I was recruited to Mervyn’s, a new publicly held company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My collection of Bullock’s postards are shown below. If anyone has memories of Bullock’s I hope you will feel free to memorialize your memories in the Comments Section below. I know I have many friends and co-workers who are anxious to do so. You must receive my permission to copy or reprint any of these postcards.

Bullock’s Downtown

Bullock’s Downtown 1920′s

July 4, 1921

DownTown LA 1912

Bullock’s Downtown 1930′s (note outdoor dining – before smog)

Bullock’s Downtown – 1930′s

First Floor 1914 – Later became Cosmetics floor


Gown Room – Third Floor – Pre 1920


Children’s Departments – Fourth Floor – Pre-1920

Millinery Room

The Tea Room…..

Tea Room – 1920′s

The Lobby – Tea Room

The Foyer – Tea Room – 1920′s

The Foyer – Tea Room – 1910

Tea Room – The Grey Room – 1920′s

Tea Room – 1920′s

Tea Room – 1930′s

Tea Room Kitchen – 1930′s

California Poem Sent to Bullock’s Downtown Customers – 1924

Bullock’s Wilshire – Opened 1929

Bullock’s Wilshire

Bullock’s Wilshire – Fine Pottery and Glassware

Bullock’s Wilshire – Fine Jewelry Gorham Sterling & Precious Stones

Bullock’s Pasadena

Bullock’s Pasadena – Designed to be a hotel if it did not work as a retail store.

Fashion Postcards Sent to Bullock’s Pasadena Customers

Bullock’s Santa Ana

Bullock’s Santa Ana – Company developed mall- Sister Company I Magnin is co-anchor

Bullock’s Downtown Easter Placecard – Shirley Temple – 1928

This placecard was provided to me by someone whose Great Aunt worked at Bullock’s and kept this placecard. She had Shirley Temple, Ma Kittle, and Bob Hope as customers. I have not verified the signature. Bullock’s, Bullock’s Wilshire, and Bullock’s Palm Spring served many of the Hollywood Stars!

Should an unemployed retail executive suspend his/her job search during the holidays?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Should an unemployed retail executive suspend his/her job search during the holidays?

Every retailer knows the holiday season is a busy time. Store executives are working iron days, merchants are following sales trends closely to ensure inventories are balanced, human resources are keeping the stores staffed with temporary employees, and senior management is in constant angst about the season’s prospects. Your natural fear is that retail executives will not have the time to consider you for employment or that you will be seen as a pest if you bother them.

Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, if you suspend your job search during the holidays you might be losing out on some significant opportunities. Keep in mind…

1. Retailers traditionally make executive changes after the fiscal year ends on January 31. January, February, and March become the busiest seasons in the recruitment of retail executives. As a result, the holiday season is a good time for you to make an impression with retail executives; and,
2. Retailers with positions open want to fill them before the fiscal year ends.

Your approach during the holiday season is important. Following are some things to think about for your holiday season job seeking activities:

• Retailer executives, like everyone else, think about family and friends during the holiday season. This is a good time to keep in contact with your network by sending a holiday email with your resume attached and letting them know that you appreciate any referrals as they hear about opportunities. You might also consider making a short call to wish them the best. Your object is just to stay in front of them.
• If you know a specific company has a current opportunity, be aggressive. No matter how busy they are, they need to fill that position before the end of the fiscal year.
• This is also a good time to build your relationships with recruiters, and industry consultants. They are not as harried as those in the retail industry.

How Do I Explain A Gap In My Employment History

Monday, October 4th, 2010


I often discover a gap in a candidate’s employment history while reviewing their resume. What is surprising is that so many individuals do not know what to do about these employment gaps. Some individuals try to hide it, which is lying. Others try to stumble through an explanation which makes an employer suspicious.

There are many reasons for a gap in your employment history. These could be:

  • Your employer went out of business leaving you looking for employment.
  • Your employer terminated your employment due to a staff reduction.
  • Your employer terminated you for cause.
  • Or, you quit.


Any of these reasons could leave you with an employment gap while you were looking for a new career. Sometimes, the gap is longer because of an economic downturn or because your family did not want to relocate.

What ever the reason, you should show the employment gap on your resume and be ready to fully explain what you were doing during that time. If you do not have a prepared and honest explanation it will lead prospective employers to think that something else was going on in your life … maybe incarceration.

The last thing you want to do is cover up an employment gap. If your perspective or, worse yet, your new employer finds out about the cover up, you will most likely be not hired, or terminated. Now, it is too easy for employers to verify accurate dates of employment; and, employers do check.

Honesty is the best explanation. An example of a good explanation is ….” after I left company xyz, I started looking for opportunities in my city. Unfortunately, there are no other retailers there so I tried to transfer my skills to another industry. My son/daughter was in his/her senior year in high school so our family made a choice not to relocate. A year later, I found myself still looking. With my son graduating, our family has now agreed to relocate.”

There are many other reasons. Do your best to honestly explain the situation.

Retail Executives: Recruiting Executives To A Family-Owned Company

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010


The first blush comment from most in the recruiting industry is that recruiting executives to family-owned private businesses is difficult or near impossible. But, if you look at the facts, there are large family-owned companies that have successfully grown and have successfully recruited top talent. For example, look at Hershey, S. E. Johnson, H. E. Butt, Wegman’s, Jockey International, and Carlson Companies as prime examples of successful family-owned businesses.

In my opinion, it is not the family ownership that makes recruiting difficult. The issue is the management style of the ownership. The style of the executive evaluating the opportunity is equally important.

An executive considering joining a family-owned business has several questions to ask. These are:

What will be my future with the company? Is there opportunity for personal growth? Are there family members involved who will limit my chances for promotion?

What is the financial health of the company and is the family willing to invest more or dilute their ownership through debt or equity? Is the family willing to be open about the financials and their strategies?

How willing is the family to invest in new equipment, research, systems, etc?

Is the family open to new ideas?

Is the family willing to share interest in the business to key executives? Will this interest be developed on an open basis? Will this be on a true partnership basis?

Is the family really willing to delegate responsibilities to non-family members?

How long does the family plan to own/control the company? What will be the exit strategy for the family ownership: IPO, strategic sale, or other? Are all family owners on the same page in terms of the exit strategy?

At the same time, family owners have questions to ask the prospective executive. Among the questions are:

Is this executive really committed? Will he/she put in the effort required to take the business to the next level?

Is this executive willing to share the risk? If the economy gets soft, will this executive pitch in and work harder and smarter and also accept the earnings declines that the ownership suffers…or will this executive just move on when times are tough?

Will this executive work with us as we ponder through difficult times and difficult financing issues?

Is this executive willing to put skin in the game (i.e.: personal finances, or extraordinary effort)?

The success or failure in both parties trying to develop an effective working relationship depends on both parties’ questions being put on the table and answered truthfully and in an open manner.

The company that is not willing to provide full and honest disclosure and not truly willing to answer all the executive’s questions will make recruitment difficult. A recruiter will be able to bring in a hired hand but will not be able to recruit a true partner for the business.

The executive who wants the upside but who also wants guarantees is probably not the right executive either.

For a recruiter, the challenge is to quickly learn about the family and their willingness to answer the questions candidates will ask. To the degree the family is willing to answer those questions will determine the level of candidate the recruiter will be able to bring to the table. This requires a skilled executive recruiter who knows how to assess family organizations and also assess candidates for their ability to fit the circumstances.

As a side note: These issues are not as important with larger family-owned public companies. In smaller family-owned public companies these issues and the management style are still important. Even though the ownership and the financial data is public information, the family involvement in the business and their longer term intentions need to be disclosed to potential executives. What is most important for the executive to discover in these circumstances is whether the family self-interests are aligned with the short- and longer-term needs of the business.

Retail Careers: Why College Graduates Should Seriously Consider Retail For a Career

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Following is an article on ‘Why College Graduates Should Seriously Consider Retail as a Career’. I published this article earlier in the year. I feel this is timely. I also feel the industry must do more to boost its reputation within the academic community.

Plummer & Associates, a Retail Industry Expert Offers The Following Advice to Students Entering Careers in Retail…

John Plummer, Plummer & Associates

Plummer & Associates, a Retail Industry Expert describes why Retail is now an attractive career for college graduates.

With over 40 years experience in human resources management and search consulting, John Plummer has developed a highly consultative approach to executive recruiting and as a human resources executive, he held senior management positions with major retailers.
John Plummer currently is President, Plummer & Associates, a New Canaan, Connecticut, based boutique executive search consulting firm which specializes in recruiting senior officers for the retail industry. Over the years, he has recruited teams for growth retailers (Staples, Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Hot Topic!, Chipotle, Jamba Juice, Ulta Salon Cosmetics & Fragrances, The North Face, and many more of the retailers) that have changed the retail landscape. Previously, he had served as a human resources executive for divisions of Federated Department Stores, Fedmart*, and Mervyn’s. He graduated with his MBA degree in 1968 from the University of Southern California and also earned his BA in economics from USC.

“Many years ago when I graduated with an MBA degree, I joined Bullock’s Department Stores in Los Angeles where I had already been working on a part-time basis. I quickly heard from Professors and peers that I had made the wrong choice. They said the industry was not sophisticated enough to use my newly learned tools nor would retail offer the challenges needed. Being contrary, I decided to stay. Of course, being paid more than anyone else in his class comforted him a great deal. “
Well, things have changed. Retail is now a highly complex and sophisticated industry offering incredible challenges and the opportunity to put your new skills to work. When John Plummer joined retail, the organizations were primarily run by owning families and few executives were college educated and most were tactical in orientation. Now, the leaders of the top retail organizations are well-educated with over 85 % having college degrees(1) and 23% having MBA degrees(1). As retail continues to grow Plummer & Associates expects the percentage with college degrees will approach 100% and that the percentage with MBA degrees will be close behind.
What has changed….
First, the industry has consolidated from mostly family-owned and managed regional chains into large corporations operating nationwide and globally.
Secondly, these large businesses are in a highly competitive environment and require sophisticated solutions to strengthen the relationship with the consumer, to manage inventories effectively, to effectively utilize operating and capital expenditures, and to build management, systems, and other infrastructure to support growth and to serve the customer.
Thirdly, the industry works in an ever changing environment in which new ways to serve the customer are constantly being invented along with new ways to communicate with the customer. More importantly, the customer base needs to be better understood to seek ways to better serve the targeted customer as well as to understand consumers who could be effectively served and brought into the customer base. E-commerce has become mainstream over the past few years and opportunities through mobile-commerce are just starting to grow. Who knows what the next channel will be.
Fourthly, global growth in retail has been slow to take hold but is now a significant opportunity. For years global retail seemed to be limited to the luxury brands. Now, the food service industry is rapidly expanding on a global basis (examples: McDonalds, Yum!, Starbucks, etc). Mass merchandising is also expanding rapidly with Carrefour having stores worldwide and Wal-Mart, Staples, Best Buy, Costco, and others catching up. This growth demands executives who have the tools to be effective in different cultures with differing ground-rules.
Lastly, the industry is led by executives who know that highly talented executives are required to lead the businesses going forward. These executives have organized the business so that college graduates can quickly assume roles with responsibilities and require intellectual rigor and offer greater satisfaction.
The Opportunities…
Market Research – The industry is learning more about how to target consumer segments and how the company can expand that customer base without negatively impacting on the relationship with the core targeted customer. The opportunities are significant for the individual who knows how to design research and who is able to interpret the information into strategies.
Advertising/Sales Promotion – This was what retail was known for and is still an important role. But, with the growing use of social media the communication with customers is changing dramatically.
Merchandising – This role is constantly evolving. Merchants no longer make decisions based upon ‘gut feel’. In the past the manufacturer had all the customer information. Retailers with sophisticated point-of-sale information now know which products best meet their customer needs. As a result, the merchant is now an interpreter of the research and sales data and is often partnering with the manufacturer in product design, quality control, and costing.
Brand Management- Retailers now know that a nameplate is no longer sufficient and that strong brand management principles are required to be consistently successful and that the brand must be carried out through all marketing materials, the store experience and the e-commerce experience. This requires that marketing be involved in store operations, store design, human resources and all other areas of the enterprise.
Store Management – Retail is a labor intensive industry regardless if it is in the food service, retail services, grocery, or fashion sectors. The industry will always need executives who can manage people effectively towards meeting customer expectations and to carry out the essence of the brand.
Operations Management – The opportunities in supply chain management are significant. The efficient movement of merchandise is critical to stay competitive.
Store Development – As retailers look for better predictors of success in store locations and store design, executives are needed with sophisticated financial modeling tools, location selection tools, and store design tools. Green tools are also highly important to reduce energy costs and carbon footprints.
Process Improvement – As with any older industry in a new innovative climate, the retail industry now requires executives who can evaluate procedures and processes starting with a fresh pad rather than looking for incremental improvements.
Accounting/Reporting – With new financial systems, the size of the accounting and reporting organizations has shrunk but opportunities exist for those who know how to work with and get the most out of financial systems.
Financial Planning & Analysis – Retailers look to the financial organization to provide the analytics and lead in the development of forecasts and budget planning. Opportunities are significant for those with strong analytical tools.
Creating Value –The role of financial executives as teachers and coaches in working with the other functions in the organization to help them understand the financial implications of their decisions is growing in importance.
Corporate Finance – Retailers require financing to support inventories all year and also require financing to support growth.
Information Technology …
Over the past few years systems have been developed for merchandising, supply chain management, financial management, and operations management. Now, systems are being built to better handle channels such as e-commerce, direct marketing, m-commerce, and shop-television. In addition, new communications are being established with social networking and media. This is creating a demand for executives with greater IT knowledge.
Human Resources …
Talent Acquisition… Because retail is people intensive, there is always a need to recruit people. More important, is recruiting top talent with the appropriate skills and style to meet the company’s objectives. Understanding new methodologies to recruit talent through social networking and other new practices, policies, and procedures is increasingly important.
Human Capital Development… Identifying talent within the organization and developing that talent to each individual’s potential is significantly important to the survival of a retailer in supporting growth and achieving brand standards throughout the organization.
Talent Retention… No good retailer can afford to lose good talent. Understanding what causes talent to leave and understanding what it takes to retain top talent is of utmost importance.
Compensation and Benefits… Retail has moved to understanding the importance of talent and retaining top talent. As a result, compensation and benefit plans are needed to provide the best return on investment.
Human Capital is no longer considered an expense. Instead, it creates a major differentiation between one retailer and all others.

Which Industry Segments Offer Opportunities
Food Service – Growth in the food service sector is significant. The best growth opportunities are in quick serve and quick casual. Look at the growth of Starbucks, Yum! (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), Chipotle’, Jamba Juice, both in the U.S. and internationally. The opportunities because of this growth are significant. Only the sit down dining sector is experiencing slow growth.
Fashion Specialty – Although the U.S. has been over-stored in fashion, the shake out due to the recession is creating new opportunities for the stronger retailers. In addition, fashion manufacturers are opening company owned retail stores.
Hard-lines Specialty – This sector has faced the most challenges during this recession. Growth has slowed for most hard-lines retailers. The growth opportunities are primarily with Home Depot, Lowes, Dick’s Sporting Goods, AutoZone, Petsmart, and similar operations.
Mass Merchandising – This group consists of Wal-Mart, Target, Carrefour, Costco, Sam’s Club, Metro and similar chains. These are sophisticated and driven retail organizations offering significant opportunities in the U.S. and globally. These retailers are also broadening their customer bases and are expanding their merchandise assortments.
Grocery – The grocery industry was caught off guard with the advent of the warehouse clubs and the entrance of mass merchandisers into the grocery categories. These retailers are fighting back through the development of better operating strategies and marketing strategies. It was just announced that almost 50% of Wal-Mart sales are from the grocery categories. At the same time, new successful concepts such as Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Whole Foods are growing rapidly.
HBA/Drug – This segment has consolidated heavily down to only a couple of major players who are highly sophisticated. They are also redesigning the business model through the addition of mini health clinics and the addition of third party drug provision services. The innovation in this segment will grow in geometric progression.
Retail Services – This is another major growth category and is a result of consumers need for services provided by a reliable brand. All you need to do is look at the growth of Geek Squad, Jiffy Lube, Jackson – Hewitt Tax Service, California Closets, Aamco, Merry Maids, just to name a few.
E-commerce, catalog, shop television, direct selling, direct marketing, m-mobile – The growth of e-commerce has taken share away from traditional catalog retail and direct selling and direct marketing channels. The emergence of multi-channel strategies and the advent of m-commerce will ensure growth in this broad sector.
New Ventures – This has always been the most exciting part of retail. Just look at the new companies that have developed within the last twenty years into industry dominance. For example, look at Starbucks, Staples, Office Depot, Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters, Amazon, PeaPod, 24 Hour Fitness, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Geek Squad, Best Buy Mobile, Jamba Juice, Chipotle’ Mexican Grill, and all the other major retailers which have evolved from a twinkle in the eye to powerhouses.
What is the most rewarding factor?
The most important feed back an executive finds in the retail industry is the customer’s response to new actions and strategies. Regardless of whether you run an entire retail organization or just a small market, you can quickly see the results of your activities. This inspires self-confidence and drives your ambition to do and try more. Nothing builds esteem like seeing your success!
How to investigate a career in retail?
Check with your placement office for when a retailer will be interviewing at your school. If retailers are not interviewing at your school, I strongly recommend you contact the senior human resources executive at the retailer you are interested in joining. A letter to that executive will get you considered for the company’s executive development program. You may find a position at a local branch at a major chain, but that usually will not offer you the opportunity to quickly move into a decision making role.
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Retail Executives: Should you accept your employer’s counter offer?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010


This is a serious question that cannot be easily answered.

The first question you need to ask yourself is why did you look at this other company and why did you let it get to an offer stage if you were not serious about leaving?

Were you unhappy with your superior?

Were you underappreciated and underpaid?

Was your career path blocked?

Did you have concerns about the future of your employer?

Do you have an especially high regard for the prospective employer?

Before you accept your current employer’s counter offer, you seriously need to think about what has really changed with that counter offer that will make you happy. It may be easy to go back home and tell the family that you will not need to relocate because your employer made all kinds of promises and rewarded you with extra compensation. But, if conditions were bad enough to make you look elsewhere, there is little chance that things have changed significantly.

The truth is that most employees who accept a counter offer from their current employer usually leave the company within two years.

Why? In my experience there are several reasons.

Your current employer may never fully trust you again. Because you got to the stage of an offer, there is suspicion that you traded too much secret information.

Your employer also may believe you will leave again in the future. So, favored appointments will tend to go to those in the organization that have earned management’s trust.

If you were transferred away from a superior you did not like, that executive usually remains with the organization and will become a political opponent.

If you were disillusioned with your company’s future, the likelihood of that changing is minimal.

My advice to any executive is that you should not seriously look at other career opportunities if you fully believe your career is on track. Why jeopardize your role with your current employer and why create a reason for your employer to have less reason to trust and invest in your development?

On the other hand, if you feel that your advancement is blocked or if you have reservations about your employer’s future, you should actively look for other opportunities and be committed to the change.

Retail Executives: Now is the time for retailers to recruit Strategic Hires !

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has declared that the recession is officially over. For retailers, the question is how robust will the economy be in the next couple of years. Most economists and Mr. Ben Bernanke, Chairman – Federal Reserve, are forecasting a slow recovery. Why? The economy still needs to work through consumer debt and the consumer needs to find ways to increase their income so that they can spend again. In the recent past, consumers spent wealth gained through the inflated housing market. Unemployment is still high and will take time to recover. And, the baby boom generation is moving into retirement which means that this big population bubble will be spending less.

So, why is now the best time to bring on strategic hires? First, let’s define strategic hires as executives who can do significantly more than the incumbent. More importantly, let us define a strategic hire as someone who will help change the course of your business. This will be someone who is more strategically oriented to:
• Analyze the customer base to refine the definition of the targeted customer and then develop marketing programs to communicate with the newly targeted customer to increase traffic, sales, and margins;
• Create a store environment which matches/exceeds the targeted customer’s expectations and allows you to build a brand through the retail experience;
• Seek ways to find basis point improvements in operations efficiencies while also improving customer service;
• Build a culture which meets/exceeds customer expectations and recruit and develop exceptional talent;
• Build a merchandising program which excels at providing the merchandise expected by the targeted customer, which constantly reviews new products and categories while rationalizing existing sku’s, which excels at making money through effective merchandising and consistently finds margin basis point improvements, and which creates excitement for the merchandising program throughout the company;
• Lead a finance team which is more than a recorder of numbers to one dedicated to helping the organization by providing the analytics and instructions for the merchants to understand the financial impact of their decision making and for the other functional areas to understand the best return on investment strategies. This is a Value Creator!;
• Build a supply chain program which results in reduced inventories with the same or better levels of customer service while also reducing logistical expenses;
• Build systems to support the operational, marketing, and merchandising program enhancements; and
• Develop strategies to expand the company in new markets internationally.

In these times when the nation is still ‘over stored’ and, with so many competitors offering the same or similar goods, those retailers who will excel in the next few years will be those who have some advantage, whether it be perceived value by the consumer or operational, marketing, financial, and/or human resources strengths. It will be up to the retailers who want to excel to find a way to create this differentiation in the market place and this is best done by hiring strategic executives who can create and maintain the differentiation.

How do you find these strategic hires? Strategic hires require a major investment. In this market it can cost $100,000 to $150,000 or more to relocate an executive. In addition, you have costs related to the time it takes the executive to learn the company and become comfortable in the new role. These costs represent an investment you cannot take lightly and you definitely cannot afford to make a mistake. This means the process for identifying and recruiting candidates must not be taken lightly and also requires an investment.

Yes, in this employment market there are many executives who are desperate for employment and who are available on job boards. Although these may be top caliber executives, the important questions are: (1.) Are they the right executives for your strategic role? and, (2.) Do they have the best skills and experience as well as possess the strategic mind set? Your organization can interview dozens of these looking for the right individual. The important question is whether you are interviewing from dozens to hope for the right person or are you interviewing and selecting from a slate which has several candidates with the most appropriate skills, experiences, and personal characteristics to make sure you are getting the best strategic player for your team.

It may seem self-serving, but I strongly believe the best return on your recruiting investment for a strategic player is accomplished by engaging a search firm which specializes in serving the retail industry and which has a track record of recruiting strategic players which have proven to make a difference over both the short- and the longer-term. When you consider the cost of making a mistake, this approach is your best investment.

How do you select the right executive search firm? Based upon my years of experience in the recruitment of senior retail executives, I strongly recommend you take careful time and put in significant energy to choose a retainer based search firm to manage the recruitment of strategic hires. I recommend you interview at least four firms before you make your choice. Questions you should ask include:
-Does the search firm and the consultant who will work with you on your assignment truly understand the definition of a strategic executive and know how to determine if candidates have the experience that you require? Keep in mind, you are not asking who the search consultant knows, but, instead, what companies should be targets and why executives in those companies have the specific experience required. You are looking to guarantee a strong slate of candidates from which to select. Feel free to ask the search firm to provide you with a list of targeted organizations (along with reasons why) with their proposal to conduct the search assignment;
-Does the consultant know how to select a strategic versus a tactical executive? I recommend you have the search firm as part of its proposal prepare a position specification fully describing the position and the candidate. Instead of providing the search firm with the details of the position and the candidate, I suggest you have the search firm do it so you can assess their understanding of the position and your needs.
-Does the search firm have the resources to invest into the search assignment to determine all possible talent pools to find the best candidates? In my opinion, it is not in your best interest to have the search firm only identify the most obvious and visible executives. You require a firm which has a research group and which has databases available to identify all appropriate talent banks.
-Does the search firm have relationships with the obvious target companies to prevent them from contacting potential candidates in those target organizations? Why should you engage the search firm which recruits for the targeted organization as this means the search firm will be barred from recruiting executives from this organization to yours; and,
-Will the consultants working on your assignment have the time available to do the work? If the lead consultant is handling too many assignments at a time, it is likely he/she will not have the time to do your assignment justice.

First and foremost, you are in charge of your company’s future. You are not lucky to have a particular search firm working for you. Instead, you are smart to choose the right firm to do this strategic assignment. In my opinion, by following this process you should be able to build a team which will make a difference.