Posts Tagged ‘Operations’

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.
For more

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.

Retail Executives: Are you a job hopper?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

One of the worst labels an executive can get is “job hopper”. This is an executive who has had multiple employment changes in a short period of time.

In the eyes of the prospective employer this raises many red flags. Job hoppers are usually the first candidates to be ruled out by employers and search firms as there are so many good candidates who don’t carry this baggage.

There are many reasons for too many career changes. These can be:
-unfortunate circumstances
-bad choices
-bad timing
-the idea that one should always be looking for the next job
-listening to a self-interested recruiter who wants the executive to move on to earn another fee.

We all make bad choices. Once is understandable. After that, it is a reflection upon the individual’s personal judgment or his/her inability to do good due diligence before accepting new employment.

Obviously, the executive who changes employment because of incompetence or malfeasance is always eliminated.

Just as importantly, the one who is always looking for his/her next job with another employer is also eliminated from candidate slates. The reason is simple. Employers are not simply looking to fill a position. They want someone in whom they can invest for future returns.

The tough issue is for those who ran into unfortunate circumstances.
-They had to leave an organization because of personal or family illness
-The family ended up not making the move or could not accept the new city
-The executive who followed a superior to a new company and accepted the superior’s due diligence on the new company which failed shortly afterwards.
-The new employer was acquired or new management was installed that terminated current employees.
-The economy tanked in 2009.

One of these events in a career is understandable. But two or three such events make it difficult to avoid the deadly job hopper label. Be honest and factual when you describe the circumstances to a prospective employer. Covering up your mistakes will only hurt you.

If you are labeled as a job hopper, it is very similar to having a low credit score. You can work your way out of it. You need to be dedicated to your new employer and committed to building your new career in that organization.

If you are tempted to make a jump simply to catch up with your peers, consider that you may be about to commit a fatal error.

Retail Careers: Developing Creative Fashion Executives

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

There is no doubt that running a retail business is complex and demands executives with more education. On the other hand, fashion retailing is also a creative art form and requires executives with passion for color, design, and texture. As we bring in executives with more business skills, are we losing the creative senses so required for fashion? If so, what do we need to do as an industry to recruit and develop those with the creative talent to create uniqueness, important differentiation, and stimulate the emotional triggers that are the foundation of the fashion business?

Following is an article we published in 2009 which shows the trend towards highly educated CEO’s in fashion retail.


Higher education grows as a key to CEO success in fashion retailing.

The second report in a series of retail industry surveys conducted by Plummer & Associates reveals that 60% of the Chief Executive Officers in the top 50 fashion apparel retailers hold a bachelor’s degree. Of this group 26% also hold advanced MBA degrees.

As expected, 34% of the CEOs in fashion apparel retailers have advanced directly through the merchant ranks. It is also significant to note that the remainder of the CEOs developed through the financial and operating sides of their businesses.

While this survey showed no trend toward any one school producing today’s CEOs, CEOs with advanced degrees tend to hold degrees from Harvard, Columbia, George Washington University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, New York University and Darden at the University of Virginia.

A similar study ( conducted earlier this year by Plummer & Associates shows that fashion apparel retailers lag behind CEOs of other major retailers for bachelor’s degrees.  Out of the top 100 retailers, 85% of the CEOs have bachelor’s degrees as compared to only 60% of fashion retail CEOs.


TOP 50 Fashion Retailers

Bachelor Degrees 60%

MBA Degrees 26%

Top 100 Retailers (all segments)

Bachelor Degrees 85%

MBA Degrees 28%

JD Degrees 6%

The researchers fully expect the trend toward advanced degrees for fashion apparel retail CEOs to continue. As the retail industry consolidates and business demands become more complex, CEOs will need all the intellectual tools a formal education provides.

While working from the cutting table to the top may have been a viable career path in the past, the constantly evolving and complex nature of today’s retail landscape requires that executives must couple their ground up experience with the sophistication and strategic vision gained through earning a college degree.   

Retailers have consolidated from regional companies led by founding families into massive, complex businesses requiring sophisticated tools to manage them effectively. This new breed of retailers is intensely competitive and constantly looking for cost and marketing advantages to secure their market position.

Some of the complexities facing retailers today demand a command of following disciplines:

Marketing – Sophisticated reporting systems have elevated the ability to forecast demand, to measure customer buying pattern changes, brand awareness and customer loyalty, and to help build brand value. Each retailer now operates through more than one channel, (retail, e-commerce, catalog, direct marketing) requiring that the decisions made for each channel are highly strategic.

Supply Chain Management/Logistics – Today there are tools available to help retailers secure significant cost advantages throughout the supply chain while simultaneously improving customer service. This gives retailers significant competitive advantages.

Merchandise Management – Advanced technologies are now required to source merchandise for product development, assortment planning, SKU rationalization, customer knowledge, trend analysis, and inventory and category management. The most important part is utilizing these technological advances to increase profitability.

 Finance – This function has quickly progressed from recording history to active involvement in creating value through analytics and is now vital in allowing a retailer to compete for capital against all other industries.

Legal – Our society has become more litigious making larger businesses more of an attractive target. The complexity of new regulations has resulted in an increase in legal staff. A retail leader is now required to be more involved and responsible for setting the tone of legal strategies.

Human Resources – Once considered just a major expense, Human Resources managed effectively must now create differentiation versus competition. A company’s culture and devotion to the customer are now more important than ever.

Information Technology – In the past, technology seemed to be the sole domain of the IT department. . With advanced POS systems, the retailer has learned the power of information and no longer relies solely on market information provided by the vendor. Leading edge IT departments now interrelate with the entire organization by providing useful information to aid in decision making, control costs, forecast and analyze. Companies are now operating enterprise wide systems and the CEO must know the capabilities of these systems to ensure the company gains a competitive edge.

Global Reach –The days when retailers only operated stores in the U.S. with product only secured from U.S. sources are gone. The implications of the global activities are enormous.

In the late 60’s and 70’s the retail industry started recruiting top students from colleges and graduates from MBA programs. These forward-looking retailers saw the need for talented executives and brought highly educated executives into the retail industry.  The top leaders at that time were: Federated Department Stores, May Department Stores Company, Allied Stores, J.C. Penney and Company, Sears Roebuck and Company, and The Gap. These recruiting programs produced many of the CEOs of today’s most successful retailers.

It is clear that fashion retailers need to compete in the market place to bring the brightest talent superior intellectual tools and education to manage the business for the future. And, it is also clear that college recruitment programs need to be continued and expanded so that fashion retailers can maintain an edge over competitors.