The National Retail Federation Program began with opening thoughts from the National Retail Federation President, Ellen Davis. After giving a brief introduction to the program, she welcomed one of the members on the Board of Directors for National Retail Federation to the stand.
Karen Katz, who also was formerly the Chief Executive Officer of Neiman Marcus Group, gave an inspiring start to the conference, noting that the key to success is to have a group of people with diverse backgrounds and occupations collaborating together. She preached that you must be passionate about what your company does and stay curious by always asking questions.
Following up Karen’s bold words, Chris Baldwin, Chairman of the National Retail Federation and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale, came to the stage with many eye-opening statistics. As much as I loathe statistics, my professor wasn’t lying when she told me I couldn’t escape it. I discovered that 42 million jobs in America are in the retail industry, contributing $2.6 trillion to our GDP. Furthermore, though online shopping is becoming evermore popular, 90% of shopping is still done in stores. All things considered, retail just simply has more to offer its consumers in terms of value and convenience than it used to. There’s price transparency with more value options and incredible choices and it’s all personalized for me, when and where I want it. So, what does it take to succeed in this industry? Baldwin claims that quantitative skills, strategic agility, digital fluency and looking at your watch versus your calendar should do the trick. Above all, never underestimate your ability to drive change.
Gina Lacovone, Senior Vice President and Director of Field Operations at BJ’s Wholesale then joined Baldwin for a short panel. They spoke about the value of relationships and how you should always be authentic, especially in a leadership role. However, above all, the biggest point I took away from these two was the redefined role of retail: “Can I solve a consumer’s problem?”
Andy Dunn, founder of Bonobos, was up next. He began by telling an insanely inspiring story of his upbringing and how fate truly has its way. If you’re unfamiliar with his background, I highly recommend googling him! What I loved most about Andy was his eagerness to take on responsibility. After playing his Masculine Definition Video, Andy spoke about how important it is for corporations to lead on social change by taking risks like he’d done with this video. I could not agree more with him as retail continues to become more and more political each day.
Our closing speaker on Friday was Lindsey Roy, CMO of Hallmark Greetings. Lindsey also did not have the easiest life. Having been involved in a boating accident while at the beach, she was in the hospital for some time and had a lengthy recovery after getting one of her legs amputated. Working at Hallmark, she joked about getting so many ‘Get Well Soon’ cards. Lindsey told us that it wasn’t easy, but what got her through this, among many other challenges, was thinking of five ways it could have been worse. For instance, why did the boat hit her legs instead of her head? I’m truly taking this advice of hers to heart. As Lindsey finished up, she (shameless plug) encouraged us to send more handwritten cards, even if it was ‘Just Because’.