NRF: Retailers’ Organizational Structures Vary

The differences in organizational structure — including how employees are compensated — between retail companies were discussed by a panel at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City this week.

The panel included Brad Brown, senior vice president of e-commerce and direct sales at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI); Ivy Chin, senior vice president of e-commerce at Belk; Jeffrey Liss, senior vice president and general manager, e-commerce and CRM at Charming Shoppes; and Jim Okamura, managing partner, Okamura Consulting.

At REI, for example, store managers in multistore markets receive compensation for sales in the physical stores in their market as well as local online sales. “We just felt that from an inventory perspective, this approach makes sense,” said Brown.

For Charming Shoppes (parent company of Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines) and Belk, however, this approach hasn’t yet taken hold, even though it’s a goal for both companies.

“We’re still figuring out how to change our store managers’ and store associates’ behaviors to understand that digital can be their best friend,” said Liss.

Added Chin: “We’re just beginning to understand the right metrics and reinforcing the behavior we really want.”

How mobile fits into each company’s organizational structure was also a topic discussed.

At REI, mobile began as an independent entity, but now the department interfaces with all groups, including e-commerce, stores, marketing, etc.

“We have to start thinking about user interactions and customer experience as if every consumer is interacting with REI on a mobile device,” Brown said. “If it’s not true now, it will be in the future.”

For Charming Shoppes, mobile initiatives are driven by the e-commerce group, even though mobile stretches across several additional departments such as marketing and branding. While there have been no real organizational changes around integrating mobile among these departments just yet, “all of our teams are working together to try to figure out how it should be organized,” Liss said.

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