2019 Top Women in Retail: A Q&A With Sharon Leite, CEO, The Vitamin Shoppe
Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC), sister brand of Total Retail, recently released its ninth annual list of the Top Women in Retail. This annual feature, a joint effort of Total Retail and WIRLC, shines a spotlight on the women leading some of the top retail organizations and brands in the industry today. As part of the special feature, WIRLC conducted interviews with each of the 16 women on this year's list. Below we've included the interview conducted with 2019 Top Women in Retail honoree Sharon Leite, chief executive officer of The Vitamin Shoppe. To see the rest of this year's list, as well as access the full-length interviews for all 16 honorees, download the report today.
Women in Retail Leadership Circle: Why did you decide to pursue a career in retail?
Sharon Leite: I actually fell into retail. I answered an ad for an assistant store manager position while I was going to college. I loved fashion, enjoyed utilizing my generous employee discount AND was able to earn money too! Seemed like a “win win” all the way around. I enjoyed helping customers find solutions for whatever they came into the store for as well as the pace and constant change of the retail environment. Whether it was re-setting the floor, receiving a shipment or hiring a new associate, the ability to drive a business was exciting to me. The first time I earned the keys to my own store as a store manager, I knew I was hooked!
WIRLC: What are some strategies that you’ve used to motivate your team?
SL: I think it’s important to get to know the individual. Understand what makes them tick, what’s important to them. In doing so, you can determine how best to go about engaging and inspiring the individual or team to do their best work. Figure out how you can help them with the resources they need to accomplish the goal, remove barriers, help them be successful. Reinforce the good in what they’re doing so they keep doing more of it. Make sure they know that what they do contributes to the overall goal(s) of the organization and how it makes a difference.
WIRLC: Within the past 12 months, what are some professional initiatives, projects or accomplishments that you’re most proud of?
SL: I’m most excited about my recent move to The Vitamin Shoppe, and the opportunity to lead the organization. I’m really proud of the organization’s commitment to help our customer be “their best self,” however they define it. I’m inspired by our health enthusiasts and their commitment to our company’s mission of helping others with innovative products aiding them on their journey.
WIRLC: Looking back, what advice would you have given yourself when you started in the retail industry?
SL: Stay curious, always learn, and never stop! It’s so important as a leader that you continue to grow to ensure you can keep up with the pace of change and be able to help your team through it.
WIRLC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and what did you learn from it?
SL: The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career was when my value system and the company I was working for at the time were misaligned. During the time I worked for this company I was miserable. I dreaded going to work because I always felt my belief system was being compromised. What I learned from this was the importance of company culture, feeling valued in the workplace, enjoying the people I worked with and for, and the ability to contribute in a high-quality way to delivering the organization’s goals.
WIRLC: What one new retail technology or trend do you believe will have the biggest impact in 2019, and why?
SL: I think personalization is critical to the customer experience. It’s more than putting someone’s first name in an email; it’s the ability to address the customer how they choose as well as customize content based on the their purchase history. On the product side, building your own product or assembling a combination of products just for you, how you define it, will be key. Lastly, with the use of beacons, mobile point of sale, and Bluetooth technologies, retailers can greet customers by their name from the moment they walk in the store, and tailor the conversation based on what they’re looking for.
WIRLC: Given the fast pace of the retail industry, what’s your favorite way to relax?
SL: I enjoy spending time with my family and closest friends. Nothing like catching up with the people that mean the most to you. I love to travel to new places and explore new and different cultures.
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