Big Company Retains a Small Company Feel
CS: What has been your greatest career challenge?
Klaus: The rise of discounters, like Target. Although we have an upper-income client base, and Target has perhaps a more moderate-income base, there are many upper-income people who shop there. It’s really changed our business.
Prices have declined in the basics arena (such as girls’ leggings and turtlenecks) as a result. We’ve had to replace basics with fashionable and unique items. We’ve had to not only pick new merchandise [that discounters don’t carry], but find both new and branded vendors that stand out enough from the generic products discounters carry. Ralph Lauren is probably the best example of a new vendor [whose products] we’ve acquired in the last five years. It sets us apart, because customers are willing to pay a premium for that brand.
CS: What else sets CWD apart?
Klaus: It’s the change we went through, from being a small entrepreneurial company to a big company. We’ve retained a small company feel. We have the controls and the analysis, but at the same time we’ve retained an ability to act quickly. We’re not paralyzed by huge committees.
We’ve established a good balance between a big company’s controls and analysis, and a small company’s ability to get things done. That carries through to every aspect of our business. For example, with merchandising, we meet with vendors, we make a decision very quickly; it’s not a long process. This helps us get product into catalogs quickly.