Cover Story: The Top Women in Cross-Channel Retail
Welcome to Retail Online Integration's third annual list of the best and brightest women in the cross-channel retail industry. The women highlighted on this list are marketing and merchandising professionals, e-commerce experts, and chief executive officers at cross-channel retail companies of all sizes. They've all helped to position their companies to succeed in today's fast-paced cross-channel retail environment.
All of the women on this list are curently employed at a cross-channel retailer and, like the previous two years, were chosen based upon their position and scope of responsibility, accomplishments and achievements within their own company, and their involvement in the retail industry.
Take advantage of this oppurtunity to learn about the career paths of these top retail executives as well as gain some insight from them. Each woman has offered her best tip for success in cross-channel retail this year.
Katherine Bahamonde, Executive Vice President, Global E-Commerce and Operations, C.Wonder
Katherine Bahamonde is responsible for C. Wonder's e-commerce business, including online marketing, and is the strategic architect for all things digital. Bahamonde also oversees companywide distribution and logistics at C. Wonder, an apparel, accessories and home décor retailer launched by Burch Creative Capital. Prior to working at C. Wonder, Bahamonde held leadership roles at Citibank, Nike, PepsiCo Inc., Sears,lululemon athletica and Juicy Couture. She graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Business School and is a board member of City Kids.
TIP: The challenge extends beyond systems and data. Ensure that organizational structure, culture and training fully support the cross-channel customer experience.
Elisabeth Charles, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Petco
Elisabeth Charles joined Petco, a pet specialty retailer, in February 2009 as senior vice president, chief marketing officer and a member of the company's executive committee. In her role, Charles oversees Petco's brand strategy, creative, advertising, CRM and loyalty, customer analytics and insights, PR, and social and digital media for over 1,200 stores across the United States. Prior to joining Petco, Charles served as the executive vice president of marketing for Victoria's Secret Stores; senior vice president of global corporate marketing for Herbalife International; and also held senior marketing roles at Ideaforest.com, YUM! Brands and PepsiCo Inc. Charles began her career as an associate consultant with Bain & Company.
TIP: Develop your marketing and creative campaigns with a multichannel, multimedia view from the onset so that they can be effectively and consistently delivered across every customer touchpoint for a seamless customer experience.
Amy Choyne, Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer, Kenneth Cole Productions
Amy Choyne has 15-plus years marketing executive leadership and global marketing experience. Choyne is the senior vice president/chief marketing officer for Kenneth Cole Productions, where she oversees all marketing, advertising, visual display, social media, cause marketing, public relations, customer insights and data analysis. Prior to joining Kenneth Cole Productions, Choyne served as global executive director of marketing for Anthropologie, a division of URBN Inc., from 2010 to 2102. She also served as vice president of marketing at Barneys New York from 2006 to 2010. An expert in consumer brand management and brand building across all channels, Choyne has also held senior marketing positions within Giorgio Armani S.p.A., The Limited Brands and A|X Armani Exchange. Choyne earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She also holds a secondary degree in graphic design and advertising from Parsons School of Design.
TIP: Break down company silos by rolling up your sleeves and getting on the retail floor or online to gain better perspective of what's driving customer experience and conversion. Success is measured not only by sales, but also by end user experience, loyalty and engagement. Relevant content and creative consistency is key across all channels. Understanding the ever-developing social matrix and customer engagement is key to being ahead of the curve and translating activity into a loyal base.
Kelly Cook, Senior Vice President, Marketing, DSW
Kelly Cook was named senior vice president of marketing at Designer Shoe Warehouse(DSW) in March 2012. Cook is responsible for engaging the organization to dutifully optimize all customer relationships. She's accountable for DSW Rewards (it has approximately 19 million members), precision marketing strategy, customer-advanced analytics, research, call center, social media, digital media, the online customer experience and advertising. Cook most recently held an executive role at Waste Management. While there, she launched an inaugural CRM framework, which quickly drove significant results. This strategy included customer-centric operational diagnostics and frontline employee rewards. This undertaking marked a major shift in the company's transaction-focused culture.
TIP: Love living. Inspire passion. Share glory.
Catherine David, Executive Vice President of Merchandising, Pier 1 Imports
Since joining Pier 1 Imports in 2009 as executive vice president of merchandising, Cathy David has led the company in developing a best-in-class buying organization that creates one-of-a-kind assortments, which continues to drive top-line sales growth. Previously, she served as president and chief operating officer for Kirkland's, Inc. David has also held senior leadership positions with Sears Holdings and Target Corporation. During her tenure at Target, David led a team that was responsible for launching target.com. David was a charter member of the Shop.org board of directors and is now a director emeritus. She received her B.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and her M.B.A. from Northwestern University.
TIP: Being a best-in-class multichannel retailer is all about a focus on the customer, which transcends the focus on channels. Each area of the organization must be focused on the same goal — surprising and delighting the customer — and strategies must be aligned across functions. At Pier 1 Imports, we know our customer has more choices than ever before and we're committed to providing unique assortments and an exceptional, seamless experience wherever she engages with our brand.
Kristen D'Arcy, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce, Oscar de la Renta
Kristen D'Arcy is the senior vice president of e-commerce for Oscar de la Renta. Having joined the brand in 2011, D'Arcy is responsible for building its e-commerce business, overseeing the operations, planning, buying and merchandising for OscardelaRenta.com, in addition to teams leading online acquisition and loyalty efforts. Prior to her current role, D'Arcy was responsible for Ralph Lauren's U.S. digital marketing activities, including search, email and affiliate marketing teams.
TIP: Be innovative and nimble. Test, learn and optimize.
Matey Erdos, President and CEO, Sundance Catalog
Previously Sundance Catalog's chief operating officer for seven years, Erdoswas named president and CEO in the latter part of 2009. As the gatekeeper of the brand and an advocate of driving customer engagement, Erdos is responsible for leading the team to deliver progressive growth across all channels — retail, catalog and digital. Erdos was previously with J.Crew before joining Sundance Catalog in 1993.
TIP: It all starts with engaging the team across the organization with your brand attributes — i.e., the differentiating qualities that ultimately drive customer engagement and loyalty. Lead with a well-defined and integrated approach to enable the team to be successful. Never lose sight of the customer. Listen to what she's telling you, watch where she gravitates towards and stay in front of her at every touchpoint. Earn credibility with your customer by being consistent, yet never stagnant. Be true to the brand and never deviate, yet always offer what's fresh, new and unexpected.
Debbie Ferrée, Vice Chairman and Chief Merchandising Officer, DSW
Debbie Ferrée currently serves as the vice chairman and chief merchandising officer of Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW). Ferrée joined DSW in October 1997. She served as president and chief merchandising officer from November 2004 to January 2006, and as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer from March 2002 until November 2004. Prior to that, Ferrée served as senior vice president of merchandising beginning in September 2000, and vice president of merchandising beginning in October 1997.
TIP: Put the customer first and deliver a consistent and seamless experience across your brand — assortment, convenience and value — at every touchpoint.
Elizabeth Hui von der Goltz, Senior Vice President, General Merchandise Manager, Bergdorf Goodman
Elizabeth Hui von der Goltz is the senior vice president, general merchandise manager, at Bergdorf Goodman, and is responsible for fine apparel, designer sportswear, bridal, coats, lingerie, swimwear and jewelry. Hui von der Goltz joined Bergdorf Goodman in 2000 as a buyer, advanced designer. Prior to Bergdorf Goodman, she held positions at Barneys New York and Henri Bendel.
TIP: Retail is about the ultimate experience for your customer. Across all channels of a company, the customer should experience exceptional service while they're discovering the newest as well as latest and greatest in fashion and beauty. Always move your customer forward into the future by showing them new items and bringing them the best customer experiences, with communication spanning all channels — online, in-store, print and social media.
Renee Thomas Jacobs, President, NapaStyle
Renee Thomas Jacobs has been the president of NapaStyle, Inc. since 2009. NapaStyle is a cross-channel retailer founded by Chef Michael Chiarello that sells fine products in the home, kitchen, food and garden categories. Over the past four years, Jacobs has guided NapaStyle through a complete turnaround and restructuring. The turnaround included significant infrastructure changes and shifts in marketing tactics and category focus. Successfully managing the cross-channel levers within the business was the primary driver in bringing the company back to growth and profitability. Jacobs started her retail career in 1991 at Title Nine, which she helped grow into a robust cross-channel brand.
TIP: Stay nimble. Keep your brand consistent across all channels and touchpoints while maximizing each channel by category and price point.
Amy Jain, Co-Founder, Baublebar
Amy Jain is a co-founder of BaubleBar, an online jewelry retailer that offers stylish, well-priced accessories under BaubleBar's private label and through partnerships with top designers and brands. Jain conceived BaubleBar with her co-founder, Daniella Yacobovsky, during a project at business school and the two decided to turn the concept into a viable retail business. Previously, Jain was an associate at Centerview Partners, a boutique advisory and private equity firm in New York City. Jain has a B.A. in economics and political science from Yale University and a MBA from Harvard Business School.
TIP: Cross-channel initiatives are an opportunity to humanize your brand for customers. Everyone wants to meet the team and personalities behind their favorite brands, and a focus on creating engaging experiences and services offline — not simply commerce — will further instill loyalty with your fan base.
Beatrice Lafon, President, European Division, Claire's Stores
Beatrice Lafon is the president of Claire's Stores' European business, having joined the company just over a year ago. Lafon grew up in Paris and started her career working for brands such as Marks & Spencer and Dorothy Perkins. In 1991, she moved to River Island as a buying director, followed by further directorship positions at Woolworths and Homebase, where she launched the brand's e-commerce site, the first do-it-yourself transactional website in the world. Lafon most recently lead the sale of TJ Hughes in the U.K. and the repositioning and return to profitability of The Etam Group.
TIP: Always put your customers first and at the core of your plans when making choices about your proposition. Provide seamless integration to deliver a satisfying brand experience.
Anne Martin-Vachon, Chief Merchandising Officer, HSN
Anne Martin-Vachon joined HSN in May 2012 and serves as the home shopping television network's chief merchandising officer. In this role, Martin-Vachon oversees the product development, assortment, pricing, category expansion and merchandising of HSN brands across all product categories. Prior to joining HSN, Martin-Vachon was the chief marketing officer for Nordstrom, Inc., where she was responsible for all marketing and visual merchandising operations for Nordstrom, Nordstrom.com and Nordstrom Rack. Martin-Vachon earned a MBA in marketing and international business from McGill University and a bachelor degree from the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres.
TIP: You should always be in tune with the consumer because ultimately you need to follow her, not the other way around. Be externally focused as the world is changing every day. Be nimble, flexible and adaptable.
Pattiann McAdams-Russell, General Manager, Direct Business, Bath & Body Works
Pattiann McAdams-Russell is the general manager overseeing the direct business for Bath & Body Works, a division of Limited Brands, Inc. Prior to joining Limited Brands, McAdams-Russell spent 10 years leading AVON, a global brand on the internet. McAdams-Russell began her retail career as an e-commerce leader with PCFlowers, the first company to transact online through Classic Prodigy Inc.
TIP: To be successful in cross-channel retailing you must have organizational alignment on key brand strategies as well as clarity of roles and responsibilities. Invest in talent that will evolve competencies as you facilitate the transformational initiative. Leverage your brand's key assets; don't reinvent your brand. Customers' needs are evolving quickly and how you transform to maximize the channels to influence and inspire customers will be keys to success.
Phyliss Sorese Mosca, President, Ulla Popken
Phyliss Sorese Mosca was named president of Ulla Popken, a cross-channel retailer of plus-size women's apparel, in June 2008, after seven years in a part-time/consulting role with the company. Mosca's commitment to plus-size customers is built upon a deep knowledge of this market from 23 years of experience, including prior senior marketing positions at Silhouettes and Brylane. She oversees all company functions from product development, marketing, IT, customer service and operations to branding direction. During her four-plus years of stewardship, Ulla Popken's sales have grown by more than 65 percent while profits have increased more than tenfold.
TIP: Know your customers and the emotional needs your business fulfills. Be sure what you offer satisfies them better than anyone else and your business can become a true loyalty-producing brand. Gaining that necessary understanding is much faster and simpler today, with an abundance of information at our fingertips. However, recognition of brand inconsistency and lack of authenticity is also faster. Consumers can tune out or, worse, easily and widely share their negative reaction. Discerning and utilizing the abundance of real-time information allows you to best serve your loyal customers while making it easier to find and attract more of them.
Leigh Rawdon, CEO, Tea Collection
Leigh Rawdon co-founded Tea Collection in 2002 to offer children's fashions that celebrate the beauty found in cultures around the world. Tea Collection is a true cross-channel company, with product available at teacollection.com, in Tea Collection's catalog and in more than 500 retailers, including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's. Tea Collection has been recognized for the last five years in Inc. Magazine's "Inc 5000" list of America's fastest-growing private companies. Rawdon holds a BA in English from Davidson College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Before co-founding Tea Collection, Rawdon worked in product marketing and in operations with technology-focused companies.
TIP: Before you dive into cross-channel marketing strategy, think hard about your customer's needs and desires. If your product delivers a great consumer experience, it will flourish in any channel.
Shari Rudolph, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Bonfaire
Shari Rudolph is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Bonfaire, a luxury e-commerce destination offering exclusive first access to the best of next season's designer shoes, handbags and accessories for pre-order. Rudolph is responsible for driving customer acquisition, marketing, branding, partnering, social media, and customer care strategies and initiatives. Prior to starting Bonfaire, Rudolph held posts as vice president, e-commerce at The Wet Seal, a national specialty retailer, and chief marketing officer for Kaboodle, the web's largest social shopping site and a unit of Hearst Corporation. Bonfaire is her second consumer internet startup as a co-founder.
TIP: Shopping has always been social (think Tupperware parties and gaggles of girls at the mall). Now there are more tools than ever to share information, putting a tremendous amount of power in the hands of the customer. Don't be afraid. Embrace it, give up some control and obsess over learning from the customer.
Janet Taake, Senior Vice President, Merchandising, Ulta
Janet Taake has served as senior vice president of merchandising at cosmetic and beauty products retailer Ulta since December 2008. Prior to joining Ulta, Taake was senior vice president and chief merchandising officer for Babies"R"Us from 2006 to 2008. From 2004 to 2006, Taake served as vice president and general merchandise manager, home fashions, for Sears Corporation. From 1998 to 2006, she served in various senior merchandise management roles with Mervyn's (Target Corporation). Prior to 1998, Taake served in senior merchandise management and buyer roles with various national and regional retailers.
TIP: Look at everything you do through the eyes of the customer. Make sure your organization is in lock step to create seamless in-store and online experiences, supported by integrated print and digital marketing strategies.
Daniella Yacobovsky, Co-Founder, Baublebar
Daniella Yacobovsky is co-founder of BaubleBar, an online jewelry retailer that offers stylish, well-priced accessories under BaubleBar's private label and through partnerships with top designers and brands. Yacobovsky conceived BaubleBar with her co-founder, Amy Jain, during a project at business school and the two decided to turn the concept into a viable retail business. Previously, she worked in finance at American Capital Securities and at UBS Investment Bank. Yacobovsky holds a B.S. from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.
TIP: Cross-channel initiatives can function as an incredible community-building tool for brands, particularly ones that launched online. We've found that women who shop with us online are SO excited to experience BaubleBar in person, and bring their friends to create a very social and lively shopping environment.