Cover Story: The Top Women in Cross-Channel Retail
After receiving such great feedback on our inaugural list last year, we here at Retail Online Integration decided to make this an annual feature to highlight the leading female executives in cross-channel retail.
The women on this year’s list, as were those on last year’s, are the best and brightest in the cross-channel retail industry. They’re marketing and merchandising professionals, e-commerce experts, chief operation officers, and chief executive officers at cross-channel retail companies of all sizes. They’ve all helped their companies survive — and even thrive — despite the fast-paced changes taking place in the cross-channel retail industry and the economic hardships that have taken a toll on many companies over the last few years.
All of the women on this list are currently employed at a cross-channel retailer and, like last year, were chosen based on their position and scope of responsibility, accomplishments and achievements within their own company, and their involvement in the retail industry.
Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about the career paths of these top women as well as gain some insight from them — each woman has offered their best tip for succeeding in cross-channel retail in 2012.
Jill Braff, Executive Vice President of Digital Commerce, HSN
Jill Braff was appointed executive vice president of digital commerce for HSN in February 2011. In this position, Braff oversees the cross-channel retailer’s e-commerce, mobile and social media platforms and leads HSN’s e-commerce, digital marketing, merchandising and advanced services teams. In addition, Braff manages the development and implementation of new multiplatform initiatives for HSN.
- Tip: HSN’s customer is now watching our broadcast while shopping HSN.com on their mobile device. Being relevant on the second screen by providing compelling content and a unique, consistent brand experience across all consumer touchpoints is a tremendous advantage. Technology means that shopping now fits seamlessly around their life, schedule and interests. We have two audiences we need to serve: our loyal customer base that still prefers to shop in front of the TV with their phone in hand to place an order (although we’re seeing more who are watching on TV and using their mobile device as a second screen to look up additional info), and a fast-growing audience who tap into mobile, use their computer and follow trends on Facebook and Twitter to do their shopping. We need to be engaging them where they are.
Kerry Cooper, Chief Merchandising Officer, ModCloth
Kerry Cooper is chief marketing officer and chief operations officer at ModCloth, an independent designer fashion and decor retailer. Cooper is responsible for overseeing ModCloth’s marketing, buying, merchandising, human resources, customer service and customer acquisition. Cooper joined ModCloth as chief marketing officer in November 2011. Previously, she held multiple executive positions at Walmart.com, including chief marketing officer, where she was responsible for leading Wal-Mart’s global e-commerce and multichannel development. She also spent time at Levi Strauss & Company, where she was in charge of retail and planning for the company’s Dockers brand. Cooper started her career at McKinsey & Company, where she served in a variety of roles in venture capital and enterprise software.
- Tip: Social media is an update to the very essence of retail — stopping in the aisle and talking to your customer on a much larger scale. Make sure you’re participating in that conversation and reacting accordingly.
Lisa Gavales, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, EXPRESS
Lisa Gavales is the executive vice president and chief marketing officer at EXPRESS, a 600-store cross-channel retailer selling men’s and women’s fashion apparel. Overseeing marketing, visual and express.com, Gavales has been with EXPRESS since January 2008. She’s responsible for building the EXPRESS brand and creating compelling, consistent messaging and imagery. Gavales was instrumental in the launch of EXPRESS’ e-commerce site in July 2008. Prior to joining EXPRESS, Gavales spent 14 years at Bloomingdale’s, where she started as vice president of planning, became a general merchandise manager, launched Bloomingdales.com and left as senior vice president of marketing. Prior to Bloomingdale’s, Gavales spent five years as a retail strategy consultant for Management Horizons, a division of PwC.
- Tip: Focus on the brand first and channels second. Review people, reward people and measure brand success, not channel success. It’s easy to improve sales in one channel while hurting or at least ignoring the other. This doesn’t help. Remember our job is to take market share from our competitors, not other marketing channels.
Kimberly Grabel, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Saks Fifth Avenue
Kimberly Grabel is senior vice president of marketing for the 46 full-line stores and 61 OFF 5th outlet stores that make up Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s preeminent specialty retailers. Grabel is responsible for customer analytics and insights, brand strategy, advertising, direct marketing, customer development and loyalty programs, public relations, special events, social media, and production. Grabel joined Saks in 1995, holding positions of increasing responsibility throughout the marketing department. She also serves as the first vice chairman of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association of the National Retail Federation.
- Tip: All good cross-channel marketing is 360°, enveloping the consumer in a singular story. Don’t prescribe the approach to your teams, but paint the picture of what you want the consumer to perceive and experience. Insist on creative consistency, but allow your experts in the various mediums to figure out the best way to deliver that picture in each medium.
Cheryl Kaplan, Chief Member Advocate, Rue La La
Cheryl Kaplan oversees the customer experience teams at flash-sale retailer Rue La La, including creative, user experience, production, event programming and customer service. A member of the executive management team, Kaplan has been instrumental in the launch and growth of Rue La La and continues to represent the interest of the customer and brand to promote the best experience for all. Kaplan joined Rue La La after spending time as a key member of the SmartBargains.com management team. Prior to joining SmartBargains, Kaplan worked at RedRocket.com, a children’s online retailer and division of MTV Networks. Kaplan’s extensive retail background includes experience at The Original Levi’s Stores, Filene’s Basement, Gap and The Ozer Group.
- Tip: Obsess over the customer. Engage, listen, advocate and innovate and they’ll be as devoted to you as you are to them.
Lana Cain Krauter, Senior Vice President, President, Sears Apparel
Lana Cain Krauter joined Sears as a senior vice president and president of its apparel unit on Feb. 1, 2011. Krauter is responsible for both in-store and online merchandising along with driving a comprehensive vision focused on product, the customer experience and multichannel initiatives. Krauter came to Sears Holdings from Bealls Department Stores, where she was president/chief merchandising officer. Prior to Bealls, Krauter was executive vice president/general merchandise manager of men’s and children’s apparel for J.C. Penney. She’s also held senior leadership positions at Goody’s Family Clothing and Sears, where she oversaw the women’s ready-to-wear fashions, intimate apparel, accessories and import teams.
- Tip: Customers engage with brands that create exciting and relevant experiences for them — integrated through all digital, mobile, social and traditional shopping channels. It always comes back to the first rule of business: Know your customer!
Nancy Kunkle, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, ShopNBC
Nancy Kunkle is the senior vice president of customer experience at ShopNBC, a cross-channel retailer of fine jewelry, watches, premium beauty items, home products, computers and much more. Kunkle has a 25-year multichannel retail logistics background focused around project and program management and customer operations experience. She’s served as a strategic consultant for ShopNBC since April 2011 and currently oversees all aspects of the company’s customer experience program and customer service operations.
- Tip: The customer is at the heart of succeeding in cross-channel retailing. If you don’t deliver a great end-to-end customer experience, then no matter where you focus your energy and capital you won’t succeed.
Monica Luechtefeld, Executive Vice President, Global E-Commerce, Office Depot
Monica Luechtefeld is Office Depot’s executive vice president of global e-commerce. She oversees global e-commerce strategies and is responsible for driving over $4.1 billion in global internet sales for the office supplies retailer, including $1 billion in sales to small business customers. Luechtefeld has been with Office Depot for 20 years. She’s progressed steadily through the organization from vice president, marketing and sales administration to senior vice president, e-commerce to executive vice president, IT and business development to executive vice president, IT and supply chain.
- Tip: Customers must be at the center of the decision-making process. At Office Depot, our goal is to recognize and serve our customers across any channel they choose to shop, while ensuring our systems and operations support that experience.
Dani Nadel, Chief Digital Marketing Officer, Scholastic Book Clubs
Dani Nadel joined Scholastic Book Clubs in October 2011 as a senior member of the companywide team managing the digital transition of the children’s book retailer’s publishing and distribution. Nadel is responsible for the marketing and merchandising strategy for the launch of Scholastic’s children’s e-reading app later this year. She previously served as president at Publicis Modem, a full-service digital agency, where her clients included Hasbro, General Mills, SUBWAY, PayPal, among others.
- Tip: Always put the customer first. Go everywhere your customers go. Listen, experiment and share with them. Recognize the relationship and interdependencies between your channels in order to present one brand voice and a seamless customer experience.
Karen Quintos, Chief Marketing Officer, Dell
Karen Quintos leads brand strategy, corporate marketing and go-to-market initiatives for Dell’s Commercial Business Organization. Quintos is also the executive sponsor of the largest networking group at Dell, Women in Search of Excellence. Quintos previously held leadership roles in marketing, services, customer support and supply chain management at Dell. Prior to joining the company in 2000, she was vice president of global operations and technology for Citigroup. Before that Quintos spent 12 years with Merck. She’s a board member for the Association of National Advertisers, the Ad Council and Catalyst.
- Tip: It’s essential to understand your customers’ needs and use those insights to guide how you market and sell to them. Consumers will be loyal to those companies who can help them do and achieve more.
Martine Reardon, Chief Marketing Officer, Macy’s
Martine Reardon is the chief marketing officer at Macy’s. Reardon leads Macy’s multifaceted world of marketing, including advertising, social, mobile, digital media, public relations and cause marketing, special events, media planning, marketing effectiveness, creative, and brand campaigns for its more than 800 stores nationwide. In addition, she manages Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Day parade, along with overseeing fashion shows, fireworks displays and flower shows around the country. Reardon has risen through the ranks at Federated Department Stores and Macy’s, beginning in the special events department at Abraham and Strauss. Under her leadership, Macy’s has been named Mobile Marketer of the Year, received the Golden Halo Award for cause marketing and digital IQ of Genius in retail marketing.
- Tip: “Do everything, be everywhere and never fail to astonish the customer,” a quote from Macy’s first female general manager, Margaret Goetchel, in the 1880s is still great advice today, especially as it applies to navigating through new opportunities in the social, digital and mobile spaces. Commit to serving your customer wherever, whenever and however she wants to shop. Keep the brand experience magical regardless of the shopping channel she chooses.
Annette Repasch, Chief Merchandising Officer, ShopNBC
ShopNBC Chief Merchandising Officer Annette Repasch is a retail veteran with 25 years of experience. Repasch joined ShopNBC in May 2011 as vice president of soft lines. She currently oversees the company’s merchandising strategy and product development for all categories, including jewelry, watches, home and consumer electronics, beauty, health and fitness, and fashion and accessories. Prior to joining ShopNBC, Repasch spent more than seven years at QVC as vice president and general merchandising manager of apparel and accessories. She also held senior merchandising positions at Stage Stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lane Bryant and Bon-Ton.
- Tip: As our customers’ purchasing methods are ever-changing, we’re more careful of where and how she shops. Now more than ever the key to success goes beyond engagement. It’s about offering the latest products and services to keep our customers current, curious and entertained every time they interact with us.
Ginnie Roeglin, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce and Publishing, Costco Wholesale
Ginnie Roeglin is a 22-year executive with Costco Wholesale and currently serves as the retailer’s senior vice president of e-commerce and publishing. Roeglin is a member of Costco’s executive committee, serves on the company’s charitable contributions committee and chairs its women’s networking group Journeys. Prior to her current role, Roeglin was senior vice president of corporate marketing and services and assistant vice president of IT systems development for Costco.
- Tip: Provide customers with an easy, seamless shopping experience so they can find what they’re looking for whether in your buildings, on your website or on their mobile device.
Ivy Ross, Chief Merchandising Officer, Art.com
As chief merchandising officer for Art.com, Ivy Ross leads worldwide merchandising, branding and public relations for the company’s three brands: Art.com, AllPosters.com and ArtistRising.com. Before joining Art.com, Ross served as creative catalyst at Gap, running innovation sessions for Banana Republic, Old Navy and Gap. Prior to her role as creative catalyst, Ross was executive vice president of marketing for Gap and was responsible for the launch of the 1969 denim line. Leveraging advertising, social media, brick-and-mortar retail and PR, the 1969 campaign resulted in double-digit sales increases and helped re-energize Gap’s heritage as a denim leader. Prior to Gap, she was chief creative officer for Disney Stores North America. Ross has also held senior creative and product design positions at Mattel, Calvin Klein, Coach, Liz Claiborne, Swatch Watch and Avon.
- Tip: Put yourself in the position of “a day in the life” of your customer. Walk through all the different ways in which they’ll be coming in contact with your brand to get a feel for the impression that they’ll have by the end of the day.
Stephanie Sobel, President, OneStopPlus.com
Stephanie Sobel has held executive-level positions at several of the nation’s most prominent cross-channel retailers, including Macy’s and Honeybee, a division of Spiegel. Sobel started her career with Redcats USA in August 1999 as a general merchandise manager. In October 2006 she created OneStopPlus.com, the first online mall specifically targeted to plus-size women. Sobel became president of the OneStopPlus.com Group in 2008, directing a growing group of eight brands and websites including Woman Within, Roaman’s, KingSize Direct, Jessica London, FullBeauty, Brylane Home, BCOutlet and OneStopPlus.com. In September 2010, Sobel led OneStopPlus.com in launching the first-ever plus-size fashion show during Fashion Week, and in September 2011 she launched FullBeauty.com, a lingerie site dedicated to plus sizes. Sobel is a member of the Retail Marketing Society, the Creative Coalition and Dress for Success.
- Tip: Be true to your strengths. Leverage those strengths to test new opportunities in all channels. Remember your brand’s unique difference. Be bold and ambitious. Surprise and delight your customers every day!
Diane Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Brown Shoe Company
Diane Sullivan is president and CEO of Brown Shoe Company, a $2.5 billion global footwear company. Sullivan joined Brown Shoe in 2004 after nearly two decades in the footwear business, holding titles including vice chairman of the footwear group of Phillips-Van Heusen and president and COO of the Stride Rite Corporation. She was elected to Brown Shoe Company’s board of directors in 2007 and currently serves on the boards for BJC HealthCare and Enterprise Holdings.
- Tip: The consumer shopping dynamic is constantly changing. You need to keep your finger on the consumer pulse and be where they want to shop when they want to shop.
Erica Thompson, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Stride Rite
Erica Thompson has almost 20 years of experience in retail marketing, specializing in customer analytics, database marketing, loyalty programs and credit card marketing. As senior vice president of marketing for footwear retailer Stride Rite, Thompson is responsible for providing strategic direction around Stride Rite’s global branding initiatives, including advertising, marketing communications/PR, retail and wholesale strategy, CRM, e-commerce, and digital marketing. Thompson previously held senior-level marketing positions at PetSmart, Tweeter Home Entertainment, New York & Company and HSN. She also spent seven years at the Walt Disney Company in various business strategy and marketing roles and is a member of the Global Retail Marketing Association advisory board.
- Tip: To be a successful cross-channel retailer it has to be part of the company’s DNA. It can’t be forced tactic by tactic by one department. Everyone must be goaled against success in all channels to gain alignment.
Vicki Updike, President, Miles Kimball
Vicki Updike was named president of cross-channel gifts retailer Miles Kimball in February 2010. Updike has 20 years business and marketing experience with direct-to-consumer and business brands. Miles Kimball manages five direct-to-consumer brands: Miles Kimball, Walter Drake, Easy Comforts, As We Change and Exposures. Prior to joining Miles Kimball, Updike held direct marketing positions at American Girl and Lab Safety Supply. Updike is a board member for Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.
- Tip: Build your marketing strategy around a clear value proposition for customers, then continually fine-tune products, messages and channels to fit their ever-changing needs.
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer, Gilt Groupe
With over 12 years of international experience in luxury goods and retail, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, founder and chief merchandising officer of flash-sale retailer Gilt Groupe, is at the forefront of revolutionizing and innovating the landscape of luxury e-commerce. Prior to co-founding Gilt Groupe, Wilson managed retail operations at Bulgari, overseeing 15 North American stores, as well as managing leather goods sales for Louis Vuitton.
- Tip: In order to succeed in cross-channel retailing, it’s important to continually surprise and delight your customers. Now more than ever, customers expect constant newness and innovation. To continue “as is” is to appear outdated and stale. One of the best ways to keep customers engaged and on their toes is to listen to them and allow their valuable feedback to influence business decisions.