The Top Women in Retail
Total Retail's sixth annual list of the leading female executives in the retail industry
The 2016 list of the leading women executives in retail features some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. This year's honorees were chosen for being in a top-level position within a retail organization, along with several other criteria, including their scope of responsibility, achievements within their own companies, and their involvement within the retail industry. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about these retail luminaries, from what they enjoy most about their jobs to how they lead teams of employees to what they enjoy doing when away from the office, as well as much more.
We posed six questions to each of this year's honorees to learn more about them. We've chosen one of those six questions and featured it here. For the full interview with each honoree, please click on their name.
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
Mary Beech, Chief Marketing Officer, Kate Spade & Company
“The immediacy of the connection with our customer. We’re telling the story of the kate spade new york brand every day, and our customer is part of our story, the very essence of the story. Our retail stores and digital presence provide not only amazing mediums in which to tell our story, but a feedback loop with our customer that’s both enlightening and inspiring.”
Shelley Broader, President and CEO, Chico’s
“There are so many aspects of the retail industry that I love and all of them are about reaching people. What I’ve most enjoyed in my 25-plus years in retail — both in stores and within the corporate environment — is the incredible opportunity to deliver memorable experiences and products that excite the consumer in-store and digitally. We’re in one of the most thrilling times for retail. New markets, new systems and new delivery channels are fueling a deeper understanding of the customer and helping us deliver better experiences. The interaction with associates and the amount of untapped talent and strategic thinking that exists in the field has always been a source of new ideas and inspiration for me.”
Deborah Cavanagh, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Talbots
“Marketing is where my heart is. It’s where business and creativity intersect, art and commerce — the right brain, left brain side of the business that I embrace and enjoy. Strategizing, producing, disrupting, promoting, listening to our customer while also understanding the business of marketing, the money, the return on investment. In the ever-changing landscape of fashion, the opportunities come at high speed. Retail is kinetic, driven by the trends in culture, fashion, values and economy, with a daily scorecard and challenge to innovate and problem solve.”
Jan Clevenger, Executive Vice President, General Merchandising Manager, Belk
“The challenge. Building out merchandise strategies that move the business over a three-year to five-year time period requires a lot of different skill sets, and the knowledge I’ve built in my 15 years with Belk has served me well. I’m able to bring my unique understanding of our stores to my current role in merchandising. There are assortment nuances between stores of varying volume sizes across our 16-state footprint, and it’s so helpful for me to have visited most of our 300 stores. I understand our customer and I know where our opportunities lie. I’m results oriented, which focuses me on problem solving — a much needed skill set in retail! I love the fast pace and the ability to juggle a lot of different priorities every day. This job is a lot of fun!”
Gina Collins, Chief Marketing Officer and Brand, Build-A-Bear Workshop
“I spent more than a decade in CPG and, while the pace was fast, you can’t truly understand retail until you’ve worked directly in the vertical chain. One of the things I enjoy most is making an impactful business decision on a Monday and seeing the results reflected in the business as soon as Tuesday.”
Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty
"I love being in our stores with our incredible associates. We have more than 22,000 beauty-loving associates across our nearly 900 stores who help us deliver all things beauty, all in one place. I’m particularly proud that we give our associates — 92 percent of whom are women — opportunities to grow into leadership roles. In the last two years alone, we promoted 1,200 women to management positions. That’s incredibly rewarding for me as CEO. On top of this, we’re providing more jobs. We’ve created more than 5,300 jobs in the last two years, an increase of 30 percent."
Marci Grebstein, Chief Marketing Officer, Lowe’s
“The retail industry is so dynamic. No two days are alike, and it’s never boring. I do my best work when there’s constant change and always need to consider the ever-changing needs of the customer. Working in retail requires both very short-term execution to meet the day-to-day needs of the business as well as long-term strategic planning to understand your customer and think about where the company wants to be in the future. Having to balance both is very engaging and energizing to me.”
Adrienne Lofton, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Marketing, Under Armour
“Working in the retail industry is one of the most satisfying experiences I could have ever hoped for. The thing that gets me most excited and inspired is having the ability to remain very close to the consumers (in this case, athletes) we serve through data analytics and insights. This allows us to understand the kinds of products and solutions they’re looking for and deliver against that desire. It’s always our goal to build product and tell stories that ultimately maximize the athlete’s ability to succeed in competition and in life. This is our obsession, and when we deliver against that very specific consumer proposition, we consider it a job well done and something worth celebrating.”
Susie McCabe, Senior Vice President, Global Retail, Under Armour
“I love that retail is both art and science, instinct and data. For me, retail has always been the perfect mix of strategy, financial acumen, creativity, problem solving, inter-personal connections and emotion. It has an amazing pace and rhythm to it. No day is the same, but there are patterns that you can come to expect. Retail has always energized me!”
Bonnie Orofino, Chief Merchandising Officer, Restoration Hardware
“The fast pace and working with a team that’s always innovating and creating/executing new ideas — a team that truly doesn’t know what cannot be done.”
Emilie Arel Scott, CEO, Quidsi
“My dad was a small business owner, Arel’s Flowers & Gifts, for 35 years — it just closed this year. The store was another member of our family and a big part of our small community in Minnesota. It was so much more than a place people went to transact. That’s what I love about retail. It isn’t just about a P&L; it’s about people, places and behaviors. The trends in the worlds of politics, fashion, technology, economics and geography all show up in retail in the way people shop. It’s always changing; there’s always a new day and something new to learn. I find it fascinating.”
Erin Sellman, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Insights and Planning, Lowe’s
“In retail, we have an incredible opportunity to truly understand and get up close and personal with customers. On a daily basis, we consider things like what do they want from a shopping experience, what products are relevant, what’s important to them, and what would make them act or respond a certain way. The challenge, however, is how quickly everything changes. It challenges us to evolve with them — minute by minute. To listen and, most importantly, to think ahead of what our customers will want or expect of us next, whether in-store, on their electronic devices or in their homes. Retail has evolved into creating differentiated, special experiences for our customers, and I like knowing that the work I do at Lowe’s contributes to that.”