How to Start a New Role with a New Team in Retail…

One of the toughest jobs I was stoked to be selected for, was the running of Handbags and Accessories division at New York City’s Macy’s Herald Square in 2013.

Yes . . .  that one.  The same Macy’s that
hosts the Thanksgiving
Parade every year. Of course,
now you understand why
it was such a privileged
position to hold.

I knew when I accepted the position that it was Macy’s highest volume store and a multi-million-dollar unit and although I have many lessons I took away from that experience, I’ll save some of those for another blog.

Let me give you a little background first. Before Herald Square Macy’s I was managing a $30 million women’s clothing department in Miami, FL at the #3 Macys door. I was known for my strong leadership skills and compelling visual presentation setups. Then I was asked to relocate to New York City and enter Herald Square where after one year in the building I was ranked top 3 out of 35+ Merchandise Managers.

I was recognized as one of the strongest coaches in developing talent too and had promoted over 8 colleagues to middle management positions within my first year there in NYC. All of which brought me to my 2nd assignment at Macy’s Herald Square in 2013 running a $50+ million business in women’s accessories.  

I was to take over the position from a woman who had been running that massive department for 12 years! Under her management the department experienced many successes and by her own estimation was growing more and more difficult to handle. Being the trouble shooter that I am, I jumped right into the boiling pot and that, I will say, was when I made my biggest mistake.

Being the trouble shooter that I am, I jumped right into the boiling pot and that, I will say, was when I made my biggest mistake.  Within the first 2 weeks I pointed out several things that were inefficient or lacking in production and shared it with my leads.

Consequently, by week 3, I was public enemy number one.  I was confronted about my steam roller tactics, by my beloved team. I couldn’t believe it!  I literally thought that I blew this huge opportunity in less than a month. I had to re-think and re-do my strategy and leadership tactics and learned:  

“How do you start strong in a new role with a new team?” Here are some tips on how to do that and be successful:

  1. 1. Get personal. Share a little about yourself. 

Let them know where you are from, who you call family and talk about something you love (not pizza) something that is personal. It will make you more human!  Good introductions are key.

I did a trivia game one time and made the team try to guess things about me to break the ice a bit. It was fun and interactive vs me just talking about myself like it was an autobiography. 

2. Get Input. Have a meeting with your new team and ask them what they like and don’t like about their working environment.

Just listen to them!  That means DO NOT answer your phone, NO texting, NO tablet, NO anything. When someone is talking look them in the eyes while you listen. Have you ever tried to have a serious meeting with your boss and they were texting or gaming for the entire conversation? Needless to say, that does not make an endearing impression.

Respect your tenure colleagues.  They come with a wealth of knowledge from a business perspective and from a cultural prospective.  Try your best to utilize your tenure colleagues’ ideas and make sure to give them credit for it.

Some of the best ideas I’ve implemented came from associates and they deserved the credit and recognition for it. Setting aside time with them can give you real insight and as a bonus you might gain some of their trust

3. Get Real. Set clear expectations on what you expect from your team

This is the time to go over the business focus and explaining why things need to be done in a certain way. Setting expectations on treatment of customers, treating each other with respect, schedules etc.

It doesn’t hurt to make an appointment with your boss to see their observations on processes and things as well so from the beginning you are on the same page with expectations.

4. Get Patience. Ensure you don’t change anything for the first month. Observe and take notes of what’s working and what isn’t.  

There are times when things are done in a certain way, not for productivity sake but for humanity sake.  For example: I had a support colleague who had worked in New York store for 50 years and really could not move around at all.

He just was not productive and took forever to get the trash thrown out or to process shipment, however he lived to go to work…literally. I used to give him easier tasks and looked the other direction despite how slow it took him to get anything done. I had to have so much patience with this support colleague but in the end we grew close and he brought such optimism to the team. 

You might be in a situation where the previous manager is still on site. Take the time to visit with them and listen to their advice . . . yes, even if they were terrible at their job, I have found that everyone has something to contribute. Goodwill goes a long way and in business you should never burn your bridges. Lesson here NEVER BURN BRIDGES!

Tough to be a new boss…communication is key

5. Get Intel

Ask the team what they want from you as you are in this new role. 

When I entered this women’s accessories role, the #1 question I was asked to do in my new role was recognition. I was shocked. The team wanted upper level senior executives to understand everything they did and how at times their jobs are not easy. Immediately I would recognize the team on the floor in the mist of my store manager and always spoke highly of my team in front of my boss.

Hope these tips help as you transition into your new role as a boss! Remember transitioning into to a new role with a team can be hard but focusing on your people and your style of management is the #1 priority. Tell me about a time you started a new role and what were your top 2 struggles with transitioning into the job?

Hope these tips help as you transition into your new role as a boss! Remember transitioning into to a new role with a team can be hard but focusing on your people and your style of management is the #1 priority. Tell me about a time you started a new role and what were your top 2 struggles with transitioning into the job?


South Florida’s Sawgrass Mills: Open Amid Pandemic

So what is it like shopping in South FL outlets during pandemic?

Like everyone else… Sawgrass Mills is open and accepting customers, but I wanted to see the experience for myself especially in the Colonnade area of the outlets where the designer section is located.

If you are not from South Florida,
Sawgrass Mills, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area as well as one of the biggest outlet malls in the United States. At Sawgrass Mills they carry Versace Outlet, Michael Kors to Gucci and for the most part the luxury experience is usually very evident in these establishment at all times. With the pandemic I wanted to see how different it is and how they are really functioning with customers. 

Being that this is South Florida and June…it is HOT! HOT as ever! So, having to walk store to store outside with a mask on is not comfortable, but it is the smartest and safest thing to do right now. Sawgrass requires all stores to enforce wearing masks inside their establishment.

As I was strolling by each store, everyone I passed gave you the option to enter but some locked their doors and you had to knock to be let in. It was a way to control capacity in each store. I also saw that some doors had the option of curbside pick-up which I find to be interesting as well. Burberry, John Varvatos were all welcoming customers but the one store that stood out to me was Kate Spade. I like Kate Spade especially their handbags and phone cases. They are usually one of the first to get the newest iPhone case covers.

As I walked by, I wanted to check out Kate Spade but the door was locked. An associate came to the door and spoke to me through the door and asked me, “What do you need help with?”

I was confused at first as to why she didn’t open the door, but I saw then that there was a sign that spoke of curbside pick-up ONLY. Basically, Kate Spade is only offering curb side pickup vs entering the store at all at during this time. What I found weird was if I didn’t do curbside, the associate was yelling through the door asking what items I was looking for and would then bring me a sample to look at through the door. I couldn’t touch anything mind you. It was hard to hear her and to even pick what I wanted. Needless to say, if I want to get something from Kate Spade I am going online.

I understand being safe but having to scream through the closed door to try and purchase something is tough to do, and the luxury feel goes out the window. 

The interesting observation I saw while shopping at Sawgrass was that the other doors did not do this. The ones that were open were allowing customers to come in and shop with social distancing and mask procedures. It was complete opposite shopping experience in Tory Burch though. Tory Burch at Sawgrass came off like a free for all. The door was open, and customers were going in and out and ignoring the arrows of where to walk and 6 ft apart guidelines completely.

Associates were selling and people were brushing up against each other constantly. I didn’t stay in this store for long. Hey it is up to the store and customers in there to choose to shop in that manner. No criticism there. 

The best experience I had that day shopping was in St. Laurent or aka YSL. YSL let customers in and were so inviting. I actually had an amazing customer service experience with a salesperson named Mel. She was so friendly and showed me the most amazing buys, unfortunately the shoes I wanted were not in my size, but she got a hold of WhatsApp information and vowed to contact me when new merchandise arrives.

I loved that she was still pushing her clientele even during COVID 19. Despite the setbacks in retail it is always great to have a great retail shopping experience. Have you had any Covid-19 shopping experiences to share?

Business Strategy

Retail store standards to get the customers shopping

One of my first retail passions was visual merchandising…

This includes setting a floor to visually appeal to the customer. It’s one of the top priorities in having a successful store of any kind. It can make or break you with regards to the first impression of your establishment and induce ease of shopping for your customer. Here are some things to look for when executing a strong presentation for your stores shopping environment:

  1. 1. Shopping Fixtures & Displays:
  • Look at placement of fixtures & displays when you enter a store. Is it ADA approved? (Is there ease of movement for wheelchairs as well as stroller) Can customers effortlessly walk from the front of the store to the back of the store? Ask yourself these questions whether you are a boutique owner or a store manager.
  • Are your fixtures & displays mobile? Can you move things around easily to change up your store? Too many times new fixtures or displays coming into my department are heavy or cumbersome making them not easy to move. Think about fixture capacity, placement and mobility. Trust me you run the risk of damaging your fixtures and having to buy new ones.

Once when I was involved in a floor renovation corporate purchased these heavy white tables that could not easily be moved. My team and I placed 8 out of the 10 tables but the other 2 could not fit on the floor.  My Operations Manager needed them out of his stockroom but with the amount of merchandise coming in, we didn’t have the space to place those bulky white tables. In the end we had to trash those last 2 tables which cost over $1500 each. What a waste right?

2. Outfit & item inspirations is a must

If you do not have a compelling statement with items or outfits you can confuse and frustrate your customer. Here’s the thing, many customers walk into a store or go online to learn how to dress to put certain pieces together.

What I view as a strong visual statement is mannequins in action positions showcasing the pieces/items (running, sitting, up-side down etc). I also love when retailers collaborate with another company and produce amazing displays together. For example, The Peanuts (Charlie Brown Christmas) and Macy’s collaborated between 2014-2016 during Christmas time and all the New York Windows were focused on scenes from the famous TV special.

It also showcased some of Macy’s great memorabilia merchandise and winter items. It was a brilliant visual statement and it drove the cold weather category severely that year.  

Mannequins and merchandising of walls are also important in order for your customer to understand your viewpoint and inspire their style and the need to shop in your store. I always love walking into a store with bold wallpaper. It brings texture and placing the correct merchandise on it will just give the store a wow piece. Have you ever been to @All Saints? I just love their display of the old sewing machines on their walls and window displays, it messages to the customer that they are known for amazing tailoring and strong in traditional sewing.

3. Recovery:

  • Ensuring your floors are recovered is key. It speaks volume to the customer and it paints a picture of the level of professionalism.
  • One time I went to a store (I won’t name) and tried to shop their denim department…as I wrote before “TRIED.” It was challenging. All the sizes were mixed and all the denim cuts were everywhere. What really shocked me was the condition of the floor on a Wednesday! If a floor is a bit challenging on a Monday I may be understanding, it follows a weekend, where stores get most of their foot traffic. Chaos on a Wednesday… I’m looking at the leadership and the engagement of the colleagues for sure.
  • Fitting rooms have to be cleaned and it is a plus when a sales associate is going in and out of the fitting room removing clothes and helping customers. That tells me someone is attending customers and that the store really cares. Fitting rooms can make or break a customer experience.  And honestly when I was an assistant store manager, fitting rooms were my least favorite to deal with.
  • More often than not, there was a surprise in there (enough said)!!. At first, I used to avoid it and just ensured my managers checked on them, I soon realized that if I followed up constantly on fitting rooms then my team will do the same.

4. Merchandising on the Floor: 

  • When merchandising a floor, think about flow and how merchandise is placed. It’s an art but it can be learned. Base it on the brand and their identity. For example, Free People placement of goods is completely different than a Zara. Zara largely focuses on items & categories while Free People focuses on placing their goods in a collection with eclectic outfits created.
  • Breaking up colors and prints is key to not overwhelming the customer when shopping a store. I can’t tell the difference between a shirt, pants and scarf all the same color put together on a rack. It goes the same way if you had multiple printed items all together.  Break up prints with a solid color so the eye can see every piece.

Just remember Visual Merchandising is much more than just placing goods on the floor, you have to look at it from every aspect especially because of the customer. I’ve been bred a merchant so I look at so many things vs the normal customer when I enter a store. What do you pay attention to the most when you shop a retail store or e-commerce website?