Fourth Annual CIO of the Year Awards


Michael Braine, North American SVP & CIO, Luxottica
Luxottica continues to grow its influence around the world as both a retailer and wholesaler and was in need of a single solution to manage its supply chain, inventory, demand generation and pricing. In order to achieve a clear view of the enterprise across retail, wholesale and manufacturing channels, formerly-disparate systems needed to be seamlessly integrated — easier said than done with 10 retail chains and an ever-expanding product line.  

Reorganizing the tech stack to work seamlessly in an omnichannel world is a challenge all to itself, but was further complicated as Luxottica worked hand-in-hand with fellow retailers/wholesales to develop the solution. Michael Braine worked with executives from Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani and Adidas on the latest incarnation of SAP’s Fashion Management Solution. The co-innovation partners invested their time and intellectual capital into the project that resulted in a single solution that was able to topple previously siloed channels that were preventing the retailers/wholesalers from a clear, real-time view of the enterprise.  

“With the replacement of our legacy applications and the implementation of a core retail systems platform a solid foundational capability has been created for our organization that is capable of local tailoring and scalable for global growth,” Braine says. “Within our retail IT organization it isn’t about what we are going to implement tomorrow for a quick gain or a short-term ROI. Instead it is about transformation, ensuring the survivability of our systems landscape for the next 10 to 20 years.”

A real-time view of inventory across the enterprise provides the eye-care giant with significant bottom line savings. Traditionally, retailers have offset a lack of inventory visibility with increased product in the supply chain — not the most cost effective response but better than disappointing customers. With the previous siloed systems integrated Luxottica is able to lessen its inventory needs while simultaneously sharing SKUs across the enterprise to get them where they are needed most — in the customer’s hand.

“The customer is at the center of everything we do at Luxottica,” Braine says. “It is an exciting time to be in retail IT and the opportunities to deliver a positive impact on the future of technology are endless.”

Strategic Impact

Karen Etzkorn, CIO, HSNi  
Karen Etzkorn is the linchpin behind a multi-year systems transformation of core processes and technologies currently under way at HSNi. The transformation is designed to not only increase operational efficiency but create a seamless experience for customers.

At the core of the overhaul is the brand’s Boundaryless Retail initiative. The project’s goal is to create a retail reality that is devoid of artificial barriers, driven by innovation and collaboration that leverages the power of technology to create a frictionless experience for customers. The retailer is redefining shopping around content, community and commerce — creating the experience with imagery, video and personalization. Boundaryless Retail focuses on the four screen world: TV, tablet, PC and mobile.

HSNi redesigned its website in 2013 and continues to tweak its e-commerce site to optimize performance and maximize sales, while simultaneously focusing on all channels including the increasingly popular mobile shopping experience. Mobile is currently around 15% of HSNi’s business and is the retailer’s fastest growing channel — in Q1 2014 mobile sales were up 44%.

Etzkorn and her team continue to improve the mobile channel to increase customer engagement and sales through personalization. HSNi’s mobile strategy is multi-tiered and focused on targeting customers with mobile-only offers on key shopping days based on customer behavior. The goal is to enhance mobile through a customer-driven, platform-specific design and user interface while engaging with shoppers through gamification. The retailer has several online games in the HSN Arcade which are available to customers free of charge, helping to build shopper connection with the brand.

“I get to participate in everything that we do to drive value and engagement with our customers,” Etzkorn says. “I am proud of my team for what they accomplish on a day-to-day basis. I am excited to be able to represent them by receiving this award. There has never been an award like this in the retail industry and I thank RIS for this. I think it gives all of us retail CIOs and our teams a nice pat on the back for the work that we do every day.”

Rookie of the Year

Todd Lyche, CTO, Guitar Center
The online leaders continue to grow their market share thanks to their willingness to operate as break-even businesses. In this environment it is more important than ever for retailers to have a real-time view of the competitive pricing landscape and to price their SKUs accordingly.

Guitar Center’s target market spans both music professionals and hobbyists. The omnichannel retailer is encountering increased competition from both inside the musical instrument industry and the broader electronics industry, making educated assortment and pricing decisions critical to continued success.  

In his first year at the helm of Guitar Center’s IT department, Todd Lyche and his pricing team were called upon to research and implement a pricing intelligence solution to gain valuable insights into the competitive pricing landscape. The retailer had a legacy pricing solution in place but it was not providing the level of real-time market transparency needed to price its products correctly.

After deploying the new pricing intelligence solution from 360pi, the retailer was able to immediately utilize the software’s actionable insights to optimize margins and right price products in real-time. Pricing intelligence is not just about having the lowest price it is about discovering where SKUs are underpriced and giving away margin unnecessarily.  

“The pricing solution has been a real milestone for us,” Lyche says. “It has allowed us to effectively enter the pricing game and compete with the likes of Amazon.” The solution is also being used to identify prospective minimum advertised price (MAP) violations from online retailers to ensure they have a fair and competitive playing field. With 80% of Guitar Center’s online assortment governed by MAP, the ability to easily audit MAP violations provides significant strategic value to the company.  
“Receiving the RIS award was a great milestone for both Guitar Center and me,” Lyche says. “We are moving forward with innovative projects that are making a positive impact. I am proud to be a part of a great organization where we are able to successfully execute on projects like the pricing initiative.”

Lifetime Achievement

Richard Mader, Director Emeritus, ARTS
“Mr. ARTS” served as executive director of the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) from its founding in 1993 through 2012, leading it from an ad-hoc group of IT executives to the preeminent global retail standards association it is today. To date, ARTS standards have been implemented by hundreds of retailers and software solution providers across more than 95 countries.

In 1999, Richard Mader left his successful CIO career behind him, transitioning from the head IT post at Boscov’s to the full-time leader of ARTS. “I hated to give up the power of the CIO, but it all worked out great,” Mader said. “When you are out there knocking doors, making calls, and trying to get people to cooperate to build standards for the good of the industry some days you think wow was this really worth it? Should I have done this? And then things start to take hold and they work and prove to be beneficial to the industry.”

Under Mader’s 20 years of leadership, ARTS developed 32 standards that enable near-total automation of retail operations, faster implementations, and lower overall IT costs. Having taken a step back from the day-to-day operations of ARTS the past couple of years the industry veteran has transitioned from driving standards to industry sage, and has the following advice to those down in the IT trenches:

“Number one, there are two types of people you are going to run into in business: people that are friends and people who you think are your friends. Figure out which are your true friends and stick with them and they will stick it out with you. Number two, keep your priorities straight. It is important to be dedicated to your work, but your life outside of work is equally important.”
In his lifetime achievement award acceptance speech Mader thanked all of the people he met and worked with around the world when he was leading ARTS. He acknowledged their willingness to put their individual business pressures and concerns aside and come together to help build standards that would benefit and guide the industry as a whole.

“I have been so rewarded for having the opportunity to get to know them,” he said. “It really is a thrill to be given a lifetime achievement award. We built the standards that helped build the industry. You can’t do better than that.”

• Dave Weinand, SVP, Edgell Communications
• Joe Skorupa, Editorial Director, RIS News
• John Lauderbach, VP Information Technology,
   Roche Bros. Supermarkets
• Sahir Anand, VP Research and
   Principal Analyst, EKN
• Cathy Hotka, President, Cathy Hotka &
   Associates, LLC
• Gaurav Pant, Research Director, EKN
• Timothy Denman, Senior Editor, RIS News
• Nicole Giannopoulos, Managing Editor, RIS News
• Robert Fort, Former SVP, Guitar Center
•  Greg Girard, Program Director, IDC Retail Insights
• Richard Mader, Director Emeritus,

Strategic Impact
• Steven Hunter, Stage Stores
• Mike Hazel, Academy Sports & Outdoors

• Terry Clements, Shoe Carnival
• Luis Paez, Perry Ellis
• Paul Webb, Century Martial Arts

Rookie of the Year
• Paul Yater, GNC

Candidates were nominated through an online process open to anyone in the retail and technology industries. The nominations identified the technologies implemented, their business benefits, and projected RIO.
A panel of 11 judges from across the industry reviewed the nominations and scored each on a 10-point scale. The judge’s scores were weighed equally and the nominees with the highest total score in each of the three categories were named the winners.
The lifetime achievement award nomination process was not open to the public. It was decided upon by the panel of judges.  

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