The retail industry touches the lives of everyone on a daily basis. Filled with innovative technology in a rapidly changing landscape, retail is constantly on the move ― and its success is impossible without knowledgeable leaders working hard to evolve the industry and steer the ship into the future.
RIS’ third annual “Influentials: Top Movers and Shakers in Retail” highlights the retail executives, analysts and solution providers that are shaping the retail landscape and developing and deploying cutting-edge technology.
The executives featured below were chosen for their contribution to the retail industry and their respected companies. Whether they are launching a new retail venture, innovating cutting-edge technology, or helping set the retail agenda, these exceptional leaders are pioneering the entire industry forward. To compile this list, RIS interviewed each executive to uncover the keys to their success and the technological innovations they have helped bring to the market.
Read on to find out more of what makes each of these leaders a retail tech influencer and one of RIS’ Top Movers and Shakers.
vice president of allocation and replenishment, Belk
Tim Carney’s retail career spans nearly three decades and a variety of roles in merchandising, planning, and allocation. He spent 16 years at Macy’s and May Department stores and has been with Belk for the last 13 years, where he serves as the retailer’s vice president of allocation and replenishment.
At Belk, Carney integrated SAS Size Pack Optimization into the department store’s end-to-end order process, combining SAS’s algorithms with Belk’s home-grown assortment tool to optimize the size distribution on all national and private brand fashion orders. After launch, Belk saw some its private brands grow as much as 230 basis points over a four-year period.
Now Carney is working on launching and integrating JDA’s Allocation Tool with SAS’s size intelligence to improve the size distributions of Belk’s final allocations. His team also plans to move the department store beyond its cross dock capabilities in 2020, using its distribution center to fill in by size.
When asked what he’d change about the retail industry if he could, he said he’d love to see retailers establish deeper community impact programs.
“Caring for our communities is a core value at Belk, but before I came here, I was simply encouraged to write a check and contribute to one charity a year," he says. "Financial donations are important, but Belk has taught me that true partnership goes beyond writing a check and that if we really want to make a difference, we need to give something much more valuable – our time.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT TIM
He's an outdoor enthusiast and avid mountain biker
Co-Founder and CEO, Farmstead
Pradeep Elankumaran is a co-founder and CEO of Farmstead, an online grocer that delivers fresh, local food for free. The startup’s AI-powered marketplace is a drastically different way to shop for groceries.
“Our customers are able to completely skip the weekly trip to the supermarket,” says Elankumaran. “While getting fresher groceries delivered to doorstep in hours for less than what they pay at the store.”
The next frontier for Farmstead and Elankumaran’s is the development of its advanced, machine-learning driven Smart Shopping List. The customer personalization tool helps shoppers fill their grocery cart with just the right items they are looking for in minutes per week, saving busy consumers even more time.
“Retail is currently knee deep in the 'innovator's dilemma,’” Elankumaran says about the current state of the retail industry. “I wish we could leapfrog the step where we still hold onto stores. And move aggressively towards the world where everyone is tapping buttons to get things, while at the same time getting the same level of personalization that they get when they shop for themselves at stores.”
Elankumaran’s laser-focus on the future was formed and nurtured while he was still a physics and astronomy student at the University of Maryland. “I had the good fortune to meet and work with Piet Hut, from The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton,” he says. "He was an amazing example to me during those young years that pursuing topics that pique your interest professionally can demonstrably lead to a life that's more balanced than following the paths already laid out for you.”
Prior to founding Farmstead and serving as its CEO since its inception in 2016, Elankumaran spent many years starting and running design and operations-focused consumer technology products. He led the driver growth product team at Lyft, mobile video monetization and Livetext at Yahoo, and also co-founded the YC-backed mobile photo-sharing product Kicksend (acquired by Lyft).
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT PRADEEP
He likes to keep busy
CEO and Culture Leader of Aptos
The highlight of Noel Goggin’s career has been the launch of Aptos as an independent company, as well as the tremendous progress and momentum it has experienced since its 2015 spin-off, which he directed as the company’s CEO and culture leader.
“When we launched, it was a bit of a novel concept that an end-to-end software company – with a sizable customer base and solution portfolio – could focus 100% of its business on just one industry vertical,” Goggin explains.
In Aptos’ case, this was retail.
“The results speak for themselves – in less than three years, we had doubled our customer base, number of colleagues and revenue," he says. "At present, we’re serving over 1,000 retail brands in 65 countries, and we are now the largest solutions provider focused exclusively on retail.”
Goggin brings more than 25 years of experience to overseeing Aptos. Prior to Aptos he was EVP and GM at Epicor and was the general manager of retail strategy at RedPrairie, where he significantly grew the organic contribution of the business unit, and was a key catalyst in the organization’s transformation from a services provider to a software company focused on global retail verticals. He also co-founded and held senior leadership positions with several enterprise software companies.
Currently at Aptos, Goggin and the company have brought to market Aptos ONE, a microservices-based SaaS platform that is delivering innovation and disruption to the retail technology landscape.
“Since the launch of Aptos ONE, Aptos has developed a vibrant ecosystem of retailers adopting the platform, including the recent selection by global luxury fashion brand Michael Kors,” says Goggin. “In addition to Michael Kors, many of the world’s largest and most well-known retailers are piloting Aptos ONE and exploring what it means to finally keep pace with the speed of consumers.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT NOEL
He grew up on a working farm in Ireland and hopes to own farmland in Steamboat, CO
Chairman and CEO of Revionics
Marc Hafner boasts more than 25 years of experience successfully driving leading growth in organizations ranging from startups to large Fortune 500 divisions. As chairman and CEO of Revionics, Hafner says it’s been exciting to lead the team delivering price optimization that takes advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver measurable, significant business impact for retailers.
“I’m excited to see the accelerating embrace of these capabilities among retailers worldwide,” he notes.
At Revionics, he’s been a part of a company that’s grown from having a single product and only being in North America to now having multiple product suites across a broad platform, serving customers in multiple languages and 20 different countries. Currently Hafner says his team is on the cusp of bringing to market additional science techniques around pricing that will take AI in pricing to a new level.
Hafner arrived at Revionics in October 2010 and previously served as VP and general manager for NEC’s Servers and System Software Group, president and CEO of PerformanceRetail, president and CEO of BroadCloud, and EVP of corporate strategy, corporate and business development at Westell.
You may have also seen him perform at RIS' Rock & Roll Retail event. His passion, outside of retail, is rock and roll guitar and his band Lost in Austin has performed at events such as Revionics’ annual retail executive forum, Insight.
Just like in a band, Hafner says at work he surrounds himself with smart, capable people, and “then I focus on enabling them to be productive and ensure we don’t curtail their creativity. We nurture a culture where they feel empowered to do what they need to do to align with our customers’ best long-term interests.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT MARC
His biggest influence:
Co-founder, Operations & Development, Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART)
Sterling Hawkins is a business leader, entrepreneur and investor who runs innovation for the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART), evaluating over a thousand new retail technology companies every single year. Currently, he’s focused on automation of all flavors — including robotics, AI and computer vision.
“My staff loves it when I talk about the solution being inside of the problem,” Hawkins notes when asked what advice he gives his team. “It’s only when we dive into ‘problems’ and get the rub of differing opinions and perspectives that we are we able to come up with solutions that can make a real difference for us and our clients.”
In 2004, Hawkins co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena, but when asked about his biggest accomplishment he says he’s most proud of the keynote speaking he does today.
“I speak on the future of commerce (what it looks like and how to get there) to thousands of people all over the world annually, leaving them with the inspiration and the tools to make a real difference with their companies,” says Hawkins.
In addition, through CART Hawkins has partnered with universities, including Stanford and Cornell, to incorporate the future of retail into their curricula, and as a go-to-market channel for relevant startups.
Hawkins notes it he could change one thing about retail it would be the culture.
“Most of us in retail are focused on delivering customers value, and that’s a good thing,” he says. “But oftentimes we get stuck in doing it the same way we always have. If we can free up our business cultures to stay focused on the customer value but constantly look for new and innovative ways to do it, we’ll transform what retail looks like.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT STERLING
He is a certified yoga teacher
Throughout his four decade career in retail technology, Ken Morris has held IT leadership positions at leading retail companies and his consulting expertise has helped hundreds of retailers solve business and IT problems.
Prior to founding Boston Retail Partners (BRP), this industry thought leader was CEO and president of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears.
Morris said his biggest accomplishment has been that he designed, built and owned the largest lost prevention solution, XBR, before selling it to Micros/Oracle. He also founded and built best-in -class retail management teams – BRP and CFT Consulting.
BRP is working with several retail clients that are implementing augmented reality at stores with visual products, like furniture, making this innovative technology a game changer in the retail customer experience. He’s also working on real-time retail.
“Today’s retail model is moving beyond omnichannel by breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform with a single order management system to deliver a holistic, real-time, personal, seamless experience,” Morris notes. “The importance of real-time visibility and access to product and customer information across channels has grown significantly over the past few years as it drives significant benefits to retailers and consumers.”
Morris says if he could change one thing in retail, it would be to get retailers to invest in infrastructure.
“Retailers have notoriously been reluctant to invest in infrastructure, because they are too focused on quarterly results,” he notes. “Where would we be as a country if we didn’t invest in railroads and highways? Retailers should apply the same long-term approach to their technology strategy.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT KEN
He spends his free time outdoors and with family
CEO of Badger Technologies
Tim Rowland brings more than 38 years of engineering, manufacturing, testing, sales and strategy development to his position as CEO at Badger Technologies, a product division of Jabil.
Rowland is responsible for driving all aspects of the sales, development, delivery and service for Badger Technologies’ line of multipurpose, autonomous robots. Prior to Badger, Tim spent 28 years at Lexmark, where he launched an engineering start-up focused on retail robotics. When he’s not knee-deep in robotics, he says he’s often immersed in some home-improvement project that involves building something — like fences, decks and sheds.
Home projects aside, Rowland says he gets great satisfaction as he reads the description of Badger’s new product — a multipurpose, autonomous retail robot that collects operational data to improve grocery store safety and efficiency.
“This new generation of robots combines in-store data collection with onboard data analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud-based applications to improve store operations and in-store shopping experiences,” he explains. “In partnership with Ahold Delhaize USA brands, including Giant/Martin’s and Stop & Shop, Badger Technologies is deploying nearly 500 robots, which represents the largest grocery rollout to date. As I reflect on Badger Technologies’ accomplishment, I am humbled by what our team did and realize how fortunate I am to lead some of the world’s best engineers and programmers who have banded together to achieve what has never been done.”
Initially, the robots were focused on inspecting floors for potential hazards. They can also scan store shelves to identify missing, mispriced or misplaced inventory, while assisting with planogram compliance and auditing requirements.
“Next, we plan to tackle other store inspection and audit requirements,” Rowland says. “For example, these multipurpose robots could perform regular inspections of temperatures in refrigerators and freezers as well as monitor store lighting and perform security details as part of a connected store strategy.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT TIM
How he influences his team:
Senior Vice President, Customer Experience and Operations, DSW
Brian Seewald has been with DSW for seven years and has held various positions throughout the organization. He started his tenure at the retailer focused on e-commerce and omnichannel operations. He had a key leadership role in the retailer’s newly created transformation function, focusing on the execution, adoption and change management necessary to maximize large, transformational projects. In his current role as SVP of customer experience and operations, he is responsible for creating a seamless shopping experience for all DSW customers.
“I’m passionate about the evolution of the retail customer experience,” Seewald says. “Retailers must change in order to meet the changing expectations of their customers. The team and I are in a unique position in moving that experience forward for DSW.”
Seewald is incredibly proud of his team’s work building the omnichannel shopping experience. The retailer started its transformative journey years ago and continues to perfect the omni-experience. DSW fulfilled its initial vision of “any shoe, anywhere, any time,” and is now working on leveraging data to supercharge and tailor the experience for shoppers.
“We are heavily focused on personalizing the customer experience,” Seewald says. “DSW’s VIP loyalty program, championed by our marketing team, is an amazing example of how powerful a personalized and relevant experience can be. We would like to take that even further in both the digital and physical environments. We are at the beginning of this journey but are extremely excited about what it will mean for our customer.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT BRIAN
His love of baseball
Vice President, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
Brendan Witcher is an authority on consumer behavior and technology trends, as well as best practices, strategies, and tactics required to win, serve, and retain today’s digitally-savvy consumer. At Forrester Research his primary role is advising Fortune 500 executives on retail’s ongoing digital disruption and transformation.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with some great organizations during some of the most exciting times in retail’s history,” says Witcher. “My proudest moments are when I get a call sometime after an engagement and a retailer informs me that they applied a strategy that generated a material benefit, or avoided a costly mistake, as a direct result of us working together.”
Prior to his five years at Forrester, Witcher worked in retail for more than 20 years and held multiple leadership positions in marketing, e-commerce and strategic planning with retailers such as Guitar Center and Harry & David. He started his executive career as an entrepreneur, founding multiple companies and was the CEO/owner of Chicago’s famed Elbo Room Nightclub.
He is a frequent speaker at industry events providing an insider’s perspective on retail and is regularly sought after by business and consumer media to comment on new and emerging retail trends and technology.
“There is a rampant misperception that buying tech can solve all of a retailer’s problems,” Witcher says when asked if there is anything he would change about the industry. “The reality is that when leadership fails to take an active role in fixing their company’s cultural barriers, organizational silos, missing skill sets, and outdated measurements of success, the company will be the same next year as it is this year. No technology in the world will enable them reach their long-term goals and stay ahead of disruption.”
ONE THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT BRENDAN
He is a trained chef from France’s Le Cordon Bleu