“Set the pace.” The phrase comes from racing, where it is said of a horse that passes the others and leads the field. This year’s Pacesetters are truly establishing a higher standard for executives in the retail industry to follow. From harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, to mastering data and more, our 2019 honorees make up a pack of inspiring, fast-rising retail executives leading their field today.
RIS’ annual look at fastest-rising retail executives features game-changing power players from across retail verticals. Every member of the list has one thing in common ― they are boldly breaking the mold on what retail can be and setting the pace for success in the face rapidly evolving technology. This is a group to emulate in the race for retail triumph.
Congratulations to the retailers named below, they are true industry leaders.
Director of Business Systems and Analytics, True Value Company
Before joining the team at True Value in 2016, Gregory Conradt worked at Sears Holdings for 12 years overseeing a team of techno-functional experts that formed the retailer’s business support teams and implementing the JDA Demand and Fulfillment solutions. At True Value, Conradt has brought his vast experience with digital transformation initiatives to bear.
For example, to help the hardware chain predict variability within demand better, Conradt’s team has developed an integrated solution that considers more constraints that enable operational efficiencies.
“We are able to identify opportunities for improvement to sales variability that inevitably drive the need for higher inventory in the face of uncertainty,” he says. “We are now able to forecast at levels True Value has not been able to reach traditionally. A couple of examples would be forecasting at key channel levels like key accounts, on-line and international. This ability enables us to incorporate real-time intelligence via our collaboration capabilities of JDA and the numerous algorithmic nuances native to the demand planning suite.”
Thanks to his team’s work, True Value has made huge leaps in responding and anticipating demand and inventory placement at speed. Looking ahead, Conradt says the team is on track to launch key capabilities through JDA causal factor modeling for weather impacted items by the end of 2019.
This retail pacesetter advises others to check their egos at the door if they want to enjoy sustained success in the competitive field of retail IT. “Your value to an organization isn’t ‘what you do’ every day. It’s the skills and approaches you bring every day that is valued.”
vice President of Supply Chain, Thrive Market
As a direct-to-consumer online grocer, Thrive Market relies on a powerful and nimble supply chain capable of getting orders to shoppers quickly and efficiently.
Jeff Chaput joined the surging e-commerce grocer two years ago as its vice president of supply chain and went to work building a foundation that could support and enable the rapid growth the company was experiencing.
With a broad mix of distributors, new and established brands, and private label manufacturers in its supply chain, it was critical that Chaput and his team could quickly determine how different parts of the supply chain were performing and focus on those areas in need of enhancement.
The first step was to develop and deploy key metrics and processes, so expectations could be clearly communicated and managed consistently with vendors. Next, the team engaged with SPS Commerce to equip Thrive Market with a robust EDI solution, leveraging the solution provider’s staff and services to test and certify hundreds of vendors, streamline communication, and provide deeper visibility into the supply chain.
And finally Chaput led the development of a vendor portal to empower suppliers with the key data needed to maximize success with Thrive Market, including sales forecasts, point-of-sale data, inventory details and a supplier scorecard.
“Each of these advancements provides the team with visibility to every step of the supply chain, the data to identify further improvements, and vendors committed to mutual success,” says Chaput. “Next up is the implementation of Relex, a forecasting and planning tool that will deliver improved in-stock and inventory efficiency and reduce shrink. We also plan to implement a robust cross-docking strategy to drive transportation cost efficiencies. Improved forecasting and automating receipt of inbound shipments utilizing ASN data are also on deck.”
Head of E-Commerce Risk Operation, Finish Line
Thanks to a rash of high-profile data breaches, cyber security has quickly risen from afterthought to top retail priority.
Dajana Gajic-Fisic is the head of e-commerce risk operation at Finish Line and is charged with the difficult task of keeping her team at least one step ahead of fraudsters. She does so by implementing the newest and most advanced technology available, including a cutting-edge machine learning fraud screening solution which makes nearly 100% of its decisions without human interaction.
“This has made our fraud operations faster, more reliable and efficient,” she says. “Besides technology, I have created and adopted completely new and unique approach to fraud management. This 360-degree approach focuses on segmenting fraud/risk operations process into four components: prevention, investigation, reporting and analytics, and strategy. Each component feeds into the next one, creating a holistic picture of the fraud and risk we are facing, helping us learn from the data and be more proactive.”
The goal of the new strategic approach is to increase cross-departmental collaboration as well as collaboration with third-party vendors. This helps ensure that all internal key players, as well as outside vendors, are operating in conjunction with Finish Line’s greater goals.
“Fraud is most of the time an afterthought,” says Gajic-Fisic. “It is not a topic of conversation until it becomes a problem. I am working on fighting fraud proactively and we strive to ensure that every part of our organization successfully contributes to these efforts.”
Following the implementation of Gajic-Fisic’s new strategic and technological approach, Finish Line has increased its approval rates by almost 7% and has significantly decreased its chargeback rate. In addition, her team’s focus has shifted from managing fraud, to increasing revenues at minimal risk.
Director of New Business Development, Macy’s
Mohamed Rajani is responsible for driving growth at Macy’s through the development of new business models, retail concepts, partnerships and strategic investments and acquisitions.
As the director of new business development he helped conceptualize and launch The Market @ Macy’s, a retail-as-a-service concept that is democratizing access to physical retail for hundreds of brands. He also helped craft the strategic investment in b8ta, a first for Macy’s, to power and scale The Market.
In addition to managing the evaluation and diligence for potential investments and acquisitions, Rajani is responsible for Macy’s immersive technology (XR) initiatives, including VR/AR, which is solving critical consumer pain points while driving incremental revenue and reducing returns. Rajani was responsible for piloting and deploying VR/AR experience in Macy’s furniture division, and led the largest rollout of customer-facing VR experience in retail in six-months.
“The core objective of the technology was to remove customer friction in the furniture buying process,” he says. “Given it’s a high consideration purchase, customers are concerned about the size, fit and aesthetic of their purchase which leads to a longer purchase cycle and costly returns. We found a practical application of VR technology to remove these pain points.”
After an initial three-store pilot, Macy’s scaled the experience to more than 100 stores with additional locations planned throughout 2019. Customers are able to design their spaces with 3D-rendered Macy’s furniture, to visualize their living spaces using a VR headset and make adjustments in real time, driving their purchase confidence. When a customer goes through the VR experience, their purchase value is typically 45% higher, and are 25% less likely to return their furniture.
Dustin Rehmann, Sr.
Internet Marketing Manager, lamps plus
Dustin Rehmann has a knack for seeing and implementing connections across seemingly disparate data sets. This skill comes in handy at Lamps Plus, a nationally recognized e-commerce brand with three dozen stores in the western U.S., where the majority of marketing spend is allocated online and properly attributing spend with overall performance is key.
Rehmann, now the senior Internet marketing manager, began his career with Lamps Plus more than 10 years ago as a search engine marketing (SEM) analyst, holding positions in search, media planning, e-mail, social and acquisition. Recently, he is focused on initiatives to deliver a true measure of campaign performance and to better allocate marketing spend.
“Looking to provide a more holistic view of performance the team and I began working on systems to pass offline transactional data that was stored in disparate data tables directly to key partners,” he explains. “At the same time we began working with a new multi-touch attribution vendor to bring together data across all our business channels including e-commerce/mobile, in-store kiosks, and store POS data, and tie sales data back to the contributing marketing campaigns with the goal of better budget allocation and planning.”
This data proved critical, allowing for better real-time optimization of the source marketing campaigns where multi-touch attribution is more forward looking. Lamps Plus is now able to apply budgets more effectively and see the true fractional value of its marketing efforts across all campaigns and tactics.
Rehmann and his team are now working to enhance the retailer’s CRM platform to deliver more personalized experiences. Rehmann is exploring building an in-house device graph to help get the retailer closer to a 360-degree view of the customer without relying on third parties.
IT Director of Reporting, Marketing and Analytics Systems, Urban Outfitters
Paul Reigel is passionate about data and how using it can improve processes and provide insights that drive business results. He believes AI and advanced analytics will transform the retail industry, as they deliver insights quickly and allow retailers to shift from a reactive to proactive approach.
Reigel has spent 17 years in the retail industry and has been with Urban Outfitters for over eight. For the last five, he’s led the enterprise reporting, marketing, and analytics systems teams at the retailer, ensuring delivery of accurate information and insights in near real-time to support all of Urban’s global brands, including Anthropologie and Free People.
Most recently, Reigel has been working with AI-based inventory optimization provider Celect to deploy a store allocation optimization solution that places the right type of products in stores with the appropriate quantity.
“If we can put the right assortment of products at the right depth in each store, we’ll be able to maximize floor space and provide the best possible assortment for our customers” Reigel says. “Having machine learning take the guesswork out of store allocations by using sales predictions and allocation optimization has helped us increase sales sell-thru in stores. With these tools, along with Celect’s Order Fulfillment, we continue to integrate AI into more business process opportunities which directly affects the bottom line.”
Currently, Reigel is working to rollout an additional AI-based tool for store restocking, which will predict sales based on local conditions and then determine if additional inventory is needed. Reigel and his team are also moving its on-premise data warehouse systems to the cloud, which will set the stage for more near real-time AI-based capabilities.