Retail’s 10 Best CEOs

Tim Denman
Editor in Chief
a man wearing a suit and tie

As the retail industry continues to reinvent itself amid increasing competition and changing market conditions, the value of a strong and innovative leader is more important than ever. Without a strong CEO at the helm, no retailer can expect to thrive in today’s transformative landscape and set itself up for a prosperous tomorrow.

There are numerous financial metrics upon which to grade a successful retail CEO ― revenue, stock price, growth, etc. ― but the views of the retailer’s workforce are just as important. Quite simply if a retail CEO doesn’t have the respect and buy-in from his/her employees they will be unable to adequately implement their agenda.

In its annual look at the Highest Rated CEOs, glassdoor utilized thousands of employee provided CEO reviews submitted over the past year. The entire list is available here. Below is a quick look at the 10 retail CEOs that made the cross industry ranking.

Charles C. Butt, H-E-B. H-E-B Grocery Stores is a privately owned supermarket chain with stores throughout the Texas and northeast Mexico. Butt has been at the helm of the grocery chain since the early 70s when he inherited the family business. H-E-B is known for its employee-centric business approach and at least some of the credit goes to Butt, evidenced by his 97% approval rating. The generous H-E-B employee benefits include: scheduled raises, bonuses, discounts, flexible schedules and upward mobility. Employees Approve: 97%.

Calvin McDonald, Sephora. Sephora is dedicated to facilitating a digitally fueled shopping experience for its consumers. Under McDonald’s leadership, the retailer continues to introduce innovations to its customer-facing digital technology through its mobile enhancements that are blurring the distinction between physical and digital retailing. The retailer is equally focused on providing an engaging and rewarding work experience for its scores of associates. According to glassdoor’s research, the cosmetics retailer offers its employees deep discounts, work/life balance and paid time off. Employees Approve: 93%.

Mark G. Parker, Nike. With Parker at the helm, Nike continues to expand its reach around the globe and is one of the world’s fastest growing retailers. The manufacturer and retailer is investing heavily in the digital experience with a focus on direct-to-customer sales. Ninety-three percent of Nike’s employees approve of their CEO and are onboard with his strategic vision for the company. Employees Approve: 93%.

Tim Cook, Apple. Since taking over as CEO in 2011, Cook has made glassdoor’s highest-ranked CEO list five times. However, in the latest report the tech veteran fell to 53rd place overall, his lowest finish on record and a steep drop from his eighth place finish in 2016. Apple continues to invest heavily in the store experience, debuting a new store design and customer experience to keep is 495 retail locations on the cutting edge. Employees Approve: 93%.

Peter Agnefjall, IKEA. On September 1, Agnefjall will no longer be IKEA’s CEO, with company veteran Jesper Brodin assuming the chief executive chair. Brodin will have some big shoes to fill, at least on the employee satisfaction front. Under Agnefjall’s leadership the retailer has made glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list twice in the past four years. IKEA offers medical/dental insurance, vacation, paid maternity/paternity leave, tuition assistance, a bonus program, 401(k) matching, a pension plan, professional development, training and mentoring programs, free uniforms, and a discount for shopping at the store. Employees Approve: 92%.

Hubert Joly, Best Buy. Joly has overseen the rebirth of Best Buy during his five years in the CEO seat. While other electronic retailers have closed their doors, unable to compete with the mounting online competition in the market, Best Buy has emerged as the leader in the segment. The mere survival of the chain alone surely would have garnered the CEO employee backing, but Best Buy has done more than just survive. Best Buy recently went public on the second phase of its digital transformation, dedicated to continued omnichannel growth while simultaneously cutting costs and driving efficiencies. Employees Approve: 90%.

Jerry Stritzke, REI. REI is known for its work/life balance, often putting the personal needs of its employees and customers ahead of pure profitability. For the past two years the retailer has closed its doors on Black Friday to allow its employees and customers the opportunity to #OptOutside, and spend the day enjoying the great outdoors instead of shopping. The program clearly earned Stritzke the respect of his employees, helping propel him to his first appearance in this ranking. In addition, 85% of employees would recommend the retailer to a friend in the job market. Employees Approve: 89%.

Devin Wenig, eBay. Wenig has been president of eBay since 2011 and added the CEO title to his nameplate in 2015. Despite the fact that 89% of employees approve of Wenig, just 73% would recommend eBay to a friend looking for a job. To stay competitive in the e-commerce space and regain some of its previous swagger eBay is investing heavily in artificial intelligence technology to analyze shopper and seller behavior and take its personalization efforts to the next level. Employees Approve: 89%.

Crain Jelinek, Costco. Costco employees enjoy some of the best benefits in retail including: high starting salaries, health and dental benefits, 401K, life insurance, stock options, etc. Costco generous employee benefits have helped propel Jelinek to one of the most highly-rated CEOs, earning a place in this ranking the past four years: 2017 (#88),  2016 (#46), 2015 (#13), 2014 (#6). In addition, IKEA made glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list every year since 2012, finishing as high as 16th place in 2014. Employees Approve: 89%.

Blake W. Nordstrom, Nordstrom. Blake Nordstrom has made this ranking for the fourth time in the last five years despite not technically being the CEO of the company that bears his name ― he is co-president with Peter and Erik Nordstrom. The trio, along with James and Bruce Nordstrom and Anne Gittinger announced in the spring that they are exploring options to take the iconic retailer private. Nordstrom, like most other department and apparel retailers, has struggled of late, victims of increased online shopping and lagging foot traffic. By going public Nordstrom would have the ability to rebuild the organization to compete in the modern marketplace without the pressure of meeting Wall Street expectations.  Employees Approve: 89%

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