Study: Big Changes Ahead in Retail C-Suites

Expect to see a new wave of retail chiefs with global expertise and a digital mindset, according to a new study unveiled today by Women's Wear Daily and Berglass+Associates, an executive search firm specializing in retail and consumer goods. The study, which surveyed 127 retail professionals, 32 percent of whom were CEOs, found that there will be an overhaul of the C-suite and its boardroom by 2020.

"There are changes happening so fast in our industry that the present feels like the future," said Les Berglass, founder and CEO of Berglass+Associates, which has placed leading CEOs and C-suite executives throughout the retail industry. "The need for leadership talent that aligns with an increasingly savvy consumer will drive a virtual redefinition of both the C-suite and boardroom."

What you can expect to find in retail's C-suite in 2020:
  • Expect to see a different breed of board of directors. Only 22 percent of respondents believe their board today is very effective. In fact, 60 percent believe the makeup of the board (including experience and skillsets) will change by 2020, with 72 percent of these respondents expecting the Board to add leaders with technology backgrounds, and 64 percent expecting to add leaders with global expertise.
  • CEOs must be more digitally savvy with global expertise. Survey participants recognized merchandising among the top three most important skillsets of a retail CEO both today and in the future. Digital/technology and global expertise round out the top three most important skillsets that will be required of successful CEOs in 2020.
  • The chief customer officer will enter the C-suite. The biggest change to the C-suite will be the addition of a chief customer officer (CCO). While only 5 percent of the companies surveyed have a CCO today, nearly 25 percent expect to fill this role by 2020.
  • Leadership will come from outside the industry. Nearly 70 percent of respondents believe that C-suite leadership coming from outside of the retail industry will increase by 2020, specifically from Technology (57 percent), Pure-Play e-Retailers (51 percent), and Consumer Packaged Goods (43 percent).
  • Product innovation, consumer engagement and talent acquisition remain paramount to success. While great change is coming to the C-suite and boardroom, the survey found that retail's core performance areas will remain the same. Product innovation (98 percent), consumer engagement (98 percent), talent acquisition/retention (98 percent), and providing consistent consumer experiences across touchpoints (98 percent) were the top four areas of focus in both 2014 and 2020.
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