Retail NaviGator

The Retail NaviGator - our communication to you about our research on retailing issues and the activities of the David F. Miller Center. This ongoing media change creates a direct connection to the retailing community in a way that keeps information current, direct and GREEN!

In this issue:

Dan Buethe with Lindsay Campbell and Stacy Feibelman

Payless ShoeSource: An Easy Decision!

By Cecilia Schulz

We asked a Gator who accepted a position with Payless ShoeSource how she knew it was the right fit for her. Then we asked Gator alumni, who currently work for Payless, to share their thoughts about their career decision. Here's what they said:

I'm Gentry Adams and I will graduate from UF this spring. When I interviewed with Payless, I felt an instant connection. The more I learned, the more excited I became about the opportunities it offered. Although moving across the country is a daunting and overwhelming prospect, I was comfortable with it because of the work environment I was entering. The Payless staff is genuinely kind and supportive. The training is extensive, but it also has a culture of helping people succeed.

It was a simple decision when I received the offer. I want to be challenged, learn the business and advance quickly. There is no doubt in my mind that Payless will guide me to success. All I have to do is bring my energy and determination. See you soon, Payless!!

My name is Dan Buethe. I graduated from UF in 2006. You are right, Gentry. Payless does train you to understand the entire business, and the training leads to success. I started as a distribution analyst responsible for setting store inventory levels for more than 4,000 stores. I analyzed test performances while launching new products into 1,500 stores and presented my findings and recommendations to vice presidents and senior vice presidents. This is just an example of the exciting responsibility you will encounter!

I was then promoted to an international distribution planner for kids shoes. I was responsible for unit sales planning for countries in both Central and South America. Then, I returned to accessories as a distribution planner to help with the department's continued growth. Once again, I helped launch a new product line while sales planning for a department with more than 200 percent sales growth. I recently moved to the corporate planning team where I find new ways to review and drive the business.

Gentry, I have found Payless to be a great place to work. Ideas are encouraged from everyone. The organization provides a great sense of empowerment to employees who are looking to develop themselves. We're looking forward to seeing you here!

I'm Lindsay Campbell and I graduated from UF in 2007. Payless provides a welcoming culture. It created a unique orientation program for new associates so I felt supported as I eased into my career and learned the fundamentals of the job. I began as a distribution analyst. This position taught me how all the parts of Payless work together to get products to stores. I was responsible for getting product to more than 4,500 stores across the U.S. and Canada and have now become a distribution planner. My career at Payless has been a wonderful adventure. I have had many valuable experiences that will help me excel as my career progresses. See you soon, Gentry!

Hello Gentry, I'm Stacy Feibelman. I started at Payless as a merchandise distribution analyst in 2007. Payless placed me in a department with other graduates so I had an instant network of friends. This was particularly great for a Gator who didn't know anyone in Kansas!

I began analyzing sales data and recommending ways to be more efficient and profitable with our inventory. I learned a tremendous amount that first year, but I realized my passion was in buying. The great thing about Payless is that it is supportive of cross-functional movement. I was given the opportunity to work as an assistant buyer on the athletics team and am now the buyer for women's athletic shoes. Our team's No. 1 priority is building an assortment of shoes each quarter that will have an emotional connection with our customers. As a buyer, I work as the team's business manager. It is my responsibility to constantly analyze our business and react to sales results, deliver the right proportions of product to our stores, and manage inventory based on sales and financial plans.

I have greatly enjoyed my experience at Payless. I attribute a lot of that to the people here. We work hard, but we play hard, too. In fact, the people and the experiences gained are the top two reasons why Payless has been a great choice for me. You made a good choice, too!

Surf's Up for Gator at Ron Jon

By Luke Porter

The Pathways to Retail Success webinar presents an opportunity for retail executives to provide insight and advice to young professionals on how to be successful in a retail career. President and chief operating officer of Ron Jon Surf Shop Debbie Harvey participated in an interview with Dr. Bart Weitz, executive director of the Miller Center for Retailing.

Harvey graduated from UF with a B.S. in Business Administration and began her retail career with Macy's. She advanced quickly holding positions in merchandising and management. She experienced success in executive positions with Bealls, Home Shopping Network and now with Ron Jon Surf Shop as president and COO.

Ron Jon, which has eight locations, is a privately-held company that has been in existence for more than 50 years. Because the company is privately held, there is no pressure to expand at a certain pace. The company views locations as vital to the overall brand strategy. It leverages its brand, but does not overexpose it. The brand does best in destinations that promote beach and vacation lifestyle to its customers. The company focuses on providing its customers with an entertaining retail experience unlike any other.

Harvey erased misconceptions that might inhibit students from considering the vast opportunities in retailing. She decided upon a retail career because she had known a buyer who spent 20 years in the profession and still spoke passionately of it. Harvey knew retailing was the perfect fit when she realized her business degree allowed her to experience diverse opportunities either in management, finance or merchandising. "Retail is a business that really embraces women as far as a career," Harvey says.

A student asked whether a retail career encompasses hard work and long hours, but low pay. Harvey explained that anytime you want to be successful, especially when you are proving yourself in a new company, it will require hard work and long hours. However, Harvey says, retailing pays well! For example, a big box store manager earns a six-figure salary. Retail presents lucrative opportunities in a fun and interesting environment.

Additionally, Harvey provided students with insight on interviews and preparing for retail careers. Some of her suggestions were:

  • Be inquisitive and not be afraid to ask questions.
  • Be passionate because that is the key in retailing.
  • Love what you do.
  • Earn retail experience as a student.
  • Work in leadership positions.
  • Participate in community services.

This will help a candidate stand out from the crowd.

Students asked Harvey what were the benefits of pursuing a graduate degree before entering the retail field. According to Harvey, the advantage of a graduate degree depends on your career goals. For instance, in-store careers will depend on strong retail experience. Master's degrees in finance or marketing would provide great exposure for those specific positions.

Harvey explained that large retailers provide more structured training programs. Smaller companies can expose new professionals to more on-the-job training as well as provide an opportunity to diversify your experience by learning about various parts of the business.

Harvey's best advice for young professionals is:

  • Secure a mentor.
  • Ask questions of upper management.
  • Earn respect from co-workers by being professional, fair and respectful. Never pretend as if you know everything.
  • Never have personal conversations on the sales floor.

Retail is a demanding career which requires knowledge, skill and passion. It can provide you with diverse opportunities an environment where you can make a difference, a lucrative lifestyle and a lot of fun.

Franchise Day

This spring, The Miller Center for Retailing sponsored the semi-annual Franchise Day, an event for students to explore restaurant franchising as a potential retail career path. The students were fortunate to hear from three retail professionals: Freddie Wehbe, owner of eight Domino's Pizza stores in Alachua County; Allison Casper Adams, owner of 52 McDonald's retail locations; and Stan Given, owner and operator of seven restaurant locations in Gainesville. Together, they shared their ideas and thoughts then participated in breakout sessions for detailed discussion of their experiences.

Domino's Franchising - By Cait Citrano

Freddie Wehbe owns eight Domino's stores in Alachua County and would recommend Domino's as a vibrant franchise for any aspiring entrepreneur. Domino's stores require modest real estate and can prosper in any city representing any demographic. The business is "easy, not simple," says Wehbe. Domino's has a low failure rate and provides a lot of support for its franchisees. "All you need is a great attitude and a catchy phone number and website and, 'Boom'; you own one of 9,000-plus stores across the globe," says Wehbe.

As a prospective franchisee, Wehbe received training from recruiters before he became manager of a Merritt Island Domino's. Later, he partnered with a Domino's franchisee in Gainesville. He bought out the franchise in 1999 and has since expanded to eight stores. His Domino's stores are now among the most successful in the company. "Everyone loves pizza and sandwiches and prices are lower today than 20 years ago," says Wehbe, "making it recession-proof."

Wehbe discussed the factors affecting Domino's profitability, including its two largest costs: Food and labor. The prices for commodities and energy are watched closely as its cheese costs nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009. As for labor, turnover is high. However, because of Domino's new marketing campaigns, sales have increased significantly resulting in many new hires. Wehbe believes that people truly bought into the sincerity of the campaign and sales have followed.

Besides the new sauce, cheese and crust, there are technological improvements to expect from Domino's. The number of online orders has doubled from 2008 to 2009, and online ordering is estimated to reach nearly 50 percent of total delivery orders in 2010. Domino's pioneered a technology that allows customers to track their order's progress through an online pizza tracker. It alerts customers when their order moves through the stages of making, baking, inspecting and delivering. Domino's also utilizes text messaging and e-mail marketing campaigns and has a presence on social networking sites.

Wehbe stated that working in the pizza industry has afforded him endless opportunities to grow and learn. He reads two books per month on leadership and business. He has a list of 50 people that he wants to meet before he dies and he has met 36, including the last six presidents, Nelson Mandela and former GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch. Wehbe works to inspire his employees to better themselves in the same manner. He realizes that one man cannot create success alone; he knows that a dependable, well-trained team is necessary to reach his goals. Wehbe's relentless drive to improve is the reason why Gator Domino's is so successful.

Still "Lovin' It..." - By Michelle Russell

The Casper family did not necessarily have a succession plan for its McDonald's franchises, but the family has had great success with the golden arches for three generations. Allison Casper Adams and her brother, Blake, represent the family's third generation of franchise owners. The two oversee Caspers Company, a business comprised of 52 franchise locations that originated with their grandfather, Fritz, and expanded by their father, Joe.

Adams described what her life has been like with McDonald's. It was important for her to understand the everyday operations because one day she would oversee the business, including a family-owned distribution center. The siblings divide work based upon their strengths. Blake deals more with the business side, while Allison excels in management. One of her roles is motivating her team. She is able to run a successful business with happy associates because she builds relationships.

Adams is not only connected to the business through lineage, but also through marriage. Her husband, Robby Adams, also has a stake in McDonald's as a franchise owner. She has found balance between work and family through trial and error, and finds that when you are doing what you love, you are in the right place.

Though Adams' two daughters are still quite young, she envisions them overseeing the fourth generation of the family's McDonalds's franchises. For now, she's "lovin' it" all.

Running a Successful Franchise - By Caryn Schindler

Stan Given, owner and operator of seven franchised restaurants in the Gainesville area, enlightened students with his experiences of running successful franchises including Moe's Southwest Grill, Heavenly Ham, The Flying Biscuit Cafe and Planet Smoothie. Given's passion for owning franchises stemmed from childhood. He experienced the franchise world when he worked in the restaurants that his parents owned. Because of his parents' entrepreneurship, Given had an unusual childhood. He attended two schools every year because his family's restaurants were in different states. This challenge taught him about running a healthy business which he credits to his success. Given is content with his current businesses and does not see himself expanding into more franchises. He enjoys doing what he loves and that is an accomplishment of its own.

RILA Logistics Conference

By Nathan Holzaepfel

In the fall semester of 2009, I was awarded a scholarship from Walmart to attend the RILA (Retail Industry Leaders Association) 2010 Logistics Conference. I was one of four students in North America to have this opportunity. The fellow scholarship winners and I completed a project addressing the millennial dream job of our peers as well as the misconceptions a lot of students have of the retail sector of the logistics industry. We provided recommendations to conference attendees on how to better communicate with college students and recruit them for positions.

The experience was beneficial in many ways. Not only did I learn a great deal about the industry, but I also had the opportunity to present with my fellow scholarship winners in one of the breakout sessions. We spoke with people within the industry to gain a better perspective on logistics and supply chain management within the retail sector, and a more thorough understanding of what could be done to improve communication between perspective employers and students. Having the opportunity to present our findings and suggestions was rewarding. I felt we were able to make a positive contribution to the conference while benefiting from listening to many great speakers and making contacts with key people in this industry.

Target Walks the Talk

By Jonathan Arton

Target has showcased value to its customers and offered an alternative to the price-advantage strategy through partnership with designers and creative marketing. This strategy helped Target earn steady growth during healthy economic times. But when Americans began losing their jobs and homes, cheap chic turned into a luxury. Target accepted the economic challenge, saw opportunity and implemented changes.

Kim Strong, regional vice president of stores human resources, shared that Target is focusing on offering basics as it continues to offer value and quality. In fact, Target has summarized the strategy with a tagline of "Expect More. Pay Less." Target wants guests to understand they don't have to sacrifice style during tough times. Target's values work to close the price-perception gap. Since the fall of 2008, Target's memorable advertisements evolved from being focused on fashionable to being focused on fashionable with value. In fact, for the first time, Target displayed prices of its basic items in ads.

Target has been well-positioned to help consumers with their grocery budget as well. Target adopted a new offering for many of its general merchandise stores called PFresh Stores. These stores offer groceries with perishable foods including dairy, meat and frozen foods. Archer Farms and Market Pantry (Target's brands) are featured. By enhancing its food departments and incorporating fresh items in some stores, Target aims to increase guests' visits and become the preferred place to shop for food.

Target continues to evolve by growing leaders within its organization. Strong explained how being a leader helps others to develop, solves problems and helps an organization grow without limits. She continued to inspire students by encouraging them to be open to learn, be cheerful and work hard to advance.

Hess Corporation

By Nia Mallyn

Hess Corporation is a global, independent energy company that specializes in the exploration and production of crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. Although the hydrocarbon era may be viable in the future, it will still take decades before dependency on oil ceases. Therefore, Hess foresees a stable company future and profits in its current market.

Hess, which is vertically integrated and fully owns and operates its Hess Express retail filling stations in 16 states along the east coast, has recently been concentrating its efforts on its marketing and refining sectors. Hess was ranked 55th in Fortune 500 in 2009 and is considered the nation's sixth-largest convenient store chain. The company was started by Leon Hess who began his business selling from door to door in the 1960s. The company progressed into a $31 billion corporation.

Hess is continuing to hire energetic and enthusiastic individuals for marketing representative positions. These individuals are entrepreneurial in spirit. They will undergo extensive training that includes support by mentors and online modules. This training has been successful as Hess has experienced the lowest turnover rates ever with the lowest percentage of customer complaints! Many UF graduates have moved into this program and have experienced growth and success. Gators succeed with Hess because they are enthusiastic, driven and have the personality to grow with the ever changing world of retail!

Mattress Firm Surprises Customers with Its Customer Service

By Soraly Mercedes

Amanda Williams, a national recruiter specialist for Mattress Firm, spoke with students about the importance of customer service. Williams said there are five simple "STEPS" (Simplicity, Trust, Experience, Personalized and Surprise) to customer service. It is no longer just about a great smile and fixing a problem.

Simplicity is about "KISS" (Keeping It Simple, Stupid). Confusing customers with meaningless facts loses them. Mattress Firm keeps it simple by using a program called Comfort by Color. All beds are identified with different colors indicating the type of bed it is. Therefore, busy customers can bypass approximately two-thirds of the showroom and focus on the beds they're interested in purchasing.

Trust is something that takes a lifetime to build and minutes to crush. Mattress Firm achieves trust by offering the lowest prices and a comfort guarantee.

Successful companies strive to make the experience of selecting a product relaxing and fun. Mattress Firm assures this tranquil experience in the store, but also a delightful experience outside of it with its red carpet delivery service.

Step four is personalization. Williams said people are thinking about themselves about 94 percent of the time. Therefore, sales representatives need to be geared toward the customer. Mattress Firm achieves this by using its sleep diagnostic system. This system determines the perfect support system for the individual customer based on their body shape and position of sleep. This information allows the salesperson to guide the customer to the perfect mattress.

The surprise and delight cascades from the top of the company to the sales professionals and onto the customers. At Mattress Firm, the CEO personally writes anniversary cards to employees which delights and surprises every time.

Now That's the "W" Brand

By Michelle Russell

Walgreens has been known as America's neighborhood drugstore for more than 100 years. Customers have visited this retail pharmacy for their most needed items: Groceries, hygienic materials and most importantly, medicine. The company has a reputation built on sales and product offering. Walgreens has increased customer loyalty on private label sales by offering the "W" brand in store. John Gremer, Director of Community Affairs for Walgreens, spoke to students about how the new wave in retail is centralized around making a direct connection to the consumer. Seizing and maintaining market share is no longer attainable through the traditional approach of marketing and efficient operations. It's about the retailer becoming a reliable and trustworthy source to meet the customer's needs.

Walgreens has been known as America's neighborhood drugstore for more than 100 years. Customers have visited this retail pharmacy for their most needed items: Groceries, hygienic materials and most importantly, medicine. The company has a reputation built on sales and product offering. Walgreens has increased customer loyalty on private label sales by offering the "W" brand in store. However, the new wave in retail is centralized around making a direct connection to the consumer. Seizing and maintaining market share is no longer attainable through the traditional approach of marketing and efficient operations. It's about the retailer becoming a reliable and trustworthy source to meet the customer's needs.

Gremer facilitated the Wellness Tour where Walgreens teamed up with the AARP and the National Urban League to provide free health screenings. The Wellness Tour offers screenings for blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments free of charge through a mobile facility. Many Walgreens shoppers are unaware of the company's socially responsible initiatives. It is Gremer's goal to raise the customer and community awareness of Walgreens' involvement and concern for others.

Through Walgreens' "Each One Reach One" approach, Gremer has each neighborhood store involved in its community. The store is encouraged to learn its local environment and support its initiatives and interests. Walgreens wants to impact lives by interacting with individuals on a first- name basis by personally connecting with nearby churches and schools. Therefore, the trust isn't nurtured only in the company, but in the people who work at Walgreens. Gremer believes the company is the people who work for it. How better to connect to the community than by forming connections through those who represent the "W."

Retailing Smarter 2010 Symposium

Spend two days in Orlando with some of retailing's cutting-edge thinkers and innovators for the 19th Annual Retailing Smarter Symposium presented by the University of Florida's David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research. Leading retailers will share their insights on important issues facing their firms and the industry. Two small-group breakout sessions provide opportunities for sharing and delving deeper into issues.

For more information, visit Retailing Smarter online.

Retail Navigator

This electronic newsletter from The David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research is issued throughout the year to provide updates on what is happening in retailing at the University of Florida. Information regarding student outreach, jobs, internships, research and retailing connections throughout the country will be included. We hope you enjoy seeing what Gators are doing in the retail industry!


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Phone: 352.392.2397
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