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!

July: Issue 1, 2015

In this issue:

The Music Paradigm

By Leah Rojecki

The Music Paradigm was an experience that brought executive thinkers out of their comfort zone. Filled with open dialog, an engaging maestro and music by the Orlando Philharmonic Symphony, the two hour segment brought participants to their feet, in awe of what was learned.

The program began with the Orlando Philharmonic Symphony playing an unidentified piece that showcased the artists’ talent. After a brief introduction, Maestro Roger Nierenberg jumped into a discussion on how the interactions of the orchestra relates to the interactions within a business. Nierenberg, a clear leader to the symphony, was able to encourage, inspire, praise, and critique without saying a word. He listened to the symphony and gave guidance when needed in a way similar to the way true leaders guide within a company. Though skepticism was clear by many at the beginning of the program, the impact of the performance was evident during the post-performance refreshments break. A current marketing student at University of Florida, Boya Xiao, said, “Communication is key. The maestro best used the example of each musician only allowed to listen to the person next to them as a great way to show how that strategy doesn’t work. The music sounded terrible when they weren’t working together as a unit. Just like in business, we need to listen to each other.”

Companies must have leaders that listen to employees in order to have a cohesive business. The performance concept was engaging and encouraged participants to think and hear differently about a company’s big picture.

Why Empowering Employees with Purpose Wins

By Briana Vaden

Richard Ashworth, President of Pharmacy and Retail Operations of Walgreens, shared how this company is committed to their purpose of championing everyone’s right to be happy and healthy and their vision to be America’s most loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing, and beauty enterprise. Throughout many years, Walgreens has successfully grown due to their belief in giving back to the community and empowering their employees with purpose.

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Founded in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreen in Chicago, Illinois, Walgreens has grown to over 8,200 stores nationwide. Walgreens was established under the principle of fairness to all and to the community. Charles R. Walgreen believed everyone was equal and gave each individual an equal opportunity. This principle is still used today and is demonstrated through Walgreens’ push to helping those in need around the world. Walgreens has shown their belief of “purpose beyond profit” by helping sponsor the first Red Nose Day in the U.S., which to-date, has raised over one billion dollars in the U.K. for children in need. They have also implemented the “Get a Shot, Give a Shot” program, where Walgreens will donate a vaccine to a child in need for every customer who gets a vaccine in one of their stores. This has led Walgreens to supply 3 million vaccines!

Richard Ashworth also exhibited how Walgreens strives to be America’s most loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing and beauty enterprise by using the strategy of the four E’s: engagement, experience, efficiency and execution. By giving employees the training and experience they need, associates are more engaged with customers. This increased engagement leads to increased sales. Walgreens strives for increased efficiency which creates a stronger, more focused organizational structure. Through the four E’s, Walgreens has been able to increase customer satisfaction as they strive to reach their vision.

Through helping the community and people in need and continuously striving to give the customer what they want through the four Es – engagement, experience, efficiency, and execution, Walgreens demonstrates their purpose of championing everyone’s right to be happy and healthy.

A New Movement for JCPenney

By Joshua Parker

Jennifer Hipskind, Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for the Central Region, joined JCPenney in 1987 as a Merchandise Trainee. She was given her first Store Leader position in 2001 at the Newark, CA location and a couple of years later was promoted to lead the flagship store in Dallas, Texas. Some of her other accomplishments include becoming Regional Coordination Manager for the company’s West Region, becoming a key member in implementing the Sephora brand to JCPenney, as well as becoming the Divisional Vice President of Fine Jewelry Operations.

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JCPenney was founded on the 'Golden Rule"—treat others the way you want to be treated. Since its inception, this rule remained as the foundation of the company. Although the company went through difficult times, they were able to regain momentum through new initiatives. Hipskind shared the secret of JCPenney’s newfound momentum. Throughout the company’s history, its associates are what have sustained it and kept it alive. Hipskind shared that as retailers, we are in the business of people and to be in this business we need to be able to empower associates. Associates are the heart of JCPenney’s culture and are responsible for driving sales. A company’s number one goal is making a profit and in April 2013 JCPenney began it's turnaround after a failed strategy. In this time of need, associates realized they needed to take new measures. In July 2013, sixteen, new and seasoned, associates were called to Dallas, Texas to discuss how to get teams engaged. Jennifer Hipskind was one of these sixteen associates who were at the heart of the beginning of a new JCPenney movement and called themselves "the Warriors".

As a Warrior, the job is to have fun with the customer, fight for the customer and win the customer. Fun, Fight, Win! That’s the goal. After the Dallas meeting, the Warriors brought these goals back to their stores—to make teams into a family, to create a culture of selling and to become customer focused. In September of 2013, the Warriors re-grouped in Dallas with 42 participants. In this meeting, their main goal was to define a Warrior. After days of discussion and research, they defined a Warrior as an individual who is passionate, high-energy, fun, customer-focused and who has a love for the company. After deciding this, the next goal for the Warriors was to deploy Warrior spirit throughout the company. In a few short weeks the Warriors went from 16, to 42, to more than 100,000 worldwide.

The Warrior Movement was an associate movement, not a corporate, marketing or executive decision. The associates ran the movement and changed the company. Hipskind reiterated the fact that it was about empowering the associates to create the best culture for their company. Happy, engaged associates equal happy customers, and happy customers drive sales.

Through the difficult times JCPenney was able to unlock the answers through associate engagement to help execute strategies. Hipskind was a proud member of the original sixteen and is now a part of the giant family of over 100,000 warriors. Fun! Fight! Win!

Jimmy and JP Discuss Retail

By Sarah Michelle Steinman

CEO of SalesMakers, Incorporated, Jimmy Ralph began his lecture with Jean-Pierre “JP” Sakey, the President and CEO of Headway Workforce Solutions, Incorporated. JP kicked off the presentation by explaining how his company, an internet-based form of high volume job recruitment, works. He spoke of the problems in the traditional, or as he called it, “the leaky bucket” system of hiring.

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JP outlined two key elements to successful hiring strategies. The first step is to define your position, look into things like the accuracy and clarity of your job descriptions. The more information you put out the more likely you are to find well-suited employees. Once your company has its communication down JP suggests the “Minecraft Approach. This system puts a premium on up front transparency, it advocates the exhibition of all aspects of working for you. What is your company culture? What opportunities for career progression do you supply? What makes your company a great place to work at? Once you’ve found the right team you need to train them well and efficiently to create a great workplace.

Jimmy then explained the dynamics of his company. Salesmakers, Incorporated is the creator of a new brand of retail training. SalesMakers is an industry leading provider of outsourced retail training, merchandising and assisted sales. More than just a staffing company, SalesMakers offers an agile, collective national workforce that applies the latest technology and communication best practices to achieve optimal sales performance. Jimmy stated, “Ineffective communication and lack of team culture have been recognized as the top two challenges within this industry. We meet these inefficiencies head on through an engaged education training and development approach.” SalesMakers “EverPresent Management” model provides multiple touch points of real time, interactive communication with their employees in ways that the message will be heard, so that every one of their SalesMakers continually feels motivated, supported and part of a team. Jimmy further stated, “In order to breed champions, you must provide a highly energized culture that thrives on competition and success. Whether it’s through our interactive live video training, “real world” role play or group messenger chats, we understand the importance of direct management involvement at every level and its impact to humanize and energize our national workforce.”

The Power of Passion

By Kendall Williams

At the Retailing Smarter conference, John Rivers, owner and chef of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, captivated the audience’s attention with a motivating speech about his personal journey. He began with introducing the most impactful, important aspects of his business, or what he calls "the three P’s"—purpose, perseverance and most importantly, passion. He believes that what we do for a living should give us our drive and passion in life. This passion has resonated throughout his business and provided a backbone for his career. With the opening of his eleventh store and the participation of over 1400 employees, Rivers continues to learn, have fun and make money.

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Rivers started out in the restaurant business, but he had a lengthy and successful career as a health-care executive before bringing 4 Rivers Smokehouse to life. Although his career was booming, he felt himself complaining about his life. His goals were monetary and did not align with his heart and true passions. He searched for ways to “put life back into [his] living”. He explained that, “so often material feelings hold us back from our true aspirations, but it is ultimately the fear of failing that constricts our dreams.”

As Rivers continued working as a health-care executive, he met a young girl who was suffering from a brain tumor. He felt compelled to help her family. He planned a barbeque fundraiser and it was then that John felt most alive. He realized that this was what he had been missing in his life. This small act started his barbeque ministry, which ultimately led to the creation of 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Rivers explained how the hardships he faced along the way gave him the perseverance to succeed and the passion for making his dream a reality. His final message to the audience was this: “I pray that each and every one of you will listen to your heart, figure out your passion. I pray that you have the courage to pursue it, to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Miss Florida Shows Determination

By Crishell Bautista

Myrrhanda Jones, Miss Florida 2013, has seen her share of struggles and battles, both in the beauty pageant world and in her personal life. From dealing with a fatal ATV accident causing the death of her little sister to becoming the successful, determined woman she is today.

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Ms. Jones’ positive attitude and strong determination has helped shaped her life. She earned a telecommunications degree from the University of Florida and is the president and founder of “Comfort for Kids”; a non-profit organization established in 2006, after the death of her little sister. This organization provides services for children that have a long-term illness or loss of a family member.

Ms. Jones participated in Miss America 2014 beauty pageant and was one of the five finalists. Her way to the top didn’t come easily, however. While rehearsing for the preliminary talent competition, she suffered a knee injury and required immediate hospitalization. Fortunately, Ms. Jones was able to complete her performance and continue in Miss America 2014. Even though she didn’t win the pageant, her determination to finish her performance is an example of her great character.

Ms. Jones, through her experiences and challenges, has proven that with perseverance and purposefulness, anything is possible. co-CEO Speaks About Bringing Kitchen Table Experience Online

By TJ Pyche

We don't always see what is right in front of us. In life and in retail, that statement is true. Because of this, Sarah Crossman-Sullivan suggests, "There is such deep, deep meaning in growing our ability to see." Using what she called the "kitchen table experience" as the ideal, Crossman-Sullivan spoke to the importance of building retail experiences – both in-store and online – that align with the feeling of the social connection people feel at their own kitchen tables.

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The key, Crossman-Sullivan described in her presentation titled "The Courage to Care: Creating a Kitchen Table Experience in a Digital Retail Age," is virtually bringing the kitchen table experience to retail purchasing decisions and not minimizing what we say and what we perceive. “’Social,’ she explains, “began at the kitchen table. It’s where people gathered to discuss passion, politics and purchase. We gather now on social media for sharing, innovation, inspiration and purchase.” But how do retailers bring customers to the virtual table without muddling the message? Crossman-Sullivan, the co-founder and co-CEO of, said retailers need to move away from words like "personalization" and back toward terms like "relationships." As she sees it, relationships are "messy, intimate, complicated, exciting and meaningful." A relationship inherently gauges a reaction, a response. "Success at the kitchen table is not contingent upon the chef," Crossman said, "People will linger over a burned meal. They stay, listen, laugh, react and resolve because of warm engagement. It's about the relationships." She asserts, “Embracing smart digital technology empowers retailers to connect with online customers for increased sales, social sharing and retention.”, which launched in 2014 and is based in Atlanta, allows online shoppers to see how clothes look on themselves, without ever walking into a store. Crossman-Sullivan’s company has the ability to create the in-store experience online, further bringing the kitchen table experience to the digital age. Additionally, by integrating impactful, digital technology, customers can receive feedback from social media platforms like Facebook. All of this, Crossman-Sullivan said, is done in hopes of "bridging brick and mortar to click and order."

Newton Consulting Talent Leader Speaks to the Perks of Flexibility

By TJ Pyche

Jessica Eberley sees it all too often—an employee who works less than 10 hours a week, a new mother, someone who is recently retired, a person working a second job— is automatically labeled as unimportant.

“That's not right,” said Eberley, a talent leader for Newton Consulting, a company that specializes in human resources consulting.

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Often, many companies will not even consider hiring employees who require more flexibility because of a variety of demographical or geographical reasons. Companies need to be flexible and recognize that every employee (or prospective employee) is important. "Both full-time and part-time employees need to feel empowered," she said during her presentation "Flexible Recruiting Strategies is the New Black: How to Keep Your Organization in the Black with Part-Time and Flexible Talent Strategies." In addition to requiring increased flexibility, innovative recruiting strategies are essential in the retail industry, which has a turnover rate that is higher than the average for all industries.

When recruiting, Eberley encourages companies to use employee referrals and practices like on-the-spot interviewing and hiring. "Get everybody involved – make it important," said Eberley, who previously worked as a university relations recruiter for Dick's Sporting Goods and the director of human resources for a Pittsburgh country club

The process of bringing on a new employee should not stop when a person is hired. Successful onboarding needs to be a priority. It's a lot more than just paperwork, noted Eberley, adding that companies should develop a new employee checklist and mentorship programs to make sure employees are adjusting well.

Eberley said employees need to be continuously engaged, suggesting that a company keep a "fun calendar" or do volunteering as a group. Above all, the feedback and coaching that employees receive needs to lend itself to maintaining an empowered workforce.

Tying Branding to Philanthropy – Ron Jon Surf Shop and Special Olympics Florida

By Valentina Lopez-Diaz

Heather Lewis, marketing director of Ron Jon Surf Shop presented about tying branding to philanthropy. Founded in New Jersey in 1961, Ron Jon Surf Shop grew exponentially throughout the years. One of Ron Jon’s biggest philanthropic involvements began in 2010 when the company paired with Special Olympics Florida to incorporate surfing as a completely new competition category. The program began in Brevard County with only eight athletes. Through 2014, the partnership grew to seventeen counties with over one hundred and fifty athletes. Ron Jon plans to continue building the program in Florida, as well as adding programs in other states where possible.

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The Special Olympics oath states, “Let me win. But if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt.” The athletes are fully engaged in the moment, emit happiness and embody positivity. The eight-week training program in Florida is the only surfing program in the world through the Special Olympics. The participants are coached by volunteers in their individual counties and are provided with all the tools necessary, including surfboards and equipment. In the video presentation about the program, one could see the amazing friendships formed between athlete and trainer, as well as the sense of accomplishment and pride the athlete, trainer and family exuded.

Recently, the Ron Jon Surf Shop and Special Olympics partnership created stand-up paddle boarding as a new sports category. The potential to grow is endless, considering how this feel-good program has gotten national CBS coverage, PR and a great amount of social media interest. In the last few minutes of Ms. Lewis’ presentation, she opened up the floor for questions. One young gentleman asked, “How did your team come to choose the Special Olympics?” The answer was simple; it spoke to the brand with a surfing correlation.

The Latest Trends in Effective Social Media

By Nina Vanell

As the Director of Digital Media for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), as well as a new mother, Mrs. Sarah Malcolm was initially hesitant to expose her new baby to smartphone technology. However, she demonstrated how the iPhone video-calling feature, FaceTime, has allowed her to interact with her child even when they are apart. This is just one example of how mobile devices have taken an integral role in our culture. Furthermore, mobile phones have drastically changed how we shop, driving more than half of ecommerce traffic. In addition to generating website traffic and increasing sales, social media has even evolved to impact customer service. To address this rapid change in the retail world, Mrs. Malcolm provided advice for conducting trendy and effective social media campaigns.

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Foremost, Mrs. Malcolm encouraged retailers to stop obsessing about gaining followers on their social media platforms. Rather, to develop a successful brand, companies must take time to study their audience. By understanding their audience, companies can produce more engaging, relatable content. In Malcolm’s words: “Provide great content, and followers will come.”

Malcolm also discussed the benefits of user-generated content. Interactive social media campaigns—such as the Starbucks #WhiteCupContest and the Go Pro video contest—provide fun, simple platforms for customers to contribute their own content and help popularize a brand. Companies have the ability to sort through user-generated submissions and select content that best represents their desired image.

Another trendy marketing tactic—real-time marketing—generates audience interaction by producing an immediate response to an event over social media. As an example, Mrs. Malcolm referenced how, within five minutes of the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, Oreo was able to create and post an advertisement on Twitter: “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Mrs. Malcolm designed an entertaining presentation packed with hilarious videos of trendy marketing campaigns. She provided valuable insight into the rapidly changing world of social media marketing and ecommerce. Make sure to keep up with her and the latest trends in online marketing via her Twitter, @MrsSarahMalcolm.

Retail Issues and Florida Legislature

By Jodie Karsono

Larry Sinewitz, executive vice president and assistant secretary of Brandsmart USA, explained the importance of business involvement in government legislation, particularly sales tax fairness. Last year, Tallahassee took two-thirds of sales tax days because of the weather. This effected back to school shopping for families.

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Sinewitz believes the federal government needs to help businesses. And business people need to speak to Florida politicians because that is how to make change happen. He suggested starting the communications with local representatives and working up from there.

Sinewitz realizes that regardless of the improved employment and visiting tourists to Florida, the State is still struggling. Many employees are unable to get healthcare. Sinewitz’ solution is to encourage associates to be knowledgeable about their health. Brandsmart holds a health fair every year, requiring their associates to attend or be charged a fee.

Sinewitz repetitively mentioned the push for Millennials to learn more about current American issues and the need to act on them to make change. Millennials have a great opportunity and should take advantage of it. The only way to resolve the problems is to speak to government officials and vote.

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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