Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Retail Is Detail" - A Lesson From Mickey

J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler Shows How Its Done

By David Miranda

In a recent New York Times story by Joe Nocera, "A CEO Sells The Store", J Crew CEO Mickey Drexler was reported doing what he has always done and continues to do - going to his stores, fussing over the merchandise, speaking with managers and, yes, grilling customers on what they like, don't like, where else they shop, etc.

Oh yeah, the article highlights the results on Mr. Drexler's hands-on approach.......

"At a time when most retailers are struggling — with credit tight, and consumers increasingly unwilling to spend — J. Crew stands out. It is growing at a steady, healthy clip; Mr. Jaffe estimates that when it reports its 2007 results in a few weeks, the company will report revenue of $1.3 billion, a 14 percent increase. It is nicely profitable."

One should note that this kind of CEO is a rare bird. Most, as we know, do their "CEO-ing" (or "CMO-ing", "COO-ing", "CFO-ing") in the ivory tower many times removed from the person who makes their large compensation packages possible. No, not the corporate board - the customer.

In another example of the front line CEO, last week, Starbuck's new CEO (former CEO) Howard Shultz took the dramatic step in closing all Starbucks stores for three hours to - get this - re-train and re-energize and remind its thousands of front line "barristas" why they had been so successful in the first place - putting the customer first.

Could Mssrs. Drexler and Shultz be onto something?

Could it be that the front line impacts the top line that, in turn, impacts the bottom line?

By jove, I think they've got it!

If you are a corporate executive, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time you were at the front lines of your business speaking with front line personnel, managers, customers? (By the way, "royal tours" with a huge entourage do not count.)

  2. Do you solely rely on second or third hand facts and figure to make decisions?

  3. Have you ever been a secret shopper of your own products and services?
In an economic downturn, consumers will gravitate to those brands that get the key basic right - customer recognition.

You can't do that in the ivory tower. Go Mickey! Go Howard!