Q. What have you learned while working for Macy's in various parts of the country?
Gennette: Since I've been with Macy's all over the country, it has been very helpful living where customers do. It has imbued my thinking about national strategy to make sure they're [the products sold] relevant to the locations. Having had that experience, I've noticed there's a big difference in customers and how they engage with apparel, accessories and the home department, depending of what part of the country they're from.
We sell different brands, colors and designers that reflect the regions. For example, more dresses are sold in the South and Northeast than in other parts of the country, and favored designers there are Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) . The West Coast is more about sportswear, and Calvin Klein is more developed there.
From a color and a style perspective, and casual versus career, it varies from place to place. Some states really go with pastels and brights. You look at more mineral tones and neutrals in other regions. You have to think about other specifics, down to who wears suits still? Who wears casual versus polished casual?
What customers do at the home departments varies, too. As an example, we have to know how many of them celebrate the full traditions, such as the more traditional Christmas versus a more contemporary one.
Q: You are currently doing town hall meetings across the country with Macy's employees. There has been a lot of change at Macy's the past six months, and employees are likely reading the headlines. What concerns are you hearing from them?
Gennette: I think everybody is used to winning. We had that great stretch where Macy's was being touted as having figured things out. I think the last couple of years has set people back and they are looking for the path forward. So they are reading the articles and seeing the rumors just like everyone else is, and they have got concerns. They want to know where leadership is on this, what's our point of view, what's Macy's unique reason for being, and what the plan is for moving out of these results.
What we are trying to reinforce is that what we recognize is different than in other bad business cycles we have been through. We are talking about the differences between cyclical changes and fundamental changes. We want to clearly tell them we don't have our heads in the sand, that we are looking outward as much as we are looking inward.
The mission in 2017 is to right the core business and the set the foundation for future growth. We allow lots of time in these town halls for questions, and we get great questions -- they are spirited. We answer them with candor.
It has been a great opportunity to connect with all walks of the organization.