Saks CEO Makes First Visit to Tulsa Store

Discussion
Sep 20, 2011
George Anderson

A piece on the Tulsa World website seems intended to put employees of a local Saks Fifth Avenue store at ease. The CEO of the company, Stephen Sadove, had made a visit to the store and announced: “The store is very profitable, and we own the building. There isn’t any reason for us to leave.”

Saks has closed stores in recent years as it sought to shore up its bottom line performance, so Mr. Sadove’s comments should certainly make employees at the location feel more confident about their prospects.

What was stunning to us — in part because it was tossed out without question in the Tulsa World article — is that this was Mr. Sadove’s first visit to the store since taking over leadership of the company in 2006. Saks Fifth Avenue currently operates 46 stores in 22 states, and yet it took five years for the company’s CEO to visit. What’s up with that?

Saks had not responded to a request to confirm that Mr. Sadove’s recent visit to the Tulsa store was his first at the time this story was filed.

Discussion Questions: Do you see store visits to own stores and those of competitors as a basic requirement to lead a retail company? How frequently should executives visit stores?

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14 Comments on "Saks CEO Makes First Visit to Tulsa Store"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Certainly the frequency of c-suite visits to stores is governed in part by the number of stores being operated. That being said, visits for corporate executives, properly managed, can be a boost for the local stores in several ways. These store tours should help them better understand what is happening at store level.

True, in most cases the stores are “prepped” by the local team to ensure the view of the location is the best possible, but smart senior management can, and should, make occasional surprise visits to see the real world they lead.

With 46 stores, I would have expected that the senior team would see Saks locations once every couple of years, if not annually. Regardless of the number of stores, store tours should be an ongoing part of the responsibility of senior management.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
9 years 7 months ago

Sam Walton was one of the savviest retailers who ever lived. He visited stores nearly every week. Whether you are an upscale retailer like Saks Fifth Avenue or a mass merchant like Walmart or Target, the CEO and other senior executives should be in stores as frequently as possible. After all, that’s where the action is, not sitting behind a desk or in another meeting!

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 7 months ago

Nothing is more important than a workforce reassured by the continuing presence of its leaders and the feeling that he/she is on top of the game.

As for frequency of store visits, they should occur as often as our feet are needed to walk. No CEO is an island unto himself or herself, every leader is part of the main and its success.

Kevin Graff
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I’ve been consulting with retail chains for over 20 years and am always shocked at how seldom most senior managers visit the stores. Buyers lock themselves up in offices and stare at screens. HR Managers wouldn’t recognize most store managers. And “C” level managers get locked in a never ending meeting at head office.

I always say, “We make money in the stores … and spend it at head office.”

The best and most effective senior leaders spend great amounts of time where the product is, the customers are, and the staff are … in the stores.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

Schedules, shmedules. The head honcho needs to get out in the field and visit every store in the outfit regardless of time and resources. Barring confirmation of any previous visits, 2006 is a long time ago and Mr. Sadove, should have made the rounds twice already since taking over. The biggest problem big retail faces is managing the stores that actually bring in the money. Managing people in retail is even more difficult and our industry created the rumor mill. Showing your face around the aisles and backrooms once in a while means you care. While working with Blockbuster in San Diego back in the ’90s, I fondly remember the regional VPs bringing in food platters for the associates during Christmas time. What a novel idea!

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

You visit a store if you want to connect with your employees and the community. Even better, you make it a surprise visit so that store management doesn’t know you are coming. If they know you are coming, we used to say, they clean the aisles and paint the walls.

Roy White
Guest
Roy White
9 years 7 months ago

Since, for a retailer, the stores are everything, a CEO — and in fact all of the executive suite (including the CFO) — should spend at least 25% of their time visiting stores. Otherwise they become out of touch with what is happening, how store associates are functioning, how promotions are working, etc. A generous travel budget for CEOs is an absolute necessity.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

How could you run a company without visiting your outlets? The way to get the “truth” about your business is to observe the front lines yourself to understand what your employees are doing and feeling and to look at competition. Many times your interpretation of information that filters up is dramatically different when you see it for yourself. I hold up Jim Sinegal and Costco as the model!

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Executives need to visit their stores in order to validate first-hand what information they are getting from their organization. All too often reality is twisted to support corporate politics. In working with a Fortune 100 retailer, I experienced a similar stunning comment. While coordinating in-store experiences and aligning them with the marketing calendar and the activities of their agency of record, the senior person in the meeting made the comment that they did not believe that any executive from “our” agency ever spent time in “our” store. The most valuable insight that a retail executive can get is unbiased perspective from their staff who are in daily contact with their shoppers and customers. Addressing real challenges and issues requires work and risk. Unfortunately, Wall Street and corporate America do not reward risk and lessons-learned. In order to successfully manage risk and maximize the success of innovation, executives need to be personally immersed in their own environments.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Executives should have visiting offices in all their stores, spending 80% of their time in the field. Who learns anything about the customer sitting behind a desk at headquarters?

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The gulf between headquarters and the stores is only one part of the gulf between the stores and the shoppers. Bridging the gulf between stores and shoppers is the gold-mine opportunity for self-service retailers.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
9 years 7 months ago

Store executives who don’t visit frequently are missing many opportunities. The view from the C-suite should be up close and personal. Depending on “systems” to provide insight leads to greater chasms and misunderstandings … and TV shows like Undercover Boss. Not to mention the real live shoppers who are in the store — taking the time to understand them makes all the difference.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Yes! Getting out of their ivory towers is part of management 101! All executives need to stay connected to their customers, and the best way is to visit their own stores, as well as those of their competitors.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

It’s the best way to connect with the store, employees, and customers. And it usually affords a good PR return. And these days an executive can effectively do business with the corporate office from anywhere so they are no longer tethered to the executive suite. Visit often.

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