Retail Leadership Symposium (Consumer Science 250)
By Students Riley Nilsen, Nia Newton, Sean Naumann, Sophia Nabi, Daniel Mosch, Angie Morrow, Jason Molus, Isabel Miranda, Delaney Mielke, Maggie McNeil, and Ellie Martin
On March 1, 2017, the Retail Leadership Symposium welcomed Blain’s Farm & Fleet to our class, specifically the owner of the company herself, Jane Blain Gilbertson (President & CEO), and members of her team- Dennis Armstrong (Chief Human Resource Officer), Paul Miller (Chief Merchandising Officer), and Jessica Lowenberg (Senior Recruiter). They informed us on an array of topics of the company- from the history, to the employees, to the product. Here are just a few of the many things we learned about Blain’s:
Headquartered in Janesville, Wisconsin, Blain’s Farm & Fleet is a regional retail chain in the Midwest. This company was created by two brothers, Claude and Bert Blain in 1955. The family continues to lead the company today with Jane Blain Gilbertson (daughter of Bert) serving as owner, President, and CEO. This rich family heritage is the cornerstone of the Blain’s Farm & Fleet’s family-oriented culture and mission to be a one-stop retailer that fulfills the entire family’s shopping experience. No matter where they expand in the country, Blain’s Farm & Fleet believes they represent these family-focused values in addition to maintaining a culture that is true to its Midwestern roots.
Blain’s Farm & Fleet is a retailer that cares about the people who represent their company. The main characteristics of the employees repeated by all the speakers was ‘authentic and trustworthy.’ What you see in the company and employees is what they truly are. An important tenant of that is being transparent, honest, and genuine across the team and to their customers. They do not believe in forcing a sale or tricking a customer into buying, but rather, they intend to speak to their customers as neighbors in order to give them the best price and quality product for their liking.
Not only did the Blain’s team talk about how the people that work there are good people, but they also shared how they value them. It was mentioned how no one had to be laid off during the 2008 recession, a very tumultuous time in our economy and retail history.
Blain’s Farm & Fleet is also a company that promotes from within. Jessica shared that her career path began as a cashier at Blain’s before climbing up the ladder to her current role as Senior Recruiter. Strong training programs and the family-oriented company culture can be credited for this internal growth philosophy.
In times where the retailing industry is experiencing uncertainty and Amazon serves as a powerhouse, Blain’s Farm & Fleet intends to set a positive path for growth in the future. Both Jane and Paul shared how their goal is to be no-nonsense and direct with their customers. They want the price on their products’ price tags to be the price they sell at. Blain’s cares about having fair and honest prices. The price you see is the price you will get.
They also plan to continue to hold a unique assortment with quality products. In store, they have over 130,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) in order to fulfill all customers’ needs. Most customers that go into the store seem to often be surprised with their massive selection!
Thank you Blain’s Farm & Fleet for sharing about what makes your company tick- the strong family values, genuine employees, and impressive product assortment!