Retail Leadership Symposium (Consumer Science 250)
By Students Minjae Son, Madison Smith, Ryan Shea, Annette Shaw, Alexandra Serota, Georgia Dorfman, Christina Sorce, Natalie Scumaci, Eliza Schuman, Tristan Schlultz, Bradley Schultz, Adam Schimberg
It can be said with a strong amount of confidence that every company wants to do good in the world.
Companies have values and goals, and they understand that their customer appreciates action on these values. The more a business can give back to their community, create innovative products for their consumers, and maintain sustainable business practices, the more they can engage with their consumer. Sounds obvious right? So why don’t more companies do this? The answer is not so complicated; companies are too focused on the bottom-line. In retail, profit is king, and some companies get too lost in the numbers. If a brand can make a connection with the consumer by showing action on their values, the profit will follow.
On February 8, 2017, we had the privilege to have Bob Stephan, the VP of Marketing for the e-commerce business at retail giant Foot Locker/Eastbay, come in and talk to our Retail Leadership Symposium class about business-consumer relationships. He talked about what every VP of marketing strives for– making a true connection, a “lovemark” he called it, with the consumer. Bob talked about making Eastbay/Footlocker.com less about the transaction and more about building a relationship with their customers. But this is no easy task. Not every company can have the “lovemark” that focuses less on price and more on company values with their consumers the way Patagonia, Toms shoes, or Starbucks does.
Following Bob’s presentation, he engaged in a Q&A session. It was transparent, informative, and honest. He talked about market trends, purchasing behavior, and other analysis rich terms. Although, it was a fantastic discussion, possibly the greatest insight came on a question he couldn’t really answer. A fellow student raised her hand and asked a simple, yet complex, question: “Do you guys recycle or repurpose any of your shoes?” Bob, an English major and member of the Sierra Club since 1972, stood in silence, hesitated, and said “We should, but we don’t.” However, he did seem to think this was a great idea. Part of what makes this company so great is their openness to ideas and change. Like many brands, Eastbay/Footlocker is constantly looking for ways to improve their customer’s satisfaction and loyalty. Perhaps they will soon reach the point where they are able to create a more sustainable brand by recycling and repurposing their products.
Thank you, Bob, for your candid insights!