retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

One of the retailing geniuses that I've always admired is a fellow named Mickey Drexler, a child of the Bronx who pretty much defined the Gap clothing chain during the nineties, helping to establish the look and feel that made Gap so distinctive.

As almost always happens to fashion-oriented chains, there was a time when things weren't clicking ... and Drexler was fired in 2002. Not really because anything he'd done; in fact, he'd built a company that had generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. And he was a merchant with a sixth sense about the fashion zeitgeist. Still, there was friction between him and the founder of the company, and one day, he was unceremoniously shown the door.

But, he found another door to walk through - and today he is the CEO of J. Crew, which he has transformed into an equally powerful fashion juggernaut. And I have to say ... I have to love a fashion guy who wears as a uniform jeans, untucked shirts and a navy blazer.

Well, this month's Fast Company has an interview with Drexler in which he offers "10 rules for creative success."

If you want to read the whole piece, click here.

I do want to highlight three of his rule here:

1. "Companies are in the Stone Ages organizationally: You can tell by the offices ... The king is on the top floor and there are 17 people in front of the king's office. There are layers of bureaucracy. It shouldn't be like that."

2. "America's companies are built to destroy creativity: If you become the head of a big company today, you're not the youngest person in the world. You have a contract. You get a jet. You have a huge overpaid salary. You get bonuses. Do you think that CEO is going to screw around with fast, creative change? No. And the board of directors, the last thing they want is someone who's going to change things. Steve Jobs--he would bet the company, he wouldn't care. But there are very few people who run companies that way."

3. "You can drown in data: Data is very important, but you have to be good at reading the data in an emotional way. If you look at a selling report, there's an emotional trend to what's selling. What's a focus group? We ask, 'What's going on in the stores?' You learn and then edit, edit, edit, because there's a lot of junk mail in your head."

I guess part of the reason I like this story so much is that it reflects some of what our priorities are here at MNB - that CEOs need to understand that the people on the front lines are a retailer's best ambassadors and best barometers, that the ability to be a merchant is, at the end of the day, more important than the ability to read a spread sheet and preach efficiency, and that the ability to foster revolution, disruption and change from within is critical to remaining relevant and maintaining growth.

And guess what. You can do it all without tucking in your shirt.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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