retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning has an interview with Lauren Hobart t, the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, who is the first non-family member and first woman to have the job at the company.  (Ed Stack, whom she succeeded, was the son of founder Richard Stack.)

The story notes that Dick's has seen strong growth during the pandemic, though like every other retailer, it now faces constraints created by a snarled supply chain.  This all leaves Dick's "taking several steps to increase market share. This year it opened the first of several planned Dick’s House of Sport, a larger version of a Dick’s store with more interactive elements such as a rock-climbing wall. Today in Pittsburgh, Dick’s opened its first Public Lands store, a chain that aims to appeal more squarely to outdoor enthusiasts. Ms. Hobart says Dick’s also is focused on expanding its base of female shoppers. 'Women were coming into our stores and leaving with products for their family and not for themselves,' she says."

Some excerpts from the interview:

•  "At PepsiCo I worked under [former CEO] Indra Nooyi, who was a mentor in many ways. Between Indra and the very strong mom I have, it never occurred to me that women couldn’t be anything they wanted to be. I don’t want to minimize struggles that I know many, many women have in terms of being considered for opportunities and being taken as seriously as male counterparts. At Dick’s, the relationship I developed with Ed just was never dominated by the fact that I’m a woman. We bring very different things to the table when it comes to a partnership. He’s a merchant through and through, and he’s an entrepreneur, and I had a history in marketing and strategic planning. We just balanced each other out. I think the female-male dynamics, somewhat stereotypically, also balance each other out really well. I have felt like being a female leader is a huge asset."

•  "I feel that as a female, it was very natural to me to lead with a people-first approach, one that was about engaging teammates and engaging our customers. It has been a huge strength."

•  "I have been a person who is extremely open. I write letters. In my time as chief marketing officer, I wrote weekly emails to the marketing team, and I would tell them stories about my kids, or about my mom, or a fight I had, or this or that realization about the business. It was always very nonpresidential, in my opinion. I did say to Ed, 'Now I’m going to have to change absolutely everything. I can’t be posting selfies in emails to the whole group and to the whole company.' He disagreed and said, 'What got Lauren Hobart to be in this position is Lauren Hobart, and we don’t want Lauren Hobart to change.'  And so, I haven’t held back at all."

KC's View:

I read this story, and I wonder about any retailer with leadership that doesn't take a people-first approach.  Especially today, when there are so many technological innovations reshaping the business and redefining shop-shopper relationships, creating stores where people serve people strikes me as a baseline for success. 

These days, when there seems to be a growing divide between management and labor at many companies, creating a culture of caring - however that caring happens to be expressed and realized - can be an effective foundation for differentiation.  Maybe the effective foundation.