5 women making a major impact in retail

In retail, you don’t have to look far to find intelligent, confident women taking on big challenges, creating opportunities and pushing boundaries. At NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show earlier this year, 44 percent of the more than 500 speakers were women. NRF’s Small Business Owners survey found that 61 percent of new small business owners are women. With female consumers driving the majority of spending, they’re often the catalyst that drives retailers to innovate.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we reflected on just a few of the many remarkable women in retail we’ve encountered this year making a significant impact on the industry.

Rethinking the model

Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox recording podcast
Katia Beauchamp records a podcast with NRF’s Retail Gets Real.

Katia Beauchamp, CEO and co-founder, Birchbox

When Katia Beauchamp and her co-founder started the online beauty subscription box company back in 2010, subscription boxes weren’t really a thing yet. Today, according to NRF’s Consumer View research, 16 percent of consumers subscribe to a service like Birchbox, and most are interested in increasing their number of subscriptions.

Birchbox was an early pioneer not just of the subscription box model but also in its approach to data-driven personalization. With its recent partnership with Walgreens, the brand is continuing to deliver smart, creative solutions for its target customers while redefining the retail experience. “It’s really just about learning how we’re going to be the destination for this woman who we feel has not been a priority of the industry, getting to the point of this intersection of delight and efficacy,” Beauchamp said in an interview on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast earlier this year.

Driving innovation

Sarah Rand and Bill Thorne from NRF interview Lori Flees of Walmart
Lori Flees (center) recording a podcast with the Retail Gets Real co-hosts.

Lori Flees, senior vice president of next generation retail and principal of Walmart’s “Store No. 8”

The largest retailer in the world is also one of the most important leaders in retail’s digital revolution. One of the people who enable this old-timer to innovate like a startup is Lori Flees, Walmart’s senior vice president of next generation retail and principal of Store No. 8, a next-generation business incubator that develops and tests emerging technologies that will shape the future of retail.

In a Retail Gets Real podcast, Flees described how Store No. 8 develops emerging technologies imagining the retail environment 10 to 20 years out to get in front of them. The “fail fast” method of testing and learning is key. If you don’t fail at all, it means you’re not pushing the envelope,” she said. “The only thing that fails is when you don’t learn from it.”

Supporting communities

Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse, co-founders, R.Riveter

Military spouses Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse met while their husbands were stationed in Georgia, and bonded over a common frustration: Members of the military often move every three years, making it difficult for their spouses to find meaningful employment. Inspired by Rosie the Riveter, the two started R.Riveter out of their garage, and the company employs military spouses to create handmade handbags and goods. “We wanted opportunity,” Bradley says. “We wanted to start a company that provides jobs for women across the country.”

After an appearance on the television show “Shark Tank” in 2016, the company’s growth catapulted. It now employs 45 remote “Riveters,” as well as 40 employees. “Every time a woman picks up a handbag, she knows she’s picking up the stories of 12 military spouses who made it,” Bradley said. The two were honored as “Givers” this year in the NRF Foundation’s List of People Shaping Retail’s Future.

Fighting for retailers

Representative Jackie Walorski  at Stephenson's
Rep. Jackie Walorski visits Stephenson’s in Elkhart, Ind.

Representative Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., U.S. House of Representatives

Maybe it’s her background as the daughter of an appliance store owner, but Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana gets the importance of standing up for retail; 98 percent of all retailers are small businesses, and Walorski makes small business a priority. From her seat in Congress, she’s been a leader in fighting the expansion of harmful tariffs that negatively impact retailers across the country, recently co-sponsoring the Import Tax Relief Act, which would require that a process be established to exclude some items from the Trump administration’s tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

“Just rolling off the regulations on small companies and allowing them to thrive, cutting their taxes, getting fairness in trade … I’m just grateful to play a small part in that,” Walorski said earlier this year while visiting a store in Indiana.

Creating opportunities

StubHub's Sukhinder Singh Cassidy speaks at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy speaks at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show.

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder, theBoardlist and president of StubHub

When Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, now president of StubHub, started theBoardlist in 2015, she noted that roughly 70 to 75 percent of corporate boards had no women. TheBoardlist is a kind of LinkedIn for corporate boards, helping those searching for female board candidates connect with highly qualified female executives who are looking for board opportunities. Since launching, theBoardlist has placed over 100 women on boards.

NRF works with theBoardlist in its effort to increase gender diversity in the boardroom. Female retail executives from thousands of NRF associate and retail member companies based in the United States can join the NRF gateway into theBoardlist’s private network to be discovered in board searches from private and public companies across the country. Learn more about NRF and theBoardlist.

For more opportunities to learn from and network with other strong women in retail, check out NRF’s Women in IT and Women in LP committees.

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