From first job to CEO: Leaders from Macy’s and Qurate Retail share their career stories

Retail Gets Real episode 263: Jeff Gennette and Mike George share retail lessons

NRF Foundation Honors

Join us as we recognize The Visionary and The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future, and announce the recipients of our undergraduate scholarships.

Many Americans start their careers working in retail, but not everyone makes it to the corner office. On this week’s episode of Retail Gets Real, we hear from Jeff Gennette, the chairman and CEO of Macy's Inc., and Mike George, the former president and CEO of Qurate Retail, Inc., about insights from their first jobs all the way to the most important lessons they’ve learned in retail. The two retail leaders will co-host the upcoming NRF Foundation Honors, April 13, 2022.

Both George and Gennette were drawn to retail early on. George started his career as a vacuum cleaner salesmen, and says it was a humbling job that gave him a close-up lesson of the impact retail has on people's lives and the importance of operating with integrity and care for the customer.

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Headshot of Mike George, President and CEO, Qurate Retail Group
Mike George,
former president and CEO of
Qurate Retail, Inc.

“I love the energy and the passion of the people in retail. I love that we have to continuously innovate and adapt and reinvent to stay relevant,” George says.

Gennette’s career at Macy’s spans 38 years. He began as an executive trainee, working across all parts of the business and in different parts of the country before becoming CEO.

He credits his success to his passion and ability to build meaningful teams, using a sports analogy. “If you want to drive sustainable results, you've got to have the right people in the right roles,” Gennette says. “I've made a career of selecting the right people, getting those individual athletes, but then also getting them as team members.”

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Jeff Gennette
Jeff Gennette,
chairman and CEO of Macy's Inc.

Employee success requires building a culture of engagement and empowering people to achieve great things. Team member vision must be aligned with leadership’s but that can only happen through effective communication, Gennette says.

George says leading in retail requires the same type of flexibility that comes with an ever-changing industry. Adapting to numerous changes, having curiosity and exhibiting resilience is essential for leaders in order to inspire innovation.

“There are infinite ways to build the diverse career in retail. And I just can't imagine a more dynamic, innovative, fast paced, engaging, customer focused industry to be a part of,” George says.

Tune into the episode to hear George and Gennette debunk retail myths, ponder the future of retail and more. Watch the full interviews on nrf.com and learn more about the NRF Foundation Honors and the honorees at nrffoundation.org.

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