Retail’s evolution requires a focus on talent development

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When she was in college, former Macy’s Chief Marketing Officer Martine Reardon didn’t know about retail’s potential as an industry where she could have a career. Then she was “bitten by the retail bug” after a store internship. The idea of doing something different every day excited her, and once she realized she could connect a career to her passion for fashion, Reardon committed to retail wholeheartedly.

This week on Retail Gets Real, Reardon joins Ellen Davis, senior vice president at NRF and executive director of the NRF Foundation, to discuss the rapid changes taking place in the retail industry and how this evolution is changing the way retailers approach talent recruitment and development. 

“Retail is cyclical,” Reardon says. “It goes through ebbs and flows.” She’s bullish on the future of retail, and sees the most successful companies blending bricks-and-mortar retail with digital strategies. The key is to “keep the consumer at the center of everything we’re doing.”

To successfully compete and produce more “surprise and delight” moments for the customer, Reardon says retailers must become experts at gleaning insights from consumer data across the entire shopping experience. “The brands who can do it really well on both channels [are] going to continue to flourish,” she says. Reardon will bring her perspective on retail reinvention to this fall, where she’ll lead thought-provoking discussions with some of the industry’s most influential leaders.

Ellen Davis (left) and Martine Reardon (right) chat about retail careers and trends.

Ellen Davis (left) and Martine Reardon (right) chat about retail careers and trends.

Davis says the changing retail industry is prompting a shift in the way retailers think about talent. Companies still have a need for traditional retail operations roles like cashiers, sales associates and warehouse technicians, but “these roles have fundamentally changed,” she says. The relationship between the customer and the store representative has also changed, becoming much more “digitally influenced.”

To meet the needs of employers and job seekers across the country, the NRF Foundation has launched RISE Up, a retail education and credentialing program supported by more than 30 leading retailers. With a holistic look at the industry’s talent needs, RISE Up provides a path to “help people get skilled and trained in finding that first job,” Davis says.

"Retail can open your eyes to other ways of starting your career."

Martine Reardon

Reardon endorses the program enthusiastically. RISE Up “is not only identifying [retail] as a great opportunity and a career path … but then giving [job seekers] the skills and the training to help them feel very comfortable when they get into that retail job,” she says. The program is for “somebody who is thinking about a longer-term career.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how retailers can keep up with the current wave of change and how the right approach to talent can make a difference for companies and communities.

Jessica Hibbard is one of NRF’s co-hosts on Retail Gets Real. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.