Blog #169 I talked about three reps who stayed in touch. In this blog I want to talk about how my Target journey begins in Milpitas.
Nordstrom was an amazing experience and I met so many great people along the way. A lot of the things I learned during my time there shaped me into the merchant I am today. In my previous experiences I learned these things too but the Nordstrom experience developed them. Mentors like Rob, Mike and Kent really helped fine tune my Women’s experience while Gail taught me a different side of the business in Kid’s. Martha exposed me to the Salon world and coaching people the right way. I think I learned a little bit from all my RMM’s though even the bad one.
Blake and Jack also were a big part to my development. Here you had two people that were at the top of the food chain but also were great coaches and mentors to their people. That was the thing about Nordstrom and the inverted pyramid. Sometimes we at the store level would scoff at the idea of an inverted pyramid. “Yeah right” was the response most of the time. But in practice Nordstrom held the salespeople in such high regard it worked.
In life you have to take the journey as a learning process. You can’t go through life not making any mistakes. These are lessons to learn from to become better and stronger as a person. Business is the same type of process. It’s best to take your ego aside and implement the things you learn to always move forward. The difficult piece to this is to identify this when its happening instead of later down the road.
I didn’t have much of a break from Nordstrom before I started Target, maybe a week. I did that by design since I had a severance package and wanted it to feel like a bonus of sorts. Bonus for being happier I was thinking.
I was hired as a Soft-lines ETL or Executive Team Leader as they termed it at Target. With my vast shoe experience it made since to start in soft-lines. I think at this point I was going on over 20 years in the footwear industry. This job was more of a retail job as a whole than being defined as still being in the footwear industry. The goal was to work my way through all the departments to eventually become a STL or Store Team Leader.
The first few months I worked through a training workbook and worked in several departments to get through each chapter of the book. Target was big on clean aisles and as an ETL you had to make sure that was the case at all times. This included cases off the floor and everything neat and in order. Spills were all too common too since there were liquid products so we had to keep on top of that too to reduce slips and falls.
My first STL was George. He was a great guy and very personable. He was fit and handsome and had an amazing smile. His sense of humor cracked me up too as we had a lot of good times and laughs together. He had a great team of ETL’s who all liked each other and were good at what they did. George was great at coaching at training people. He was really patient and talked clearly to make sure you understood what he expected. It was an amazing experience working with him. I knew from the very beginning Target wasn’t my destiny but George made it seem okay.
I was nominated by George to be the store “Safety” ETL as well. This meant I was responsible for reducing the accidents in the store. Whenever a “Guest” as Target would call the customers, had an accident the MIC or Manager in Charge at the time would have to fill out all the paperwork and note what happened. Usually it was because a liquid from a container leaked out and no one caught it. I made sure the ETL’s would look for these types of things as they were doing their rounds and we reduced our accident events by 50%.
Dress codes different
Everyday at Nordstrom I’d get ready with a different suit each day, shirt and tie and groomed well. It was different at Target. You had a uniform basically. Not really but kinda… Khaki pants and a red shirt. You could have different types of red shirts but a t-shirt was frowned upon as an ETL. It had to be a collared shirt like a polo or a button up dress shirt. Solid color too.
This alone was a big departure for me. I decided I missed the suits which was weird because sometimes the suits got old too. I think it was mostly the atmosphere I missed. Piano music and upscale customers to basic items at a great price. Different crowd for sure.
The shoe department I was in charge of was a little more upscale than Koby’s was but it made me feel like I took a step backwards. Target did a good job of having stylish styles at a price. Most of the brands were their own private label brands like Merona or Exhilaration. They started to eventually venture into designer brands they commissioned but still on the cheaper end of the spectrum.
Nordstrom was a high bar that I finally reached and now I had to dig deep and find myself again. What did I want? Where was I going. Was I still a Shoe dog? At Nordstrom during the Recognition meetings I was the instigator of the Shoe Dog bark. The shoe buyers would usually sit in the back and if they’d mention the shoe areas I’d start a “Bark chant” that would go like “Woof Woof Woof” in a deep tone. The GM would always comment “The shoe dogs are barking”. I missed that… I knew the path but did I really want to venture down this path or start looking now.
Then there was Zappos still. I felt I was missing out on something. Every time I talked to Jon or Fred they were doubling their business. Pretty exciting. Eileen joined Zappos soon after I quit Nordstrom. She had worked with me in Arden Fair and moved on to Nordstrom in SF Centre and also had a brief stint at Target. I felt like the kid who was looking at the friend who got a pair of Levis. Since my dad worked at Sears I got “ Sears Toughskins”. My dad would always say they were better than Levis.
Diane kept cheering me on to stick it out. “You will make a great Store Manager someday” she’d say. Problem was I didn’t know if I believed that or worse yet, even wanted that…
SIZES... SIZES... SIZES... SIZES...
…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career.
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