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What is the Gameplan – Blog #121

What is the Gameplan

In Blog #120  I talked about about settling into a new position. In this blog I want to talk about what is the gameplan.

Scott came to the store the next day and walked the floor with me. He pointed out the hot brands and explained the demographics of the store. The customers liked the tailored items and we sold brands that had expanded sizes well. 

He was very patient and was nice to work with. Right away I appreciated him and listened to his advice. I liked him right off the bat and felt fortunate I’ve had really great RMM’s in my career.


We then went into the back stockroom and I could see right away we had a space challenge I’d have to figure out. The stockroom had really high shelves too. Scott went through my PO book with me and gave me his points of focus. 


After Scott left, I dug into the Nickels brand a bit more as it was a tailored brand that did quite well in this store. I called Terry the rep, who I met earlier in Arden Fair. He was a great rep who was a big help in driving our business for us. The next morning my plan was to put this brand in the “Boardwalk” position as Kent once suggested to me. 


The next brand I took a look at was Sudini. This was primarily a boot brand that we sold well in the fall and had extended sizes and widths. I called the rep Steve and he said he’d be out soon to go over the mix with me. We agreed we should expand to some of the tailored shoe styles as well. Steve was great to work with too.

He was a little more conservative than I was in the amounts he’d suggest. I remember one time putting 1’s in front of his suggestions telling “ no guts, no glory”. Ok, I was a bit more colorful, Ask me sometime what I really said…

I did this with all the 80/20 brands. The 80/20 rule as I’ve mentioned in the past are the items that make up 20% of your mix but do 80% of your volume. Rob stressed the narrow and deep philosophy to me so I thought I’d start there. What is the gameplan I kept thinking to myself. This seemed like a good start.

It worked in the last store quite well, but this store had been having really tough business for awhile, so I knew this would be a challenge to figure out.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Settling in to a New Position – Blog #120

Settling in to a New Position

In Blog# 120 I talked about my transfer to Bay Area checklist. In this blog I want to talk about settling in to a new position.

I arrive at the store the following week. I meet the two Pacesetters on the floor Andre the Palo Alto Veteran and Jeff an up and coming salesperson with a great personality. Both were great guys and made me feel really welcome. I sat down with both of them and they told me they missed sizes in the best items frequently.  

This was something I definitely was going to dig into that. The rest of the team was very welcoming. My first asst. I recognized from Arden Fair. I would chat with her more extensively later in the day when the second asst. arrived.

Salon Shoes to the Left

Over to the left of my new department was the Salon area. The buyers name was Daryl. He was a very well dress guy with a great smile on his face. I immediately liked him. He was funny and very easy going. Daryl had a great team on his side and had a great mix of merchandise. This store was known for its Ferragamo business as he built it pretty strong.

Brass Plum Shoes to the Right

To the right of my area was the Brass Plum department or “Juniors Shoes”. Terry was the buyer over there. He was a little more reserved than Daryl but he was equally a great guy. I could tell we would all get along really well. Terry and I chatted a little bit about my BP experience and looking at his floor he seemed to have it dialed. BP Shoes also had a good team over on that side, everyone was really friendly.

No Office

So I went into the back room to where my office was and compared to Arden Fair it was just a desk. It was fine for now as I probably was going to be figuring things out for the next few months. A desk area wasn’t my priority. My Clerical’s name was Stacey and she seemed really nice as well.

So far so good, Everyone I met was nice and now the real fun begins,…need to figure out why business has been bad for the last few years. I started going through the PO book to see what kind of flow we had coming in the next few months. Given the sales on some of the brands I could tell right away the quantities were probably a little light. Maybe there are reasons for that.

The rest of the day I called some of the key brands to introduce myself. I asked them if there were issues with shipping and such I should know about. How they felt about the quantities going forward. Of course most of them said they were too light lol. I was going to meet with Scott tomorrow so I could get his take on things.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Transfer to Bay Area Checklist – Blog #119

Transfer to Bay Area Checklist

In Blog# 118  I talked about how good-byes are tough. In this blog I want to talk about my transfer to Bay Area checklist items

There was so much to do in the transfer. Had to coordinate the movers, figure out the kids schools and find a place to live. We found some renters through a neighbor of ours so that worked out well. James was now 8 and Jennifer was 3 so we had to figure out schools now.

We went down and looked at the area while Diane’s mom watched the kids. Both of us liked the Fremont area and found good schools for the kids. Then we found a rental house in a nice area. I could take the Dumbarton bridge which would be a pain but workable.

 Just needed to start packing now I guess. I was somewhat familiar with Palo Alto from my days at Naturalizer and Fremont as we lived there before.Got back to the store and said my goodbyes for the final time, Lorrie the person I worked with in the kid’s area I found out would take my place. While at the store I ran into Jean Claude and he said, I appreciate all you did here. I have something for you but you have to pick them up at my house. Previously I gave him a ride one time when his garage door wasn’t working, so I knew he was near where I lived.

I arrived as schedule and he took me to his bedroom and opened up his closet.  He had so many great suits I couldn’t believe it. Being in the Men’s suit area for years, it made sense, but still… I was in awe. In fact I think my jaw dropped lol.

“ We are about the same size, so I think they will fit you fine. If not take them to the tailor in Palo Alto”. Jean Claude gave me 3-4 of his Hickey Freeman suits. It was so thoughtful. I told him I didn’t know what to say. He said “I want you to start your new job looking good”. I was going to miss him. 

He too had high expectations but I learned so much from him. In fact we went through so much together. From my Kid’s area time and building up the Brass Plum shoes area, he was a big support to me. It was nice to have a person like Jean Claude on my side. We had so much fun in that store.

Another chapter was about to unfold in my career. This would also be hard for the kids to leave their friends. I had mixed emotions all the way around. Would miss my friends but looked forward to this new challenge.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Goodbyes are tough -Blog #118

Goodbyes are tough

In Blog# 117 I talked about why its better to be humble. In this blog I want to talk about how goodbyes are tough.

So I accepted the Palo Alto position. Now the hard part, saying good bye to the team. People always say “I’m not saying good-bye, but see you around”. That may be true, but the day to day interaction, the personal moments are not as frequent.


Mike was an up and coming asst. He started out as a great salesperson and was learning the ropes to management. Plus he was a pretty bright young man with a lot of ambition. In some ways he reminded me of myself. Eventually Mike became an Asst. this year too. 


Man this was a tough one…He was like a son, a brother whatever you want to use. It was tough. I remember after he had been in management a little while he came to me and said “I think I’m going to go back to Wisconsin and go back into roofing with my brother.

“No you’e not”, I said He was dumbfounded. No ? Then he said, “I’m telling you that’s what I want to do?”.  “No” I repeated, your future is too bright to do that. Aaron ended up staying. 

We still talk about that even today. Funny our future together would cross paths again later down the road at That decision would have a profound effect on both of our futures.


She was good, I mean really good. I got along with her hubby too, he was a character. Always made me laugh. Candice just had it all. Very thoughtful and measured in her approach. Great communicator and calm. The term “Manager” really didn’t apply, she was a coach, and a darn good one. I was really going to miss her.

Both Candice and Aaron were a big reason we enjoyed the success we did. We made a great team.


Being a Pacesetter he was always too busy to just chat but when we did they were always great conversations with depth behind them. Alberto  said something to me that has stuck with me even today. He Said “Thank you, you made a difference in my life”. Wow…that went deep. That meant so much to me. It was my mantra going forward, make a difference in peoples lives.


Jamie was my right arm. She was silly, and she was fun and I loved being around her. When it was stressful she could calm me down. Her husband was cool too, we would go to a few basketball games together and have get togethers with our families from time to time. Jamie was like the younger sister I never had. I really was going to miss her.

People make the difference. The whole team was great, it was the most amazing experience I had as a buyer. We took it to the top and enjoyed every minute of it , together… I was going to miss Arden Fair, so many great memories….Next, I have to say good-bye to Jean Claude, my store manager.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Better to be Humble – Blog #117

Better to be Humble

In Blog# 116  I talked about if you fail to plan you plan to fail. In this blog I want to talk about why its betterto be humble.

So I was on a good roll with my results for this department. I usually had good visits when Corporate visitors came down, as I always prepared for them and quite honestly, we were pretty much always ready anyways. Just like everyone we had our moments but always rebounded well.

So we finished the year strong again, I think Southcoast ended up beating us this year though. At the beginning of the year we just finished our annual inventory.

The Call

That week  I get a call from Jack, who headed up the shoe area for the entire company now. He was the shoe god for sure. He was highly respected in the shoe industry and somewhat feared too. Always got along with Jack and never really had a bad visit. If I got a little overbought, maybe I’d sense his displeasure with me, but all in all good.

“Mike, There’s an opening for a women’s shoe buyer in Palo Alto and I want you to consider it. It’s been struggling for a while and we sure could use you over there.” Needless to say I was extremely flattered. I respected Jack a great deal and for him to call me from Seattle was an honor. “Scott should be calling you sometime today” “Just think about it…” Okay I get it, he was priming me to say you are going to transfer…Still an honor…

Scott calls later

Later that day Scott called me. He was the RMM (Regional Merchandise Manager) for the city region and Palo Alto was one of his stores.  I asked him all the details about how the company would move us, as I had kids to consider too. My house was the other question. The market was down so I could potentially lose money if the company would pay me out based on the appraisal. We decided to rent the house out until the market got better.

Bay Area

The Bay area was expensive to live as well, so we were probably looking at renting a house at first. We decided to go down to the store to check it out. I met the store manager Nora. She seemed really nice. She was dressed to the nines and carried herself well.

We had a nice chat. She did tell me the department had been struggling for a while and I had my work cut out for me. That should have been a red flag but I was so confident in myself I thought I wouldn’t have a problem turning it around. I was about to be humbled…

It’s one thing to be confident, but being full of yourself is another thing. I have always carried myself as a humble person but the success I had at Arden Fair made me a little too cocky for my own good.

Ultimately I would find out that everything I learned from Kid’s shoes and Brass Plum shoes would be needed to turn this around. Problem was, I forgot that it takes many things for a department to be successful not just a “good buy”.  I would soon be reintroduced to all i’ve been taught over the years…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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If You Fail to Plan you Plan to Fail Blog #116

If You Fail to Plan you Plan to Fail

In Blog# 115 I talked about having a strong vision. In this blog I want to talk about how If you fail to plan you plan to fail.

We had an amazing Half Yearly event and even better Anniversary event. For the half yearly event I bought some great closeout buys in the active area and fashion bootie trend. For the Anniversary event we debuted some great items from Moda Spana.


This brand was doing great. Rick added extra sizes and widths that turned out to be great sellers in the juniors world. It was especially gratifying for me as I was the Lead for the brand corporately as well. We re-colored the hot selling “Reseda” in great metallics and beautiful suedes. We had a whole collection of this brand now as it kept getting bigger and bigger.

Rick and I, in the process, were becoming good friends. I never let that get in the way of making the right decisions for the department, though it was fun to share the success together. We would go out to dinner when he would come to town as we both were “foodies”.

Rick would go on trips to Europe and come back with hundreds of photos on fashion he saw there. Then he would come up with great designs for the brand. He was really talented in that regard.

Anniversary Cup

Kaaren nominated me for “Anniversary Cup”. I didn’t win the honor, but it was nice to know she thought we did a great job. She was impressed with our preparation, enthusiasm and results. My question was how did I lose having a 20% increase? All kidding aside it was a great honor.

Be prepared

The key to any event is being prepared. From the buys themselves to all the little things that create success. Employee knowledge of the product, having the right amounts by size and color.

I think I’m sounding like a broken record on some of these topics, but in retail its really a few basic fundamentals that work, you just have to be focused.

Finally having an organized stockroom is so important,  “If you cant find it, you can’t sell it”. Seems like that was a Rob saying…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Having a Strong Vision – Blog #115

Having a Strong Vision

In Blog# 114 I talked about more change in the East Bay. In this blog I want to talk about having a strong vision.


Geevy was our regional, and he handed out a Self-Empowerment card I carried with me at all times. For me it was a reminder. So many times we get caught in the daily routine, we lose sight of things.


When we had our regional strategy meetings to go over the vision, we would always start with our number one goal to improve on. It was always Customer service. 


This card reminded me of  not losing sight of the basics, or telling your team the “little things” they are doing right instead of just the opportunities. Carrying this card reminded me that I was put into the position to make these decisions.




Kaaren was a great Leader. She was Empathetic but had high standards. As well as being kind, thoughtful and she had a good sense of humor. Most importantly, Kaaren took the time to sort out troubleshooting measures to move forward. In addition, she was good at communication and explained things clearly.


Southcoast rivalry


Beating Southcoast last year must have been a wake-up call for them because we were running neck and neck all year. The major sales events were quickly approaching and I felt good about all the special buys I placed for each event. We were primed to have some really good increases.


The Vision


During the weeks before the sale events, we coached the teams on service and working the personal books. We made sure the stockroom was easy to navigate. Did stock walks frequently to make sure we had the best stuff in stock. Candice and Aaron also communicated to the team what the goals were in team meetings.


For the Anniversary event, I’d have department meetings and share my vision on the buy. It was import to educate the team on why I bought things the way I did, whether it was a trend or just a hot item I felt strong about. Plus, It was important to share these things so everyone is on the same page. When its chaotic you don’t always have the luxury to ponder these things because you are running. Bottom line was, I felt good about it and could hardly wait to get started.


The events in a lot of ways could make or break your year. This is why I always feel having a strong vision is so important. We planned the events by buying closeouts and key items to drive the business. Educated our team so they could sell the items in the right way. Candice  also had meetings to prepare for outliers and how to troubleshoot them.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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More change in the East Bay – Blog #114

More change in the East Bay

In Blog #113  I talked to just say no to revenge. In this blog I want to talk about more change in the East bay.

Kent decides to join the Peace Corps in Armenia. Right before June Half Yearly. It stirred a lot of emotions for me. I really liked Kent. He taught me a lot and I liked his style. We always had really great conversations and still do today. But he was foll owing his passions. I respected that as I did for everything Kent taught me. I was going to miss him.


Armenian Roots


The other thing it did for me was to make me think of our family tree. Back in 1871 the “Yanikian” family migrated from Armenia to escape the growing tensions in that region right before the Armenian holocaust. Mardiros (Frank) Yanikian traveled by horseback from Erzeroum to Liverpoole. Arrived in Philadelphia in July, 1871. He was so happy he said I feel like a “Normart” (which is Armenian for “New Man”). From there the family was the first Armenians to arrive in Fresno and eventually settle in 1885.


Kaaren becomes RMM


So back to Nordstrom. Kaaren who was the Buyer in Women’s shoes became our new RMM. She was great. We had worked together for some time now so I knew her pretty good. we had travelled together, been at the same dinners and functions. She was just a really nice person.




Charles who came from one of our Utah stores, replaced her as the new Buyer for Women’s shoes.Over the next few months Charles and I also shared a few times together at dinners and grabbing lunch together. He was a good family man which I appreciated. 

Like the old saying goes “The only constant in retail is change”. Oh so true. Kaaren and I had a really good relationship so I wasn’t too worried about her as an RMM. She was really smart and had a great personality. I was excited for her and equally for the region. The bonus was she knew the store and our area well so I felt it was a real positive for us.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Just say no to revenge – Blog #113

Just say no to revenge

In Blog #112 I talked about Different Styles to learn from. In this blog I want to talk to just say no to revenge.

I was learning a lot from my new RMM and incorporated the past knowledge I learned from my other mentors. Things were going really good. Had a great team, business was great as well.


So I’m watching the floor and out of the corner of my eye I spotted someone who looked like my old boss Frank. To refresh, this guy was brutal. No people skills, every visit was like I was on trial. He would make you feel really small and made sure you knew he was the boss. He was coming my way.


“Mr. Normart…” he said with a forced smile. I had butterflies in my gut. I did not like this guy. He treated his employees poorly and when I left Kushin’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. “Hi, Frank, how’ve you been?” He was looking for a job…I told him to fill out an Application and I’d see what I could do.


Just say no to revenge


The thoughts that went through my mind. Hire him and then it’s payback time! A cruel smile appeared on my face which I immediately wasn’t proud of. I talked to Candice and Aaron about it and asked what they thought. They said it was up to me because it would be awkward for me and not such much for them.


I went home that night with so many scenarios racing through my mind. I remembered a Blake visit in which he said “People can make the difference in your success”. It was so true…I had a great team and we enjoyed really positive results because of it.

The questions that were dancing in my mind:


  1. Why would I waste the time and effort of our HR department to hire him, knowing I would end up firing him.
  2. Why put Candice and Aaron through that too? It wouldn’t be fair to them plus I’d be teaching them the wrong lesson.
  3. Why put the team through this too? This was my revenge not theirs
  4. Am I that small of a person to do this for revenge. Not to say he didn’t deserve it. The ultimate revenge would be to NOT hire him.

Help from my mentors


My better sensibilities took over. I could hear Rob just saying one word, Dude…Mike would just give me a look of why? and not sure what Kent would have done. Kent was pretty sensible though and it probably would have turned into a long conversation.

Gail would have given me a short laugh, like are you nuts? Martha wouldn’t even qualify it, probably say “Seriously…”. My dad would have said what Blake said, People…


The mentors won out this time. It was like having Obi Wan Kenobi on my shoulders. Wasn’t worth the effort. He never followed up either. He was probably thinking along the same lines, why bother. This was a good lesson for me. Personal matters should always stay away from business decisions.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Different Styles to learn from – Blog #112

Different Styles to learn from

In Blog 111 I talked about acommunication breakdown. In this blog I want to talk about Different Styles to learn from

So I had a great Merchandiser in the Kid’s area and was lucky enough to have three strong Merchandisers in the Women’s area as well. All of them had different styles and I learned from each of them valuable lessons in my career.




Rob was kind of a super hero type, larger than life. Loud, sometimes a little abrupt but still lovable in his own way. His big thing was driving the business. Narrow and deep. I learned a ton from him.




Mike was cool and collected. Kind of laid back but had high expectations. Never saw him mad or upset. Was usually pretty jovial and would take the time to listen and coach. He was on the fast track. he had a good disposition which people liked.




My new RMM Kent, was all about the details. Clean stockroom, effective displays, having efficient inventory. Strong turn, good sell thrus, balance of private label and branded. Everything was thoughtful. Always had an analogy. Liked to make me think.

“So where’s Boardwalk?” He would ask. “Huh?” I would answer. “Every place on your floor has a certain value, like the Monopoly game” The most valuable place is Boardwalk, so which table is the most valuable. I would look at my floor. The mall entrance probably had the most traffic so one of those three tables would be the most valuable. I started using that analogy when setting the floor. It worked pretty well and was so simple.


Private Label


Private label brands would often have extended sizes I couldn’t get in the branded area, so I liked placing some of those to round out my selection. Plus the NOL (Nordstrom own Label) team were a great bunch. Chuck, Gary and the infamous Harry. Loved it when he would get all excited about a style and comment “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel!”


Some buyers would carry too much of the private label brands in order  to be political but Kent liked everything to be balanced.

Sometimes Kent would go off on tangents though. He was a deep thinker. Sometimes too deep lol. “Mike there’s a massive planet in the universe” (I honestly can’t remember the name, let’s say Planet 9), “A Coke can would be ten stories high”…pause…pause…wait for it…”And someone would be carrying it”. A giggle would ensue. Again I’d say “Huh”. He would then go into “it’s just fascinating that there are so many things out there”.


Kent was great though, I learned a lot from him, enjoyed his company and just genuinely liked being around him. He was positive and had a good sense of humor. And he made me think…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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