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Hard work pays off – Blog #76

Hard work pays off

In blog 75 I talked about how to be the change driver. In this blog I wanted to talk about how hard work pays off.

So I didn’t call Rob. I decided to finish the year and have the best year possible. We were on a roll, Jack was already past his Pacesetter goal and others were close to it. The department was having one of its best years ever and that made me happy. I still missed Women’s shoes and the team downstairs but there wasn’t any openings anyways.

 One month later…

Out of the blue Rob calls me. “Mikey boy, I’m going to save you”, “I have a Brass Plum Buyer job open downstairs, you interested?”. Without hesitation I said “Yes!”. Brass Plum Shoes was the Junior Shoe Dept. for Nordstrom that was right next to Women’s shoes. Do you need to think about it all? Nope, I’m ready. “Good, I’ll be in tomorrow we can go over the details”, “Out”…he always ends phone conversations like that lol. 

Rob rolls in bright and early and walks me over to Jean Claudes office. “Congratulations young man, you deserve it”, Jean Claude said to me. “Let’s go down to your new department” Rob said with a grin.

As we were going down the escalator Rob said “ I’m not going to lie, you are going to have your work cut out down here”. After Kathleen left, who was the first buyer for the opening it’s been on a downward slide. When we got down there,  Jim congratulated me as did a bunch of the people I used to work with. I was going to be in BP shoes though which was the juniors area. I still knew a few people there.

Stock walk

Rob tosses a legal pad at me, c’mon let’s do a stock walk, you take notes then the next time I’m in we’ll check the progress. We got to the back room, it was a disaster. Sizes depleted, messy. Rob was right, I had my work cut out for me. We spent the whole day going over the inventory and the PO book. He made some great suggestions and I think I was three pages deep on the legal pad.

This should get you started, congrats again, you’ll be great!

Before I left for the new position I wanted to say good bye to my team upstairs. At Nordstrom there wasn’t a waiting period. We had some good chats and I felt good about leaving the team.

There was a sign downstairs when you left the stockroom that said  “Are you ready?”

I think I was…

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoreau



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

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Be the change driver – Blog #75

Be the change driver

In Blog 74 I talked about The corporate business trip to Seattle. In this blog I wanted to talk about how You must be the change driver. 

After being in Kid’s shoes for a little over six months, I started to see the fruits of my labor. Our business was going great, so much so that Jean Claude would make it a point to stop by and tell me how happy he was with our results. It took some guts and determination to get there. Especially when people would tell me “you can’t do that in kid’s shoes”. It just made me go do it anyway.

Arden fair was a great Nordstrom store, I guess being part of the opening team made me have a sense of pride for the store too. It made me happy to see the store do so well. Every morning we would arrive at the store, we would have to climb 3 flights of stairs to get to the top.

The morning routine would be to climb the stairs, then go to the area where all the sales numbers were posted. They would have several books out, near where the hourly employees would clock in. There were books for each department and whether you made your day or not.  there were the employee sales for the day as well. I’d always check both.

Kid’s Salespeople

Kid’s shoes was always tough to get people to hire for. Part of this was because the pay structure was different. Ok it was lower. In Women’s & Men’s shoes you made your hourly rate which was usually $10 an hour (1990’s), or your 10% commission rate which ever was higher. In kids shoes you had buckets. So if you hit a certain SPH (sales per hour) your commission rate would be higher.  Issue was the volume was much lower so to hit the higher bucket you had to be a hustler.


Needless to say there weren’t many Kid’s Pacesetters to be seen. Until Jack came to our department that is. One of our employees went to women’s shoes, so we had an opening and Jack applied. He was a handsome young man with a very nice personality. I hired him a few days later. He was a machine on the floor, his numbers were unbelievable by kid’s standards. I hit the “Jack”pot”.

I could tell he would be a Pacesetter at the end of the year after the first week. Most of the other employees started to complain he was a floor shark. Basically he didn’t wait for others to approach the customers, he was on it. It made one of our other employees start to sell more too. It gave everyone a new sense of urgency.

European Business

Our European business was really starting to take off too, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. The items weren’t found in many of the other stores in town and they were pricey, which our top people loved. I made sure I beefed up the quantities on those items.


Even though everything was going great, I really missed Women’s shoes. Kid’s shoes gave me a solid foundation, Gail was an amazing mentor but I was getting restless. I felt I made alot of positive changes which drove our business. What was missing?

I figured this out one day when I was helping a customer and this kid was running around the chairs non-stop. Of course his mom didn’t do anything about it. I edged my size 12 foot just ever so slightly in his path and he tripped and started crying. I apologized to the customer and she said “It’s not your fault, he was being a brat”.

At that moment I figured it out. I  loved the ever changing fashion and high volume of the Women’s floor. I thrived on chaos and making it better but couldn’t find my passion for the product. Yes, the product was cute and all but to me it was more on improving the processes and running a great department than getting excited about what the new pink patent mary jane style would be.  

What to do? Part of my success in Kid’s was to be the change driver. With that being said it wasn’t enough. Gail had been so good to me it reminded me of when I left Jim at Naturalizer. I felt guilty for even having these thoughts.I wonder if I should call Rob..

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi


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

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Corporate Business Trip to Seattle – Blog #74

Corporate Business Trip to Seattle

In Blog 73 I talked about howthe power of Mentors and friendships. In this blog I wanted to talk about the corporate business trip to Seattle.

A group of Kid’s Buyers flew from the San Francisco region to Seattle to attend the Kid’s Corporate meeting. I was nervous about this being my first corporate meeting but Pam calmed my nerves down somewhat. Funny thing was it would be the first time I’d meet her and Lorrie as well. Most of our interactions were over the phone and I hadn’t been in the kid’s division that long to actually meet them.

We arrived in Seattle mid-morning and we settled into our Hotel rooms which were close to the store. Gail wanted to show us around the area before dinner which was later that evening. We went to a few famous landmarks such as the first Starbucks store, Pikes market and Pikes brewery right before dinner. We didn’t have time to see the Space Needle which is also a famous place.

Starbucks first store

The first store that Starbucks opened was right across from Pikes Market. It was a smaller Starbucks, a guy was playing a guitar for tips outside and there was a line of people waiting to get in. It was really cool to see it with all the merchandise that said “first Starbucks store” and all. Truth be told aside from the hoopla it was just another Starbucks.

Pike Market/Fish Market

Definitely a highlight reel. This fish market was written about in the book Fish! It was a Nordstrom read all buyers had to read in the early 2000’s. At this time in the 90’s it was still just a story people talked about. We get there with our Starbucks coffees in hand and there is a lot of shouting going on. As we get closer we see the employees “shouting” the orders to the butcher and then throwing the fish over to him. Some of them where huge too!. It was a very vibrant and electrifying atmosphere which made for a good time.

Pikes Brewery

The brewery had its Fermentation tanks in plain view and we took a tasting tour and learned about the history of the Brewery. It was fascinating to say the least. The brewery was founded the same time I started my Nordstrom career in 1989 so it stuck with me. They produce quite a few barrels a year so it was really cool to see the operation. We had dinner that evening there too. I had an amazing burger.

Kid’s Corproate Meeting

There were Kid’s buyers from all over the country. It was intense! We had a few words from The Nordstrom family then the head of Kids spoke. Her name was Dawn and she was really nice. They talked about how service is always the number one focus and how we could take the kids shoe division to the next level.

The best part though was after the meeting. Networking with so many different buyers  around the whole country was invaluable. I picked up so many great ideas on what others were doing I couldn’t wait to get back to the store. It was such a great trip on so many levels.

I learned being prepared for the questions people might ask is so important. Anticipate what they might be is the key. Truth be told you could prepare for a few days for just a five minute encounter. but nothing is worse than not being prepared. you still might get stumped, Blake was really good at asking those types of questions, but its the game. Cat and mouse. if you are on your game you will do well, even if you can’t always answer all the questions its a learning thing too. This was my first corporate business trip to Seattle headquarters.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

– Simon Sinek



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

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Power of Mentors and Friendships – Blog #73

Power of Mentors and Friendships

In blog 72  I talked about Dont lose your Focus. In this blog I want to talk about the power of Mentors and friendships. 

Gail calls me one day and informs me she wants me to be part of the Seattle trip. “Seattle trip”? What was this Seattle trip?. She laughed and told me it was a corporate kids meeting where they talked about the kids vision for the following year.

I was honored to go.


Pam was always my “go to” person when I had questions. She was super knowledgeable about the kids area and she was great at explaining everything. Remember your favorite teacher? What was it that made them your favorite? For me it was being compassionate. Caring & understanding. Being a good listener, then giving sound advice. Pam was such a person. I learned a lot from her in my first year as a buyer, and it stuck with me. We became really good friends from there. 

I was really nervous about this trip but Pam made me feel at ease. “It’s not that big of a deal”, she would say. “Just be prepared to speak to your business and what your vision for the department is”. So I studied my business the weekend before and tried to come up with good thoughts on my vision for the department. It was a pretty big deal but she was trying to calm my nerves which meant a lot to me.

Having a point of difference from other stores was my initial thought. We have a pretty good business with our European brands and we could have fun things in the department to set us apart. Pam gave me a lot of great ideas with those things which I had already started doing, so now how do I take it to the next level.


Lorrie was another really knowledgeable buyer. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy like Pam but she also knew her stuff. She was more like a sister who would make fun of you most of the time but always be there for you when you needed her. She was super confident in herself which I admired. We always had a good time together as she usually was upbeat and super sarcastic like me.

She was not shy about her opinions either, if she believed in something, everyone knew where she stood. She always gave me good ideas on things in the kids world and I would try to spin those to my store, as all stores were different in so many ways.

I learned a lot from Pam and Lorrie as peers and was fortunate to learn under a great leader like Gail. People leave an impact on you as the quote above states, it’s how they make you feel. This trio made me feel really good about the future and most importantly made me feel welcomed. This tells you the Power of Mentors and Friendships. And the bonus of it all is, Pam and I are really close to this day

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. — Maya Angelou


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

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Don’t Lose Your Focus – Blog #72

Don't Lose Your Focus

In Blog 72 I talked about how problems are gifts because you can learn from them. In this blog I want to talk about Don’t lose your focus.

So we had Saltwater sandals coming out of our ears. Our entire stockroom was stacked to the brim and the area that we found in the fixture room was also pretty full. We were ready. The store opened and we were busy from the first minute we opened. I was planning on working open to close today to makes sure the first day was successful.


My Merchandiser, Gail was also coming in for a visit and it was the first time I would actually meet her face to face. She told me she would come in right around lunch time so we could sit and chat. When she got to the store we were running numbers so it would be a little while before we actually could grab a bite to eat.

I have to say, you meet certain people in your career that leave an impact on how you grow as a professional and a person. Martha was a good example of that, I spoke about in Blogs #36 thru 47. Gail is another such person.


I met her for the first time during a very chaotic day. We had spoken quite often during my short time in Kid’s shoes over the phone but not in person. Gail was the type of person you feel comfortable right off the bat. She has a warmth about her from her smile to her easy going nature. When she talked to you, she spoke clearly and her expectations were very clear on what she wanted to see from her buyers. I liked her from the moment I met her.

Gail is very knowledgeable about the Kid’s area and it made me excited to be able to learn from her. She’s the type of person you want to make proud of you. I’m sure I made her a little nervous about somethings because I had a lot of big ideas and kid’s wasn’t really about that. However it was an amazing experience for me and I learned a lot in the process.

Gail had a very funny sense of humor and she used it to her advantage. I’ve kind of incorporated humor as a tool in my coaching efforts as well. I have also witnessed the “other” side of her and I tried my best to minimize that experience. It was always self-induced lol.  I communicate with her from time to time even now as I respect her and appreciate her as a mentor and just a fine human being.

New Brand Launch

Another exciting thing that happened around this time was the a new brand called Toddler University. It was a brand that stated it solved the width issue. Each pair of shoes bought had three different insoles that would customize the fit. It was widely successful and the team from Toddler u were fantastic to work with

Don’t lose your focus

So in summary we had a big event, a new brand launch and a visit from our merchandiser. when multiple things are going on it’ simportant to focus and make sure things are getting done..

Gail was great at explaining time management skills and being the example of how to conduct yourself in a crazy chaotic retail landscape.

“There is no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat people the way you would like to be treated” – Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group


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

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