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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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Problems are a gift – Blog #71

problems are a gift

In blog 70 I talked about how the only constant in retail is change In this blog I wanted to talk about how problems are a gift.

So as I said in earlier, I bought a ton of salt water sandals for the event, now I needed to figure out where I was going to put them all. Our stockroom was really small. I took my jacket off one day and shifted the whole stockroom to make room for the sandals. Even after all that,we were about a few sections short .


Jean Claude called me into his office to ask me questions about the sale. I told him I was concerned about the back stock. “Put them in my office if you have to, he said with a grin”. Pretty sure he was joking but I was going to keep that in mind. “Check around the store and see if you can find something to store them in”

I found a fixture room that just needed to be straightened out. The team and I organized it and soon enough we had a large corner of the room for back stock. We would keep a tally on what we had here and check things off as we pulled them. After the first weekend we would have enough to bring them over.

We ended up having a very successful event, sold a lot more than the previous year and I learned something. When planning a large event you have to plan how much stock you need to fuel the event and also where you will store the excess inventory. This happened again later in my career but was a little better prepared because of this lesson


“Every problem is a gift. Without them we wouldn’t grow” – Tony Robbins



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

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The only constant in retail is change – Blog #70

The only constant in retail is change

In Blog 69 I talked about doing your best work. In this blog I wanted to talk about how the only constant in retail is change.

One day Jim has a store meeting to announce he’s leaving. The good news was he was being promoted to the GM of the Northern California region. “Good for him” I thought. I had such a great relationship with him I was happy for him but sad to see him go.

Jean Claude

Our new Store Manager was a gentleman from Portland, his name was Jean Claude. He was tall, handsome and very well dressed. He was wearing an amazing suit and came from the Men’s clothing area. Made sense by the way he dressed. He had a French accent which I liked, and was very well educated. He made his rounds meeting everyone and seemed like a good guy.

Saltwater Sale Event

So my head was spinning with all the changes, I was getting my arms around the new job and we had an event coming up. The “Saltwater sandal” event was a big sandal sale around a very popular sandal in the kid’s area. The sole of the shoe was very stiff but the uppers were a water resistant leather. The style came in an array of colors and even went up to women’s sizes for a “Mommy & Me” kind of thing.

One thing about the kid’s area was the had a lot less inventory than the women’s area. In talking to the employees we always sold out of these sandals right away. Hmmm I wonder if we bought into the sale more what we could that mean for business. I looked at old PO’s and saw what the history was and figured out I “should be” buying a lot more. I decided to go for it.

Doing your best work

“No guts no glory” I thought, I had been upping quantities in some of the other areas in the department and my business was really good, so I knew by going narrow and deep on key items, I would be successful. I think my new merchandiser about had a heart attack when we went over my plan, but she supported me thinking we could always move stuff around. She probably thought this new guy from women’s was some hot dog, so I had to be right on this. One question remained…

“Where am I going to put all this stuff?

“The only constant in life is change”-Heraclitus



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

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Doing your Best work – Blog #69

Doing your Best work

In blog 68 I talked about leadership direction and people placement. In this blog I wanted to talk about doing your best work.

So kids shoes was a whole different world. This department definitely didn’t get the love Women’s shoes received. I’m not saying from the store manager but more about budgets, ads stuff like that. And with that, the volume was smaller and so was the open to buy. But it was a great starting point for me to learn about the art of buying. 

So in talking with seasoned buyers like Pam, in the kids world, they would do fun things to bring people in.

Shoe tying seminar

One such event was the shoe tying seminar. We would invite a dozen kids to the department with their parents. The would all sit in chairs in a row facing the instructor. The parents would stay off to the side. “Over, under, around and through,
Meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through.”. We would just poems or songs to help them remember. It involved a lot of practice tries. It was a lot of fun and we would give a “Nordie” stuffed toy at the end.

Ked’s painting

How do you spruce up a plain white sneaker? You hire an artist and have a keds painting. We would advertise that an artist was going to be in the store and people could come in and purchase a pair of plain white sneakers and an artist would paint a design of their choice on the sneaker. It was very well received, in fact the customers would have to come back later to pick up the finished product.

Both of these events brought people in and gave us the opportunity to capture a new  customer to our personal books. We would keep tract of the child’s sizes and based on the growth we could call to suggest a new fitting

Doing your best work

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” — Teddy Roosevelt*

*This quote Originated from the battle of San Juan hill. The men wanted more guns,more men and more supplies



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

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Leadership Direction and People Placement – Blog #68

Leadership Direction and People placement

So, in Blog #67 I talked about how honesty is the best policy. In this blog I want to talk about Leadership Direction and People placement.

So Jim Nordstrom and I were pretty tight. We didn’t hang out or anything like that but we appreciated each other. Lets not confuse things here either, he was still the Store Manager and I worked under his leadership way down the ladder. He would usually walk the floor in the morning and talk to us about random things. In the last blog I talked about something very similar to this about how he asked my opinion on different things.

Jim came down one morning and we had just opened the store and I was watching the floor as Steve was checking on some things in the stockroom. “Got a minute?” he said. I stepped onto the floor a little away from the department and it was early so not too many customers were around.

The Promotion talk

 “I want to promote you to the Kid’s shoes buyer”. He was really excited about it. A pit in my stomach came back, not kid’s shoes, I thought to myself. Not really thinking about what to say I basically just said I appreciated him thinking of me but most of my experience was in women’s shoes and I wanted to grow my career in the women’s area.

Step outside

He looked at me and bit his lip a little shaking his head. “I see, why don’t we step outside for a minute”. The pit just became larger… We walked outside and he stopped, pointing at the store logo on the building. “Whose name is on the building?” he asked. “Yours” I replied. “When it gets changed to Normart, you can make that decision” .

I looked at him and said “When do I start?” we both laughed a little, mine more nervous than his…

“A Leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be”.

–Rosalynn Carter

Leadership Direction and People placement.

He had confidence in me to be successful. Entering a new division took me out of my comfort zone but it forced me to learn new things and gave me the opportunity to learn the Buyer role on a much smaller scale.

I learned something about team development and thinking outside the box. The kid’s areas didn’t always get the same attention as women’s so we had to be creative.

I learned so much in this position it was a defining moment for my career. Sometimes we need to be open to learning new things and different ways to do them. As we say in the Zappos culture “Embrace and drive change”. In the next year I did just that…


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

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Honesty is the best policy – Blog #67

Honesty is the best policy

So, in Blog #66 I talked about hiring great people. In this blog I want to talk how honesty is the best policy.

So Jim Nordstrom and I were developing a great relationship. He’d come down to the floor and chat with me on how it was going and always asked  if there was anything he could do to help.

I was very appreciative of him making me an All-Star at the opening so I wanted to make him proud.

Recognition Meeting

One day we had regional Recognition meeting and Jim was speaking in the meeting. Nordstrom would recognize the great performances by Department managers and Buyers. The All-Star would also be announced.

Jim had a dry sense of humor which I liked, he always made me laugh. This time however he was pretty straight laced and kept his humor to a minimum. I understood, as it was a regional meeting but I really enjoyed his dry wit.

We all get back to the store and I get called into the Store Managers office. I couldn’t help wonder if I was in trouble or if he just wanted to chat. You never know with customers sometimes.

I get to his office and he asks me to have a seat. “what did you think of my speech?” he asked. A pit developed rather quickly in my gut as I wasn’t wild about what he said but still thought he did a good job.

“I like it when you show your dry wit more”, I said. Uhhh did I just tell him the truth on what I thought of his performance? The pit grew just a bit larger and definitely heavier.

“That’s why I called you up here, I knew you’d tell me the truth”. He felt he was a little flat as well and said most people just flatter him. He thanked me for my honesty and I went back down to the floor. I really didn’t know what to think until we had another recognition meeting.

The next Recognition Meeting

He definitely was a lot more witty. He glanced over to me and gave me a look and I put up a thumbs up.  I was so happy that day and was happy for him too, he nailed it. From that day forward I decided to be as honest as possible (with tact of course). Honesty is the best policy…


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

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People make the Difference – Blog #66

People Make the Difference

So, in Blog #65 I talked about helping security deal with criminals. In this blog I want to talk about how people make the difference.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know I’ve been pretty passionate about the “people” aspect of business. It is so important. Let me emphasize, it is Most important. People make the difference. So hiring great people has to be a focus.

“Hire great people and give them freedom to be awesome.”

– Andrew Mason, Founder, Groupon

A well balanced team makes all the difference though.I talked about All-Stars and Pacesetters in blog 59, People that give great service and people that can actually sell a lot of stuff. Then there is the knowledge piece.

We hired a few people as we were going and these three were great additions.


Randy was a shoe dog with a lot of experience from a shoe store famous for their training. That training came in handy as he had a great foundation on the basics. Multiple selling, customer service , so he was a natural for Nordstrom. He was very passionate too. Randy was something out of a 50’s movie with his slicked back hair and mannerisms. He eventually got into management down the line and he was great at it.


Bill was an old shoe dog who had a lot of experience in fitting shoes. He was tall and somewhat imposing but great with the customers. His knowledge came out to them and they trusted him to help them find the right item for their needs. Bill wasn’t pushy but he could be in the right way to make the sale. He was a good guy and had a big heart.


Another great addition and he also eventually got into management. He was a good hearted person and had a great sense of humor. His warmth came out to the customers and he was also someone with a lot of experience that people trusted. He was never intense, always pretty easy going but was smart in his decisions.

So the key to this group were they were all leaders even when they didn’t hold a leadership position. These three inspired others to do the right thing which is the key to being a leader. A well run floor needs the service people, the sellers and a group of leaders to inspire more leaders.


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

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