Posted on March 8, 2014
I am inspired almost daily by the success, assertiveness, kindness, strength and generosity of women, both in my life and all over the world. Especially by those who support, foster, and inspire personal and professional growth in others.
Today, being International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to profile two ladies leading the way towards gender equality in senior executive positions at global organizations. I was inspired by their unique, innovative perspectives on business and leadership.
In September of last year, Marigay announced her departure from British retailer Harrods where she served as chief merchant since 1998. With the Hudson’s Bay Co. acquisition of Saks Inc, Marigay McKee became President of the upscale department store, replacing Ron Frasch.
Marigay grew up in London with an interest in fashion, but never acquired any formal business training. Instead, she studied history and languages in college, picking up financials and business on-the-job. She started her career at Harrods as senior beauty buyer, working her way up over her 15 years with the luxury store where she oversaw most retail offerings.
I was interested to read about her logical and business-like approach to fashion. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Marigay explains that many buyers in the industry can’t tell you what the return is on a product, what the top-selling pieces are, or how they’re doing on dollars per square foot in sales, because they’re too focused on trends and hemlines!
“However fashionable the brand, we always start and finish with the numbers—the sell-throughs, the margins, the returns, the contributions—and then we talk about the pleasantries.”
In her new capacity at Saks, she’ll be looking at how to cater each store to it’s region’s lifestyle and preferences. The idea is so simple, yet totally brilliant. An excerpt from the WSJ article describes: “Before starting her job in January, McKee visited each of Saks’s 41 storefronts in 22 states. She envisions the Beverly Hills Saks transformed into a hub for Hollywood stylists and actresses, while Miami’s Bal Harbour outpost should cater more to its Hispanic clientele. South Florida will shed the all-black clothing that’s better shopped by New Yorkers and Bostonians, and California will cut down on overcoats and heavy tweeds.”
“Beauty is about new product launches, exclusivity, margins, volumes, seasonal periods, opportunities, offers,” McKee says, ticking each item on her fingers. “So I kind of approached fashion in the same way, and they all thought I was crazy.”
Angela Ahrendts grew up a small town girl from Indiana. After studying marketing and merchandising at a local college she moved to New York City where, after working her way up through the company, she became President of Donna Karan, eventually running the Liz Claiborne division in it’s entirety. In 2006 she was poached by Burberry, and after much consideration, moved her husband and family to London where, under her direction as CEO, she grew the fashion house’s value to nearly $12 billion dollars, from 3.3. Last year, she became the highest paid CEO of a group of publicly listed companies in the UK, and in 2014, was honored with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Her rise to the top certainly is an inspiring tale, but what I was most struck with when reading about Angela is her perspective on family and life.
“Balance is a really big word for me. It’s one of the most important parts of my job, showing that you can’t do it all. We have a lot of women working here and I always tell them they are mothers first. Those children are their legacy and they have partners and that’s a big obligation.”
“I don’t want to be a great executive without being a great mum and a great wife.”
She appears to have this sense of empathy and selflessness that I wouldn’t necessarily expect from a woman who has to arisen to her level.
“It’s compassion. It’s humility. It’s saying thank you. It is always putting yourself in the other person’s position. I know it might sound weird, but empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy. It’s counter intuitive, because it’s selfless.”
It’s her perspective on branding and how people interact with the products and companies they love that seems to be at least one key to her success with companies like Burberry. Angela was behind the Art of the Trench social media and digital campaign that took the internet by storm a few years back. Burberry currently is the leading luxury brand on Facebook, with 15 million fans, and over 2 million followers on Twitter.
“I don’t want to be sold to when I walk into a store. The job is to be a brilliant brand ambassador. Don’t sell! No! Because that’s a turn-off. Build an amazing brand experience, and then it will just naturally happen.”
What’s next for the 53 year old executive? She is scheduled to join Apple as Senior Vice President of Retail in spring 2014. There’s been lots of speculation about how she will spark a culture shift and revolution for her new employer.
Posted on February 14, 2014
Posted on February 11, 2014
There are many wonderful restaurants, pubs and shops waiting to be discovered in Surrey. As someone who moved here a few years ago, I have been pleased to find tons of delicious, unique eats in this vast and growing city. Following other Twitter users and blogs has been a big part of that discovery process and I’m grateful every time someone profiles good local businesses.
I was excited to check out a new grocery concept in Fleetwood this past weekend. Fresh St. Farms opened up in late December at Fraser Hwy and 159th/160th. This is WAY better than any grocery store we ever had in Richmond. Sort of like a younger, trendier, more locally-focused Thrifty foods.
The store was just buzzing with excited shoppers. (It was hard to get photographs without a bunch of people in them!) Had a nice conversation with a fellow customer who was as thrilled as I was to have access to this range of gourmet, fresh and unique local selections.
We’ve been enjoying the bounty of this shopping trip at home. Picked up a spicy chorizo, creamy manchego, gnocchi for later this week, crab cakes and more.
Posted on February 9, 2014
Hilton, Delta, Fairmont, Marriott… although these brands have many lovely properties all over the world, I have never been one to choose to stay with a large hotel chain. If you want the best in decor, hospitality, cuisine, and service, boutique truly is best.
I believe that life is all about the details. When mass-producing and mass-servicing, little details are too often overlooked.
But this morning I’m dreaming of a visit to my parent’s boutique inn, right on the beach in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico
We visited around this time last year, and with temperatures hovering below zero here at home, I certainly wouldn’t mind a quick trip south.
Just north or Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz is a quaint fishing village that underwent a cosmopolitan update with the development of a world-class harbor and facilities, vacation property development, followed by the opening of high-end restaurants in the area. (On our visit last year Julia Robert’s yacht was anchored just outside the harbor and we saw her working out on her top deck!) The area has been prominently featured in travel columns in newspapers and blogs of late. The secret is getting out!
Villa Amor del Mar is clean, modern, and beautifully decorated, with all those little, thoughtful details that I mentioned are so important. The beds and linens are supple and luxurious. If you can drag your eyes away from the ocean view, there’s something interesting to look at around every corner with local artwork and handmade furniture featuring intricate carvings.
It’s right on the beach, so whether a pool lounger, or someone who prefers swimming in the ocean, you’re set either way. It’s not uncommon to see Humpback whales breaching from your private balcony or while enjoying the view from the infinity pool.
If you’re in need of a relaxing, luxurious getaway to Mexico, check out Villa Amor del Mar.
Stay in the Bahia room to look out past your toes towards the Banderas Bay right from the comfort of your bed. The next room I’d like to experience is the light and airy Marina. Or Pelicanos, one of the two rooms without the full on ocean view, but instead featuring a huge private, secluded garden balcony.
Posted on February 4, 2014