We’ve been talking a lot about the Women in Retail Leadership Circle: On the Road events taking place in New York City on Oct. 24, and in San Francisco on Nov. 7, but we haven’t really told you all about our fabulous keynote speakers: Jane Elfers, president and CEO of The Children’s Place (New York City), and Diane Dietz, CEO and president of Rodan + Fields (San Francisco). Here are three things about each fabulous retail leader, which both will discuss in more detail at the events:
- She single-handedly turned The Children’s Place around. Elfers has delivered several years of industry-leading shareholder returns since joining The Children’s Place as president and CEO in 2010. But how did she do it, especially since the company had been on a downward trajectory for several years when she joined? The key was a strategic plan Elfers created with with four specific pillars: superior product, business transformation through technology, alternate channels of distribution, and fleet optimization.
- She’s a retailer, through and through. Elfers is a 25-year retail executive with an impressive track record. She began her retail career at Macy’s, rising to buyer. Before joining The Children’s Place, she worked her way up to the role of president and CEO of Lord & Taylor, where she served from May 2000 to October 2008.
- Turning around companies is what she does. Hand Jane a challenge and watch her fix it. That’s what she did at Lord & Taylor, and is in the middle of doing at The Children’s Place. According to TheStreet.com, at 38 Elfers was CEO of the ailing department store that had been neglected for over 20 years. She insisted on closing almost 40 percent of Lord & Taylor’s stores at a time when everyone else was opening them. “You could see the future. You could see [all those stores were] going to drag the rest of the chain down over time,” Elfers said. She was committed to her plan and made bold decisions. “Lord & Taylor was America’s favorite store and was staying that way under my watch.”
- She helped Rodan + Fields grow to a $1.5 billion business. Since Dietz’s arrival in 2016, sales at Rodan + Fields have skyrocketed, with market research firm Euromonitor naming it the No. 1 skincare brand in the U.S. in 2016 and 2017, according to Forbes. Sales last year topped $1.5 billion, which when compared to how much the company was generating before Dietz arrived ($600 million) marks a significant milestone for the brand.
- She’s not afraid to “flip the switch.” While Dietz’s background is at big public companies, she told NBC News that she got a call from Rodan + Fields, and thought, “I can stay on my traditional course, or I can try something new at a company founded by women and run by women.” Almost instantly, Dietz said, she felt ignited by the prospect of moving in this direction even though it wasn’t something she ever would have predicted early on in her career. Dietz offered this advice following her career shift: “Be prepared to explore a lot of different things, and to deviate from your original plan. At many points, there will be experiences that cause you to ask, ‘Am I in the right place?’ Flip the script and ask instead, ‘What can I learn from this?’”
- She believes in the power of diversity. Currently, 58 percent of Rodan + Fields’ executives are women. That number is a striking contrast to the majority of Fortune 500 companies where Dietz says women are under-represented in virtually every leadership category. “I think diversity is key to winning, and it’s something I’ve always believed in,” Dietz told Forbes this summer. “Even when I came to Rodan + Fields, I had a team where there was a very high number of women, and I felt it’s important to have that balance. To me it’s really all about creating a diverse organization where you look at multiple levels of diversity, not just gender. The more diverse your team is, you will get to a better conclusion. And I think we will win disproportionately against a non-diverse team.“
Women in Retail Leadership Circle