- Business Insider named 10 retail executives to its list of 100 people transforming business.
- They include a CEO assembling a restaurant empire, an exec helping Walmart win, and a founder redefining brands.
- See the full list of the 100 people transforming business here.
Retail is evolving more quickly than ever before.
As shoppers move their spending online and foot traffic to malls declines, legacy retailers have been forced to rethink their strategies, and new companies have sprung up to take advantage of a big opportunity.
With that in mind, Business Insider’s editorial team has assembled a list of the 10 people transforming the retail business.
Profiles compiled by Hayley Peterson, Kate Taylor, Dennis Green, Mary Hanbury, and Áine Cain.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is setting the tone for buying and selling goods online
It would be impossible to create a list of movers and shakers in retail and not include Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.
Bezos has led Amazon on a path that has single-handedly changed the way major companies approach e-commerce, remaining a stalwart presence in conversations about the future of retail taking place in C-suite boardrooms and on trade-show floors.
Amazon’s success has made Bezos the richest man in the world, and it has fuelled other exploits in space exploration and venture capital.
But it is still the world of retail where Bezos has made the biggest impact and will likely continue to do so.
With all eyes on Bezos and Amazon, the CEO is preparing to conquer the only place left to go: the physical world. With the 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods and an expansion of the cashierless Amazon Go stores in the works, he is already well on his way.
Paul Brown, the CEO of Inspire Brands, is assembling a restaurant empire
Since becoming Arby’s CEO in 2013, Paul Brown has turned the sandwich chain into a juggernaut and a jumping-off point to create a new company in an era when scale is crucial to the restaurant business.
In 2018, Brown cofounded Inspire Brands, now the parent company of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Rusty Taco, and Sonic.
Having saved Arby’s, Brown now looks to grow Sonic and turn around Buffalo Wild Wings. In March, Buffalo Wild Wings’ comeback switched into high gear, with updated menus, new employee uniforms, and the promise of fresh designs.
Brown isn’t slowing. He says that by March 2020, Inspire Brands is more likely to have five or more brands than it is to stay steady at its current four.
“We’ll improve every time we do it,” Brown told Business Insider, reflecting on Arby’s turnaround and the plans for Buffalo Wild Wings’ comeback.
Yael Cosset, the chief digital officer at Kroger, is reimagining grocery stores for shoppers of the future
Kroger is working to fend off growing competition from rivals including Walmart, Amazon, and Aldi. Yael Cosset is spearheading Kroger’s digital transformation to meet that challenge.
“We are building a seamless experience to offer our customers anything they want, anytime they want it, anywhere they want it,” Cosset told Business Insider.
Kroger has gathered a trove of data from the 11 million families who visit its 2,800 stores daily, and the company is using that information to rapidly expand its distribution network and the many services it offers its customers.
The company now offers online grocery delivery or pickup to 91% of its customers from 1,600 stores, and it plans to expand those services to 2,000 stores by the end of 2019.
Kroger has also added in-store digital shelving that can communicate with shoppers’ smartphones, and it’s working with the UK technology firm Ocado to open automated warehouses capable of fulfilling a 50-item order within minutes.
“We’re going to be able to fulfil these orders in a way nobody else can,” Cosset said.
As Kroger’s transformation continues, Cosset’s role is expanding. He will be promoted in May, to chief information officer, from his current role as Kroger’s head of digital.
Andy Dunn, the SVP of digital consumer brands at Walmart, is leading the retailer’s quest to build an arsenal of brands
Andy Dunn believes he knows how to help Walmart win.
Walmart’s SVP of digital consumer brands told Yahoo Finance in January that the key was to acquire “magical” proprietary brands.
“You’re going to need exclusive content and exclusive experiences to win,” Dunn said.
Dunn cofounded Bonobos in 2007 and later sold the menswear line to Walmart for $US310 million in 2017. The Chicago native is now an integral player in the retailer’s quest to acquire unique and digitally native brands.
Walmart’s portfolio now includes brands like Eloquii, Allswell, ModCloth, and, of course, Bonobos.
Walmart is the largest company in the world by revenue, but Dunn said he brings a different mentality to the retailer’s e-commerce ventures. “This absolutely is a startup,” Dunn told AdWeek in November. “It sounds odd for a Fortune 1 company, but we’re operating at a level of scrappiness and speed that reminds me exactly of the early days of building Bonobos.”
Mary Kay Henry, the president of Service Employees International Union, is fighting to raise the minimum wage
No force has shaken the foundations of the fast-food industry in the past decade as deeply as Fight for 15.
The organised protests of fast-food workers, starting with a strike in New York in 2012, have propelled the idea of a $US15 minimum wage from a pipe dream to laws in New York and California and to policies for companies such as Amazon and Costco.
“It was audacious, it was bold, and it was completely reasonable,” SEIU president Mary Kay Henry told Business Insider.
While Henry emphasises that fast-food workers – most unable to unionize because of current franchise law – have driven Fight for 15, under her leadership SEIU has emerged as a powerful organising body in the efforts to raise minimum wages.
The movement’s focus is expanding, tackling workers’ sexual harassment and rising automation, something Henry says can help workers if companies consult them on implementation.
“We think it’s possible for retail, fast food, all the service sector … to be the foundation for the next, most inclusive American middle class,” Henry said.
Tina Sharkey, cofounder and cochair of Brandless, is redefining brands
“We’re tapping into a nerve of this idea of democratizing access to goodness,” Tina Sharkey, a cofounder and cochair of Brandless, told Business Insider about the company she cofounded.
Brandless is an online shop that offers competitively priced organic, natural, or healthy goods across categories including food, beauty, household goods, and baby.
The offerings are highly curated, meaning that in most cases there’s only one Brandless private-label option to choose from. That’s a stark contrast from the players that dominate the e-commerce space, like Amazon and Walmart, which offer an incredible number of options.
A year after launch, Brandless got a $US240 million shot in the arm in a funding round led by Softbank, which valued the company at more than $US500 million.
Sharkey says Brandless now sells close to 500 of its own-brand products on its website, and she predicts the company will end the year offering more than 800. It has also abandoned its earlier pricing structure that required it to sell everything in multiples of $US3, but she says prices will remain accessible.
It donates a meal to Feeding America for every order, crossing the 3.5-million-meal mark in February. Sharkey recently stepped down as CEO of the company. In her new role as cochair, she will focus on “accelerating” Brandless’ mission and culture.
Will Brandless soon become the everything store 2.0?
“Everything is a big word,” Sharkey said. “But really, we live to better everything for everyone.”
Sarjoun Skaff, cofounder and chief technology officer at Bossa Nova Robotics, is building robots for the store of the future
An age-old problem for retailers is being able to tell what is on shelves in stores. So Sarjoun Skaff, cofounder and chief technology officer of Bossa Nova Robotics, came up with an idea: Put a camera on wheels so it can see what is in a store more efficiently than a human can.
“I admit to being naive when we first started this,” Skaff said to Business Insider. “As we started to build them, we started to realise the scope, the magnitude of the challenge is enormous.”
Working with Carnegie Mellon University’s biometrics lab, the startup has produced and fine-tuned a machine that can roam up and down aisles by itself, taking inventory and noting out-of-stocks.
Walmart has jumped at the chance to improve its inventory management. The chain, which Bossa Nova has been working with since 2014, is testing the robots, which are “essentially an indoor version of self-driving cars” with highly sophisticated optics, in dozens of stores.
Adam Sussman, the vice president and general manager of Nike Direct digital and geographies, is leading a fundamental shift at the sports retailer
Adam Sussman is one of the chief architects of Nike’s digital revolution.
He joined Nike in 2016, just as the company was embarking on its mission to digitize every inch of its business. Sussman called the renewed focus on digital a “companywide mentality shift” during a presentation in 2018.
That has resulted in new smartphone functionality, like allowing shoppers to use Nike’s app to make purchases in stores or to reserve the hottest new sneaker. New digital offerings provide a new way for the sports retailer’s free membership program, Nike Plus, to communicate with users and keep them engaged with the brand.
Nike has also shifted to new digital-first stores like the House of Innovation flagship, which was tailor made for Nike Plus members and app-using customers, and Nike Live, a neighbourhood shop-style format that uses purchase data from customers who live in the area to inform what it sells. And it seems to be working. Digital sales rose 36% in the third quarter, Nike reported in March.
Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier, is upending the beauty industry
Emily Weiss was working as a fashion assistant at Vogue when she set up a beauty blog called Into the Gloss in 2010.
Eight years later, Glossier, the direct-to-consumer makeup and skincare brand that Weiss built from the foundations of the blog, generated $US100 million in annual revenue.
Weiss has turned traditional beauty retail on its head and cracked the code for selling directly to the consumer via Instagram, where the brand has more than 1.9 million followers.
This community is at the core of its success: 70% of Glossier’s customers come through word-of-mouth referrals and its social-media channels.
Heidi Zak, cofounder and co-CEO of ThirdLove, is challenging the way women shop for bras
Heidi Zak was in her early 30s when she cofounded online bra brand ThirdLove with her husband, David Spector.
The couple was driven by what they saw as a lack of innovation in the underwear market, and specifically that bras were hard to shop for online. The couple launched ThirdLove’s online quiz, which enabled customers to find their perfect bra shape without going near a store.
To date, more than 12 million women have taken the quiz; each time a customer does, the algorithm becomes that much smarter, Zak told Business Insider.
ThirdLove is challenging longtime market leaders with more inclusive marketing, extended sizing, and bras that are fitted on and advertised by real women. It offers 78 different sizes, including half cups.
The company recently raised $US55 million in a round of funding led by consumer-focused private-equity firm L Catterton. The CEOs of 23andMe and YouTube were among the other investors.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.