What It Takes to Be a Great Retail CEO?

What It Takes to Be a Great Retail CEO?

Despite icy forecasts of the retail industry, the business continues to flourish at a mind-blowing pace. New players are joining the bandwagon every waking moment. Technology is definitely playing a significant role. But more than this, it takes a great CEO to survive paradigm shifts and changes in market demands.

Discover Retail
By Discoverretail (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are someday hoping of joining the retail elites, you may want to take a look first at what have made amateur CEOs to the great whales they are today.

Boldness and Intuition

Intuition feeds boldness. But, this does not equate to making hasty decisions. For J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, marrying his intuitive sense with customer shopping behavior have paved the way for tripling the company’s revenues in a matter of three years.

Drexler also surrounds himself with the same positive energy. When hiring people, he specifically demands for someone with intuitive feel of the business and knows how to work with that magic.


Customer experience defines majority of success of most retailers. This is one of the strongest points that Macy was able to carry out for years. Led by their fearless CEO Terry Lundgren, the brand has aggressively dominated the market by “thinking about what the customers want” before making a decision.

This is evident in refurbishing their website to make it ultra user-friendly. They allotted a section where it’s a “sale” all year round.


The dotcom bubble almost killed Amazon.com. Thanks to the vision and laser-like focus of its CEO, Jeff Bezos. A technology entrepreneur, he is instrumental in redefining e-Commerce. He “weaponized” the thing that almost made them bite the dust.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He didn’t waver when everybody else was telling him to let go of the business. Today, Amazon.com is the largest online retailer in the world. Bezos seamlessly climbed the self-made billionaire’s list ladder. According to reports, innovative investment ideas are being worked on every day, with intense emphasis on customer experience.

Equip and Empower

It helps that once in a while, employees get retail training on products and services before they hit both online and physical stores. You are equipping them to be good brand ambassadors.

Empowering should ideally succeed training workforce. Allow the good performers to make decisions once in a while. This is also a good avenue for you to spot future potential leaders of the organization.


While Steve Jobs was able to build Apple through his excessively strong character, this may not be the case for the retail industry. Frontliners need constant motivation and persuasion. They are your bread and butter.

Blake Nordstrom, owner and founder of upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom, created an inspirational management team that cultivates strong relationships. He’s consistently bagging high approval ratings and emerges to be one of the world’s favorite bosses.

Which of the list is the most compelling for you? How else can someone be a game changer in the competitive realm of retail? Do you have a specific CEO or industry leader that you look up to?

Let’s break those barriers and unleash your thoughts and opinion via the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

Ivan Widjaya

Ivan Widjaya is the Owner/Editor of Noobpreneur.com, as well as several other blogs. He is a business blogger, web publisher and content marketer for SMEs.