Category Archives: Retail

A Summer Reflection

Looking back on my summer internship at Walmart, I have four main takeaways about the company:

Walmart cares A LOT about maintaining the culture that Sam Walton initially put in place.  It’s actively and constantly managed- 4 core values, 10 rules of doing business, discussions on culture in small team meetings (e.g., what can Walmart learn from GM’s issues with recalls?), murals on the wall listing these values / rules, and so on.  I have never worked in an environment where the culture was such an active focus.

For such a vast company, it feels relatively small thanks to unparalleled access to leadership.  In my previous job as a consultant, I was of the mindset that, if I left consulting for corporate America, I would never get to interact with senior leadership until I was much further along in my career.  This was most definitely not true at Walmart.  About 20 MBA interns had a private Q&A with the CEO, watched a golf tournament from the CFO’s house, and had a training on strategic thinking led by the SVP of corporate strategy (an HBS alumna).  Beyond this, I had the chance to meet several SVPs to discuss my project or my career ambitions.

Walmart’s scale is beyond belief, allowing them to take on some very exciting projects.  One HBS intern was on the clinics team, seeking to roll out basic primary care health services in stores- this has been in the news a bit lately as it ramps up.  I sat next to the Made in the USA team, who is working to get $250 billion worth of US manufactured goods sold in 10 years.  The Savings Catcher feature in the app just launched in August, which checks competitor prices of the items on your scanned receipt and gives you a Walmart e-gift card worth the difference if competitor prices are lower.  I’m sure there will be some kinks to work out as the Savings Catcher rolls out, but I think it’s a pretty brilliant idea to reinforce the one-stop-shop idea for cost-conscious customers.

Relationships inside a company are increasingly important with such scale.  As someone who worked on a dotcom project without sitting out at dotcom (in California), I saw firsthand the importance of knowing the right people to even get basic data.  Walmart understands this and thus strongly encourages networking.  Although at first I felt like I was back in recruiting season, all the coffee chats proved to be a great way to get in touch with the right people for my project plus learn about other interesting teams.

Overall I had a great summer, and I learned a lot about e-commerce and even more about building trust and influence with people both in Bentonville and at dotcom in San Bruno.  While I expected to apply knowledge from finance and strategy HBS classes during my internship, I was pleasantly surprised to be thinking about our Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) class more than anything else.

– Stephanie Tupi, MBA 2015


Discovering a new organization and state as an intern

I have a tendency to plan rather far in advance (huge understatement), so I was pretty psyched to get the MBA intern calendar from Walmart in my email prior starting my internship.  Opening it was actually overwhelming- there is literally at least one training / tour / meal / happy hour / concert / festival / charity event / bike ride every single day for the whole summer!  I’m thankful that Walmart is helping us get to know the Northwest Arkansas area while we’re Stephanie_Post_2there, since they understand that not every MBA student is clamoring to move there full-time without a trial run.  I’ve spent the last 5 years in Boston taking road trips all over New England, so I am excited to explore a new area and enjoy the lakes and mountains in the region.  Maybe I’ll even drive the 45 minutes across the border to Oklahoma and see my 35th state…

As for time spent in the office, I’m excited about that too!  It will be a nice change from sitting in class each day, and I’m curious to see how different it is from my previous job.  I imagine the main difference will be the financial impact of any given project. Given Walmart’s scale, I expect to be amazed by the sheer magnitude of the numbers I’ll be seeing when I reunite with my friend, Microsoft Excel.   It will also be gratifying to apply some shiny new b-school knowledge to my project and further realize what I have gained from HBS in the past year.

– Stephanie Tupi, MBA 2015

Connecting Fashion & Technology at Kate Spade

I found my internship with Kate Spade through Career & Professional Development’s collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Coming from management consulting where the recruitment process was very structured, this PL-Clock1was a totally different experience. February through April was filled with introductory calls and various trips to New York City and San Francisco. In the end, my interview with the Senior Director of Product Strategy here at the Kate Spade company went extremely well, and I was very excited to start the job after receiving the offer the very same day. With this internship, I hope to immerse myself with the fashion-retail industry in New York City and find out whether this is a career I want to pursue in the longer term.

This new division, Product Strategy, was launched just this year in January. The division is tasked with accelerating the growth of three categories of product: tech accessories, watches, and beauty across all three brands, Kate Spade New York, Kate Spade Saturday, and PL-Sat4  Jack Spade, and across all channels of distributions globally. I’m specifically in charge of the tech category this summer. Our goal is to optimize how we work on these specialized categories and to increase our sales and profitability while leading the day to day operations.  Currently we are evaluating existing business, researching new and relevant product categories, distribution, and partners, and identifying the appropriate modeling for the business. My work has involved some overlapping with friends from HBS who are interning for tech companies in San Francisco, and it has been great to be able to reach out to them.

The interplay between fashion and technology is still a new aspect of the industry, but it is a very exciting one with a lot of opportunities that are occurring at a fast pace. It is the perfect combination for me to work on this summer since I was focused on telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) clients prior to HBS, and I have always had an innate interest in fashion retail.

It is currently my third week and I am really enjoying myself. The company has a bright ‘sunshine-feel’ to it, with neon installations on all floors. It has been interesting to discover the different personalities of the three brands. I love working with the Senior Director who had previously interviewed me, along with the product development, design and marketing teams. I also participated in consumer electronic trade shows for the first time to discover new PL-Neon sign2products on the markets and look out for potential licensing partners for the company.  The Fashion Tech Forum was also very useful in connecting with different people who were in the tech and fashion space and getting to know the industry on a deeper level.

So far, this has been the perfect experience to work on some of the day-to-day decisions needed within the Product Strategy division and on my tech growth strategy project alongside as well.

– Proud Limpongpan, MBA 2015

Exploring the World of Retail as an Intern at Walmart

Fortunately for my stress level, I came into HBS with two parts of my career vision crystallized already:  a role in the retail & consumer Stephanie_Post2products realm, and something that would allow me to see a project beyond the recommendation phase.  I had spent the last nearly 4 years working in strategy consulting, and while I learned a ton, I wanted to see some execution.  Thus, I knew I needed to work in industry rather than any sort of services firm, and I soon decided that I wanted to see what a large corporate environment would be like.

As far as function, I was less clear.  Some days I thought marketing would be fun, while other days I wanted to stay closer to my strategy background.  I knew I wanted some blend of strategic thinking and quantitative analysis.  As a result, I opted to apply to a variety of roles at large retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, primarily through on-campus recruiting.

After going through the joy that is HBS Dedicated Interview Period for 1st year students, where over 100 organizations interview students over a three day period in Boston, I ended up with the choice between a finance & strategy role at Walmart and a brand management role at a CPG company.  While both options fit my checklist, the final iStephanie_Post1nterview at Walmart Home Office in Arkansas really made the decision clear for me.  The employees really seemed to value the MBA interns (not a given in retail!), all the way up to the CFO- who we met and who emailed each of us afterwards.  I felt comfortable with the culture as far as I could tell, and I could actually picture myself there.   Although most of my peers look at me with a mix of pity and confusion when I tell them I’m living in an extended stay hotel in Arkansas for the summer, I am genuinely looking forward to it!  Additionally, I recently learned that my assignment is in Merchandise Finance & Strategy, specifically for the Softlines part of the business (i.e., apparel and footwear).  I’m thrilled that they listened to my request to be closer to the day to day operations of the business rather than working on a higher level strategy project.

– Stephanie Tupi, MBA 2015

Looking to the Next Decade of Change: A Recap of the 10th Annual Retail & Luxury Goods Conference

On the evening of Saturday, February 22, 2014 and all day Sunday, February 23, 2014, the Retail & Luxury Goods Club hosted a record number of nearly 400 students and professionals from Harvard and the surrounding community for its tenth annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference. The conference marked a decade of hosting business leaders and industry insiders and to celebrate the occasion was themed The Consumer Revolution: Redefining Retail and Luxury for the Next Decade.

The discussions at the conference covered topics that retailers are grappling with today in order to set themselves up for future long-term success and growth. Speakers from all walks of retail, from mass to luxury, brick-and-mortar to e-commerce, start-up to established brand, offered his or her unique view on how interacting with consumers has and will continue to change. From philosophical question such as “What is luxury?” to practical topics such as “How do you grow retail and brand across geographies and channels?” the responses were diverse and underscored how companies have developed tailored strategies based on their answers to these questions.

Representing distinct perspectives from retail and fashion, keynote speakers headlining the conference included Mr. William McComb, former Chief Executive Officer of Fifth & Pacific Co. (now Kate Spade Company); Ms. Julie Bornstein, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Sephora, Inc.; and Ms. Donna Karan, Founder RLGC2and Chief Designer of Donna Karan Co. All three speakers spoke about the winding routes they took to get to the C-Suite and reinforced the need for students to follow their passions and stay true to themselves in order to forge meaningful relationships in a people-driven industry and find success.

This year was also marked by a special roundtable discussion with seasoned entrepreneurs Aslaug Mangusdottir, Co-Founder of Moda Operandi, Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas, Co- Founders of Caudalie, and Steven Alan, RLGC1Founder and Chief Designer of Steven Alan Showroom and The Steven Alan Collection. Moderated by Professor Tom Eisenmann, the founders reminisced about the early days of their businesses and discussed the tough decisions they faced in order to build internationally recognized and beloved brands.

The networking events organized around lunch and a cocktail reception offered attendees an opportunity to interact with the speakers in depth. Overheard were several sound bites of attendees asking for career advice or debating about the future direction of the retail industry.

As the day concluded, the conference ended in celebration of the club’s past decade and a look towards how retail and luxury goods as well as the club will continue to evolve.

-Gina Pak (MBA ‘15) Retail & Luxury Goods Club (RLGC) Director of Conference Marketing

(Photo credit: Jean Yang, Harbus News)

For more information on the conference check out:

Facebook: HBS Retail & Luxury Goods Club

Twitter: @HBSRLGC

Alumni: Where are they now? Featuring Fereshteh…

HBS alum, Fereshteh Zeineddin, MBA 2010, provides an update on her career post-HBS. Check out her original profile at graduation.

Current Position: Store Director, Louis Vuitton Hotel Vancouver
Current Location: Vancouver, Canada

View More: completing a summer internship at Louis Vuitton’s head office in New York in between my first and second year at HBS, I was offered an entrepreneurial position as the Client Relations & Business Analysis Manager for the Canada & Bermuda Region. In this role, I was able to learn about the retail business from a merchandising and client development standpoint.  Two years into my role, I wanted to explore a new challenge – store management.  I realized that in order to be an effective General Manager for Louis Vuitton, I needed to gain a better understanding of our business operations. What better way to do this than through hands-on experience working at one of the stores?

In July 2012, I became Store Director of Canada’s 2nd largest store – the beautiful Hotel Vancouver. The first few months were very challenging as I had little experience in store operations. What gave me confidence in my new role was the General Management education I had received at HBS. My MBA had given me a solid foundation of operations, strategy and leadership which I was able to put into practice right away. Working at the store-level has been an amazing experience that has given me valuable insight into the core of our business.  Every day presents itself with new and exciting challenges. With every challenge, I feel the same thrill I felt when I cracked a difficult case back at HBS.  I do not know what my next destination with Louis Vuitton will be and that is part of what I love about my journey with the company.

-Fereshteh Zeineddin, MBA 2010

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in consulting anymore.

AmandaPost2“Are you sure I don’t need to wear a suit… not even business casual?” As a prior management consultant, I was rather uncomfortable putting on a t-shirt, jeans and running shoes for my first day at a new job. But I was reassured that I would fit right in at Nike.

After two weeks as a Nike intern, the work attire hasn’t been the only sign I’ve entered a different kind of company for the summer. Some of my favorite surprises so far include:

  • Running (literally sprinting) around the sprawling Nike campus during an orientation scavenger hunt – throwing a football on one of many sports fields, shooting basketball at the Bo Jackson gym, and guessing trivia questions about famous athletes in history.
  • Setting aside an office chair and using my standing desk, which boasts many health benefits and ergonomic advantages.
  • Having ‘coffee walks’, where co-workers stroll around campus and discuss business, in lieu of office meetings (though there are still plenty of those too).
  • Attending a fitness class over lunch or at the end of the day. The Cardio-Box class will surely whip me into shape, and the Hot Yoga class should help heal my achey muscles.
  • Taking advantage of 1/2 Day Fridays – a special summer program that encourages Nike employees to leave work after lunch to enjoy the incredible Portland weather while it lasts.

As the summer continues, I can’t wait to see what other surprises await, but one thing is certain – I’m not in consulting anymore.

-Amanda Burlison, MBA 2014