Mickey Drexler – “The Steve Jobs of Retail”

Mickey Drexler - "The Steve Jobs of Retail"

CNBC recently aired a documentary on J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler entitled, The Man Who Dressed America. Drexler is often called the “king of retail” because of his success leading brands like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Old Navy and The Gap. Drexler also served on Apple’s board for ten years and helped Steve Jobs launch the Apple Stores. Many have called Drexler “the Steve Jobs of retail” because of his incredible intuition and intense focus on beautiful design and exceptional marketing. Below are seven key lessons from Drexler.

1 – Apple – “Have huge conviction about what you do and do not be afraid.”

2 – Career – Control the product (distribution), control the price.  J. Crew products are only offered at J. Crew stores.

3 – Customers – Visit stores regularly and be very candid about what is working and what is not.  Always be quick to acknowledge mistakes.  Always be on the hunt for the best product (color, quality, style, etc.). Everything should be from the customer’s perspective.  Customers can tell you ten things to do better.  Take advantage of their feedback.  Create channels for customers to provide feedback and respond back to them personally, if possible.  It sets a tone for everyone in the company to always be listening to the customer.  It also emphasizes personalized attention.

4 – Details – Focus on the details (e.g., should the doors to stores pull or push open; 90% of consumers push doors). Retail executives should not be removed from the business.  They should be is involved in everything and be very hands-on, including fielding customer complaints.  The world needs more micro-managers because they care about customers and customer experience.  For example, Drexler believes malls have been over-run with inferior product (“they smell like popcorn”).  You cannot treat customers that way.  You must appear emotionally to customers.

5 – Focus – Do not try to be all things to all people.  Do not take on more than you can do well.  Do what you do really well.  Do it better than anyone else.  Do not leave yourself vulnerable to competition.  Keep differentiating (and separating) yourself from everyone else. Always focus on being great and on excellence.  Whether you are running the business day-to-day or over the long-term, you are always heading somewhere into the future.  You never get there, and if you think you do, it is time for someone else to take over.

6 – Globalization – “It is a one-world business” (e.g., designed in NYC; fabric from Italy; manufactured in China).

7 – Gut – Success in business is a combination of experience, gut instinct and wisdom.  It is also about being as curious as possible all of the time.  Gut is important.  When you look at all of the information, your gut becomes a wiser decision-making tool.  It is also important to constantly ask the right questions and look at things from all angles (“pan for gold”).  Drexler’s advice to employees: In your area of the business, step back and ask yourself, how do you want to stand out and dominate?  That is what makes great companies greater.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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