Rack Room’s Brian Minnix: ‘How Do We Deliver Actionable Data?’

In our new column, Hire Up, FN checks in with new execs from companies across the industry to talk about leadership, strategy and burning industry issues.

Brian Minnix isn’t the typical techie.

Unlike his Silicon Valley peers, the Charlotte, N.C.-based executive knows that the importance of e-com prowess, deep data, same-day deliveries, voice-activated assistants and artificial intelligence will never replace the need for retail’s human touch.

“Retailing is about putting key product stories out there, pricing it right and then interacting with our customers in-store or online,” said Minnix, who joined Rack Room Shoes in April as chief information officer.

Prior to Rack Room, the IT veteran had long runs at Belk, Shoe Carnival and at the brand formerly known as Brown Shoe Company.

In 2012, he stepped away from the footwear industry and joined CompuCom, an IT services firm.

Minnix is expected to implement the latest technologies to help Rack Room sharpen its customer shopping experience across retail platforms.

In FN’s new “Hire Up” column, the executive talks about his career path and how technology will boost company sales.

In your new job, what are some of the big goals you’d like to accomplish?

“If you look at our strategy, which is fairly simple, it is to deliver trend-relevant merchandise to our customer. We need to have a consistent voice to the customer and not a lot of consumer promotions. It’s pretty simplistic in terms of how we do our promotions — we don’t do the ‘greatest sale of the season.’ Retailing is about putting key product stories out there, pricing it right and then interacting with our customers in-store or online. Another one of our cornerstones is making sure our store delights and excites our customer. So the IT strategy becomes, how do we exceed the customer experience and our store associate experience, be it brick-and-mortar or through our e-commerce site?”

What are some immediate challenges you face?

“With all of the new company initiatives we have, it’s a matter of prioritizing our technology efforts and putting the right ones in at the right time. Also, we all have a proliferation of data these days; transactional data is exponentially higher than in the last 10 years. With all of that information, how do we deliver actionable data to our associates?”

Who are some of your career mentors?

“Fortunately, I’ve had several. The ones I remember the most are the ones who took the time and challenged me, the ones who wanted me to be better. Cliff Sifford at Shoe Carnival was one: he might be the best at understanding relationships and partnerships with vendors. He helped me understand that dynamic early in my career — how to get the most out of partnerships and still represent the company well. Ron Fromm, at the then-Brown Shoe, was another. Ron was a real steward of the brand. He was great at strategy and great at the long game. He taught me to focus on where we are going, not where we are.”

What’s the best decision you ever made?

“One key highlight was when I joined Famous Footwear. At the time, we were faced with challenges on inventory management. We were able to do work on process, people structures and systems to reduce our inventory, increase turns and provide fresher product to inspire our customers.”

Conversely, what was one of the worst decisions you made?

“It was probably when I was a buyer — sometimes we would hop on a trend too early and I couldn’t create the value that I thought I could.”

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