This month, we are featuring female forces from across the industry as part of our “Spirit of Women” series.
Teri Bariquit, the chief merchandising officer at Nordstrom, has been part of a top leadership team navigating enormous change and challenge across the company and industry. As the retailer continues to reopen stores, including its New York flagship next week, Bariquit talks about lessons learned during the last few months and what she’s most proud of.
Tune in next week to see Bariquit live on FN’s Women Empowered panel. REGISTER here.
What have you learned about leadership in a crisis?
“I’ve continued to see the value of leading with listening and transparency. Listening to our people, customers, brand partners and communities has been instrumental to how we’ve responded to everything that is happening in our world today. We don’t have all the answers and recognize we have more to do, but the only way forward is together, which starts with listening to others. We also need to be as transparent as possible – employees can better align with tough decisions when they have the true perspective of challenges, such as cash flow. Sharing insights and sales plans with brands allows them to plan their business and it cultivates stronger partnerships. And our community has high expectations that we need to meet with transparency – we must be honest about our values and commitments, whether it’s our safety protocols and the timing of our re-opening, or our commitment to diversity.”
During this moment, what’s been your biggest challenge?
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“Managing a business where two-thirds of sales comes from stores that were temporarily closed has been a huge challenge. Thankfully, our investments to connect our digital and physical experiences continue to serve us well, and the impact of COVID-19 is further emphasizing the importance of these capabilities. So while dealing with the temporary closure of our stores was a challenge, we were better positioned to handle it than many others . The biggest challenge by far has been leading through a multi-faceted crisis without any historical playbook. We can certainly draw on past lessons/experiences, but the combination of a pandemic coupled with significant economic impacts and future uncertainties, made navigating decisions on inventory, brand partnerships, employees and financial viability an ongoing, dynamic challenge. It’s required a great deal of flexibility and curiosity to seek inputs, collaborate and quickly pivot to decisions or adjusts plans. In addition to managing business, many are challenged with balancing the blur of home/office life and the care of teams, family and self.”
What are you most proud of?
“During such unprecedented times, it’s been inspiring to see the commitment and ownership that our teams have shown through this crisis to adapt, find solutions and innovate to continue serving our customers and communities. For instance, our teams pulled together from across the company to decrease inventory levels by more than 25% from last year, putting us in a great place to bring in newness for our customers starting in June. In a time like this, that’s no small task. We’ve also been able to embrace new ways of working, like leveraging data insights to rationalize inventory and drive pricing or reorder decisions aligned with how our customers are shopping . I’m incredibly grateful for the dedication and commitment of our teams who have made us nimbler and more flexible than ever before.”