Leadership

My View

RR Steve SadoveA series of firsthand views from industry leaders on the retail landscape, careers, personal insights, and the future of retail.

By Steve Sadove, Former CEO Saks Fifth Avenue

How did you get into the business?

I got into the business via the board of directors of Saks. I joined that board when the company went public in 1996 and fell in love with the business. I then joined Saks as a member of the management team in 2002 and became chief executive in 2006. The marriage of my background in consumer goods and retail has been terrific.

What is your greatest source of inspiration, or where do you get your best ideas?

I get ideas from everything around me. I love people and listening to their ideas. You never know who will inspire you, and you always have to be open to try new things. Asking questions is a great way to get inspired.

What retail operation do you think is innovative and sustainable?

There are so many retailers today that are innovative. They range from Apple to Costco to early stage companies like Warby Parker. If I had to pick one, it would be Apple.

What is your favorite place to shop?

I love to shop at Costco. There is always a great find. I still shop at Saks even though I am not involved anymore. It is a wonderful service experience. I also go to Uniqlo as they do such a good job in basics with a technical twist. I also love J.C. Penney, not only because I am on the board, but also because they are making great strides.

Over the last five years, what has been the biggest change in the industry?

Omnichannel retail and the technology changes associated with mobile have transformed shopping. I believe we are still in the early innings. This is the biggest period of disruption that any of us has seen in our careers.

What do you think will change the most in the next five years?

I think the pace of technology change will continue to accelerate. We are in the early stages of the use of big data. Omnichannel will continue to evolve as the consumer continues to dictate where they want to shop, however they want and whenever they want.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

People would be surprised to know that at one point when I was in business school I was looking to go into the public sector and work for nonprofits.

What books are you reading?

I just finished “Unbroken” as well as the latest Grisham novel. I also just read “The Alchemists,” which was a terrific study of the financial crisis.

What’s your favorite leisure activity?

I love golf, reading and spending time with my family.

What’s your favorite online site?

I am a news junkie so I love The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNBC and CNN.

What lessons have you learned from elsewhere in your life that you can apply to retail?

I have found that in all aspects of my life, it is about truly caring for and listening to people. I have learned that in business, in charitable organizations and with personal relationships.

What’s your favorite quote?

I believe that “do unto others as you would want them to do to you” is still a great quote to live by.

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