The last merchant in America?

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Hans Sternberg, longtime owner of the Maison Blanche department stores in Louisiana, upon the publication of his memoir. Retail Wire panelists had a chance to discuss “the lost art of merchandising”:

I enjoyed reading about Mr. Sternberg, both in the Wall Street Journal review of his book and in Bill Emerson’s profile. Everything that Mr. Sternberg discusses — being customer-centric, creating a satisfying in-store experience, and so on — is just as valid today as 100 years ago. The trick is to maintain these standards in the face of changing competitive threats, new technologies and national operating scale.

With regard to new technology, whether it’s intended to help run the business or help market the company, Mr. Sternberg’s goals ought to be benchmarks for effective systems development. If IT management leads to “analysis paralysis” or a failure of customer satisfaction, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

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