What makes a top retail CEO?

RetailWire panelists recently discussed a ranking of America’s top CEO’s, and in particular the members of the list who run retail companies. While several panelists commented on these executives’ vision and entrepreneurship, I found something else that many of them share:

One common thread is the number of CEO’s who are “homegrown.” They are either family members (Wegman, Butt, Nordstrom) or founders (Schultz) or longtime employees themselves (Jelinek, Cook, Iger). These are people who have been immersed in each company’s culture, have a sense of “ownership” and in some cases have their names on the door.

This isn’t to suggest that companies always should look inward for their senior management, and there are other names on the list who earned their stripes elsewhere. (Although Mickey Drexler’s reputation is under a cloud right now.) And “great” — as rated by one’s employees — may not always translate into great results from shareholders’ perspective. But it’s a telling argument for the importance of company culture in the overall success of a retail business.

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