Macy’s names a chief omnichannel executive

Robert Harrison takes oversight of store, online and mobile.

Paul Demery

With the coming retirement of Tom Cole, the chief administrative officer who led development of Macy’s Inc.’s “omnichannel” retailing strategy, the retail chain has created the new position of chief omnichannel officer to oversee the integration of store, online and mobile operations.

Filling the new position is Robert B. Harrison, who since last July has been executive vice president for omnichannel strategy, during which he developed and managed strategies for integrating the retailer’s store, web and mobile retail channels. As chief omnichannel officer, Harrison will take on the additional responsibility for overseeing the systems and technology, logistics and related operations the retail chain uses to manage its strategy across the company’s retail channels, Macy’s says. He will also join the company’s executive committee and report to CEO Terry Lundgren.

Macy’s describes omnichannel retailing as providing consumers a consistent shopping experience across multiple retail channels, including the ability to view updates of all available inventory whether shopping online or in stores. In the past year, for example, Macy’s has been equipping hundreds of its more than 840 stores to fulfill orders customers place online, providing online shoppers with products that might not otherwise be available via the web.

As chief omnichannel officer, Harrison oversees how the multiple retail channels work together, but he is not responsible for each channel separately. The online channel is headed by Jeffrey A. Kantor, chairman of Macys.com; the stores are led by chief stores officer Peter Sachse.

Industry analysts applauded the retailer’s creation of the new chief omnichannel executive position. By making a single senior executive responsible for coordinating online and offline activities, Macy’s has taken an important step to addressing how modern consumers like to shop across retail channels, says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research. “It’s a strong statement,” she says. “Macy’s is committed to treating inventory as a shared asset and meeting the customer with products wherever she likes.”

Leslie Hand, research director at IDC Retail Insights, says the appointment of Harrison “reaffirms the company's commitment to not just serving customers well in each channel, but becoming an organization that serves customers well wherever and however they engage. Macy's omnichannel charter takes yet another step ahead of the competition.”

Nikki Baird, also a managing partner at Retail Systems Research, adds that other retailers likely will follow Macy’s move, and that by giving Harrison responsibility for both the business and technology operations behind omnichannel retailing, Macy’s is better positioned to “delivering omnichannel service efficiently and effectively.”

Rosemblum adds that a natural next step for Macy’s would be to create a position for a customer experience officer, to ensure that the retailer is satisfying customers no matter how they shop.

In earlier positions, Harrison was executive vice president for finance, president of stores, and president and chief operating officer of Macy’s West. Prior to joining Macy’s in 2006, Harrison was chairman of retail chain Robinsons-May.

Macy’s has also re-assigned three other senior executives to take over areas managed by Cole, who will remain with the company through May to help in the transition. Each will also serve on the executive committee and report to Lundgren.

Sachse, who was named chief stores officer last February, will assume additional responsibility for store planning, design and construction. He had previously been chairman and CEO of Macys.com, president of Macy’s corporate marketing, and president and chief operating officer of The Bon Marché retail chain, which eventually became part of Macy’s.

Karen M. Hoguet, chief financial officer of Macy’s since 1997, is taking on additional responsibilities for credit and customer service, real estate, and the purchasing of non-merchandise items.

William S. Allen has been named chief human resources officer, overseeing corporate communications and external affairs as well as human resources. He joins Macy’s from AP Moller-Maersk A/S, a Denmark-based company involved in the transportation and energy industries, where he was senior vice president for global human resources.

Macy’s is No. 14 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.



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