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Interview-scott-zimmerman

Jul 7, 2021

How This VP of Merchandising Sees Retail Tech Evolving

Read what what retail exec Scott Zimmerman has to say about humans vs. machines.

By Leigh Sevin, Co-Founder @ Endear

20 Questions with Scott Zimmerman

As part of our "20 Questions" series, we interview retail experts to get their take on a variety of industry-specific questions - 20 of them, to be exact. This month we heard from Scott Zimmerman, currently VP of global product merchandising at Carhartt. With over 20 years of experience in the field, Scott has worked with brands like Nike and New Balance, and believes that analytics and intuition are what power smart decisions in this industry. Read what else he has to say over the course of 20 Questions with Endear.

Did you ever work in a retail store?

Yes! Multiple retailers from smaller apparel shops to regional music stores (sadly, now out of business).

What's the best part about working in retail? Or the worst?

I loved the consumer interaction. Learning directly from each consumer. What they like and dislike. Most are not shy. I also loved the balance of KPIs and analytics against your gut. It's an amazing puzzle.

In five words or less, how would you describe the future of retail?

Uninterrupted, Seamless, Intentional, and Personal

What's your favorite way to be approached as a shopper? Or least favorite?

It's a delicate balance. First, I enjoy having space so I can personally explore products without interruption. When I have a question, I'm looking for an expert with a POV. Don't try and sell me on something, but be personable and share your knowledge and honest opinion.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important qualities or skills someone working in retail can have?

Listen! Consumers want to be heard. Take the small ques the consumer provides. And be honest with your POV. Some consumers are experts, and others need your expertise. Know what each consumer is looking for from you and how to best interact. Learn and apply from each unique interaction.

Tell us about an experience you had with a particularly noteworthy customer.

While in college, I had the amazing opportunity of working in a music shop. Now, this was prior to the ipod/iphone days, so everyone was still buying CDs. Regularly, consumers would come in and expose me to brand new music I had never heard before. Genres, artists, little known recordings of bands I liked at that time. It was an education! An awesome experience to have exposure to things outside of my own sphere. It was a real gift.

When I have a question, I'm looking for an expert with a POV. Don't try and sell me on something, but be personable and share your knowledge and honest opinion.

Fill in the blank: "Working in retail is great, unless you _____, then don't even think about it!"

are afraid of change

Name a brand you think has a particularly great or unique approach to retail right now.

I'm so impressed by brands that quickly adjusted their model to meet the drastic change in consumer behavior the last 18 months. It's hard to pick just one. I have great respect for Amazon/Whole Foods as they serviced so many during the pandemic. Dick's Sporting Goods is going strong and building new formats to test consumer driven concepts. Personally, I love the experience of physical retail. Small shops that are experts in telling rich stories through well curated and well bought stores. Bodega in Boston (one of the best entrances to a shop you'll find anywhere), and Noah in NYC are on the top of my list. Of course, Carhartt does an amazing job as well! Everything we do is about providing the consumer with enduring value.

Personally, I love the experience of physical retail. Small shops that are experts in telling rich stories through well curated and well bought stores. Bodega in Boston (one of the best entrances to a shop you'll find anywhere), and Noah in NYC are on the top of my list.

What's your favorite thing to shop for?

Sneakers!

What's the last thing you bought while shopping online?

I've been sending books to friends and colleagues. Books about both business and life.

What store(s) are you shopping IRL right now?

Sadly, not much. Most shopping has been for the essentials. Other than a few work related "check-ins", I'm itching to get back out there!

What was your favorite store/mall to shop as a kid?

Growing up in Brooklyn, we loved getting on the subway and crossing the river to lower Manhattan. It was a different world with some great brands geared for us! We'd hit a bunch of shops, stop in at Stussy and Tower Records, and come home broke!

What was your first "big" retail purchase?

As a kid, we had one pair of sneakers per year (aside from soccer cleats). By the time I was old enough, and fortunate enough to work for Nike, I made up for lost time with my sneaker spending. Aside from that, I had a custom suit made for my wedding. It still fits (I think)!

Growing up in Brooklyn, we loved getting on the subway and crossing the river to lower Manhattan. It was a different world with some great brands geared for us! We'd hit a bunch of shops, stop in at Stussy and Tower Records, and come home broke!

What technology trend do you think will have the largest impact on retail over the next 5 years? Over the next 20?

Predictive analytics will continue to curate targeted retail experiences to individuals. And with that, for the long game, you'll see more and more on-demand creation. The more precise the information, the quicker to market you can be, with less risk, and less cash tied up in inventory. I say that its the long game as consumers are still looking for instant gratification (if 200M prime members are an indication). However, even with all the data in the world, we should never count out the human aspect of retail!

What's a current retail trend you're excited about?

I'm excited to see the evolution of brick and mortar in an age where online picked up the baton. There is still a need for amazing in-store, touch and feel, conversations with a real person, type of experiences.

What's the best piece of advice you've gotten while working in retail?

Listen to the consumer and wear comfortable shoes!

Fill in the blank: "Ecommerce is to stores as ______ is to ______."

salt is to pepper