Macy’s Networking Session – Marc Mastronardi & YMA FSF Alumni Panel

YMA FSF Board of Governor and FSF Scholarship Chair Marc Mastronardi recently shared his time with our scholars, delivering an inspirational speech on his experiences in retail and answering their questions on the future of the industry. Marc has been with Macy’s for over 20 years and is currently the EVP of New Business Development and Innovation. While Marc has excelled in the retail world, when he was an undergraduate student he expected his career to take him elsewhere. Having studied finance and accounting at Boston College, Mastronardi had every intention of pursuing a career in finance upon graduation. A visit to his university from the then CEO of Filene’s completely changed his perspective. After the CEO’s speech, Marc was able to speak with her for a few minutes. It was then that she convinced Mastronardi to give retail a try. Marc accepted her offer and decided to venture out into retail; he hasn’t looked back since. After Macy’s acquisition of Filene’s, Marc worked his way through a number of roles and departments at Macy’s, including General Merchandise Manager. In his current role in New Business Development, Marc and his team work to find innovative ways to advance Macy’s as a company and continue to excel at retail. As the landscape of the industry is quickly evolving, the presence of a team like Marc’s is more important than ever. 

YMA FSF Board of Governor and FSF Scholarship Chair Marc Mastronardi recently shared his time with our scholars, delivering an inspirational speech on his experiences in retail and answering their questions on the future of the industry. Marc has been with Macy’s for over 20 years and is currently the EVP of New Business Development and Innovation. While Marc has excelled in the retail world, when he was an undergraduate student he expected his career to take him elsewhere. Having studied finance and accounting at Boston College, Mastronardi had every intention of pursuing a career in finance upon graduation. A visit to his university from the then CEO of Filene’s completely changed his perspective. After the CEO’s speech, Marc was able to speak with her for a few minutes. It was then that she convinced Mastronardi to give retail a try. Marc accepted her offer and decided to venture out into retail; he hasn’t looked back since.

After Macy’s acquisition of Filene’s, Marc worked his way through a number of roles and departments at Macy’s, including General Merchandise Manager. In his current role in New Business Development, Marc and his team work to find innovative ways to advance Macy’s as a company and continue to excel at retail. As the landscape of the industry is quickly evolving, the presence of a team like Marc’s is more important than ever. 

A major discussion topic in the industry at the moment is how to keep brick and mortar relevant. In New York City, many companies are able to create large and exciting brick and mortar locations that can’t be experienced in the same way elsewhere in the country. “How is Macy’s trying to bring the experiences found in the Herald Square location to the rest of their stores across the country?” one scholar asked.  “There is no doubt that this location is special,” Marc said, “And we want to keep it special. Nevertheless, there are definitely entertainment features in this location that we can bring into our other locations. We will bring it physically or digitally through emerging technologies, which are really not so far off anymore. We are always looking for ways to make the in-store experience more important and enjoyable.”  “What do you see the future of department stores to be?” another scholar said. Mastronardi responded that there has certainly been some disruption in the way department stores function. “The role of stores is changing. They will no longer only be the place of commerce,” he stated. “Stores will also be more so a place of discovery and inspiration. Technologies are likely to have scale in the future. Virtual reality, 3D printing –these are all likely to have a role in stores moving forward. If you can make it work correctly, department stores can be the anchors of a lot of communities.”

A major discussion topic in the industry at the moment is how to keep brick and mortar relevant. In New York City, many companies are able to create large and exciting brick and mortar locations that can’t be experienced in the same way elsewhere in the country. “How is Macy’s trying to bring the experiences found in the Herald Square location to the rest of their stores across the country?” one scholar asked.  “There is no doubt that this location is special,” Marc said, “And we want to keep it special. Nevertheless, there are definitely entertainment features in this location that we can bring into our other locations. We will bring it physically or digitally through emerging technologies, which are really not so far off anymore. We are always looking for ways to make the in-store experience more important and enjoyable.”

 “What do you see the future of department stores to be?” another scholar said. Mastronardi responded that there has certainly been some disruption in the way department stores function. “The role of stores is changing. They will no longer only be the place of commerce,” he stated. “Stores will also be more so a place of discovery and inspiration. Technologies are likely to have scale in the future. Virtual reality, 3D printing –these are all likely to have a role in stores moving forward. If you can make it work correctly, department stores can be the anchors of a lot of communities.”

After Marc spoke, our scholars were given the opportunity to hear from a panel of FSF alumni who are currently employed at Macy’s in a wide array of departments. The alumni in attendance were Patrick McCabe, Designer for Men's Dress Shirts and Neckwear, Felicia Podberesky, Associate Designer for JM Collection, Abbie Luzecky, Omni Associate Merchandise Planner, Marlena Meyer, Analytical Consulting Manager, and Samantha Duke, Product Manager for Men's Dress Shirts. Nicole Rosario, a member of Macy’s Human Resources Executive Development Program, moderated the panel.  Nicole began by asking the alumni to go over what their job entails and the role they play within the company. “I work in product development,” said Samantha.  “I went to school for fashion merchandising and always knew I wanted to do something outside of buying, but wasn’t really quite sure what it was. I think product development is the perfect combination of the art and the science of this industry. There’s a lot of math, science, and business analytical skills involved, but there is also a very fun, creative, product-focused side to it. When you’re in product development at Macy’s, you get to touch every single part of the organization in one day. You’re constantly in connection with your buyer and your planner, creating strategies for the season you’re going into. You’re working on so many things at once. You have to constantly be thinking ahead.” 

After Marc spoke, our scholars were given the opportunity to hear from a panel of FSF alumni who are currently employed at Macy’s in a wide array of departments. The alumni in attendance were Patrick McCabe, Designer for Men's Dress Shirts and Neckwear, Felicia Podberesky, Associate Designer for JM Collection, Abbie Luzecky, Omni Associate Merchandise Planner, Marlena Meyer, Analytical Consulting Manager, and Samantha Duke, Product Manager for Men's Dress Shirts. Nicole Rosario, a member of Macy’s Human Resources Executive Development Program, moderated the panel. 

Nicole began by asking the alumni to go over what their job entails and the role they play within the company. “I work in product development,” said Samantha.  “I went to school for fashion merchandising and always knew I wanted to do something outside of buying, but wasn’t really quite sure what it was. I think product development is the perfect combination of the art and the science of this industry. There’s a lot of math, science, and business analytical skills involved, but there is also a very fun, creative, product-focused side to it. When you’re in product development at Macy’s, you get to touch every single part of the organization in one day. You’re constantly in connection with your buyer and your planner, creating strategies for the season you’re going into. You’re working on so many things at once. You have to constantly be thinking ahead.” 

Marlena went on to speak about her past role as a buyer within the organization. “The buyer really focuses on the product and on the relationship with the vendor,” she said. “They work really closely with the planner to understand what is the right product at the right time in the right location. The time and location is much more for the planner to focus on, and the product is for the buyer. Some other topics that the buyer works on are marketing and pricing. Additionally, while Macys.com and Macy’s are now merged, we still have a separate role called the “digital merchant” just for Macys.com, which can be described as a store manager for our online division. As a buyer, you work a lot with the digital merchant to discover what products need to be purchased for the online site.” The panel all agreed that this is a fast paced industry in which things are constantly changing. “Each day is different, and as a planner you need to stay up to date with in-store and online purchases,” Abbie added. “No day is the same.” Nicole then went on to ask our panel what they felt were some of the most important skills needed to be successful in this industry. “From a design perspective, things can change very quickly,” Felicia said. "You need to constantly have new ideas and try to push the envelope in terms of what you are creating. Even if your customer is not the trendiest or most fashionable, she still wants something new and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and give it to her." Patrick added to the necessary skills for a designer. “You obviously need to understand Illustrator, Photoshop, and how to put together a tech pack,” he said, “But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to understand your customer and what they’re looking for. You need to understand what they want – not just for right now, but what they will be looking for one year from now. Being able to define what a brand means is important.”

Marlena went on to speak about her past role as a buyer within the organization. “The buyer really focuses on the product and on the relationship with the vendor,” she said. “They work really closely with the planner to understand what is the right product at the right time in the right location. The time and location is much more for the planner to focus on, and the product is for the buyer. Some other topics that the buyer works on are marketing and pricing. Additionally, while Macys.com and Macy’s are now merged, we still have a separate role called the “digital merchant” just for Macys.com, which can be described as a store manager for our online division. As a buyer, you work a lot with the digital merchant to discover what products need to be purchased for the online site.” The panel all agreed that this is a fast paced industry in which things are constantly changing. “Each day is different, and as a planner you need to stay up to date with in-store and online purchases,” Abbie added. “No day is the same.”

Nicole then went on to ask our panel what they felt were some of the most important skills needed to be successful in this industry. “From a design perspective, things can change very quickly,” Felicia said. "You need to constantly have new ideas and try to push the envelope in terms of what you are creating. Even if your customer is not the trendiest or most fashionable, she still wants something new and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and give it to her."

Patrick added to the necessary skills for a designer. “You obviously need to understand Illustrator, Photoshop, and how to put together a tech pack,” he said, “But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to understand your customer and what they’re looking for. You need to understand what they want – not just for right now, but what they will be looking for one year from now. Being able to define what a brand means is important.”

Macy’s Words of Wisdom: Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not a social engagement. If you want to create a best in class customer experience, pay attention to every detail. Whether or not your customer is considered the trendiest or the most fashionable, she still wants something new, and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and bring it to her. For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’, it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment.’

Macy’s Words of Wisdom:

Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not a social engagement.

If you want to create a best in class customer experience, pay attention to every detail.

Whether or not your customer is considered the trendiest or the most fashionable, she still wants something new, and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and bring it to her.

For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’, it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment.’