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Chief… what? The key exec role at many retailers

Nova Safo Sep 23, 2015
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Chief… what? The key exec role at many retailers

Nova Safo Sep 23, 2015
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When you walk into J.C. Penney, the merchandise, the prices, the promotions you see, all were signed off by the chief merchant.

It is a crucial role for any retailer.

J.C. Penney announced Wednesday the appointment of a new person to that job. John Tighe was already a senior general merchandise manager for the company. He got a promotion to the top job.

Kohl’s and Target also recently shuffled people in and out of the chief merchant position.

The position is a crucial one, because it sets the brand for the entire retail operation, said Paul Swinand of Morningstar.

“There’s some risk-taking involved,” he said.

A chief merchant is basically a chief buyer — responsible for everything from appliances to housewares to high fashion. Swinand said people in the role are always on the lookout for new trends, and “will visit boutique stores key to spotting trends … popular things in the South for the spring,” for example.

While this may sound like a great job for any teen in America, Brian Solis of Altimeter Group said there is an art to the job, especially for executives who are, perhaps, far from their teen years.

“That’s part of the challenge, right,” Solis said. “That’s really what it comes down to, is having relevant perspective … to build a brand that people are just gonna want.”

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