NRF 2017: Tech focus can help us recruit top talent - Macy's CEO

Macy's is going through some major changes in 2017, with the closure of 68 stores and over 10,000 job losses announced at the start of the year, but CEO Terry Lundgren is still looking to attract the next generation of retail workers with a focus on digital development.

Talking as part of the first keynote at this week's National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, in New York, US, the retail boss said working alongside universities and committing to online, data analytics and other systems development can help the organisation boost its performance again.

"We've been focused on [digital development] for many now – we've become the sixth largest online retailer in America," he explained.

"As a result of [this strategy] we've been able to attract great talent that is focused on technology."

Despite the retailer facing a challenging environment in the 12 months ahead, he suggested the company has received plaudits for the work it has done in supporting women's development in technology. The retailer has also recently grown its data analytics team as it looks to get a closer measure on how best to serve modern shoppers.

"All of those things are magnets that draw people to us and then it is a matter of making sure we train [them]," he told delegates at Javits Center in Manhattan.

"In the last year we've trained 600 of these technologists to focus on anything from website development to when is it the right time and how it is best to utilise that technology to satisfy demand."

The retail chief, who is set to step down as CEO this quarter to be replaced by Jeff Gennette, also highlighted how Macy's close ties with US universities, including the University of Arizona where his name has been given to the Center for Retailing, helps steer new talent into the industry.

"For me, if we can capture the top 10% of students and get their interest [...] in our industry, then we'll grow."

Lundgren's NRF Big Show comments came just two weeks after Macy's announced a series of store closures and a continued focus on digital, but at the cost of a significant number of jobs.

The shuttering of 68 stores and the realignment of the structure supporting the remaining shops in the portfolio is focused on improving the customer experience and boosting shareholder value. These store closures are part of the approximately 100 closings announced in August 2016, with 63 set to be closed in early spring this year.

Macy's most recent announcements around its retail estate are estimated to generate annual expense savings of approximately $550 million, beginning in 2017, which the company says will enable it to invest an additional $250 million in growing the digital business, store-related growth strategies, China and other stated priorities.

Lundgren said at the time of the announcement: "Our omnichannel strategies continue to evolve based on the changes in our customers' shopping behaviours, including a focus on buy online, pick-up in store and mobile-enabled shopping."

He added: "In addition, we have invested in and enlarged our customer data and analytics team, which will help drive our new marketing strategies for 2017.

"Whether it is improving corporate agility, enhancing our customer engagement strategies, or continuing to capitalise on the potential value of our real estate assets, we remain focused on the actions that will ultimately improve our financial results and provide the greatest return for our shareholders."

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