Thoughts on the passing of retail legend Tom Stemberg
On Oct. 23, America lost one of its greatest retailing entrepreneurs, Tom Stemberg, who invented the office superstore industry close to 30 years ago. Tom, a Boston resident was a grocery executive early in his career. He came up with the idea of a supermarket for office products after driving around looking for a typewriter ribbon. He then founded Staples, now a $22 billion worldwide company.
Tom was only 66 when he died. But, as with many people, it is not how long they live but what they accomplished during their time here. I met Tom over 20 years ago and it was a privilege to serve under his leadership.
I went on many trips with Tom visiting potential locations. He paid a great attention to detail and after visiting stores, he would email his notes to colleagues asking them to follow-up on a variety of things. Out-of-stocks and poor customer engagement annoyed him.
Tom had a great way of dealing with people of all backgrounds and took pride in seeing his associates do well. Hiring the right people was part of his successful formula since he knew that numbers and money follow rather than lead. Tom was a tremendous leader, a brilliant retailer and worked tirelessly, even after being diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
Tom, who supported numerous charities and loved Harvard basketball (his alma mater), was a great inspiration to many. His passion for business was contagious. As much as I saw his genius, I loved Tom as a person.
While Tom’s success would allow him the ability to buy expensive personal belongings and vacation homes, that wasn’t Tom. He wanted to just be one of the guys, nothing special. Yet anyone who knew Tom, recognized that he was extraordinarily special and loyal to his friends.
Tom’s love of people encouraged him to suggest health insurance to his friend, then Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Who would think that a Republican would think that way, but “Romneycare” became successful before “Obamacare”.
After Tom left Staples close to 10 years ago, he became a managing partner with Highland Consumer and helped several other small companies grow. Not everything Tom touched was successful, but like the great entrepreneur and leader he was, he didn’t give up easily, even battling a horrible illness. Tom taught us to raise the bar, to push the envelope, to respond with urgency, to find a better way, to avoid making excuses, to be caring with people and that by doing right we win.
Tom left a great legacy at Staples and for many other retailers. He taught us by example so we could all be better at what we do.
Tom was a wonderful leader, mentor and friend who will be greatly missed by many, but his work will continue since he taught us all so well.
Noal Solomon is director of real estate for Staples.
Toys ‘R’ Us gets even more social for Black Friday
Black Friday at Toys“R”Us this year will be all about loyalty and social media.
The toy retailer plans to give members of its loyalty program early access to more than 100 deals beginning Nov. 22. The company also plans to host a Twitter party on Nov. 24.
“Whether gift-givers are looking to save before the Thanksgiving turkey defrosts, shop online or join the excited crowds at their local store, Toys“R”Us is THE one stop that toy shoppers can’t afford to miss this Black Friday,” said Richard Barry, Executive Vice President, Global Chief Merchandising Officer, Toys“R”Us, Inc. “Toys“R”Us customers can expect unbeatable Black Friday deals on hundreds of toys we know are going to bring smiles to kids’ faces on Christmas morning. And, our most loyal consumers can beat the crowds and get a jump start on shopping with additional, exclusive offers.”
Toys“R”Us says it will open its doors nationwide at 5 p.m. on Nov. 26.
The company says Rewards R Us Loyalty members can shop dealsboth in-store and online early and will have the added benefit of accumulating points on their purchases, thus extending their holiday savings, with the ability to apply those points to last-minute presents or wait to use them for Toys“R”Us shopping in the New Year.
Toys“R”Us will again deploy “Navigators” in-store, also known as the “G.P.S.” (Gurus for Play Stuff), a speedy checkout at a dedicated Express Lane and the new $19 shipping minimum for online purchases.
On social media, the company is encouraging fans to join a Twitter Party on Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. ET by using #BlackFridayMadeEasy. Hosted in partnership with The Mommyhood Chronicles, consumers will learn more about Black Friday doorbusters and in-store services designed to make shopping quick and simple, as well as receive suggestions from toy experts about hot toys and much more.
After the party, fans can continue to engage with Toys“R”Us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Toysrus, on Twitter at Twitter.com/Toysrus, on Instagram at Instagram.com/Toysrus, as well as subscribe to the Toys“R”Us channel on YouTube (YouTube.com/Toysrus), and follow the company on Snapchat (@ToysRUsOfficial) to see big offers and more.
Urban Outfitters goes from skinny jeans to pizza
In a new expansion of food and retail, Urban Outfitters Inc. is acquiring a Philadelphia-based restaruant chain.
Vetri Family operates five Italian restaurants in Philadelphia, and also three Pizzeria Vetri restaurants, with two in Philadelphia, one in Austin, Texas, and two reportedly in the works in Washington, D.C.
The move comes as many retailers are working to make their stores more experiential by adding various services, including food and beverages, to the mix.
Urban Outfitters on Monday said has entered into an agreement to acquire substantially all The Vetri Family group of restaurants, including its award-winning Pizzeria Vetri. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Having known Marc for almost a decade and partnered with him through his charitable foundation, we are honored to have him, Jeff and the Vetri family join the URBN team,” said Richard A. Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters. “Spending on casual dining is expanding rapidly, and thus, we believe there is tremendous opportunity to expand the Pizzeria Vetri concept.”
The Vetri restaurant group is co-headed by James Beard award winning chef Marc Vetri and his business partner, Jeff Benjamin. Most recently Food and Wine magazine named Pizzeria Vetri, which has three locations and two in the works, the best pizza restaurant in America.
The acquisition will make Vetri Family a subsidiary of Urban Outfitters, with Vetri leading the helm as president and Benjamin as COO.
In a report by philly.com, Urban chief development officer Dave Ziel noted that trends show disposable income is increasingly shifting from retail and into food. The report also said that Vetri and Benjamin will help help Urban develop food and beverage concepts.
“It’s a perfect match,” said Vetri. “URBN and the Vetri Family share the same singular goal, we pride ourselves on bringing the best possible experience to our customers and community. Through this partnership, and the experience URBN has in scaling growth opportunities, the Vetri Family will now be able to focus on what we do best – run restaurants that make people happy.”
Urban Outfitters operates 240 Urban Outfitters namesake stores in the United States, Canada, and Europe; 214 Anthropologie stores in the United States, Canada and Europe, catalogs and websites; and 112 Free People stores in the United States and Canada, along with catalogs and websites for each brand.