05 Sep HGA Interview – Teri Naccarato
We were delighted to sit down with Terri Naccarato, Chief Merchandising Officer at C&A and ex General Manager of Cotton On, to discuss her career journey:
1. What made you embark on a career in retail?
My formal education is in Law and Economics. And, even though I’d been raised within our family businesses, I hadn’t intentionally sought a career in Retail.
Circumstances occurred which propelled me to assume the leadership of my mother’s business. It was during that time that I realised how much I loved the dynamic and challenging nature of Retail and its intimate proximity to the customer. There’s no other industry that forces one to apply such diverse skills from mathematics and analysis to innovation and intuition.
2. How have you got to where you are today?
Courage, resilience and optimism.
I believe there’s always a way if you are open minded and flexible. Throughout my career I’ve had the courage to ask the right questions, to take the necessary risks and to stay objectively focused on the required outcome. Though there have been mistakes and failures, I’ve had the resilience to course correct and to carry on. Each time, I gained the crucial learning and the experience in my tool belt to apply to next situation.
3. What has been your career highlight?
It would be hard to pick one career highlight. In reality, when I think about the greatest success stories of my last 25 years, they all have one thing in common and that’s people. I’ve had my greatest accomplishments when my team has achieved its goals, when certain associates have been recognised for their work, when the organisation has collectively moved on to a greater level of performance.
Recently, our entire cross functional merchant organisation embarked on a speedier, more modernised way of bringing concept to market. This involved the tireless commitment of 3000 employees ranging from buying to planning, marketing and sourcing. In less than 18 months, a complete overhaul of the outdated practices and processes was achieved. This was only possible because of the willingness of the team, many of whom had tenures of over 25 years, to learn and to adapt to new ways of working. Engineering a change of this magnitude in a company of over 175 years was often daunting and certainly not free of obstacles! But, I would rank this as one of my most pivotal highlights because it illustrates just what can be achieved when everyone wants the same thing and everyone wants to win.
4. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
The first thing I would say is that it’s crucial to stay true to yourself – to be authentic. In other words, create your own footsteps and your own path based on your passion and that which gives you energy everyday.
Then, I would say to never stop learning and sharpening your skills. Essentially, the best performers in all industries, continue to learn new techniques, new practices and new insights. In a leadership role, wherein an organisation is reliant upon you for clarity and for inspiration, it’s critical to practice your craft comfortably and knowingly, so you can share your confidence with everyone around you.
5. What is your next move?
I’ll be joining a team which is on a journey to really elevate its performance, which is focused on growth and wants to do it sustainably and conscientiously.
6. Post Brexit, how do you think the retail landscape will change in the UK in the forward?
Brexit, like so many socio economic catalytic events, will force existing UK brands and businesses to become expansive. The way forward will be to expand internationally and more quickly than in the past. Due to a need for more profit and earnings, companies need to move past the saturated markets. The great thing is that so many British brands have unique identities and offer unique experiences. Often these are already renown in emerging and mature markets but have remained elusive to the average consumer. Markets such as USA, Germany, Scandinavia, Middle East and the Subcontinent have untapped potential for the heritage affordable brands of the UK. It’s exciting!