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CEW Newsmakers Discuss Retail; Today's Consumers

(From left) Jill Scalamandre, CEW chairwoman and CMO Chrysalis; Carmen Bauza, vice president beauty and personal care, Walmart Stores, Inc.; Carlota Jacobson, president, CEW; and Muriel Gonzalez, Executive vice president, cosmetics, fragrance, and shoes, Macy’s.

By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: February 22, 2011

The Cosmetic Executive Women  CEW Newsmaker Forum on Feb. 15, 2011, featured Carmen Bauza, vice president beauty and personal care, Walmart, and Muriel Gonzalez, executive vice president, cosmetics, fragrance and shoes, Macy’s. CEW president Carlota Jacobson, who acknowledged the presence of “some of the smartest people in the business” at the evening’s presentation, described an invigorated CEW, which has grown since its founding in 1954 when it had 50 members, to an organization with a membership numbering 5,000 and representation from more than 1,300 companies.

She also recognized the event’s sponsors (listed at the end of this article), and introduced the panel, moderated by Jill Scalamandre, CEW's chairwoman and CMO of Chrysalis.

What It Takes To Win Retail

Gonzalez noted that shoppers today are faced with numerous options, from online shopping to seeing and feeling products at counter. “Customers have so many choices, which makes us in the department stores have to work that much harder with service, which is what we are all about," she said. "We have to do our service right. That’s when we’ll win.” She noted that customers are shopping every day, not just Monday through Friday, and that Macy’s technology now enables them to mine their database and track 30 million households to make sure they are targeting correctly.

“We need to live and understand what our customers do,” said Bauza, noting she and her team challenged themselves to live on an income reflecting the average four-person household today, for one month, to determine the reality of the way consumers are currently budgeting. “It was definitely a challenge,” she said. Bauza gained insight into what it takes to have the right brands and the right prices for the Walmart customer. “I am the customer ambassador and make sure we have the best products at the best prices, particularly during a recession,” she said.

“We all suffered during the recession, but Macy’s kept its share," said Gonzalez, who noted she shops everywhere, from Bergdorf to Walmart. "We didn’t hold back on what was offered to our customers, but fine tuned our approach. What we do at Macy’s is offer a broad assortment. We have to be cognizant of what is everywhere.”