STORES Convention Daily - 2018 Big Show Day 3 - 1
TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018
11/12/17 4:54 PM
Change Agents Share
Stories of Transformation
t might seem that no other industry can
compare its rate of change to retail.
A Monday morning NRF 2018
Main Stage session begged to differ.
During "Transformational Leadership:
Women Empowering Change," innovator
Beth Comstock took the crowd back to
her days at NBC Universal, when a "cute"
little company called Netflix was quietly
sending people DVDs. NBC was so busy
freaking out about YouTube instead, she
her conversation with journalist Ali Velshi
of NBC News and MSNBC.
She noted that teams need to be made
up of a variety of thinkers; that the entire
culture needs to adapt a mindset of being
open to change; and that learning and experimentation must be constant.
"Why have we ceded most of our
entrepreneurism to Silicon Valley?" she
asked. Every company began with an entrepreneurial seed at some point. "In every
company, you have
to unlock experimentation."
one of three powerful
speakers during the
session, which also
of The Huffington
Post and founder and
CEO of Thrive Global, as well as Helena
of CVS Pharmacy
and executive vice
president of CVS
and Foulkes were
Arianna Huffington draws both applause and appreciation as she
interviewed by NBC
encourages audience members to care as much about their own
"batteries" as the ones in their smartphones.
Jo Ling Kent.
said - and how it knew how to do content
For her portion, Huffington told the
but not videos of cats playing piano - that story of how one day she literally collapsed
nobody was paying attention to the upstart from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone
that would radically change the way people during the fall. It served as a wake-up call to
would watch shows. Netflix moved into reevaluate where she was putting her time
streaming in 2007, and within a few years and energy - she founded The Huffington
topped 20 million subscribers.
Post in 2005, and it had become like a third
"Thank God the team got together and child, she said. Today, however, her efforts
realized we needed to find an entrepre- are focused on helping people and busineur," she said. Comstock was president nesses make small but significant positive
of integrated media at NBC, and oversaw changes in their lives.
the founding of Netflix streaming service
She began by going straight to the
heart of the matter: smartphones and social
More recently, Comstock served as media, encouraging the audience to manvice chair for General Electric, where she age their relationship with their phones
was involved in a variety of transformative differently.
initiatives, including GE's digital and clean"Let's look at the facts," she said. "We
energy efforts. All told, her experiences take better care of our smartphones than
made for an insightful, relevant - and we take care of ourselves." She made a
practical - talk.
bet that everyone attending could say how
"Transformation," she said, "means much battery power their phone held. And
you're never done. Volatility is the new any time her own reached 13 percent, she
added, she was anxiously searching for a
Comstock, the author of the forthcom- "charging shrine" to fill it back up. "But if
ing book, Imagine It Forward, covered the
gamut of transforming company culture in
See "Transformation" on page 29
Walmart CEO and The Visionary recipient Doug McMillon spoke with NRF President
and CEO Matthew R. Shay Sunday about retail's evolution and Walmart's plans for
the future. "The way customers want to live their lives today brings the store and
ecommerce experiences together," McMillon said.
The Quest for Innovation at Scale
n a well-attended session Monday (There is no "official" Store No 8, at least
morning, Scott Friend, managing direc- not any more. Back when founder Sam
tor of Bain Capital Ventures, and Lori Walton was active in the business, there
Flees, senior vice president for next gen was a Store No 8 - all Walmart stores are
retail and principal of Walmart's Store No numbered - near the company's Arkansas
8, discussed "Building the More Innovative headquarters. Walton would use it as a sort
of laboratory to test innovations in supply
Flees, herself an 18-year Bain Capi- chain management, customer relationships
tal veteran, has been with Walmart since and store management.)
"To do what we're doing," Flees said,
2014 and in her position since last fall.
As head of Store No 8, she leads what is "we need to be able to hire employees on
the basis of their fuessentially a wholly
ture potential, rather
owned new business
"To do what we're
than their current
incubator, in which
utility." Startups, she
doing, we need
added, need to be
by Walmart are supto be able to hire
able to move faster
ported and develemployees on the
than a large comoped with an eye
basis of their future
pany can move, and
to making them a
potential, rather than
they need to be able
part of the larger
to make strategic
their current utility."
The division is now
- Lori Flees,
means the Store No
working with four
8 budget is isolated
from the day-to-day
which was acquired
demands of the overby Walmart in 2016;
a new business headed by Rent the Runway all retail profit-and-loss structure.
"What about the Store No 8 companies
founder Jennifer Hyman; and two others.
been launching," Friend said. "Any
Flees indicated that one more might be
surprises or challenges so far?"
added in the near future.
The primary area of learning, Flees
There are, of course, significant
operational and strategic differences said, has had to do with the issue of setting
between a startup company and the larg- up a company separately from the parent so
est corporation in the world. To manage it can operate at startup speed. "Contracting
these differences, Store No 8 operates as a
See "Innovation" on page 30
separate business entity from Walmart Inc.
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