op ed
by David Katz

op edTwo weeks ago in Las Vegas, during the largest fashion industry trade show, MAGIC/PROJECT, I delivered the keynote presentation for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund and UBM. The presentation was entitled, “Disruption is the Mother of Invention.”

At the end of my speech a woman stood up to ask a question. Actually, she made a statement.

“I own a fashion retail store,” she exclaimed. “I’m a good merchant, it’s a good store. It’s been in business a long time. Customers shop my store with their smartphone in their hand… and then they buy the item on Amazon Prime.”

She cried out, “it’s not right. It’s not fair.”

And then she said, “What do I do?”

My answer was “textbook,” when the last thing needed was a textbook.

Here’s what I said:

“Thank you for that excellent question. Your example is precisely what this presentation is about. Disruption in the marketplace and the requirement to reinvent your model.” I continued, “It’s not just Amazon… it’s H&M and Zara, who are faster to market. It’s Marshall’s and Ross Stores who are selling your brands for less. It’s the direct-to-consumer retail plays by your current brand partners.  And, mostly, it’s a fundamental change in the path to purchase by your customers…”
I invited her to stay after the Q&A to discuss some strategies and tactics. Then, I took the next question.

By the time I reached the back of the room, she had gone.

Here’s what I should have said, but didn’t:

“I see how upset you are.”  I should have come down from the stage, and walked over to her.

“I understand and share that feeling. Our company is undergoing challenges to our business, too. It’s painful. You and I, we’re in good company. Thousands of retail stores, including giants like Macy’s, Nordstrom, JC Penney, Kohl’s and powerhouse brands including Polo Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are facing the same challenge.”

“The answers are hard to see and even harder to execute. Would you allow me to sit with you, later, and discuss some ideas we each have?”

It’s not businesses which are disrupted, it’s people. Disruption is not academic, it’s painful.

Perhaps it’s not too late.

I’m sorry I spoke to you in textbook phrases. If you’re reading this… please contact me. We can learn from each other. And, we can commiserate.

– David J. Katz, New York City, EVP and CMO, Randa Accessories


David J. Katz is executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Randa Accessories, an industry-leading multinational consumer products company, and the world’s largest men’s accessories business.