by Karen Alberg Grossman

AI5A5791MR Karen at desk


“Karen is an awesome player in the retail world. I love collaborating with her in building both of our businesses. She’s a great listener, and always responds to our needs with an action plan to build our Nautica business. Over the last several years, Karen has continued to elevate Nautica as a premier global brand. Our customers love the fashion sensibility she has brought to the brand. Most importantly, what she has done to bring awareness to Marfan Syndrome is absolutely incredible. It is such a commitment of time and energy, yet she keeps raising the bar every year. Like everyone else who works with her, I love, love, love Karen Murray.” – David Levin, chairman, DXL Stores

“Karen is pure class: she represents what we all would like to be. In business, she’s well regarded as someone who knows what she’s doing and someone with great integrity. When she walks into a room, you know a lady has entered.” – Ronny Wurtzburger, president, Peerless Clothing

“Karen is an outstanding leader. She is not only a great businesswoman, friend, and mother, but she is also a powerful example to all of how each of us can truly make a difference. I remember going to the first fundraiser for Marfans as a small cocktail reception in her showroom (then The Marfan Artists Project) many years ago; today this annual gala has raised millions of dollars. Karen is truly an exceptional individual in our industry.” – Liz Rodbell, president, Husdon’s Bay-Lord & Taylor

“Karen is a great person in business, and in her ability to make a difference with charitable causes. She is strategic in her business outlook, never afraid to adjust direction with the tides of change. She’s been a great partner throughout the years, always maintaining a positive outlook, and often with a sense of humor. She is very deserving to be MR’s Person of the Year.” – David Zant, president, Belk Stores

“Karen is a true treasure in our industry, a talented executive who also makes a meaningful difference in the lives of others. She is not only a great merchant and ambassador for her brand, but she inspires all around her with her passion for business and her dedication to a cause larger than herself. While we all admire her myriad professional accomplishments, what makes her truly special is the way she juxtaposes all of this with her commitment to her family and to those less fortunate. I join all of Karen’s friends in celebrating this most-deserved recognition as MR’s Person of the Year!” – Paul Rosengard, menswear industry veteran

“I’ve worked with her for eight years at VF and I’ve come to truly appreciate her unique combination of talents. She’s smart; she knows how to make money and how to build a brand. She’s creative, with extensive knowledge of the industry. She’s warm, funny, and genuine. She’s filled with energy and passion: when you’re with her, you can virtually feel her spirit and her warmth. We often talk at VF about three different learning styles: visual, aural, and kinesthetic. Karen is all about the touch and feel: it informs her judgment on everything. Yet she’s adopted many of the more scientific findings (market segmentation, etc.) that VF has been researching and, thanks to her keen intuition, she knows how to use them most effectively. In terms of a negative, all I can come up with is that her passion might sometimes make her seem overly emotional. But this is a misperception. In fact, it’s her deep feelings and empathy for others (a huge driver of success in the workplace) that make her such a strong manager and leader.” – Stephen Dull, head of corporate strategy and innovation, VF

“I met Karen 15 years ago through a mutual friend. I was VP at the American Heart Association, she was working on Marfans, and we volunteered at each other’s organizations. She is the most generous person I know: she is the reason for the Marfan Foundation and I’m convinced a key reason for the success of the AHA’s Go Red Movement. It could never have grown to its current stature without her. Simply put, Karen Murray is a remarkable force. I’ve been amazed that as a volunteer at the American Heart Association, she did so much for so many in what seemed like an effortless way. At a recent conference in Chicago, a young mother came up to me and asked to meet her, saying that had she not seen Karen’s interview in The Wall Street Journal, she would never have known her child had Marfan Syndrome. This child, like countless others, is alive because of Karen Murray.” – Mike Weamer, CEO, Marfan Foundation

“I have a long history with Karen Murray. No one else in our industry has as strong a track record of developing businesses, developing brands, developing teams, developing leaders in a way that engenders such good will and good faith. It’s interesting: in the early days when I worked with Karen, I was the men’s collections DMM at Macy’s West and she was part of a Claiborne triumvirate with Karen Castellano and Helaine Goldberg. Those two were rocketships at the time, while Karen stayed more in the background. But she was sensational at clean-up: studying the order, weighing in on the buy, always finding one or two things that we should reconsider. She’s an amazing merchant with a real feel for the consumer. I love working with her because she’s wildly competitive: If she suspects her competition is doing a better job at something, it drives her crazy and revs her up. She will always find a way to make it work. I’d describe her as a velvet hammer: lovely with tremendous charm but wickedly aggressive. She can work at 30,000 feet or at five feet; she can talk about her brands but she can talk just as fluently about other brands. She’s well versed on all the intricacies of department store business, from markdown budgets to service to marketing to capital expenditures. She always gets the most out of her sell-ins— for VF and for the retailer—which is why I always listen when she speaks.” – Jeff Gennette, president, Macy’s

“Among her many wonderful attributes—great business acumen, unbelievable energy, tremendous intuition—what I love most about Karen is that she doesn’t waver: once she decides on something, she goes after it, rallies the troops, and we get it done. She’s made some pretty bold decisions over the years and nine times out of 10, she’s right on the money. For example, a few years ago she was studying our mix in knit shirts and she counted 41 different short-sleeve models that looked virtually the same. She called us in and asked why we needed so many similar all-cotton pique knits. At the time, synthetics were considered sacrilegious but she wanted to cut back on cotton pique polos and add performance fabrics at higher price points (about $10 more at retail). It was a huge risk but she felt strongly that if we didn’t do something different, we’d lose. Bottom line: it was a runaway success, the launch of our fabulous Deck Shirts. I personally wouldn’t have risked it; we were a traditional classic brand. But that’s what makes Karen so amazing: If she believes in something, even at the 11th hour, she figures out how to make it work. I learn something new from her every day.” – Electa Varnish, senior VP of sales, Nautica

“Karen Murray is the perfect choice for MR’s Person of the Year: she’s both a talented executive and a great human being. I’ve worked with her for many years when I was at Belk Stores and now at Bon-Ton: she balances a strong business mind with a great sense of fashion. At Nautica, she’s navigating an iconic brand with many big competitors and she’s managed to make it fresh and relevant. I think she’s an amazing woman, juggling a high-powered business career with family and philanthropy, and with so much positive energy.” – Kathy Bufano, president, Bon-Ton Stores

“Karen’s most exceptional asset is that she cares deeply about everything she does and she brings that attitude of commitment to both her personal and professional life. I’ve worked with her as a colleague and as a boss and I’m constantly impressed by her intense passion, her willingness to learn, her merchandising expertise, her deep knowledge of retailing (and the tremendous respect she’s earned from her retail partners). She has strong opinions on both product and presentation but she’s very open to new ways of looking at things. Especially now. As a competitive executive who wants her brands to win, she’s been very receptive to the recent strategic work VF has been doing with our Where to Play-How to Win initiative. It’s not only enlightened her as a leader but has helped her unlock the potential of her team as she helps them grow into leadership roles. Karen has always been a very hands-on manager, but I’ve seen a change these past 12 months to where she’s modifying her management style and encouraging her people to make the important decisions. We believe that creating future leaders by maintaining a deep bench of talent is a core competency here at VF and Karen is clearly becoming that type of manager. Bottom line, Karen is a lovely, caring, compassionate individual who’s a true expert and leader in her field. I have the deepest respect for her.” – Steve Rendle, president, VF

“When I started at Liz, Karen was VP of sales and for the next 12 years, she climbed the corporate ladder to become president of the men’s division and group executive. She was a key player for many reasons: she’s smart; she’s a wonderful human being with great virtues and values; she’s dealt aggressively but sensitively with her son’s situation; and she’s one of the best sales-oriented managers in the industry. In fact, she’s outstanding not just at selling but also at building meaningful relationships with her retail partners. Even when there are problems, she’s able to make the tough decisions without jeopardizing the relationship. What’s more, she has the ability to engage, attract, and motivate people: she’s got more exuberance than anyone I know.” – Paul Charron, former chairman, Liz Claiborne

“I met Karen when she first came to VF—I was in flux about my career path; we immediately bonded and she’s the reason I stayed at Nautica. I feel lucky to work with someone so selfless, compassionate, and dedicated to helping improve people’s lives. She challenges and inspires me to be not just a better business executive but also a better person. As a manager, her style is direct, candid, approachable, and real, which was tough for me at first since I’m essentially a private person. But I learned from watching Karen that by opening up personally and revealing a little of yourself, you make people feel more comfortable. In Karen’s case, by being open and real, she makes people want to work with her and for her. She’s just so likeable!” – Nina Flood, VP, marketing and strategy, Nautica

“There’s a wonderfully positive vibe about Karen; everyone wants to be in the same room with her.” – Colleen Kelly, CEO, Kay Unger

“I am in awe of everything she does.” – Karen Greenberg, president, Calvin Klein Sportswear

“Karen Murray is a rare breed. With all that she has going on personally and professionally, she always has time for a friend or colleague. She is warm and compassionate and becomes good friends with many of those she does business with. At the same time she is able to be a tough yet fair business partner. Karen has a fantastic sense of humor. No matter how much stress we were under at Claiborne (and at times there was much) we were always able to diffuse it. We laughed like heck and that release enabled us to face any challenge with vigor!” Karen Castellano, EVP, sales, merchandising, and planning, NYDJ

“I first met Karen Murray when I was president of Burdines (now Macy’s) and she was running Claiborne for men. She took them from a little start-up division of a women’s company to a major menswear brand on a par with Ralph and Tommy. Her strength is clearly merchandising: she understands the consumer— not just where he is but where he’s going. She’s a great strategist, and she knows how to build a team. But it’s not just business acumen; it’s a lot of personal charm and commitment. She’s outstanding with people, and very charismatic. What she’s done with her Marfans organization is nothing short of amazing. When you think of what she’s accomplished—creating awareness, raising money, saving lives—it’s awe-inspiring. And she somehow balances this with her work and her family, and always with a smile.” – Howard Socol, mentor for new designers, former CEO of Burdines and Barneys

Karen Murray is an excellent choice for MR’s Person of the Year—and an easy subject to talk about. First of all, when it comes to menswear, she’s the expert: she has spent her entire career in that space; she literally lives it. No one knows the menswear business, and department store retailing, better than Karen Murray. Second, she has tremendous mental agility, an essential attribute of a great leader. She has the willingness and the ability to constantly learn new things. For example, here at VF we are immersed in our consumer insight approach to business. This involves implementing global segmentation studies and devising unique brand architectures based on points of difference and parity. All of this was new to Karen but she’s truly embraced it in order to make her business better. She’s constantly using new tools; I love seeing that in our people. Third, she is a caring leader: she cares deeply about her business, about her people, about her family. When you find someone with all three of these attributes—business expertise, mental agility, and compassion— people instinctively follow her, they want to work hard for her. Karen is incredibly well-liked and well-respected by all. You really want me to give you a negative? Okay, here’s a legitimate one: compared to MR’s two previous Person of the Year honorees (PVH’s Manny Chirico and Macy’s Terry Lundgren), she’s nowhere near in their league when it comes to golf.” – Eric Wiseman, CEO, VF

“The only negative I can come up with about Karen is that she’s not a great cook. But since cooking is my passion, she doesn’t have to be.” – Harry Steinmetz, husband