Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Michele Salerno, marketing director and assistant vice president at omnichannel retail software firm Celerant Technology, explains what the sporting goods supply chain is getting right and how retailers can be nimbler during Covid.
Name: Michele Salerno
Title: marketing director, assistant vice president
Company: Celerant Technology
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
From what we have seen, the outdoor and sporting industry has a tight handle on supply chain. It is in that industry, specifically, where we have seen so many of the distributors, even manufacturers, integrate with retail software providers, such as our company. Together, the technology is made available to the retailers to automate so much of the ordering process—for store replenishment and/or drop shipping. Retailers are empowered to automatically restock “just in time”…or they can offer an endless aisle of merchandise.
Additionally, this industry has multiple groups that also offer valuable sales data exchange programs, in which the retailer would anonymously share their sales data, and in return, get access to industry benchmark reports to help them discover trends and make more informed buying decisions. The data is also then shared with the suppliers to better anticipate consumer needs.
Of course, currently, with Covid, everything has changed and this industry especially has seen such a huge uptick in sales, as more and more consumers are spending their time in the outdoors. This massive trend could not have been anticipated prior to the pandemic, and so the supply chain has been affected significantly, as a result.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
As a consumer, I am more of an impulse buyer. When I find something I am interested in purchasing, I purchase it right away. My purchasing has changed a lot over the years, after having my four children. These days, I am certainly looking for savings and taking advantage of promotions as much as I can.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
To gain my loyalty, I appreciate rewards programs, where the more I spend, the more I save. When my go-to retailers offer this, I tend to spend more of my budget at their store, so I can then save more on my future purchases.
What’s your typical uniform?
My typical dress attire has also significantly changed this past year. Having been working from home now for the past six months, I am definitely wearing more comfort clothing these days, and so are my children. I have to admit, most days I am wearing leggings with a more formal top, since the web camera only captures the top part.
Who’s your style icon?
I’ve always admired Jennifer Aniston’s fashion style.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Considering this year is unlike any other, the best decision that we have made as a company, in my opinion, is to allow our 160-plus team members, across all four offices (New York, Georgia, California and Texas), to continue to work from home until at least 2021. We are putting the health and well-being of our team members first, while still providing the same level of support and services to our retail clients.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
We are very much a results-oriented company, and can be quite flexible, diverse and innovative. We are able to pivot and move quickly, based on current trends and needs within the industry. As such, team members stay busy and can wear many different hats, depending on the project at hand.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
The biggest takeaway for all companies, in my opinion, is to be nimble. The companies that can stay in tune with the industry and the needs of their customers, and can then act on that and adapt the fastest, are the ones that will be successful. From what we have seen, our clients who acted quickly to either optimize their existing e-commerce sites, launch a quick e-commerce site if they didn’t already have one, and ramp up their digital marketing efforts are the ones who managed to offset the lack of in-store sales with the significant increases online.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
The most important priority should be future-proofing your business. The industry was already changing at a rapid pace; Covid accelerated that 100 times. At this point, my hope is that most retailers have made significant changes to their businesses already—whether it be making changes for in-store purchases like contactless payments or mobile point of sale for line busting; implementing new, same-day fulfillment methods like BOPIS or curbside; or revamping their entire digital strategy and marketing efforts.
But the biggest lesson learned I think should be as a retailer, you need to be able to continue to reach and sell to your customers, no matter what happens. These past few months, the entire industry has put their digital marketing into overview, and it’s vital that those efforts continue long past Covid, because the industry has changed forever and so should the way in which we are marketing and selling to our customers.
What makes you most optimistic?
In my 15 years at Celerant, I have never seen our [marketing] team work so hard and come together as much as we have the past six months. We have revamped basically everything that we do and all of our messaging, having to balance the lack of trade show opportunities, which for us is massive.
Even beyond our marketing team, all of the different departments at our company have gone into overdrive—developing new applications so quickly based on our customers’ needs, launching e-commerce sites faster than ever before, and so much more—all with the goal to help our retail customers and help keep our company pushing forward. This for me, has been the most rewarding aspect and what makes me so optimistic moving forward.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Our Virtual Store enables retailers to quickly display a virtual storefront for each store location, based on inventory at that specific location, to better serve local communities and simplify same-day, in-store or curbside pickup. Our Virtual Store only displays the products currently in stock at that store, by automatically pulling the product data, in real-time, from the retailer’s point of sale database from that store, and displays those products online instantly, based on the retailer’s existing department structure.