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Up Close: In Conversation with MasonHub’s Donny Salazar

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, Donny Salazar, founder and CEO of fulfillment technology and services company MasonHub, talks about what big-box stores can teach fashion about omnichannel and how he engages his remote team.

Donny Salazar MasonHub
Donny Salazar, founder and CEO of MasonHub Courtesy

Name: Donny Salazar

Title: founder and CEO

Company: MasonHub, Inc.

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

In retail, big-box chains such as Target and Walmart that are leveraging their stores as mini distribution centers are doing a great job, because it’s no longer about being a pure-play e-commerce brand, it’s about being wherever your customer wants to purchase, whether that’s in store, online or BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store). The brands that do this well are the ones that will continue to be successful in leveraging their existing infrastructure for the entire customer journey.

There’s a big opportunity for the apparel space to be able to do this to support true omnichannel retail.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Aside from having a flawless experience from in-store or online, quality is the No. 1 thing that wins my loyalty. Like many men, if I like something, I buy many of the same thing. The second thing I really appreciate is brands that help me discover. If there is a brand that I like and it’s good quality, if they are serving me up things I didn’t think I needed or wanted or if they are continually giving me fresh new styles that are relevant, that definitely wins my loyalty.

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What’s your typical work uniform?

It’s the same: Acne jeans, James Perse shirts and Common Projects or Vans sneakers. I work in retail tech where we have a flexible dress code, and I am a simple basics kind of guy.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I am more of a classic guy, so I would say the fifties or sixties. I really enjoy a suiting moment like Thom Browne. Even though I don’t wear them, I do appreciate them.

Who’s your style icon?

I like the way Ricky Martin dresses; He wears suiting but it’s not super fashion-y, it’s simple and classic. I also like Tom Ford. He tends to wear nice suits, but he’s never crazy in the way he styles himself.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

To build our own OMS (order management system) from scratch. In order to support omnichannel retail, you need a strong OMS to handle your allocation across multiple channels, and there are not a lot of systems out there that can support that.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

The majority of our corporate team is remote, and in these times that has actually played well for us as there has been a big push to work from home. We’re less about snacks and foosball at the office and more about how you engage the team. We are highly transparent and collaborative, and no questions are stupid questions. We implement what one NCAA basketball coach calls “next play.” It’s a fast ball game, and you celebrate the wins when you get them, but focus on continuing to improve and go on to the next play. If you have a short fall, take a moment to explore, then focus on the next play. We rely on continual improvement to move the business forward.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

How to marry technology with the physical. We grew up in a world of bricks-and-mortar retail and despite e-commerce having been around for 20 years, a lot of the brands haven’t figured it out because they haven’t invested as much in technology. Any brand doing well now has done a great job of merging tech with the physical and using technology to bridge the physical and the online.

What keeps you up at night?

At the moment, COVID-19. Obviously, there’s a huge interruption in business, especially in apparel and fashion as many purchases are considered discretionary. But it’s also a fundamental change to the way our culture operates in purchasing habits and the way we interact. How is this going to change and adapt our business to be relevant? With so many changes, it’s hard to anticipate. Are we focused on the right products and services? What are long-term impacts of COVID-19?

What makes you most optimistic?

With people being required to shelter in place, it will push a lot of retail to online and it will continue to push people to think more about buying online. So that makes me optimistic because we are building technology and innovations to support direct-to-consumer and retail from all different channels.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

The Returns Rate Engine can take different product characteristics such as weight and dimensions to determine the most cost-effective way to return product to the facility. One brand saw a 20 percent reduction in return shipping costs. The Full Automation Marketing Engine can interpret customer order attributes, re-purchase rates and other customer behaviors and order characteristics and translate them into a physical act during fulfillment such as inserting a specific note, enhanced packaging, priority shipping or a discount code. So leveraging your data in your fulfillment experience. It wasn’t always possible for brands to translate data into a physical act. We’ve unlocked that for them.