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Up Close: In Conversation with NewStore CMO Phil Granof

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, Phil Granof, chief marketing officer of omnichannel platform NewStore, discusses why omnichannel is now “do or die” and how the pandemic has him shopping more purposefully. 

Phil Granof New Store
Phil Granof, chief marketing officer of NewStore Courtesy

Name: Phil Granof

Title: chief marketing officer

Company: NewStore

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

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has had a pretty good handle on the supply chain. However, like many other industries, it had a big wakeup call in Q1. Many active ingredients were dependent upon China. Since then, big pharma companies have been looking hard at rebalancing their chemical supply chain to be less dependent on any one particular region. While a delay in the latest sneaker drop from Adidas has less humanitarian implications than a delay in delivering a critical medicine, retailers need to also become more resilient. One way is to connect all inventory and allow stores to find goods not only in warehouses but also other stores.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

Right now I would describe myself as a “purposeful shopper.” Not only has the pandemic focused my consumption habits on essential goods, like many, I’ve migrated from the city to the suburbs and have a new home to fill. When I shop in physical retail, I’m not lingering. I’m planning ahead with buy online pick up in store, as well as curbside pickup. I know what I want and work to reduce my exposure in indoor spaces. That means I’m not touching POS terminals, and I’m looking for contactless payment methods with Apple Pay.

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

Loyalty for me is about problem resolution—fast problem resolution. I want to be able to ask a store associate a question and they can solve anything: purchase issues, returns, delivery, stockouts, whatever. At least that’s my hope. A few brands have these “omnichannel associates,” but they are rare. Walk into Burton Snowboards, for example, and they can do it all.

What’s your typical uniform?

I have completely devolved, and I no longer have work or weekend clothes. They have merged together, like the days of the week. However, I do maintain some standards for what can be seen in Zoom meetings. My work uniform from pre-Covid has remained partially intact, and you’ll find me in Zoom with a Lululemon three-quarter zip. Below the camera’s view it’s gym shorts, whereas in the office you would have found me in a pair of Rhone commuter pants and a pair of Allbirds.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I’m originally from Los Angeles and live in Boston, so it might surprise you that my favorite clothing era is ’90s grunge. It just feels more authentic to me, and who doesn’t love their favorite flannel shirt and ripped jeans. Now, do I actually wear that today? Well, I’m afraid I’d look like a nutcase given my age. So, no.

Who’s your style icon?

Whatever George Clooney, Ryan Gosling or Daniel Craig are wearing when “caught” by paparazzi on the weekend, that’s for me. Even if I won’t purchase a $300 white T-shirt, I’ll replicate their looks with my own wardrobe.

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

The best decision NewStore made this year was to push forward regardless of the pandemic. Uncertainty in retail upended our timing, but we knew that the benefits of our platform are exactly what makes retailers more resilient in any time of struggle. Pre-Covid, NewStore was about optimizing the experience for retailers, associates and consumers. Now, brands have recognized that omnichannel is do or die—they need what NewStore offers to thrive. We pushed back on the doom and gloom prognostications and said, “You know what? We have the solution.”

Omnichannel brings resiliency to brands because they can shift channels quickly. For example, one store might be in a Covid hotspot and need to close. Fine. Turn it into a fulfillment center with ship from store technology, and transform associates into fulfillment experts. Don’t have enough stores open to handle the number of associates? Fine. Give them remote selling technology and incent them to sell inventory from everywhere.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Our company lives by three values: innovation, integrity and shared success. We helped the values take root by turning them into questions for employees to ask themselves in their daily work. For innovation, we ask ourselves, “Did I make it better?” This can apply to everything from code to presentations to office cleaning. For integrity, we ask ourselves, “Did we debate and commit?” Think of this value as more about creating functional integrity, and not just truthfulness and honesty, which are the price of entry. And finally, for shared success, we ask ourselves “Is this a win-win?” between ourselves and customers, fellow employees, prospects and partners.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. No company will survive this pandemic by accident. It has separated businesses that were meant to survive and those that weren’t, and will continue to. And, when I say this, I’m not referring to the small businesses that could never have prepared for this, but rather long standing companies that had the talent, resources and planning abilities to ensure resilience, but failed to.

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

That’s easy: omnichannel resilience. Omnichannel is the not-so-secret potion to a thriving retail business today. Because retail is so aligned with fashion, brands often fall victim to the notion that they have to be innovative in what they sell and not in how they sell. Today, it’s critical for brands to innovate the way they operate. Offering a superior product isn’t enough.

What keeps you up at night?

It’s cliche, but the uncertainty around the duration and extent of the pandemic. There are so many retailers that will survive this, but there are many that won’t. Beyond this, the purchasing power of consumers will be affected for many years to come, and retailers will have to shift brand positioning to more value-oriented stories.

What makes you most optimistic?

The fact that so much is still being sold in stores. If we’ve learned one thing about human nature through this, it’s that we desperately want to be together. If stores are open, consumers will shop in them. It’s different now and traffic is down, but it has not gone away.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:

Part of the NewStore Omnichannel Platform is a proprietary mobile payment method called NewStore Checkout. It’s not new but has been enhanced significantly in recent months. It eliminates the need for payment terminals and credit card readers. Shoppers simply use their smartphone camera to scan a QR code on an associate’s iPhone with our app, or open a link sent via text, and check out on their own device using Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, gift card or credit card. NewStore brings e-commerce style payments into the store, creating quicker transactions while seamlessly capturing customer data without form filling. It’s the fastest, safest and most convenient way to pay.