Macy’s President Hal Lawton’s First Impressions

We welcomed Hal Lawton as president of the Macy’s brand just in time for the all-important fourth quarter. Coast to Coast had an opportunity to spend time with Hal. Check out the interview below. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What brought you to Macy’s and what philosophy do you bring with you?

I grew up in the mountains of Tennessee where my dad worked in a chemical plant. As a kid, I was always particularly fascinated by math and science, which led me to a chemical engineering degree from North Carolina State.

One of the first roles I had was working as an engineer at a paper mill. Many of the lessons that shaped my career were learned through that role. At the end of the day, at a paper mill, if your target is 1,000 tons of paper and you’ve made 1,100 – that’s a great day. If you’ve made 900, that’s not a great day. Retail is fundamentally the same. We can see how our business is performing in real-time and we can see if the changes that we make to the business are driving results.

When it comes to what I do for a living, I’m a huge believer in servant leadership and focusing on the customer.

A philosophy I have, and that I realized in my 10 years at Home Depot, is that if you take care of your Associates, they’ll take care of your customers – then everything else will take care of itself. This mentality has stuck with me, shaping how I think about retail, Associates and customers.

At the end of the day, it’s about empowering our Associates – giving them the tools and resources necessary to create magical experiences for the customer every day.

On a general note, what I am most proud of is my family. I’ve been married to my wife for 20 wonderful years, and we have three awesome kids, ages 8, 12 and 14. My family is a priority to me, so I love that Macy’s has a family spirit.

Why Macy’s?

At the highest level, Macy’s has all the elements – and the foundation – to maintain its position as a leader in retail. It’s a brand with passion, zeal, and love – love for and from its customers.

And, we have all the components to be a winner in the future – we have great real estate assets, we dominate on a national scale, and we have solid financial footing. More importantly, we have 140,000 Associates with a passion for and commitment to our organization.

Nothing is given, but we have all the elements to make it be what we want it to be and have all the components to be a winner in the future. The future is ours for the taking.

Talk about your passion for technology. How does it fit into retail, and how have you brought your expertise on the subject to Macy’s?

My passion is around retail and its intersection with technology.

The gradual union of technology and brick and mortar is coming to life at Macy’s. We are about to see technology entering the store in a way that completely transforms the customer experience.

From improved point-of-sale systems that allow customers to check out on mobile, to implementing beacon technology where we are looking at signals from our Macy’s app and matching the customer with the right product – faster and with ease.

What do you think are our greatest opportunities in technology? What most excites you?

We’re at the tipping point for artificial intelligence and machine learning. With big data getting bigger, bandwidth increasing, and computer power intensifying, the ability for us to do things with machines will make our business so much better.

Right now, we’re on the cusp of digital technology making its way into the store and affecting the customer experience. We’re investing in opportunities to improve the customer experience, like mobile check-out and RFID technology, as well as opportunities to improve replenishment, staffing, and pricing. I’m really excited about putting more cost-efficient, scalable technology in our stores.

Where do you see retail in 10 years? How are we differentiating now to compete later?

As we think about the next five to 10 years, it’s important to understand that the way people shop retail will change at an even faster pace than it has in the last five to 10 years. It’s an incredibly exciting time across a range of technologies, and Macy’s is positioned to lead. We have a lot to look forward to.

How would you describe Macy’s culture? What were some things you expected and what were you surprised to find?

I have been so impressed by the culture here at Macy’s as it relates to our integrity, our passion for our customer, and our dedication to our customers’ needs. I’m also extremely impressed with our commitment to our communities, and the acceptance and inclusiveness of all Associates and customers.

One area that we will continue to dial up is our competitiveness at all levels. While we are already very good at monitoring both our traditional and nontraditional competitors, I want us to focus on how our competitors are servicing our customers. We have to continually be thinking about how our customer is shopping outside of Macy’s.

Another area I would invest in is our speed. I believe that one key to winning is having great ideas, but it is also crucial to have the speed and the agility to implement such ideas. We’ve made some progress with changes made over 2017, but we need to continue to find ways to speed up decision-making and empower our Associates. In a similar vein, we need to make sure we’re really working as an integrated team across all aspects of the business from stores to merchandising to marketing.

See what Hal’s been up to at Macy’s.

Stay connected with Hal on LinkedIn and Twitter!