Macy’s Workshop Finalists Interviewed at Macy’s Herald Square

Mar. 30, 2011 – The selection process for the Workshop at Macy’s continues to roll full steam ahead, with finalist interviews held at Macy’s Herald Square headquarters in New York. 50 up-and-coming hopefuls came from across the country, vying for one of 20 open slots in the intensive four and a half day program, offered free to selected participants and covering a wide range of topics focused on helping minority and women-owned vendors grow into a relationship with a major retailer.

With more than 50 interviews conducted in a single day, timing and organization were critical. Held on the 16th floor of Macy’s Herald Square, the 30 minute interview and presentation sessions included teams of three interviewers, with volunteers keeping the sessions running with time checks and other tools. A large reception room was set up for candidates to prepare for their interviews and relax afterwards. Group Vice President of Minority Merchandising & Vendor Development Shawn Outler says "The production behind the scenes was amazing; it was a well-oiled machine."

Internationally recognized Babson College partnered with Macy’s on the selection process. Organized in teams of three, interviewers debriefed following each session, and were also asked to complete an evaluation form on each candidate. Babson College reviewed financials and related business information, which is necessarily a significant factor in the final selection. "Unfortunately, there are some very early stage businesses, some even in the proof of concept stage, and they're not yet ready to scale their business to become a viable retail vendor–no matter how much we love the product," says Outler.

The candid feedback was a breath of fresh air for many of the prospective Workshop attendees. After his interview, one Seattle-based candidate exclaimed "Wow–I can't even believe that just happened! This has been a great experience–and this would be tremendous for my company!!" Another candidate added "Even if I don't get in, to go through the process and get my merchandise line in front of the merchants was great; I got some great feedback that will help me build my business."

The potential participants weren't the only ones pleased with the results, Outler says. "There's so much internal excitement and energy generated around this program and the selection process; it's wonderful to see that energy and know how much it's going to add to the Workshop as it comes to life."

The interviews gave the Macy’s team a new way to connect with potential vendors, which provided fresh perspective. "Macy’s is a huge brand, and it's refreshing to see how it resonates in the outside world. We live it every day, and we're so close to it that seeing it through a potential partner's eyes brings that back to us in a new way," says Outler.

Despite the organization required and the intensity of the day, the toughest challenge lies ahead. Says Outler, "Getting it down to 20 participants is definitely challenging; there were so many great candidates; we now feel for the ‘American Idol' judges!" Outler notes they may add one or two additional slots to the inaugural workshop because the quality of candidates was so high.

The Workshop at Macy’s is a strong business development opportunity, Outler says, noting the wide range of business lines included in the applications and in the interviewed finalists helped key into candidates whose offerings are a match for the opportunities in Macy’s merchandising, as the retailer continues to tailor its product offerings to local areas through the My Macy’s strategy.

"It was a great day," sums up Outler. "It was nice to see the interaction between the buyers and planners and the candidates, and the energy was incredible. If I had to put it in a single word, it would have to be ‘tremendous.'"

The next step will be to notify the final participants–check back for the next update, and coverage of the Workshop sessions in May!