Photo: Courtesy Macy’s


Up the (Retail) Chain

What can you do with a bachelor’s in English from Stanford? Jeff Gennette’s answer was to forge a career as a retail executive, leading to his recent designation as Macy’s next chief executive. Gennette, ’83, interviewed with Macy’s on campus when he was graduating — “They had the shortest line,” he recalls — and he was hired as an executive trainee. He briefly departed the company at an early juncture, but returned on a path of steady advancement, becoming chief merchandising officer in 2009. Company president since 2014, he will assume the CEO role next year, accepting the pressures and scrutiny of running the chain in an era of revolutionary online competition. “Where Stanford prepared me,” says Gennette, “was in critical thinking, and the ability to manage strategy and communication.” The Wall Street Journal paid almost as much attention to Gennette’s Scrabble expertise as to his sales instincts in its reporting on the CEO announcement, zestfully depicting someone who does not live by business alone. “People who do well in retail,” he notes, “have as much emotional intelligence as IQ.” •

Like what you read? Give Stanford Magazine a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.