Sandra Harris is taking over for retiring Martin Schneider at a time when retailers are overhauling both back-end and customer-facing technology to meet consumers' digital shopping habits.
By Clint Boulton
VF, parent of The North Face, Timberland, Wrangler and other clothing and footwear brands, is promoting Sandra Harris to CIO effective January 1, 2018. Harris, who currently manages workforce productivity solutions as vice president of global business technology, will succeed Martin Schneider, who is retiring at year’s end after 11 years as the retailer’s CIO.
Harris will work closely with Schneider on the transition, according to the company. “Sandra brings an excellent balance of technology, finance and business acumen to the CIO position,” says VF CFO Scott Roe in a statement. “She is the ideal person to build on the successful foundation that Martin established and further elevate the use of technology to support VF’s global business growth objectives.”
Chasing Amazon.com’s tail
VF, both a wholesale and direct-to-consumer retailer, faces the same challenge other retailers face: Competing for customers in the on-demand, instant gratification environment created by Amazon.com and other ecommerce companies.
To address the Amazon factor, retailers are streamlining supply chains and refining data management strategies to hasten products to consumers. To keep up with consumers’ digital and mobile browsing and shopping behaviors, many retailers are also building or experimenting with beacons, in-store tablet technology and augmented reality.
Harris is inheriting an IT department that supports crucial digital initiatives for VF. The company has created retail innovation labs, modeled after real stores, to study how retail partners such as Wal-Mart, as well as consumers, react to displays and shop. VF has also invested significantly in its direct-to-consumer platform, using data analytics to inform and refine this platform and market strategy.
“We actively harvest data across our ecommerce sites and transform the information into a ‘digital playbook’ that evolves and guides us on what to do next,” VF says on its website. “While no tool can predict the future of digital, the playbook enables us to leverage shopping and behavior insights across brands to better understand changes in consumer preferences and then act quickly.”
VF expects to generate $4.4 billion in sales from its direct-to-consumer platform, 15 percent of which is currently driven by ecommerce, by 2017.
A leaner, meaner retailer
As it refines its digital playbook VF has also gotten leaner, selling off some businesses and reorganizing its portfolio. Earlier this month VF sold to Fanatics Inc. its Licensed Sports Group, which makes, embroiders and prints T-shirts and sweatshirts for universities, sports teams and Harley-Davidson dealers.
Earlier this year, VF announced that it was folding its Lucy Activewear brand into North Face. In 2016, VF sold its contemporary brands business to Israeli textile company Delta Galil Industries Ltd. for $120 million.
Harris, who in her current role oversees 500 people in managing workforce productivity solutions, previously served as VF’s vice president and CFO of global supply chain and shared services and direct to consumer. Harris joined VF in 2008 after 11 years in the construction products industry, notably with Wilsonart International where she was responsible for the IT organization and held various leadership roles within finance and accounting.