December 7, 2017 / 1:04 PM / 10 months ago

Retail disruption is nothing compared to gnarly first jobs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If any industry is in the throes of total disruption right now, it is retail.

Casper CEO Philip Krim speaks at the Wall Street Journal Digital conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Some brick-and-mortar retailers are dying, while some online retailers are booming. But while the point of sale may change, it is clear that over the holidays consumers are guaranteed to spend, spend, spend.

For the latest in Reuters’ “First Jobs” series, we talked to a few heads of the country’s prominent retailers, to see how they started out.

Karen Katz

President & CEO, Neiman Marcus

First job: Gift wrapper

Back when I was 15 or 16, in Dallas there was a department store called Sanger-Harris. One holiday season I got a job as a gift wrapper there. The others were all experts who did that job every year, and I was by far the youngest person, who was totally inexperienced. In those days, department stores around Christmastime were a total frenzy.

Tony Spring, Chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale's, is photographed at the 73rd annual "Father of the Year Awards" hosted by the Father's Day/Mother's Day Council in New York June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

There were all sorts of rules and regulations, even down to the specific way you were supposed to tape the gifts. I remember I got tons of papercuts. I learned very quickly that my favorite job was the classic shirt box, because it was by far the easiest to wrap. After that job was over, by Christmas Day, I swore I was never going to do any gift wrapping ever again. I think I was scarred for life.

Although 20 years later when I became store manager of the Neiman Marcus in Dallas, sometimes I did go downstairs and do a little gift wrapping just to clear my head. I found it to be a peaceful moment.

Bob Miller

CEO, Albertsons Companies

First job: Bottle sorter

When I was 16 years old, I was in high school, playing sports, and I needed a job that I could work nights after practice. So I got a job as a bottle sorter in a local grocery store. In those days, all the soda pop was sold in returnable bottles, and there were thousands of bottles that came back every day. Every night, I’d walk into the biggest mess you’d ever seen in your life, and it was my job to clean it all up.

That first night, I ruined my shirt, and the second night, the same thing happened. So the third day I brought in a plaid shirt and left it there. By the time I got promoted to box boy a few months later, that plaid shirt could have stood up by itself against a wall. The front of it was completely stiff from being coated with soda syrup.

As a bottle sorter and then a box boy, I learned that working hard, telling the truth, treating people right, and believing in others were the keys for success - no matter what job I was doing. I still hold true to those principles today.

Target President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel (L) and Neiman Marcus President and CEO Karen Katz look over designer items during an event announcing a holiday collection that partners Target and Neiman Marcus in New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Philip Krim

Co-founder & CEO, Casper

First job: Soda seller

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Houston, a small town called Sugarland, I lived near a golf course called the Sugar Creek Country Club. I realized I could charge $1 for cans of soda to all the golfers going by. I got the inventory for free by stealing it from my parents, and then charged a premium for the nice location.

There were many days I was run off by the course marshal or the cart lady. But I always came back. Sometimes they would drain the pond on the course, and I would wade into the mud, retrieve all the golf balls, and sell them back to the terrible golfers. Obviously I was thinking very early about stuff like product extension and expansion.

Tony Spring

CEO, Bloomingdale’s

First job: Burger King

My first job was at the age of 16, working at a Burger King in Port Chester, New York. The first day they had me clean the parking lot, which I didn’t enjoy at all. Over time I had the opportunity to cook, to be a cashier, to run the drive-thru.

I started out at minimum wage, something like $3.35 an hour, and put it all away so I could buy my first car. They wanted me to stay on to help manage the place, but eventually I decided I had to go to college.

Editing by Beth Pinsker and Richard Chang

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