We’re excited to share part one of a two-part interview with Cindy DiPietrantonio, president of Alex and Ani, an omnichannel retailer of meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry and accessories to positively empower and connect humanity (and a keynote speaker at the 2017 Women in Retail Summit!). Prior to joining Alex and Ani in November 2016, Cindy served as interim president of SHEEX Performance Bed Sheets and Sleepwear. The interview below features more insights into Cindy’s role at Alex and Ani, her take on the latest retail technology trends, and her thoughts on the state of the retail industry today.

Women in Retail Leadership Circle: Tell us a little bit about your role at Alex and Ani.
Cindy DiPietrantonio: As the president, I aid in leading the overall strategic growth for the company. Working alongside our CEO/CCO, we take her creations through manufacturing, merchandising, marketing, and both retail and e-commerce channels while creating the backbone of supply chain, logistics and distribution.

I also work closely with our entire executive team, and have had the opportunity to build trust and gain their respect while still setting clear standards and expectations. It’s key that I implement a road map for the company’s continued growth and profitability. Our goal at Alex and Ani is to be “best in class,” and in order to achieve this we need to have the best people in the right jobs while focusing on the same strategic and operating mission. It’s also important as leader to facilitate conversations that are clear and transparent across all the different channels so that we can work towards the same goals and business objectives.

WIRLC: I know Alex and Ani has a rich history of giving back to the community and various charitable organizations. What are some of the charitable initiatives that you’re currently working on?
CD: Alex and Ani is a humanitarian company focused on connecting individuals to meaningful product. Through our CHARITY BY DESIGN collection, we partner with nonprofit organizations to create innovative solutions to the greatest issues affecting the world. We will be closing out 2017 by adding several national and globally renown organizations to the collection, including Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish, and David Lynch Foundation. In October, we will be hosting our first-ever Partner Summit. This event will bring together all CHARITY BY DESIGN partners and will highlight the impact we’ve made together, while strategizing initiatives for the months and years to come. Alex and Ani will also celebrate a monumental milestone of $50 million given back to charities since 2011. This is a very exciting time for the brand, as our focus is directed at making our customers aware of the power of their purchases.

WIRLC: What drew you to the company? What was it about Alex and Ani that you made excited about working there?
CD: What drew me to the company, without a doubt, was our founder, CEO and chief creative officer, Carolyn Rafaelian. She’s simply a magnetic personality, and I think anyone who has come in contact with her can attest to that. Carolyn is without a doubt one of the most creative and innovative individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, she’s also a true humanitarian and has made it her mission in life to leave the world a better place. A lot of people say that, but she lives it. She’s embedded that mission into the DNA of this company, and we’re able to give back in a way that no other company in the world does. This year, we’ll have donated over $49 million to different charitable organizations.

WIRLC: What are your thoughts on the state of the retail industry today?
CD: There has been a lot of talk recently about a retail store crisis, with many companies shutting down large numbers of stores. This has actually been proven to be a myth. A new study just came out showing that as a whole, more retail stores will open this year than will close. So I do think a lot of this has just been overplayed by the media. At Alex and Ani, we’re all about connecting people through our products, and so the retail space continues to remain very important to us. We’re a “digital first” company, but we’ll never fully abandon the value of face-to-face connection and interaction. We continue to look outside the box on ways to be innovative in both e-commerce and retail.

WIRLC: What types of retail technology trends are you interested in today?
CD: Personally, as a consumer, I’m very interested in “commerce anywhere” technology. Anything that simplifies my life is always compelling to me. Our lives aren’t getting any less busy, so tools that can streamline little things like errand running can be so valuable. I love that we have people developing processes to help consumers buy, pick up and return items via any retail channel. In terms of technology trends in general, I’m very interested in wearables. I just think it’s extremely interesting, and I love the personalization aspect. Wearable technology tells you more about yourself, and I find it fascinating that we can now get some of that information so easily and quickly.