Meet Laura Ritchey, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Radial, an omnichannel commerce technologies and operations provider and one of Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s amazing partners. Prior to this role, Ritchey spent 13 years in retail at companies such as Limited Brands and FULLBEAUTY Brands. In this exclusive interview, Ritchey shares details about her role at Radial, the retail trends she’s closely tracking right now, her leadership style, and more!

Inner Circle: What types of services does Radial offer?
LR: Radial is a premier provider of e-commerce solutions for brands and retailers. The solutions we provide include order management, fulfillment, transportation, customer care, and account management. For us, it’s all about being that logistics partner you count on for your brand experience to resonate with your customers. We’re the ones that are picking, packing and shipping your products, and making sure they get out the door to your customers. In addition, we provide the technology that enables all of the order brokering that’s necessary when handling the post-sale purchase by the customer care team on the backend. We have a pretty broad client base, including brands such as Puma and Hibbett Sports.

IC: Can you discuss your role at Radial? What are you tasked with?
LR: I joined Radial in March 2021 as chief operating officer. In my role I oversee all of our service lines — order management, fulfillment, transportation and customer care. I’m also very focused on driving initiatives around sustainability, operating excellence, continuous improvement, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

IC: What are some of the retail trends you’re tracking right now?
LR: Obviously, we’re paying close attention to supply chain issues. At the same time, we’re focusing on managing our own planning to ensure that we’ve got the hourly workforce we need. We’ll be hiring more than 25,000 people this season to make sure we can get those packages delivered to our retail customers in time. We also started to plan for holiday earlier than in the past because there’s so much uncertainty around what the forecast will look like. What will demand look like? What will the continued impact of the pandemic be?

IC: How do you believe the consumer has changed over the past 18 months, and how does Radial meet the needs of retailers that are communicating with this new type of consumer?
LR: I think there’s a continued evolution of convenience. Consumers just want their products fast, and they want their purchasing process to be simple and easy.  Consumers also expect a high level of personalization from the retailers they purchase from, and they expect a personalized experience even from the products delivered to their homes. Radial can help clients achieve this with many of its services. In fact, we offer a really tailored experience. We have clients that offer their customers a very high-end boxed experience, clients that use packaging with personalized messaging, and even an apparel retailer whose garments are sent on hangers. So, we’re able to provide a tailored experience that allows retailers or brands to really resonate with their customers.

IC: Let’s switch gears a bit: I would love to hear more about your leadership style. How would you describe it?
LR: For me, it starts from a place of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a woman in supply chain and coming up through the ranks, it’s always been very important to me to make sure that we’re developing team members, we’re providing opportunities, and we’re challenging thinking. And I’ve done that throughout my tenure so far and continue to. As a leader, my philosophy is to be transparent, to communicate, to share, and to be humble.

IC: What do you look for when hiring team members? And how are you motivating your teams right now, especially with so much uncertainty in the world?
LR: The most important thing I look for when hiring someone is their leadership style and their outlook, regardless of the level I’m hiring for. It’s also important for them to  have soft skills. Do they listen? Do they communicate? Are they transparent? Are they willing to learn? I’m always looking for people who have an inherent drive for results, as well as the desire to be a lifelong learner.

As for motivating my team, what’s important right now is to acknowledge that this is a hard time. There are a lot of unknown variables right now; we don’t know what’s going to happen with the pandemic, with the labor markets, and with carrier capacity. We just have to be honest and tell our team what we know and what we don’t know. We also have to explain to them that we’re going to plan our best and if it doesn’t turn out like we planned then we’re going to work through it together.

IC: Can you talk about a mentor you’ve had that has had a lasting impact on your professional life?
LR: A former chief operating officer at one of my first jobs was a big mentor for me. I was working in finance, and after about 15 months into my career, he pulled me out of that role and put me in an operating role even though I didn’t know anything about operations. It was honestly life changing for me because it entirely shifted how I think about things. He really saw potential in me; he could see that I could develop and grow into a leader that delivers results and develops talent and builds teams. Now, when I see nuggets of talent, I nurture those people and put them in areas where they can grow and reach their full potentials.

IC: What are you most looking forward to, personally and professionally, as we round out 2021 and enter 2022?
LR: Professionally, it’s getting through peak and being successful. That’s the big milestone and focus for the rest of the year. Personally, it’s being able to spend time with family and do some international travel in 2022.