Welcome to our latest feature series, What’s in Store: 5 Questions With … The series is authored by Lucille DeHart, a seasoned marketing professional with more than 25 years experience working for such prestigious brands as TUMI, Polo Ralph Lauren, Maidenform, Liz Claiborne and Westfield International. Lucille is also a social media strategist, public speaker and accomplished writer. For each feature, Lucille will ask a retail leader five questions about their businesses, personal and/or professional lives, as well as their secrets to success. The first installment is with Miki Racine Berardelli, CEO of Kidbox, a curated, outfit delivery service for kids. Enjoy!

In August, Kidbox announced the appointment of Miki Racine Berardelli as CEO to work directly with Haim Dabah, founder of the startup company. Kidbox is among the new emerging new retail formats along with others like Trunk Club and Stitch Fix that offer consumers the time-saving benefit of data-driven, curated, opt-in buying. With social commerce, marketplace models and increasing mobile retailing technologies, push commerce (like subscription services) presents yet another dimension to the traditional brick-and-mortar store format. I had a chance to interview Miki about the Kidbox business, her vision for the brand, and the retail industry at large. 

Lucille DeHart: Can you explain the Kidbox business model, and why you think consumers are responding to it so well? 
Miki Racine Berardelli:
Kidbox is a box service, but not a subscription service. We stand out from other subscription retail services in our shipment model, style quiz, social mission and unique customer relationship. Firstly, we deliver on a seasonal model, as opposed to monthly, which is more in line with how parents shop for their children. “Buy now/wear now” is a strong trend within the fashion industry vs. the historical tendency of customers buying in advance of a season. We notify our customers that we’re gearing up for a season and allow them to opt out of that delivery if they choose to. Our goal is to remove the obstacles for the consumer and provide the easiest shopping experience with no obligations.

We play into the importance of personalization with a quick style quiz, which helps us better identify a child’s tastes and preferences. We tap into children’s love of fun and play with the anticipation of waiting for their box, what has been selected for them by our stylists, and the sensory experience of unpacking the box itself. Kidbox arrives wrapped like a gift, and each one includes an added surprise component.

Our social mission sits at the core of Kidbox, and sets us apart from other children’s clothing brands. For every box kept, we partner with K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers to clothe a child in need. Shopping Kidbox enables parents to start the conversation with their children about the importance of giving back earlier in a child’s life than would otherwise happen. We’re very passionate about this aspect of our brand.

LD: As a veteran of e-commerce, do you see a future for traditional retail?
MRB: I do, and I believe it’s an exciting future with traditional retailers rethinking the shopping experience with a focus on innovation. The physical experience of shopping in-store and the personal relationship between a store associate and a customer is still very important. Technology should be developed and integrated into stores to enable that human interaction. Each retail channel — traditional or digital — should be leveraged to do what it does best. E-commerce will continue to grow because it provides convenience for parents with busy lives. Time has become the ultimate luxury. Customers are in the driver’s seat, and smartphones are the “on-demand remote control” for commerce, whether the transaction is taking place in-store or online.

LD: Talent in the online retail industry seems to continue to get younger. Any advice in managing the next generation?
MRB: Listen and learn from them! They grew up with technology and e-commerce; it wasn’t introduced to them later in life. There has been a lot of talk about the difficulties in managing millennials, and while I agree that there are generational differences, I beg to differ on them being “difficult.” They represent the new generation of consumers and employees, and both retailers and companies must raise their game in meeting their expectations as shoppers, as well as building companies and workplace cultures that appeal to them in order to attract and retain the best talent. Furthermore, millennials will be hiring the next generation, who held smartphones in their crib. I’m sure this will pose management challenges for them as well down the road! I love working with the younger workforce; it keeps me young and on my toes.

LD: What do you see as the next evolution of social media?
MRB: Social sharing is hugely important to a brand. With Facebook and Instagram, we will continue to see the lines blurring with cross-promotion between a brand’s site and its respective social platforms. The most powerful marketing channel for a brand is word-of-mouth, especially from friends and influencers. Social platforms fuel that dynamic.

Social media entities will continue to figure out ways to monetize their business model. They have very smart people working on those initiatives. As a result, I think we’ll see a lot of innovation in shopping experiences being initiated through social channels.

I’m excited to continue to see new social platforms, apps and destinations emerge in the digital ecosystem. They will raise the game of the more established players and create exciting competition for consumers’ mindshare and engagement.

LD: What advice do you have for new people entering the retail industry as well as aging veterans looking to keep up?
MRB: From the work I’ve been fortunate to do as part of the National Retail Federation, I’ve learned that retail is the largest private sector employer in the country, supporting one in four American jobs. And of course as a member of the retail workforce, I’m a big fan of the industry.

For those entering the retail industry, I would advise pursuing jobs that you’re truly interested in, allowing you to come to work with a sense of passion about what you’re doing. I believe in “hiring happy” — i.e., adding people to your team with optimism, a positive outlook and demeanor. There will be a lot of interesting jobs in both traditional and digital retail as channels merge, mobile continues to grow, and great talent enters the workforce.

For the veterans, we need you! Wisdom is a priceless commodity in retail as so many of the historical rules still apply. Leadership development is key, and learning from experienced executives is critical in forming the leaders of tomorrow. Those of us who have been in the industry for decades just need to be constant students, lead with curiosity, and realize that we never stop learning. Regardless of years of experience, no one is omniscient in this industry because it’s changing at such a rapid pace. That’s the exciting news!

Lucille Dehart is a seasoned marketing professional with over 25 years experience working for such prestigious brands as TUMI, Polo Ralph Lauren, Maidenform, Liz Claiborne and Westfield International.