Eleven M.B. Zale Leadership Scholars traveled to the Houston headquarters of francesca’s® on Oct. 27 to learn about the company first-hand and further solidify the school’s partnership with the company.
President and CEO Steve Lawrence kicked off the morning. He explained the launch of francesca’s® in 1999 as a single boutique store in Houston, and its rapid rise to becoming a publicly traded company in 2012. Today the fashion chain operates 670 boutiques in 48 states across the country.
Lawrence also talked about the company’s decision to move its headquarters to an industrial park. Every department operates in one building, including its distribution center. He added that having everyone at the same location made it much simpler to work collaboratively, access samples, and troubleshoot problems.
Gift, home & beauty Senior Buyer Sadie Price addressed common misconceptions on what people typically think a buyer’s role is. It is not easy or glamorous as portrayed on television, and not about free merchandise or runway shows. “Success as a buyer requires loving product, creativity, innovation, data analysis, trend research, and thinking outside the box,” Price explained. She praised francesca’s® work culture, adding that it supports career growth and provides a fun environment. Employees can wear jeans every day and workout clothes a couple times a week.
The group also heard from Katelin Pollock, Manager of Visual, at francesca’s®. The company recently rolled out updates to brighten stores, highlight merchandise, increase capacity, and enhance window presentations. Pollock pointed out that 53 percent of francesca’s® traffic comes from walk-by onlookers attracted by each boutique’s visual appeal. She also explained how they have personalized boutiques to better fit their local region. For example, stores in Texas carry more artwork emphasizing the state of Texas, and the College Station store features maroon merchandise during football season.
Senior Planner Maurizio Menchaca ’09, EVP, eCommerce/CMO Erik Lautier, EVP – Chief Boutiques Officer David Minnix, and Senior Director of Real Estate Michael Stanley also addressed the group.
After hearing from each department, the students participated in a facilities tour of francesca’s®. They saw the warehouse, distribution center, in-house marketing, and photography studio. SVP of Supply Chain Ray Birden and Senior Buyer Cassie Schirra led the tour. Birden described how the warehouse can package all of the materials needed to open a new store into a single trailer, from flooring, chandeliers, dressing rooms, and more. The students also observed the process for online order fulfillment and store replenishment shipments.
Mays Business School is francesca’s® top collegiate partner in hiring. Two of the three interns last year were Aggies, and all interns will join francesca’s® after graduation. Unlike many brick-and-mortar retailers, francesca’s® is growing – and rich with career opportunities for students.
Senior marketing major and Zale Scholar Aricka Anderson ’18 added, “Opportunities like these can be rare to come by for students, and francesca’s® truly gave me an authentic preview of a day-in-the-life working for one of our nation’s top retailers!”