2014 Retail Sponsor Forum

When the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School hosted the 2014 Retail Sponsor Forum on May 22, it moved to a new location: CityCentre in Houston, where Mays offers Professional MBA and Executive MBA programs and various events.

More than 30 attendees represented companies including H-E-B, Walgreens, Pizza Hut, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Toys”R”Us, Stage Stores, PetSmart, AT&T, BDO, Kalypso, Gardere, Mondelez International and Love Advertising. The Sponsor Forum gave executive retail leaders the opportunity to discuss shared industry challenges and possible solutions.

Guests were then treated to hearing from Steven Hunter, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Stage Stores; Peter Vogel, Partner at Gardere; and Amy Messersmith, Chief People Officer at Pizza Hut.

Each of the larger group sessions expanded on the topics of eCommerce, cyber security and how to develop an authentic employee culture tailored for millennials.

Steven Hunter began by sharing the journey of Stage Stores’ company transition into a more personalized online storefront. By seeking help from outside specialists, the company developed an effective eCommerce strategy. The “new customer experience” that was eventually established included a search engine of the company’s product assortment, the ability to showcase featured brands, and integration of customer loyalty incentives.

In addition to networking, the Sponsor Forum also allowed for smaller breakout sessions to develop key takeaways that could be implemented back at their home company, as well as for individuals to highlight team accomplishments and share innovative ideas.

This year’s conversation included:

  • The Integration of Selling
  • Speed of Innovation
  • Inventory Optimization

These discussion groups were led by Bryan McCormick, Vice President of HR for PetSmart; Bill Ennis, SVP of HR for Academy Sports + Outdoors; and, Carlos Garza, Vice President of eCommerce Supply Chain for H-E-B.

Following the breakout sessions, Peter Vogel presented an in depth overview of cyber security, an especially timely topic given recent cyber breaches in retail. He also provided great insight on the importance of cloud computing services, particularly Amazon Web Services, which hosts Netflix, reddit and Adobe, among many others. With increasing use, companies must now turn their attention to protecting information and confidentiality, eDiscovery requirements and backup of data in the event of an IT emergency or disaster.

The afternoon concluded with a keynote by Amy Messersmith, sharing what it means to be the “heart of the [Pizza] Hut” brand. Not only does Yum! emphasize teamwork and inspiration in developing its employees, but also places an enormous focus on internal recognition. The investment of this authentic culture creates leaders from within by teaching core values of the company. By establishing engaged employees, the positive customer experience will then be spread across the frontline of customer engagement at each store. Messersmith also highlighted the importance of learning from other companies to evaluate and improve the power of your brand.

At the end of the day, guests enjoyed a farewell reception on-site.



The Retail Sponsor Forum provides Center for Retailing Studies partner companies with exclusive executive education symposium to interact with leading campus academics and industry thought leaders. The intimate gathering also fosters relationship building among partner companies.


Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.