NEW YORK — Allen Questrom, Leonard Riggio, Gordon Segal and the late Sam Walton and the late Stanley Marcus last week became the first inductees into the new Retailing Hall of Fame.
The award ceremony, held Jan. 16 at Cipriani 42nd Street here, drew over 300 people and helped raise scholarships for the Center of Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University. It’s expected to be an annual event to honor retail giants and support education for future retailers. The industry suffers from a talent drain because only a handful of learning institutions support retail studies.
“The problem is that retailers of the future used to be trained by the department stores, but there are fewer department stores and consequently fewer training programs,” said David Szymanski, founder of the Retailing Hall of Fame and director of the Center of Retailing Studies.
During the award ceremony, Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, described himself as “a brash young kid” who later in life and after buying Barnes & Noble had a vision to transform that traditional store setting into a chain of “cultural piazzas.” He credited his success to his army of 1,000 store managers.
Richard Marcus, accepting on behalf of his late father, recalled some of Stanley Marcus’s advice about entering the retail field. “There are a lot of careers where you can earn a lot more money than retail. But none teaches you more about human nature.”
“It’s pretty overwhelming to be put in the same league as Stanley Marcus,” said Segal, the founder of Crate & Barrel.
Celia Clancy, a Wal-Mart vice president who accepted the award on behalf of the late Walton, said, “Sam would be tickled to know he has a special place at Texas A&M.”
And Allen Questrom, retired chief executive of J.C. Penney Co., said the two greatest things that happened to him during his career was meeting Ken Kolker, retired chairman and ceo of May Merchandising, who became his mentor, and “The second greatest thing was meeting Kelli,” his wife, whom he met on the job at Abraham & Straus, where they both once worked. “When you are not that smart, you’ve got to surround yourself with smart people,” Questrom said. For the turnarounds of J.C. Penney and Federated, “I get all the credit, but there are a lot of people out there who [did] all the work.”
This story first appeared in the January 24, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.