WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation each year taps two people to honor for their contributions outside of the day-to-day world of retailing, and this year, Estee Lauder Cos. chairman Leonard Lauder and retail analyst Walter Loeb were chosen.
Last week at a dinner at the historic Halcyon House in Georgetown honoring the two, Arthur Martinez, NRF chairman and chairman and chief executive officer of Sears, Roebuck, cited Lauder’s long list of philanthropic interests. They include underwriting homes for the mentally handicapped, building adventure playgrounds in Central Park, initiating a job program for the homeless and launching Estee Lauder’s pink-ribbon breast cancer awareness campaigns and medical research. “The list goes on and on and paints an image of a man who’s clearly committed,” Martinez said, in presenting NRF’s American Spirit Award to Lauder.
Loeb was honored with the association’s Distinguished Service Award for his volunteer consulting with the Army-Air Force Exchange, a $7 billion-a-year retailer. Martinez heralded Loeb, who heads his own consulting firm, Loeb Associates Inc., for his years as a retail industry sage, whose forecasts are often brutal but accurate. “Walter tells it exactly like it is,” Martinez said.
For the honorees’ part, Lauder said he’s driven to helping others because he remembers how he felt receiving scholarships as a student at the Wharton School of Business. Since then, he’s never forgotten “how today’s generation gives to tomorrow’s generation.” He said, “Thank you to the people who I’ve never met who made it possible for me to be here today.”
German-born Loeb said he volunteers to give something back to his adopted country. Having worked for department stores before becoming an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. and then starting his own business, Loeb said retailing “is very much part of my life.” He said he pursues his craft with an eye to discovering entrepreneurship, which he said is often lacking among efficient “megacompanies,” whose merchandise is targeted to a common, midmarket denominator.
“Because of their size, they often avoid risk,” he said. “There has to be a shift to more fashion in stores if they are going to survive.”
The dinner took place during the NRF’s 63rd annual Washington Leadership Conference.

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