ST. PETERSBURG — When Shelley Broader worked in Tampa Bay, she was turning around a failing grocery store.
It was the early 2000s. Amazon wasn’t a powerhouse yet, people were still on Myspace and no one was ordering groceries online.
On Thursday, she reminisced about her time turning Kash n’ Karry into Sweetbay while on stage at a luncheon for women in business at the Vinoy hotel and resort. She spoke of risks she took, what she learned and how it eventually landed her where she is today: in Fort Myers as the president and CEO of women’s fashion brand Chico’s FAS.
"The most dynamic time in retail ever is right now," she told the Tampa Bay Times after the luncheon. "There’s been more change in the last five years than their had been in the last 25."
Broader has spent the last two decades in C-level positions at massive retailers such as Michael’s and Walmart. In 2015, she began at Chico’s FAS — which includes Chico’s, White House Black Market and Soma — where she’s been facing the ever-changing retail market head on.
"There are three fundamentals," she said. "First, digital is here to stay. Second, you also need to have a physical manifestation."
Third, she said, is personalization.
Like most experts, Broader agrees that brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead but a piece of a larger strategy that needs to keep up with changing shopping habits.
At Chico’s, part of that personal touch is tracking what a woman has previously bought so a sales associate knows what she may want during her next trip. The brand has also launched a "locate" tool inside its stores so shoppers can more easily have items shipped to them.
She said shoppers are willing to share information with trusted brands when they know it will improve their shopping experience.
The Chico’s shopper of today still likes catalogues and post cards, but they love Facebook, too.
"Because of the amount of data available, it’s never been easier for retailers to find like-minded consumers," she said.