In November of 2016, I was promoted to be the Vice President of International for Carter’s, OshKosh, and Skip Hop where I have responsibility for our international business outside of North America.
Before I get into the details of the international business, a little context on Canada and Mexico. In 2011 Carter’s acquired its Canadian licensee and in 2017 Carter’s acquired its Mexican licensee. These acquisitions were existing wholesale customers and the acquired businesses became subsidiaries of CRI. Canada and Mexico now operate as divisions of Carter’s North American Retail group.
The Carter’s international business is a diverse and widely distributed operation. We now have partners representing us in almost 100 countries with over 1,000 points of sale around the world. The primary business model is we sell product wholesale to partners who then represent us locally with free standing stores, eCommerce sites, and their own wholesale distribution businesses.
We have country partners all over the world including Brazil, Chile, Europe, Indonesia, China, India, and the Middle East. There are not many major markets where we do not have some type of presence. I have overall P&L responsibility for the division and am involved in all aspects of the business including Sales, eCommerce, Marketing, Merchandising, and Operations.
I spend a lot of time in the air and on the road. With two little kids at home, this can be difficult but my wife Crystal is incredibly supportive. I do have to remind myself that there are very few people who get to see as much of the world as I have. Over the past 3 years, I have been fortunate to have visited 35+ countries where we are represented. Delta is my hometown airline and they do a great job of getting me to most places that I need to go!
Below are some pictures of the international stores and websites that we have opened in 2019
In November of 2013 I joined Carter’s as the Senior Director of International eCommerce. I was recruited to Carter’s by Greg Foglesong who I had worked for at The Home Depot. Greg hired me at Carter’s to lead the international expansion of Carter’s eCommerce business. What made this role so interesting was Carter’s had lots of demand from international consumers on www.carters.com and my role was created to better service these customers locally.
Launching the Canadian Website
The first project I worked on was the launch of our Canadian website www.cartersoshkosh.ca. Canada is Carter’s largest market outside the U.S., so it was a natural first step to take. The site launch was a large and complex project, but it allowed me to work with many different parts of the organization from marketing, and technology to supply chain. In July of 2014, we successfully launched the Canadian eCommerce business. Working on this project was a lot of fun and turned into a huge success for the company!
Entering the China Market on Tmall
After Canada, the original expansion plan was to enter the European eCommerce market in 2015. As we were planning the European launch, we started to see the huge growth of Alibaba’s Tmall site in China. With China being the #1 country on carters.com we decided to quickly pivot and launch China as our second international eCommerce market!
I have worked on a lot of complex and challenging projects in my career but nothing has come close to the difficulty of entering the China market and leading this initiative for Carter’s. Launching a business on Tmall is challenging in itself, but what made this project so challenging is we were launching our entire business in China. Most other western brands choose to enter China first through brick and mortar retail or wholesale and then launch their eCommerce businesses. We decided that we were going to launch online first which meant there was no existing infrastructure to support the eCommerce business. We had had to start with all the basics like getting the legal entity setup, registering trademarks, establishing bank accounts, and hiring our first employees. In 2014 the world bank ranked China #96 in ease of doing business out of all the global economies and I can confirm it is an extremely difficult environment!
After getting through all the red tape and bureaucracy, we launched the Carter’s website on Tmall on June 1st, 2015. It was a proud moment after an incredible amount of work by the entire Carter’s project team.
The next market is….
In 2016 we looked at a number of other eCommerce markets to enter but decided to not move forward with any of those projects for a variety of different reasons. At the same time, in the Summer of 2016 Carter’s made a very strategic change in my role that would lead to a sharp turn in my career path.
Up until the Summer of 2016, I had continued to report to Greg Foglesong who led the domestic eCommerce business at Carter’s. While I worked for Greg, all the revenue I was responsible for fell under the EVP of International Kevin Corning. This reporting did not make sense strategically and the decision was made to move me and my team under Kevin’s organization.
Kevin has a lot of international business experience having worked overseas in a number of different country GM roles. As a result of this experience, he believed that it is important for the country GM’s to own all channels of their business including eCommerce. In the Fall of 2016, he made the decision to move management of the international eCommerce businesses to Canada and China.
This was the right decision for the business, but a tough one for me personally as my future suddenly became very uncertain. At the same time, the leader of the international wholesale business left the company and I was promoted to Vice President of International managing our international wholesale accounts.
As the Director of eCommerce I had full ownership of the eCommerce P&L. The digital marketing team reported to me and I oversaw all online marketing activities including email, paid search, organic search, affiliate, and social media. In addition to marketing, I also led the customer experience and product management for the eCommerce sites. I worked closely with the eCommerce development team to define and implement all new features and functionality on the site.
The New PurMinerals.com Site
In May of 2008, we successfully launched the new PurMinerals.com site and saw significant increases in revenue and conversions on the new site. To help drive more traffic to the site we implemented social media campaigns that dramatically increased customer engagement. At the time, YouTube “how to” product videos were starting to get very popular. We partnered with key influencers to help promote our brands on YouTube and Facebook. One of the bloggers we worked with was Michelle Phan, who currently has 9m subscribers on YouTube! She went on to become one of the most influential beauty influencer in the world!
Unfortunately my time at Astral Brands was short. The 2008 financial meltdown hit them hard and on January 31, 2009 I was laid off along with 30% of the entire company! It was an uncomfortable position to be in, but like most things in life it had a silver lining. Two weeks after I left Astral I joined Case-Mate as the Director of eCommerce!
On October 17th, 2005 I joined The Home Depot as the User Experience manager for Homedepot.com. It was a big change as the first five years of my career had been spent on the IT side but now I was making the transition to the “business” side. I worked for Greg Foglesong who was the Director of Homedepot.com at the time. Greg was a great mentor and friend during my time at Home Depot and six years later he would hire me again at Carters.
As the user experience manager for homedepot.com, I was responsible for everything from home page to checkout. There was a digital marketing team that focused on driving traffic, but as soon as users hit the site it was my job to ensure a great shopping and eCommerce experience. After checkout, our supply chain and customer service teams would take over to complete the full customer life cycle. Since I sat in the middle of both teams, I got a lot of exposure to all aspects of the eCommerce business at homedepot.com.
In addition to the marketing team, I also worked very closely with the technology organization to implement new features and functionality. A key reason that Greg hired me was to help hold the technology team accountable to the business as I had the development background and technical skills to “speak their language”.
The New Homedepot.com
When I started at the end of 2005 Homedepot.com was running a very old version of the Broadvision platform. It was well past its end of life and with the explosive growth of sales on the site we desperately needed a modern eCommerce platform. The site barely made it through the 2005 and 2006 holiday seasons! Prior to me starting, Home Depot had selected IBM’s Websphere as the next generation platform we would migrate to. For the next 18 months, I would live and breathe all things Websphere as my primary focus was the relaunch of Homedepot.com on the new platform. It was a massive project to replace the entire technology stack of the site and there were no shortage of challenges along the way. In June of 2007, we launched the new site and it was a proud moment to see it go live!
After we launched the new site, I started to think about the next steps of my career. The Home Depot is a really big organization and some of the bureaucracy started to weigh on me. I also wanted to get more exposure to the marketing and supply chain sides of eCommerce. In January of 2008, I resigned from The Home Depot and joined Astral Brands as the Director of eCommerce.
In June of 2004, I was promoted to eCommerce Development Manager at Gardener’s Supply. As part of this promotion, I took on management responsibilities for the eCommerce development team. In addition, I also stepped into a more strategic role of defining the road map for the future of eCommerce technology at Gardner’s Supply.
Gardeners.com had been running on the same homegrown platform for a long time. It was really starting to show its age, and we knew that we needed to consider alternatives and migrate to a new platform. In 2004, we started considering the different options and started holding meetings with potential vendors. During this review process, I also received a cold call from Mary Ann Charlton “Mac” at Demandware. At the time, Demandware was a very small company with only a handful of clients. I was impressed with the initial conversation we had and so we added them to the RFP.
After a long and exhaustive evaluation process, we ended up selecting Demandware to be the new eCommerce platform for the Garders.com site. It was a leap of faith for us at the time but we believed in the technology and team behind it. Gardner’s Supply was the first big client win for Demandware and over the next 10 years they went on to become one of the most dominant eCommerce platforms in the industry. In February of 2004 Salesforce acquired Demandware for $2.8B and it is now part of the “Commerce Cloud” offering. Gardeners.com is still running Demandware/Salesforce 15 years later!
We spent most of 2005 working on the build out and implementation of the new site with Demandware. It was a great project but unfortunately I would not get to see the new site launch as an event that summer would have a significant impact on my career path.
While I was working full time at Gardeners.com, I was also a competitive cyclist who had aspirations of becoming a professional cyclist. In July of 2005, I had a cycling accident where I broke my arm, that ended my racing season. It was after that accident that I started to reevaluate my career path, and made two difficult decisions. The first, was that I abandoned the idea of becoming a professional cyclist! Second, I decided that for my career to continue to progress at the trajectory that I wanted I would have to leave Vermont.
In September of 2005 I made the extremely difficult decision to leave Gardner’s Supply and Vermont to join The Home Depot as the User Experience Manager for homedepot.com in Atlanta. Georgia. As I write this 15 years later, this decision still ranks as the most difficult decision I have had to make in my career!
In June of 2003 I joined Gardener’s Supply as an eCommerce Web Developer. Gardener’s Supply was established in 1983 by Will Rapp in Burlington Vermont. It was a classic catalog company, that was transforming its business model to adapt to the growth of eCommerce. While the majority of revenue came from the catalog, the eCommerce portion was the fastest growing part of the company and everybody could see it was the future of the business.
The eCommerce development team was part of the IT organization at Gardener’s Supply, which was pretty typical back in 2003. It was a small team of about eight of us and I reported to Chris Thompson the CTO. There was only one other eCommerce developer so it was a really small development team! I worked closely with my IT colleagues on all the back end plumbing but I also spent a lot of time with the eCommerce marketing team that was led by Max Harris. Max was a great mentor to me and had a pivotal influence on my career. I credit most of my early eCommerce marketing knowledge to Max!
Gardener’s Supply was a Microsoft shop like Burton so all my development work was in Classic ASP and Visual Basic. Since we were a small team, I got involved in all aspects of the eCommerce business. This was an incredible opportunity at such an early point in my career. I was only 25 years old and I was owning large portions of development for a $50m+ business! Coming from Burton, which was very “front end” heavy, I leaned more in that direction while the other developer focused more on the “back end” order processing side of the business. I worked closely with Roland Ludlam the lead designer and together we worked on almost every major site initiative in 2003 and 2004 for gardeners.com. We were a great team and built things like “Plant Finder” and “Cushion Finder” that allowed customers to easily shop the site.
After working at CSC, I joined Burton Snowboards as a Web Developer on February 26, 2001.
Working at Burton was truly a dream come true. I started snowboarding in 5th grade and got my first Burton Snowboard in 7th grade. If you had asked me in high school, name the one company you want to work for some day it would have been Burton Snowboards. I joined Burton in the winter of 2001, along with Brad Alan a college friend from BC who had graduated a year earlier than me. We were both in technology consulting and avid snowboarders so it was a great opportunity for both of us.
Before 2001, Burton had outsourced development of burton.com to an outside agency. I was part of the team that was hired to bring this work in house for the launch of the 2002 season on burton.com. We were a small group of developers and designers that rebuilt burton.com from the ground up each season to launch in August. We were a Microsoft shop, so all web development work was done in ASP/SQL/HTML. I learned a lot in this role, and got to build some cool applications including the very first “board finder” launched on burton.com.
In the early days of Burton.com, the site served as a customer facing catalog to support the dealer network. Burton did not want to allow online ordering for consumers but there was an interest in developing a B2B site. In 2002, Rich Sturim and I worked on building the first dealer.burton.com eCommerce site.
Working at Burton was an incredible experience. I loved the company and culture and learned a lot from the more senior developers on the team. We worked some long hours but we also had a lot of fun. If it snowed more than a foot, Jake expected the whole company to be at the mountain riding! During the winter we would hit the slopes in the morning, get a few runs in, and then head into work.