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Macy’s VM Exec Tells What It Took to Climb the Corporate Ladder

The long journey began at a Banana Republic mall store

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Macy’s VM Exec Tells What It Took to Climb the Corporate Ladder
Manny Urquizo

Being head of Macy’s visual and windows program has got to be one of the best jobs in the industry. How did you get here?

Often just by being in the right place at the right time. My first visual job was at a Banana Republic store in the Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack, N.J. When my store manager left for a new Bloomingdale’s store at Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J., she encouraged me to apply for a visual job there. That’s how I became part of what was then the Federated family.

Big difference between visual at Banana Republic and Bloomingdale’s?

Yes, Banana had been very directive driven. I got a lot of corporate guidance working mostly with forms and some window mannequins. At Bloomingdale’s, I started as junior visual merchandiser in the men’s department, but I also shadowed some of the best stylists in the business. That was the first time I ever did a true fashion mannequin without having a book to pull from. I could be creative and inspired, make my own decisions.

Did you welcome that autonomy?

Absolutely, though I remember being really nervous when Jack Hruska visited the store! [Note: Hruska was Bloomingdale’s Executive VP of Creative Services before retiring in 2018.]

Macy’s VM Exec Tells What It Took to Climb the Corporate LadderGame-Changer
📷: Macy’s Inc., New York

And thus your Macy’s odyssey began. What was a memorable moment?

I was moved to the 59th Street flagship store in 2004. What a different animal that store was. My first day, they had been redoing the main level. When we were finished with the walk-through, they said, ‘You know how to do men’s forms, right? Here you go!’

Covid changed everything, didn’t it?

Yes, for retail and for me. My move to Macy’s corporate in November 2020 came during the pandemic. The whole process – from job interview to meeting my new team – was done through video. Those first holiday windows had a ‘thank you’ theme: thank you to first responders, to New Yorkers and to our customers.

My own first true holiday windows were based on a character called Tiptoe the Reindeer, who debuted at the Thanksgiving Day parade. She’s scared of flying. In a way, that was a perfect theme for Covid: Everyone was wondering if they could still fly. We’d all been isolating at home for so long.

Seeing the excitement and energy, on the sidewalks and in the stores, was so uplifting for me. The industry talks now about ‘store experience.’ That was the true definition of the store ‘experience.’

Talk about working without a net. Where could you go from there?

To achieve higher management-level positions, I was encouraged to work in the branches. The new Chevy Chase Bloomingdale’s store in Maryland was my first store opening as a senior executive. It was also part of a new company initiative to have both visual and merchandising report to the visual manager. So I learned a lot about the store planning part of the business, work flow, space planning, scheduling, fixtures, coordinating merchants and in-store teams.

Great experience?

Yes, I became part of the senior team. But I had now been away from New York for five or six years. So when the VM job opened up at 59th Street, I grabbed it even though it was a lateral move for me. I just loved being back in New York, at the flagship store. I felt like I had come back home.

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