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VM Guru Blazes a Path to the Top of an Iconic Retail Brand

Amber Bazdar, Timberland’s Director of Global Retail Design, explains how she got the gig

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VM Guru Blazes a Path to the Top of an Iconic Retail Brand
Amber Bazdar
Timberland’s Director of Global Retail Design is entrusted with one of retail’s most iconic brands. It’s a plus that she enjoys the great outdoors.

Timberland is an outdoor-inspired brand. Is that your lifestyle?
All the way. I was born in Massachusetts and live in New Hampshire on the seacoast. We’re an active family, we like to be outdoors and explore – whether that means the beach or the mountains, we really enjoy being part of nature.

Live and die with Red Sox and Patriots, too?
I’m not a huge sports fan, but I’m also a wife and mother to my husband and three sons, so I play along. As for the ‘live and die’ part, I live and die with whatever team my 14-year-old son Lucas is playing for in school. I love to watch him play.

When did you decide that your life would be devoted to retail, design and branding?
Very early on, as it turned out. I switched high schools, in fact, because I’d heard Manchester High School in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., had a class aimed at students interested in business and marketing. It included a competitive after-school program in which you could focus on specific marketing areas, such as fashion merchandising and retail marketing. I was 15 and I was just blown away.

Which led to . . .?
A Bachelor of Science in Fashion Marketing from Lasell University, then an internship with Bose Corp., and then four years at Cahill Display in Boston, a visual merchandising firm that worked on client projects and also sourced mannequins, fixtures and furniture. I was visual manager, and in that role I learned both sides of the business, from the brand side to the vendor side. And Timberland was actually a client of mine.

So on to Timberland?
Not right away. By 2008, I had two young children and wanted to concentrate on them. While I stayed at home raising my boys, I also freelanced as much as I could and taught at local colleges because I needed that creative offset.

Did that work out for you?
It did. But by 2014, the kids were in school, and I felt it was time to get back to work. So then, on to Timberland. I became Visual Merchandising Manager of their 48 U.S. outlet stores.

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But then your role expanded beyond the outlet business?
In 2019, I became Senior Manager of Environments for the Americas. In this role, I was responsible for retail windows and in-store creative and experience, visual merchandising and retail design. And last December, I became Director of Global Retail Design. Currently I oversee the strategy, vision and direction for all aspects of the brand’s retail design including fixture designs, lighting, furniture, materials, etc.

So visual but also store design, planning, construction, etc.?
In my current role, I oversee the hardware side of the design function within our retail stores. While visual merchandising doesn’t fall under my leadership, I use my expertise in VM daily while I develop retail designs for our fleet. Knowing the ins and outs of visual merchandising principles certainly helps me to do my job well while working on the design, planning and construction side.

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Sidebar: How Not to Get a Job?
When I was in school, I interviewed for a visual merchandising internship at Bose Corp. I didn’t get it, and I was so upset. I had met with two women at Bose, and I really wanted to work with them. So I actually called the HR department every single day for two weeks, and I guess I bugged them so much that they opened up another spot for me. They said they were impressed by my persistence.

I know that’s not the textbook way to land a job, but being able to work with these women – Kristin Lauer and Midge Kirby – they inspired me. I am incredibly thankful for the doors they opened back when I was just beginning my career.

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As a journalist, writer, editor and commentator, Steve Kaufman has been watching the store design industry for 20-plus years. He has seen the business cycle through retailtainment, minimalism, category killers, big boxes, pop-ups, custom stores, global roll-outs, international sourcing, interactive kiosks, the emergence of China, the various definitions of “branding” and Amazon.com. He has reported on the rise of brand concept shops, the demise of brand concept shops and the resurgence of brand concept shops. He has been an eyewitness to the reality that nothing stays the same, except the retailer-shopper relationship.

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