Terry Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy's, Inc. spoke recently to BBA students at Goizueta. PHOTO: Tony Benner

Terry Lundgren, Chairman, President and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., spoke to students at Goizueta Business School Sept. 20 about his career, organization and the value of focusing on customers.

Promoted to his current position in January 2004, Mr. Lundgren began his retailing career in 1975 as a trainee with Bullock’s, a Los Angeles-based division of Federated.

Mr. Lundgren, also honored as a BBA Distinguished Guest Lecturer and Dean’s Speaker at Goizueta, talked about how the company weathered the recession storm of 2008 and how changes in infrastructure helped Macy’s stores create shopping experiences based on location and consumer taste.

The first Macy’s opened in 1858. There were 149 stores in 1995 and, since that time, the portfolio — which also include’s Bloomingdale’s — has grown substantially.

“Today it’s the largest fashion retailer in America,” Lundgren told the audience. “We are basically the largest customer for everyone we do business with.”

According to Lundgren, Macy’s, Inc. employs 170,000 people with offices around the country, including a technology operation in suburban Atlanta. A highlight of his time with the firm is the installation of “My Macy’s” — a change in buying focus and structure to create unique shopping experiences for each store.

“We wanted our customers to be able to walk into our stores and be able to say ‘This is my Macy’s,'” said Lundgren, noting shoppers in Minneapolis and Atlanta see different products on the shelve in style, color and size that suit the consumer in that area.

“I try to make sure as we’re thinking of all the major decisions we do it with the customer in mind,” he added. “We do a tremendous amount of consumer research.”

In particular, Lundgren talked about consumers who use multiple channels in purchasing — online and in-store.

“They’ll do the research,” he said. “They’ll see what’s available online but they want to sit in the chair before they buy the chair… A lot of customers do that. When they do, that’s when we have a big opportunity with the consumer.”

The long-time retail executive also talked about developing talent, saying he meets regularly with employees in training programs. In some cases, feedback from those meetings has led to improvements in the company’s focus on sustainability among other initiatives.