Checking Out: Kathryn Largent

Skechers’ global director of visual merchandising believes the obituary for bricks-and-mortar is premature. Shoppers want to shop in stores, even if just to find that “sharable moment"
Posted August 31, 2017

What generated your interest in retailing?
Growing up, I had part-time jobs at Liberty House in Hawaii and The Broadway in Southern California. And I always wanted to do windows. My big goal was to do Macy’s windows on 34th Street in New York during the holidays.

How did that goal take shape?
I was working through college in a restaurant in Long Beach and became friendly with a customer who had just started a company making surf accessories. He offered me a job managing his trade show activities. Within 36 months, I was national sales manager, flying all over the country, selling to big accounts, hiring distributors and designing his booths for all the trade shows we went to. I never finished college.

And you were off and running in retail?
Not quite. I traded my professional life to start a family. My husband was offered a job in Portland, Ore. We lived in the Northwest for seven years and had three children.

Where the “34th Street windows dream” died?
No, just put on hold. When we moved back to California, we lived within a mile of Quiksilver’s headquarters in Huntington Beach – the place to work when I was a kid. I applied for a job, had a few interviews but just couldn’t find the right fit. It took two years of constant contact with the human resources person, but they finally found a spot for me, focusing on branding.

What led you to Skechers?
The recession hit in 2009. My entire department at Quiksilver was dissolved. I was drawn to Skechers. I knew I wanted to work with this powerhouse of a brand. Again, nearly two years until Skechers hired me as manager of in-store design. Within 90 days, I was promoted to director of global visual merchandising. We created more than 700 pieces of point-of-purchase items offered around the globe.

Until brick-and-mortar died.
I think the “brick-and-mortar is dead” argument is a little over-dramatic. I believe e-commerce does drive business to the stores. But it cannot provide an in-store experience. If people are going to take the time to drive to your store, you have to give them something they can’t get online – a sharable moment that makes a connection. I like the idea of using local materials or local references.

You once took a pay cut to leave a managerial position at a major corporation to go to work in retail. Why?
Some people work better in chaos, and I’m one of them. I perform better. When things are the same every single day, I get bored easily and lose interest. It’s just not as exciting. I like the excitement of retail.