Early Retailing Exec Publishes Memoir

Joanna Bradshaw's book Jody

Want an insider’s look at department store retailing in the 1960s and 70s? In the new memoir “Jody” (AuthorHouse), Joanna “Jody” Bradshaw details her experience as a Bloomingdale’s trainee in 1960 and her trials and tribulations on becoming the first female corporate vice president of Macy’s and later a retail turnaround executive.

With so many female top executives in retailing today, it’s hard to fathom that this was once a radical concept. But as Macy’s first woman corporate VP, and later, on the manufacturing side, as SVP of merchandising for the Simmons Company, she broke down the traditional barriers to her gender. Bradshaw proved that talent is the bottom line and that a woman’s rightful place in the retail community includes the highest executive levels.

One interesting anecdote concerned her first business trip to the Far East. As was customary, she went to have her business cards printed up with Chinese on the back for the Far Eastern suppliers. Kenny Straus suggested she change her title to “Fashion Coordinator” (a role usually held by women at Macy’s) instead of her correct title “Merchandise Administrator” (a role held exclusively by men, with the exception of Bradshaw). “The Asians will never understand a female ‘Administrator,’” he said, “particularly in Japan, your first stop.” To Bradshaw’s credit, she dug in her heels and refused to go unless she could print her correct title on her business card.

Bradshaw worked with some of America’s greatest retailing legends, giants with whom she rubbed shoulders on a daily basis, many who became friends and confidants. From having lunch at Macy’s executive dining room with Herb Segal, then Macy’s chairman, to her experiences with her first mentor and former chairman of Bloomingdale’s Martin Traub, she gives an insider’s view to retailing back then.

“This memoir is a few things: a history of what happened in retailing; a woman breaking through the glass ceiling; and the story of the movers and shakers of the time,” says Bradshaw. My biggest achievement was becoming a corporate VP (not just a divisional one!) of Macy’s, which put me way up on the organizational chart.”

Being a memoir, Bradshaw also weaves in her personal life, including personal tragedies such as two divorces. But her retail positions offer insight into the challenges and experiences that career women faced back then, especially in retail. Bradshaw jokes that she’s been paid to go shopping around the world for 40 years, and has a repertoire of fabulous stories from her adventures in search of the most wanted goods and from exotic vacations to Australia, Russia, China, and to Kenya on Safari.

Chapters focused on retailing include:

• My Bloomingdale’s Adventure

• The Macy’s Years

• The Next Five Years: Simmons and Workbench

• Back to Federated Department Stores: A&S and HOMEWORKS

• The Turnaround Years

Bradshaw hopes her book will be an “intriguing insight into the last five decades of retail history, as well as an inspiration for young women who continue to struggle in male-dominated industries.”

Her second book—”Retail 201″—is in the works and aims to teach smaller retailers how to compete with giant chains.

Like this? Share it!