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By Ruth Hartman, D.G. Hague, Lana Krauter and Monica Woo

Four minute read

Over thirty million unemployed. More than forty notable retail brands have filed for bankruptcy or liquidation. In a Zoom conversation, D.G. Hague, CEO of VIPER EA, a leading enterprise profit improvement solution provider, spoke with two C-suite retail veterans, Lana Krauter and Ruth Hartman, on how to operate in a tumultuous environment.

D.G. HAGUE: Lana, as a board director, CEO and president to multi-billion-dollar retailers as well as specialty retail brands, what control levers do retailers have to sustain these out-of-control times?

LANA KRAUTER: #1 control lever is liquidity. Whether in or out of bankruptcy, a retailer must conserve cash more than ever before. Eliminate all non-essential spend and resist adding costs until you have solidified the runway to execute your company’s plan for at least two years. Identify low return assets and monetize where possible to maximize liquidity. Outsource the implementation of initiatives to control SG&A.

RUTH HARTMAN: I wish to build on Lana’s advice of terminating non-essential spend. Only release funding based on the achievements of KPIs, such as revenue, profit, customer retention rate and other success indicators. Review cash forecasts daily to control and prioritize payments.

LK: I agree with Ruth’s point about the importance of agility – another control lever. To survive not only Q4 2020, but also spring and summer 2021, retailers must respond to predictable and unpredictable issues with speed and agility.

DH: With limited visibility to future challenges in macro environment, consumer demand and global supply chain, retailers’ historical financial plan and assumptions are no longer relevant.

RK: That is why, I am so impressed with VIPER EA’s Rapid Assessment process to expedite responses to near and mid-term problems. In less than a month, VIPER can pinpoint the profit leakages by business unit, product, geography, store location, operating function, vendor, external partner, fulfillment and distribution center and strategic initiative.

As a former president of Lord & Taylor and current Advisor to Bain & Company and a couple of Artificial Intelligence companies, I think that VIPER’s retail analytics and Machine Learning prediction capabilities are unmatched.

DH: VIPER help retailers improve liquidity by rationalizing underperforming assets and prioritizing resources against the most productive SKUs. With dynamic and scenario-based forecasting week over week, even day over day, we maximize retailers’ operating agility.

As a former CEO and president of global retail businesses, I know how unproductive “analysis by paralysis” is. That is why, at VIPER, all analytical recommendations are accompanied by practical actions that will raise performance and productivity down to individual store personnel and product level.

LK: Liquidity. Agility. Productivity. Love it!

DH: Let me add another “TY” – Thank You both!

To help retailers during challenging times, VIPER is offering a
$1 million Profit Improvement Guarantee™.
We commit to achieving a minimum of $1 million in profit increase or pay the difference.

D.G. Hague is the CEO of VIPER EA, has served as an operating partner/advisor of several private equity firms, and board member to a number of for-profit and non-profit organizations. Des was formerly CEO & President of Centerplate, President of IHOP and of Safeway Corporate Perishables.

Ruth Hartman was named as one of the Top 20 Women in Retail 2020 and as a Woman2Watch in Business Disruption in 2016 and 2020. She is an external advisor to Bain & Company. Previously, she was Lord & Taylor’s President and the Senior Vice President/General Merchandising Manager of DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse. Ruth is an advisor to the Board of VIPER EA LLC.

Lana Cain Krauter is a board director of Exenta. Previously, Lana was a board director and CEO at Charming Charlie, President-Apparel at Sears Holdings Corporation, President of Bealls, Inc. and a board member of TLB Holdings. Lana is an advisor to the Board of VIPER EA LLC.

Monica Woo is the CEO of WooWorks, which invests in, as well as delivers growth strategies for digital commerce, Artificial Intelligence and retail companies. Previously, she was President of and Bacardi Global Brands, and FreshDirect’s Chief Revenue & Strategy Officer. Monica is an advisor to the Board of VIPER EA LLC.

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VIPER has created a proven, proprietary Enterprise Acceleration (EA) methodology - which gathers data from throughout the retailer client’s enterprise; then feeds this data into our NV® AI system, leveraging Machine Learning to identify leading performance indicators and predictive models. These models isolate and quantify systemic problems, operational deficiencies, breakdowns in training, and/or execution failures which lead to gaps between business expectations and actual outcomes. Throughout the engagement, VIPER does the heavy lifting; partnering with the client throughout the engagement to determine the root causes of these issues, and to implement best practice solutions. The result is a return of 1%-3% of yearly revenue delivered to bottom line of the P&L.  VIPER’s profit improvements are measurable and isolatable from other company initiatives.

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