Interview with West Marine CIO Ashlee Aldridge
This is the second article in a Web series on Interviews with Retail CIOs. The first article was an interview with AAFES CIO Dale Linebarger.
In her tenure as Senior Vice President, Direct Sales & CIO for West Marine, Ashlee Aldridge has led the company’s Direct Sales business segment with a strategic technological focus, striving to engage the customer by optimizing Internet and call center channels.
Mobile commerce has dramatically changed the consumer experience, forcing retailers like West Marine to respond to the growing need for smarter and faster, yet comprehensive information technology.
Adoption of the iPhone has rapidly changed consumer behaviors, Aldridge says.
“This is a new era retailers embark upon today. The customer can stand inside the four walls of any given retailer, pick up their phone, very quickly get online and Google the item on display, and then quickly assess the fair market value of that item by comparison shopping the price, looking up reviews and self-serving.”
“M-commerce puts pressure on us to have the right product, at the right price, in-stock, when and where the customer wants that item, all the time, and more so than ever before. We have to get it right in real-time.”
Under a tightened economy, Aldridge is working to meet those challenges by driving efficiency into ever-expanding technological retail functions, all the while facing limited resources.
“I expect that this year will be more of a balancing act then ever, as we continue to leverage our resources to exclusively focus on initiatives that are customer centric,” she says.
Aldridge and her team are working to strengthen IT functions, streamline order entry systems, and enhance check-out and search functions to maintain relevance in the marketplace. However, the world’s largest boating supply retailer is still susceptible to ripples in the market potentially affecting smaller vendors providing technological support.
“There is tremendous pressure in the marketplace to reduce recurring IT costs in order to protect the bottom line and that goes for our business as well,” she says.
“Navigating through these turbulent waters in 2009 will be quite a challenge.”
West Marine’s team will face these challenges with enhanced corporate communications and soliciting insight and creativity from the business units and their customers.
“IT’s role in retail is the find a way to unleash that potential, even in the midst of difficult times.”
Aldridge is past SVP and CIO of Zale Corporation, specializing in strategic business plans and technical and operational improvements.
West Marine originated in 1968 as West Coast Ropes. The business expanded to the East Coast in 1991 and now has 341 stores in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and a franchised store in Turkey. The company is the largest boating supply & accessory retailer, carrying more than 50,000 boating products.