I started my career as a store manager for Brooks Brothers in 1988. I was given my first store in the Gardens of the Palm Beaches mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the grand opening of that store was also the grand opening day of the mall. Prior to the store opening, I moved to Florida to recruit, hire, and train my staff, and during that time, because I was there so early in the process, I started going to the jobsite daily. I ultimately became the de facto project manager on-site. It got me very interested in construction, store design, and real estate, and it happened very organically.
Bob Higgins: Career Highlights
1983: Graduates from the University of Missouri
1988: Opens a Brooks Brothers store in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, as store manager
1990–1996: Relocates with Brooks Brothers to Manhasset, NY, eventually moves into the corporate office, and ultimately becomes vice president of visual merchandising
1996–2007: Works in various store-development roles for Tommy Hilfiger, Virgin Entertainment, Guess, Wet Seal, and Anchor Blue
2007–2008: Works as president of Kira Plastinina USA, a Russian retail concept
2009–2011: Works as an independent, global retail consultant
2011: Becomes vice president of store development for Fossil
After six months on the job, I took over management at the Worth Avenue store while retaining my position at the Palm Beach Gardens store. I was then promoted and became the store manager of the Brooks Brothers at the Americana in Manhasset, New York, to help with an open-store remodel. At that time, Brooks Brothers had never done anything like that, so I was a bit of a test case, but we did it, and it was very successful. It reinforced that organic, hands-on experience that led me to where I am today.
I was with Brooks Brothers until 1996, eventually becoming the vice president of visual merchandising, which at that time included store design, construction, and real estate. From there, I was recruited to Tommy Hilfiger, first as the director of specialty stores, and then I ultimately became their vice president of retail development. This meant I was responsible for all of the shop-in-shops and store and fixture design for those shops. It was a very exciting time, a period of huge growth for that company. I helped them launch Tommy Kids, Tommy Women, and Tommy Jeans, among other lines, and from there I was recruited to a position with Guess Jeans as vice president of retail development—and then Virgin Entertainment, Wet Seal, and Anchor Blue, where I did the same thing. Then I was president of Kira Plastinina USA, a Russian retail concept, and for the two years prior to Fossil, I was an independent consultant for international retail businesses.
What attracted me to Fossil was the people I would be working with and the strategic growth initiatives that the company has in place in North America as well as in Europe and Asia. I’m responsible for store design, real estate, construction, maintenance, procurement, and visual merchandising, and all of those areas have global guidance and governance. For Fossil, we have a full-priced accessory concept, a full-priced clothing concept, an outlet concept for accessories and clothing, Watch Station concepts, and—since April of 2012—Skagen full-price and outlet concepts. At the end of 2012, we had approximately 475 stores. We opened more than 40 stores in North America in 2012, and we have aggressive growth plans for the future.
Because of the growth we’re experiencing, it’s really exciting to be working not only on the things that are happening currently but also on long-range strategic initiatives and plans. There are always amazing opportunities, and it makes Fossil a very exciting place to work.
The industry and Fossil are really beginning to embrace sustainability—where things are made, how things are purchased, and what effect our decisions have. There has been a resurgence of “Made in the USA,” and people aren’t automatically going offshore anymore. Also, tastes and color palettes are changing all over the world. At Fossil, our designs are authentic and clean with echoes of midcentury and contemporary design. I’m looking forward to building stores smarter—building in a financially responsible way, incorporating sustainability, and making the store about the customer experience. ABQ