SEEN talked with Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford to get his advice on drawing shoppers to brick-and-mortar stores in the age of e-commerce, fun ways to honor long-term employees and his favorite wacky marketing campaign.
By Stephanie Steinberg
SEEN is introducing a new series called SEEN Around the Water Cooler. Each month, we will interview executives in Metro Detroit to get their business and career advice. If you know someone who should be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Eoin Comerford
Title: CEO of Moosejaw, GM of Outdoor at Walmart Global eCommerce
City: Madison Heights
Schools attended: University of Michigan, bachelor of science in mechanical engineering
1. How did you get started working at Moosejaw, and what year was this?
I started in November 2008 as VP of Marketing. I had just sold another e-commerce/catalog company that I had been running called AJ Prindle and was looking to stay in e-commerce and the Detroit area.
2. How many stores do you now oversee and in what cities?
Moosejaw has 10 stores, but almost 90 percent of our volume is online.
3. For someone who wants to grow a business into several locations, do you have any advice for going about that?
Really understand the market. In retail, a single block can be the difference between success and failure. If possible, get a short-term lease or do a pop-up before committing to a longer-term lease. We had great success with this approach with our stores in downtown Detroit and Grand Rapids.
4. How many employees do you have? Do you have any strategies for honoring long-term employees and keeping them motivated?
Lots. About 400 people, which almost doubles during the holiday season. We have weekly recognition at our company stand-up meetings. We also have anniversary gifts for three, six, and 10 years. At 12 years you get a hand-painted portrait on the wall in a very classical pose.
5. How do you maximize your time to get the most out of your workday?
It’s hard, but I try to keep my early mornings free since that’s when I’m at my most productive. I’m better in meetings later in the day.
6. Moosejaw was acquired by Walmart in 2017. Do you have any tips for companies seeking to get acquired by a larger company?
Figure out what acquiring companies are looking for and be the best at that. For Moosejaw, it was being an e-commerce leader in the outdoor industry and having a relatable brand.
7. Brick-and-mortar retailers are facing competition from e-commerce. Do you have any strategies for still drawing people to stores?
You have to create a differentiated experience. Just having a decent price, good assortment and a good location is no longer enough. That experience may be differentiated product, service, expertise…you name it. For Moosejaw, it is the incredible customer service and fun, engaging nature of our employees.
8. Before Moosejaw, you worked in the automotive industry. Do you have any advice for someone looking to transition their career to a new industry?
Blasting out your resume rarely works. First of all, you need to find a target company that you really want to work for. You probably won’t “check all the boxes” for the role, so you need to get past the HR person and go directly to the hiring manager. Really do your homework on the company and the role, and then put together an analysis of how you would apply your experience to the role. Figure out the hiring manager’s email, and get the analysis into her/his inbox.
9. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Time management and prioritization.
10. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The awesome, smart, funny people that I get to work with every day.
11. Who’s been a mentor in your career?
An early manager while I was in consulting with Arthur Andersen.
12. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Now on to some fun questions…
13. Favorite Moosejaw item you own?
My Moosejaw final countdown sweatshirt. Super comfy and plush with pockets!
14. Coolest Moosejaw item for sale?
A lot to choose from, but I’d go with the Mt. Elliott jackets. Incredibly warm and totally waterproof. The perfect defense against the Michigan winter.
15. Your favorite Moosejaw marketing campaign?
Again, so so many to choose from. Most recent would be our Bitter Hearts campaign for Valentine’s Day, styled like Sweethearts candy, only snarky.
16. What outdoor sports do you enjoy?
Camping with my family and friends.
17. What’s your favorite camping spot?
We have a great spot at the Muskegon State Park right on Lake Michigan that we go to almost every year. The campsites back right into the big dunes that lead down to a beautiful long beach that’s only open to campers.
18. When you’re not working, where can we find you?
At home with my family, out playing golf or hitting the latest restaurant around town. My favorite spot is (revolver), a pop-up restaurant in Hamtramck.