Best Buyers 2012: Michael Giurici, Macy’s

The daredevil: A man of diverse talents, Macy’s Michael Giurici buys ties and swims with sharks.

He’s known to be practical and straightforward, a man of good taste and a true partner to his vendors. What’s less known about Michael Giurici is his risk taking: both in business (with vendor partners, of course) and in life. For a man who doesn’t swim, jumping out of planes into rough ocean waters is surely more terrifying than test-ordering two-inch ties!

His career with Macy’s spans almost 30 years. “I needed to work through college so I took a job at the Staten Island store. My first day was right before Father’s Day and they put me behind the Polo counter. I thought I needed to have my head examined…”

An apparent glutton for punishment, Giurici graduated from college and immediately joined Macy’s executive training program (then called “The Squad”), moving up the ranks from store to central and back again. “I was an assistant buyer in accessories, a group manager in home and kids and a sportcoat buyer. Except for a 10-month stint at A&S (which ultimately became Macy’s), my career has been here. And believe it or not, I always wanted to be the tie buyer! Fortunately for me, my boss (Les Steiger; he’s been my DMM twice) married the tie buyer, who resigned when they started their family, so I got the job…”

And as it turns out, it’s a job that he’s not only good at but that he truly loves (in addition to neckwear, Giurici buys cold weather and sleepwear/loungewear). “Les is a terrific manager: he lets me do my job. In fact, we have a very supportive team here at The Men’s Store. If things aren’t going right, there’s always somebody helping you out.”

In addition to Steiger, Giurici’s mentors over the years have included two industry icons who have since died: Kevin Morrissey and Jim Edelman. “Kevin was a huge supporter of mine: he taught me everything I know about retailing. Jimmy was like a father to me: I was the sportcoat buyer when he was the suit buyer so we worked side by side. He was a terrific guy who mentored so many young people in the industry; when he passed, it was really tough for all of us. But in a sense, he’s with us still: a lot of Jimmy-isms keep coming out of our mouths…”

According to Giurici, tie business at Macy’s is pretty good this fall. “It’s the year of the bow tie,” he maintains. “Never in my life would I have thought that bow ties could hit this level but they have. It’s the mature customer, it’s the millennial, it’s new and fresh, and it’s selling.”

Also selling: slim ties. “The average is three and a quarter: when I see a three-and-a-half-inch tie now, it looks wide. But we’re also selling three-inch ties and two-and-a-half-inch ties. I believe slim styles will continue to grow; ticket prices run the gamut from $45 to $125.”

As for his cold weather categories, Giurici acknowledges that it’s a tough business when Mother Nature fails to cooperate. “Last year’s warm winter was a challenge but I don’t live by last year-itis. You learn from the past and then move on; it’s about what you can do next.” On the bright side, Giurici notes that tech-inspired gloves that allow fingers to operate iPhones through the fabric (at retails of $49.50 and up!) should be even hotter this year than last. “It’s definitely a ‘why to buy,’” he observes. As for sleepwear/loungewear, Giurici maintains that it’s a huge fourth-quarter gift business, regardless of the weather, the economy, or current fashion dictates.

If you want to get him angry (as this writer managed to do), simply mention that buyers for large corporate organizations are perceived more as order-takers than as true merchants, that their mandated vendor matrix and pre-ordained open-to-buy precludes much creativity or risk taking. “It’s so not true,” he argues with conviction. “We’re always looking at new resources; I get hundreds of phone calls a day. We have seminars in diversity vendors: we shop everyone because you never know who you’re going to find or where it might go or what you might learn. As long as we seek out what’s new and make partners of our vendors, we get tremendous support. Macy’s is most definitely a high-risk, high-reward company…”

When he’s not busy working (he estimates that 30 to 40 percent of his time is spent in the market, but he gets to the stores every Friday: “Our philosophy here is Customers First.”), Giurici loves to travel. He’s visited South Africa, Jordan, Dubai, Italy, France and Greece. He’s been shark diving (and he doesn’t swim!), on safari with lions and cheetahs (“It made Disney look like Disney…”), skydiving, white water rafting and jetsetting around the globe. “I work to live, I don’t live to work,” he acknowledges. “I have a healthy work-life balance and Macy’s is very supportive of that.

Had he not been a buyer, Giurici might have been an accountant, or a chef like his dad. Asked about his strengths and weaknesses, he considers them one and the same: “I’m passionate to a fault,” he confides. “If I believe in something, I’ll stick with it.” Asked how long? He responds appropriately: “I also know when to let go.”

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