Are you accelerating digital strategies and preparing your brand for the future? Samir Desai, EVP, Chief Digital & Technology Officer at Abercrombie & Fitch, certainly is! Samir joined Abercrombie & Fitch Co. in July 2021 and one of his first initiatives was to bring different functions from other areas of the company into the technology group to promote a data-driven culture across the organization. In this newly created role at A&F, he is improving the digital experience across each portfolio brand. And it’s clear he was the right person for the newly created role because…
Prior to A&F, he spent 15 years at Equinox, a luxury fitness company that operates several lifestyle brands. At Equinox, he served in leadership roles of increasing responsibility, most recently as Chief Technology Officer. In that role, he was responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive data strategy across the brand portfolio, launching a direct-to-consumer digital media business, creating customer experiences that fused physical and digital strategies, and more!
If his background hasn’t interested you already, we had the chance to do a quick Q&A with him to learn more about his career, favorite podcast and business book, and of course his thoughts on current trends in the retail industry. Also, did we mention he is speaking at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo?
Retail Innovation Conference & Expo: How did you get started in your career and what would you say has been the most exciting part of your work?
Samir Desai: I started my career as a software engineer in the inventory management systems space, where I quickly realized that I enjoyed working with the teams to solve complex business and customer problems more so than being an independent contributor. This ability to constantly push myself to solve important customer problems along with the opportunity to develop and lead high performing teams is the most exciting part of my work.
RICE: What do you find most exciting about the retail industry, especially with your history in the fitness world?
Desai: The most exciting part of the apparel industry is helping people express themselves through clothing, as so much of your personality is shown in how you choose to dress. I love that I’m in a role where we can help people discover products that allow them to express their own individuality and style, and ultimately, help our customers feel comfortable and confident. The fitness industry was similar, as it’s a key part of your lifestyle and demonstrates your personal interests and needs.
RICE: What trends do you believe will become top priorities for retailers in 2022?
Desai: I think the consumer shift to “digital comfort,” which we saw take off throughout the pandemic, is here to stay. We anticipate customers will want more options and less friction in their buying journey, so this will be a top priority for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Beyond that, the web 3 space will continue to be top of mind for retailers as they begin to develop strategies around the metaverse, NFTs and continue to further leverage the creator economy.
RICE: What do you hope to learn more about by attending the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo in May?
Desai: I’m looking forward to learning how our peers are approaching some of the shared opportunities we’re facing across the industry, including hiring and retaining top talent, modernizing operating models to be digitally-led and creating a data-driven culture across organizations.”
RICE: What is one business book or podcast that you’d recommend for our executive readers?
Desai: I highly recommend listening to Masters of Scale podcast and reading Zero to One.