The House of Boxes


Buffalo was a tough go. The store was open from nine to nine, six days a week. Seibert, as a floor manager and then assistant manager, of course, arrived at seven in the morning and left no earlier than ten every night. Sundays the store was closed. But, during the week, the manager wanted everyone on the floor during store hours, so that left Sunday to catch up on paperwork and ordering.

At this time, the Seiberts had two little girls . For months, Don saw them awake only on Sundays before church . Then, twice a week, Verna began bringing picnic dinners to the store. They would go to the basement stockroom, where he had built a big walk-in dollhouse out of cardboard boxes. The girls played there happily as the adults ate. Then, as Don went back up to work, Verna ran and affixed tickets to merchandise he had to set out later. Family night ended an hour later when Don interrupted a sale to hug the girls and Verna good-bye .

Thirty months of progress in Buffalo, then Elmira, then Rochester, led to a special assignment. Seibert was sent to head a team of assistant managers (the new term ) who were helping to open a big store in Staten Island. He was repeatedly praised by the manager, and his reputation grew.

After Staten Island he got his first store, the troubled Levittown, Pennsylvania, operation. Walt Neppl was the DM, although they had yet to meet. Levittown was on Neppl's rehab list for attention between new store openings. But by the time he was able to get there, Seibert had the situation well in hand. Neppl was amazed. The quiet man had done virtually everything Neppl would have proposed.

Overall, Seibert demonstrated a rare combination of attributes that Neppl quickly picked up on. First off, he had developed into an excellent merchandiser. He also had learned to be good with people as well as be detail oriented. And he was tough when it was required. Shrinkage , [1] for example, was a serious problem at Levittown. Seibert methodically eliminated possibilities until the finger of suspicion pointed at a popular and successful woman on the sales floor. He dove into the books and records, collected irrefutable evidence, called the woman into his office, and simply dismissed her. Losses were cut in half overnight, store morale rising as the shrinkage fell. With significantly improved merchandising , adroit buying, and careful planning, Seibert's store was moving into the black by the time Neppl arrived.

As the reader has learned, a Penney store manager was unique in his autonomythe company championing the individual in charge (and his particular personality). Although both were highly successful managers, for example, Jack Maynard and Walt Neppl were polar oppositesthe epitomes of hands-off and hands-on managers. Seibert, too, had his uniqueness. The job was in the detailsand how the manager defined thembut no two Penney managers ever did it exactly the same way (until recently). This and a superb buying corps in New York built a strong and profitable organization.

Neppl and Seibert became admirers and then solid friends . "Don was a very low-key guy," Neppl reminisced, "but he ran a very fine store. He was a deep thinker and an excellent planner. Handled people well, too, a good listener. High standards and morals. I just liked and respected Don a lot. It was obvious that he was the kind of guy who'd be a good district manager, and I recommended him. Not too long after that they made him a DM, first out of the Twin Cities."

[1] Employee theft, shoplifting, etc.




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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