As Don Seibert was suffering his blue blazer angst, two more incidents added to his malaise. Dave Miller, a senior stores executive, told him that before the convention he had complimented a store manager about his Christmas village display. After Lakeland, Miller was back visiting a string of stores. "Get this, Don," he said upon returning to 6th Avenue. "The word was out and every store now had a Christmas village display! I mean every one ."
"Good Lord," Seibert said with a flat laugh . "I guess you could compliment them on getting the things up fast."
Seibert himself then went off to visit some stores. Sure enough: Christmas villages at every one. But this was now actually less dismaying than what occurred during his last stop. The store manager had indicated a direction andwith the company's grand future showing in his eyeshad proudly said, "Mr. Seibert, you have to meet a special young man."
Seibert was led to a clean-cut and supposedly eager new associate who had been put in charge of the men's underwear section. The chairman noticed a neat, well-merchandised area, with all the signage perfectly in place and all of the inventory displayed by color . But the special young man stood by apprehensively.
"How are sales?" Seibert asked.
The young man shook his head with frustration. "Not good," he said, with an embarrassed glance at the store manager. "And I'm doing everything by the book, sir."
"If he says so, he is," said the store manager, a little too quickly.
"Mind if I look around a minute?" Seibert asked. Almost immediately he saw that all of the stock was in extra-large and extrasmall sizes. Not a small, medium, or large to be seen. He pleasantly pointed this out, and the young associate looked even more frustrated.
"I know that, Mr. Seibert," said the young man. "But every time I reorder, the stuff comes prepackaged in all sizes. Then the popular sizes go fast and I'm stuck with that." He waved disconsolately at his remaining underwear stock.
The chairman managed a smile as he drew a breath . Then he patiently explained how to special order and bring the inventory back into line.
The store manager punctuated Seibert's teaching with, "Yes, yes, of course, of course." Seibert merely managed another smile, said good-bye to the young man, and changed the subject. Still, he kept thinking about what had just occurred and, as he completed the store tour, began making a mental list that he would review again and again:
This store was a major mall anchor, the manager supposedly among the company's elite.
Yet the manager was clearly not on top of things and his protg was incompetent, seemingly incapable of thinking for himself.
The manager could build a Christmas village virtually overnight, but he couldn't train a dull young man to keep underwear inventory in balance.
And these people were the future?