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Crate & Barrel exec retires in May

"We all have stories about change," she said. "I started out as a school teacher...then at Crate & Barrel four years ago as a part time sales associate. I loved it from the first day. Change was in the cards for me and for Crate & Barrel. I am proud of what we have been able to do for our company. First, surviving is a plus. Second, having a global reach is fulfilling. But we cannot cling to the successes in the past. A special danger comes with maturity, with not doing the latest thing, of seeming irrelevant. You can dread change, you can run from it, you can shut your eyes or you can face it. With determination and optimism and with the knowledge that life and business must change, and as leaders we have the responsibilities to make wise choices."

Owned and operated by the International Housewares Association (housewares.org), the show was held Mar. 10-13 at McCormick Place in Chicago, and features more than 2,100 exhibitors and 60,000 total attendees from more than 125 countries.

Founded in Chicago in 1962, Crate &Barrel is 50 years old this year, Turf said. "It has been 50 years of good work and it's a company that we are proud of, because it's based on people, product and presentation," she explained. "It has a culture that starts with its people. There are 7,000 associates who work for us who are chosen for their talent, warmth and determination to do a good job. We have a strong preference for promoting within, and people tend to stay with us for a long time."

In May 2008, Gordon Segal, the founder, retired and appointed me to take his place," Turf said. "Then the recession hit and it tested us ways that I never imagined. There was fear, there were 7,000 people in our care, and as a privately held company we were spared from investors, but the worry from our associates kept me awake at night. But we made the decision to emerge from the economic storm even stronger by containing costs, controlling inventory and staying open to new opportunities. As a result, our strategy worked. Not only have we weathered the storm, but to my successors I am leaving a company that is strong and is open to new opportunities." Turf is scheduled to retire from Crate & Barrel in May.

What will her successors face, Turf asked? They will need to balance the company's physical stores with its online stores and catalogs, she noted. "The shift from our physical stores to ecommerce is difficult," she said. "We welcome the increased business, but the online shopping experience won't replace shopping in a physical store that offers a stimulating experience. People like to touch a product, and the in-person experience cannot be replicated on a computer screen. Also, having a face to face experience with a friendly sales associate is something that cannot be replaced."

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