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How This Leader Is Driving Social Change and the Future of Retail

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In June of 2020, Foot Locker, Inc. stepped up and committed $200 million over the span of five years towards enhancing the lives of its team members and customers in the Black community. The money will fund economic development and educational resources to drive systemic change and fight inequality and injustice. In my latest Leadership Lessons episode, I had the chance to spend an hour with the retail giant’s chairman, president and CEO Richard “Dick” Johnson and discuss driving social change, the future of retail and the biggest lessons he has learned throughout his career.

Courtesy of Foot Locker Inc.

Very few can say they have been with a company for more than a decade, but Johnson has been with Foot Locker for more than two. After joining Eastbay as vice president of merchandising in 1993, the organization was acquired by Foot Locker, Inc. in 1997. During his tenure at Foot Locker, Inc., Johnson has held a variety of leadership positions within the company. This includes president and CEO of Footlocker.com and Eastbay from 2003 to 2007; president and CEO of Foot Locker Europe from 2007 to 2010; president and CEO of Foot Locker U.S., Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker and Footaction from 2010 to 2011; EVP and group president of retail stores from 2011 to 2012; EVP and COO from 2012 to 2014; and president and CEO since 2014 and chairman since 2016. 

“I don’t think about my legacy much,” Johnson humbly told me. “I hope in 50 years that the associates in stripes at Foot Locker are still inspiring and empowering youth culture. Like any CEO, you don’t want to muck the business up, right? I hope people look back and say ‘They charted a course that allowed them to gain connectivity and engagement with their consumers and communities.’”

With corporate headquarters in New York and 3,000 retail stores in 28 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the leader in the global sneaker community indeed inspires and empowers youth culture through its portfolio of brands, websites and mobile apps.

Here are 12 valuable lessons Johnson shared with me in our conversation:

1. Listen to learn, not just to prepare an answer

“I think when we’re talking to someone and hear a question coming up, we’re trying to frame up the answer but not really learning,” Johnson theorized to me. “We’re hell bent on providing an answer as quickly as we can, because that’s the sort of world we live in today.” Instead, he says, we should listen to find the root cause of the question.

Related: How Heineken USA CEO Maggie Timoney Succeeds in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry

2. Empathy in leadership is more necessary than ever

Although Johnson tells me he’s always sought to be an empathetic leader, the recent pandemic and social unrest has opened his eyes to the major gulf between knowing something is unfair and truly experiencing it on a daily basis. “The empathy quotient is just so important,” he says, especially when tasked with leading people through uncertain times. 

3. Don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable

It might be a familiar talking point to say that discomfort can breed creativity and resourcefulness, but that’s because it’s so often true. Johnson says if he could go back in our imaginary Leadership Lessons time machine and give himself advice in his twenties, it would be to take risks, fail fast and then try something else. 

4. With great power comes great responsibility

Being a CEO requires adapting to the kind of “big decision” thinking you’ve probably never had to deal with before. Your decisions will redirect the enterprise on a dramatic level. “You suddenly realize that this decision you’re about to make will affect the lives of more than 40,000 people across 28 countries,” Johnson reveals. “There’s nothing really that can prepare you for that.”

Related: How Tim Cadogan Used His Past Experience to Lead GoFundMe Through the Pandemic

5. Most success happens because of strong teamwork

Johnson says this recognition is one of the company’s core values: “If you’re not surrounded by a strong team, I just don’t think that you have an opportunity to be successful.”

6. Acting with integrity is the cornerstone of strong teamwork

So say what you mean and do what you say.

7. It’s not about the degree that hangs on your wall that matters, it’s what you have to do to get it

Johnson points to Foot Locker’s scholarship programs when talking about how important he believes continued education is for providing opportunities. “The paper you can hang on the wall,” he points out. “But it’s the learning process that prepares you to be a great leader.”

Related: How Supergoop! CEO Amanda Baldwin Uses Her Wall Street Experience & Brand Expertise to Create Value and Scale the Business Profitably

8. Business leaders are more important to the world now than ever before

There might have been a time in the early 2000s when the general perception of a CEO was slightly sinister. But with the challenges we’re all facing, business leaders will need to step up. “I think it’s a huge opportunity for us all,” Johnson enthused. “And that’s the moment in time we find ourselves in now.”

9. It is possible to find different opportunities to satisfy your wanderlust within your own company

We’re currently in the middle of the Great Resignation, where people are leaving their jobs in droves, often with a “grass is always greener” mentality. Johnson never planned to one day be CEO of a world-famous company. His passion for running led him to stay the course he was on with Foot Locker in multiple positions across two decades.

10. In-person shopping isn’t going anywhere

Johnson says that in 10 years, physical stores will still be an essential part of the shopper’s experience. But those stores will have to serve a greater meaning and purpose than simply being the site of a monetary transaction. “We might be at the point where we’re 3D printing sneakers in the back room, who knows?” he speculates. 

Related: How to Thrive in an Evolving Business Landscape: ‘Everything Should be Competitive. That’s Good for Customers, and It’s Good for the Industry.’

11. Flexibility will be prized going forward, including in retail 

Employees want to be able to pick their own shifts, especially when they’re engaged fully in other life pursuits like schooling or early parenting. Workers won’t want to be handed a schedule of random days every two weeks, and the onus will be on employers to make this work for everyone.

12. The farther up the ladder you go, the less hands-on time you may get with the thing you’re passionate about

You’ll need to make a more conscious effort to keep those passions burning bright. Although Johnson now spends much of his time with his board of directors talking about governance issues, he told me multiple times during our conversation how much his basic love of sneakers and running has driven his career. 

For more from my hour with Johnson, watch the full webinar here. The growing collection of episodes from our series gives readers access to the best practices of successful CEOs from over 30 of the biggest brands, including Heineken, Headspace, Zoom, Chipotle, Warby Parker and ZipRecruiter, to name a few.

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Cyber Monday shopping expected to set record but annual growth has slowed | Adobe

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Cyber Monday shopping sales hit at least $6.3 billion through part of the day in the U.S. today, according to the latest online shopping data from Adobe Analytics.

It’s not unusual for Cyber Monday and Black Friday online shopping results to break records, but it this economic climate it’s encouraging to see it happen. Still, growth has slowed from 2021 and 2020 holiday seasons.

Consumers spent $6.3 billion up through 3:00 pm Pacific time for Cyber Monday. Adobe expects that when the final tally is in, consumers will spend between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion for the day, making Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day of the year (and of all time).

Today, the top 15 hot sellers (not in ranked order) have included Legos, Hatchimals, Disney Encanto, Pokémon cards, Bluey, Dyson products, strollers, Apple Watches, drones, and digital cameras. Gaming consoles also remain popular, along with games including Mario Party, FIFA 23, Madden 23 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

Over the past weekend, the top sellers were included Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, Bluey, Disney Encanto, L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Roblox, and Fortnite in the toys category. Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remain the top selling gaming consoles, with popular games including FIFA 23, God of War Ragnarök, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Madden 23, and NBA 2k23. Other hot sellers included Apple iPads, Apple MacBooks, digital cameras, Roku devices, drones, gift cards and Instapots.

Black Friday online shopping sales were $9.12 billion, up 2.3% from a year ago, and Thanksgiving itself came in at $5.29 billion, up 2.9% from a year ago. Those were above Adobe’s projections. Last year, consumers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday.

Strong consumer spend has been driven by net-new demand, and not just higher prices. The Adobe Digital Price Index, which tracks online prices across 18 product categories (complements the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which also includes prices for offline only products and services like gasoline and rent) shows that prices online have been nearly flat in recent months (down 0.7% YoY in October 2022).

Adobe Analytics says Cyber Monday will set a record.

Adobe’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but if online inflation were factored in, there would still be growth in underlying consumer demand, the company said.

On a category basis, toys were a major growth driver in the days leading up to Cyber Monday, with online sales up 452% over the average day in October 2022. Appliances (up 305%) and baby/toddler products (up 289%) also saw strong demand, in addition to electronics (up 276%) and apparel (up 258%).

Shoppers will find record discounts today for computers (peaking at 27% off listed price). Deals will also be found in nearly all categories tracked, including apparel (19%), toys (33%), electronics (25%), sporting goods (16%), televisions (15%), and furniture (11%). Those looking to buy an appliance should consider waiting until Thursday (December 1), when discounts are set to peak at 18% on average.

Weekend spending remained strong

Consumers spent over a Black Friday’s worth of ecommerce over the weekend at $9.55 billion, up 4.4% YoY ($4.59 billion on November 26, up 2.6% YoY / $4.96 billion on November, up 6.1% YoY). Season-to-date (November 1 to November 27), consumers have spent a total of $96.42 billion online, up 2.1% YoY.

And while the big days (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday) have reached new heights, consumers spent at record levels all season. Since November 1, shoppers spent over $2 billion every single day, with 19 days above $3 billion in online spend. Broad, early discounts were the main drivers for the shift in consumer spending.

“Shoppers have seen massive discounts this past week, which is the exact opposite situation from last season when supply chain constraints kept prices elevated,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “While discounting will have an impact on margins for retailers, it is also driving a level of demand that can help brands build long-term loyalty and net some short-term gains.”

Additional Adobe Analytics Insights

Over the weekend, online sales of toys were up 383% (compared to average daily sales for the category in October 2022), with baby toys seeing strong demand (up 252%). Other categories that surged over the weekend include jewelry (up 230%), sporting goods (up 239%), and apparel (up 217%).

With online spending hitting new records and inflation impacting consumers, flexible payments have become a big story this season. In the last week (November 21 to November 27), “buy now, pay later” orders have risen 68% and revenue has increased 72%, when compared to the week prior.

Over the weekend, smartphones drove over half of online sales for the first time (52%, up from 48% last year). Adobe expects mobile shopping to dip on Cyber Monday however, based on historical trends. Many people are back at work and using laptops, which will be the preferred device for shopping online.

Forecast for Cyber Week

Adobe expects Cyber Week (the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) to generate $34.8 billion in online spend, up 2.8% YoY, and represent 16.3% share of the full November through December holiday season.

Cyber Monday is expected to remain the season’s and year’s biggest online shopping day, bringing in between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion. Black Friday generated a record $9.12 billion in online spend, up 2.3% YoY, while Thanksgiving brought $5.29 billion in online spend, up 2.9% YoY.

Adobe analyzes direct consumer transactions online. The analysis covers over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories.

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Snowflake 101: 5 ways to build a secure data cloud 

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Today, Snowflake is the favorite for all things data. The company started as a simple data warehouse platform a decade ago but has since evolved into an all-encompassing data cloud supporting a wide range of workloads, including that of a data lake

More than 6,000 enterprises currently trust Snowflake to handle their data workloads and produce insights and applications for business growth. They jointly have more than 250 petabytes of data on the data cloud, with more than 515 million data workloads running each day.

Now, when the scale is this big, cybersecurity concerns are bound to come across. Snowflake recognizes this and offers scalable security and access control features that ensure the highest levels of security for not only accounts and users but also the data they store. However, organizations can miss out on certain basics, leaving data clouds partially secure. 

Here are some quick tips to fill these gaps and build a secure enterprise data cloud.

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1. Make your connection secure

First of all, all organizations using Snowflake, regardless of size, should focus on using secured networks and SSL/TLS protocols to prevent network-level threats. According to Matt Vogt, VP for global solution architecture at Immuta, a good way to start would be connecting to Snowflake over a private IP address using cloud service providers’ private connectivity such as AWS PrivateLink or Azure Private Link. This will create private VPC endpoints that allow direct, secure connectivity between your AWS/Azure VPCs and the Snowflake VPC without traversing the public Internet. In addition to this, network access controls, such as IP filtering, can also be used for third-party integrations, further strengthening security.

2. Protect source data

While Snowflake offers multiple layers of protection – like time travel and fail-safe – for data that has already been ingested, these tools cannot help if the source data itself is missing, corrupted or compromised (like malicious encrypted for ransom) in any way. This kind of issue, as Clumio’s VP of product Chadd Kenney suggests, can only be addressed by adopting measures to protect the data when it is resident in an object storage repository such as Amazon S3 – before ingest. Further, to protect against logical deletes, it is advisable to maintain continuous, immutable, and preferably air-gapped backups that are instantly recoverable into Snowpipe.

3. Consider SCIM with multi-factor authentication

Enterprises should use SCIM (system for cross-domain identity management) to help facilitate automated provisioning and management of user identities and groups (i.e. roles used for authorizing access to objects like tables, views, and functions) in Snowflake. This makes user data more secure and simplifies the user experience by reducing the role of local system accounts. Plus, by using SCIM where possible, enterprises will also get the option to configure SCIM providers to synchronize users and roles with active directory users and groups.

On top of this, enterprises also should use multi-factor authentication to set up an additional layer of security. Depending on the interface used, such as client applications using drivers, Snowflake UI, or Snowpipe, the platform can support multiple authentication methods, including username/password, OAuth, keypair, external browser, federated authentication using SAML and Okta native authentication. If there’s support for multiple methods, the company recommends giving top preference to OAuth (either snowflake OAuth or external OAuth) followed by external browser authentication and Okta native authentication and key pair authentication.

4. Column-level access control

Organizations should use Snowflake’s dynamic data masking and external tokenization capabilities to restrict certain users’ access to sensitive information in certain columns. For instance, dynamic data masking, which can dynamically obfuscate column data based on who’s querying it, can be used to restrict the visibility of columns based on the user’s country, like a U.S. employee can only view the U.S. order data, while French employees can only view order data from France.

Both features are pretty effective, but they use masking policies to work. To make the most of it, organizations should first determine whether they want to centralize masking policy management or decentralize it to individual database-owning teams, depending on their needs. Plus, they would also have to use invoker_role() in policy conditions to enable unauthorized users to view aggregate data on protected columns while keeping individual data hidden.

5. Implement a unified audit model

Finally, organizations should not forget to implement a unified audit model to ensure transparency of the policies being implemented. This will help them actively monitor policy changes, like who created what policy that granted user X or group Y access to certain data, and is as critical as monitoring query and data access patterns. 

To view account usage patterns, use system-defined, read-only shared database named SNOWFLAKE. It has a schema named ACCOUNT_USAGE containing views that provide access to one year of audit logs.

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WhatsApp rolls out new ‘Message Yourself’ feature globally • TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

We’re joining the Cyber Monday fun with 25% off annual subscriptions to TechCrunch+ content and analysis starting today until Wednesday, November 30. Plus, today only, get 50% off tickets to discover the vast unknown and attend TechCrunch Sessions: Space in Los Angeles!

Okay, we haven’t done a newsletter since Wednesday, and while the U.S. team was chillin’ like villains, the rest of the team was hard at work, so here’s some of the highlights from the last half-week of TechCrunchy goodness! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Talking to yourself just went digital: Instead of having that internal monologue stay in your head, now you can play out all of your thoughts to yourself in WhatsApp, Jagmeet writes. The messaging platform began rolling out an easier way to talk to yourself today after completing beta testing.
  • Great Wall of porn: That’s how Rita and Catherine describe the bot surge in China that is making it difficult to get any legitimate Twitter search results when trying to find out something about Chinese cities. Why, you ask? Rita writes that “the surge in such bot content coincides with an unprecedented wave of (COVID) protests that have swept across major Chinese cities and universities over the weekend.”
  • Your calendar, only more productive: Get ready for your calendar to be more than just a place to record things you have to do that day. Romain writes about Amie, a startup that grabbed $7 million to link your unscheduled to-do list with your calendar. The app also enables users to be social with coworkers.

Startups and VC

Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services provider SWVL has carried out its second round of layoffs, affecting 50% of its remaining headcount, Tage reports. The news is coming six months after SWVL laid off 32% (over 400 employees) of its workforce in a “portfolio optimization program” effort geared toward achieving positive cash flow next year.

There’s a couple of new funds in town, too! Harri reports that Early Light Ventures plots a second, $15 million fund for software ‘underdogs,’ while Mike writes that BackingMinds raises a new €50 million fund to fund normally overlooked entrepreneurs. He also writes about Pact, an all-women led VC for mission-driven startups, backed by Anne Hathaway.

And we have five more for you:

Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat

Blackboard showing soccer strategy

Image Credits: Ihor Reshetniak (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Over the last two years, intelligent calendar platform Reclaim.ai raised $10 million “using a more incremental approach,” writes co-founder Henry Shapiro.

“We’ve done all this without giving up a single board seat, and Reclaim employees continue to own over two-thirds of the company’s equity,” rejecting conventional wisdom that founders should “raise as much as you can as fast as you can.”

In a TC+ post, Shapiro reviews the process they used to identify follow-on investors, shares the email template used to pitch the SAFE, and explains why “a larger cap table means more founder control.”

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Amazon’s recent cost-cutting measures seem to be affecting more than just its delivery business. Manish writes that the company is shutting down its wholesale distribution business, called Amazon Distribution, in India. Amazon had started this unit to help neighborhood stores secure inventory. The company didn’t say why it was closing this particular business down, but Manish notes that this is the third such Amazon unit to be shuttered in India.

Meanwhile, Natasha L reports that Meta has gotten itself into trouble again with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (aka, the agency that regulates data protection). Facebook’s parent company is being hit with $275 million in penalties for what the agency said was breaches in data protection that resulted in some 530 million users’ personal information being leaked.

Now enjoy six more:



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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE