Last week former Martha Stewart CEO Susan Lyne announced that she would be joining online luxury e-commerce start-up Gilt Groupe. Since departing Martha Stewart in June she’d initially stepped back when Stewart was serving jail time rumors had been rampant that she might be tapped by Time Inc. as their new CEO, instead the former ABC TV exec (she was credited for pushing Lost and Desperate Housewives) made the jump to online. FBNY caught up with Lyne and asked her about the change, how this role would differ from what she’d done before, and whether Wall Street’s recent crash has caused her to reconsider her decision.
1. Surrounding your departure from Martha Stewart there was a lot of talk about you moving over to Time Inc. Instead you’ve decided to transition online. What was it that attracted you to Gilt and the online world?
There were all kinds of rumors about where I was heading. Ann Moore and I are good friends and I think people jumped to conclusions because they saw us together. But the online world is incredibly compelling right now. There’s an energy and optimism you just don’t see in other channels. The rate of growth in online, the constant innovation, the low barriers to entry, all make it a magnet for the best creative and business talent. And Gilt is a great example of that. It’s a fantastic idea that was immediately embraced by consumers. The team is really impressive. And the opportunities for growth are enormous.
2. Martha Stewart embodies a certain lifestyle, which the brand strives to make accessible to everyone. Gilt is a membership-only ecommerce site for high-end fashion. How will the challenges of running Gilt differ from what you’ve done before? And what will be the similarities?
I think the key word in your question is “brand.” Every great consumer-facing company starts with a brand promise to its customer: this is what we will deliver; this is how we will make your life better, or easier, less complicated, more fun. Each job I’ve held had a different core customer and a different brand promise. The key is never forgetting who you serve and what they count on you for.
3. As we mentioned, Gilt is a luxury, members only, ecommerce site. Has this week’s market crash changed your thinking about your new position? Why or why not?
Not at all. That’s not to say that Gilt won’t evolve as it grows. But, if anything, I think the macro-economic challenges we’re facing make GG an even better bet. We should become an increasingly important outlet for our brand partners and a more attractive resource for our members.
4. What changes to you foresee bringing to Gilt Group? And how will the deepening financial crisis affect your future plans for Gilt?
I wouldn’t characterize them as changes. I’m very committed to protecting and building our core business. But I also believe there are multiple opportunities to grow this business and we have the team in place to execute on those opportunities. That said, I’ve been here for a week, so it would be a little presumptuous to lay out a long-term plan right now. Ask me again in a few months.