MENTORING RETAIL’S NEXT GENERATION
BY LOU FANCHER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH ISAACS
Five minutes with Maria Padilla-Angel makes one thing clear: the highly dynamic Vice President and General Manager of Macy’s Walnut Creek is a generous woman with a heart for people. Employed by Macy’s for 34 years, Padilla-Angel has established a solid record as a business coach gifted in teamwork. She says mentoring the next generation of executive leaders in the retail industry and forming partnerships within the company, and collaborating with the community at large provides her with tremendous satisfaction.
“I tell people my number one reward is growing talent I’ve been mentored along my career. I’m most proud of are the people who’ve worked with me and grown into key positions. To me, that’s the ultimate prize.” Padilla-Angel holds bachelor’s degrees in marketing and accounting from Sacramento State University. Married for 24-years to Carlos Angel, Vice President of Operations at automation company Bay Point Control, the couple have two adult children; a 21-year-old daughter at Cal Poly and a son, 19, attending a junior college in Napa.
Expectedly, crafting high-powered careers, while raising children, has required strategic planning. While mutual understanding of their daily demands provides instinctive empathy, Padilla-Angel says the couple has benefited greatly from family support. “My parents helped raise our kids. My sister-in-law actually watched our kids during the day for two years.” Applying skills she uses at work—trust, transparency, planning, organization, and “everybody chips in attitude”—Padilla-Angel has learned to manage a busy schedule at home and at work.
Her typical workday begins even before leaving home. “I get store performance information first thing in the morning, so I can think about what’s working, what conversations I’ll have, and things I need to look at prior to reaching the store. I get on the phone with operations colleagues.” Upon arrival, Padilla-Angel walks through the store, “connecting the dots” of performance figures with what she observes on the sales floor. Next, meetings with her executive team, who she calls “People Leaders,” and a morning employee rally to celebrate successes and to establish daily priorities. One day it’s all about Black Friday or the holiday season; on another, it’s about a new community partnership. “I start wrapping it up after a final 5:15 pm “touch-base” meeting with my team. I try to get out of the store by 6:00 or 6:30 pm.”
September and October are the busiest months of the year when Macy’s over 250 employees ramp up for the holiday rush. “November and December, it might surprise you to know, are the most fun. Even with all that’s going on at the store, I put up seven Christmas trees in my house, I love the holiday,” she says.
This year expanded women’s and furniture departments, along with other amenities like “At Your Service” (customers who don’t want packages left on doorsteps can order items online and pick them up in the store) enhance the Macy’s shopping experience. Recently, Macy’s Walnut Creek won the “Best of the Best” award in the company’s nationwide competition for the holiday season—out of 700 stores nationwide. Even so, Padilla-Angel continues to ask herself, “What do customers want more of in Walnut Creek?”
To recharge, she often heads to the gym. Weights, cardio, and cycling do the trick; at other times, a long hike or dinner with her husband at a favorite Thai or Japanese restaurant are perfect de-stressors. Describing herself as an “intensely, intensely loyal person,” regular get-togethers with friends and weekly visits with her nearby parents are essential.
Asked where she’s most likely to be found if shopping for herself, Padilla-Angel says Macy’s dress and shoe departments are favorites. “I love dresses. Even if I don’t have an occasion in mind, I always buy them. And pumps. You can make a pump look professional or wear it to a social function.” She says booties are hot this holiday season, as are all-occasion dresses or “special occasion dresses” featuring sequins, velvet, or mixed fabrics.
Looking to 2019, activewear that can be worn all day, not just at the gym, is attracting sales. “The hottest trend is mixing things like Adidas yoga pants with a leather jacket, or private label sweaters with activewear and a fur jacket,” she says. Colorful leggings with oversized sweaters, large logos on shoes or T-shirts, and the perennial favorite, anything denim, remain the store’s most popular items.
Circling back to job satisfaction, she highlights the Macy’s Foundation and the $35,000 her downtown store has donated to local nonprofits. Although she has no immediate plans to retire, Padilla-Angel looks forward to someday writing a book about how to balance working and parenting. “I’d say to women that they shouldn’t be hard on themselves. There are funny stories about the early years that I laugh about with my kids now. When kids get older, you realize you were very present in their lives.”