Amos has a chat with Nicole Tretwer, former Head of Logistics Services, APAC for Swarovski. Nicole shares on how omnichannel marketing affects supply chain and how Swarovski’s logistics teams keeps up with their marketing team. Amos and Nicole also speak on women and gender diversity in the logistics and supply chain industry. Nicole speaks on how the hiring process is a biased process, how organizations can counter this bias, and how women can make themselves more visible as a leader.
You’re listening to Supply Chain Leader Series, the show where we speak to leaders in the supply chain and logistics industry on industry-specific innovation, trends, and business models.
Amos Tay 0:18
Welcome to Single Steps, a podcast initiative by Hatch Asia Consulting.
My name is Amos, managing partner and practice leader for the logistics and supply chain sector. I co-host Single Steps with my wonderful colleagues where we discover talented individuals within each sector and discuss their career journey.
Today on our Supply Chain Leader Series, I’m delighted to have Nicole Tretwer from Swarovski, head of logistics services for the Asia Pacific region. Today’s episode is a very unique one for me— my very first female logistics leader. I have always wanted to balance out my guests in terms of gender diversity, but it has been far from easy. I’m lucky today to have with us Nicole who will share valuable insights about the logistics and supply chain industry while giving us a glimpse of a career in this sector so far. Nicole has lived and worked across four continents and seven countries from central America to Northeast China.
Nicole, warm welcome to Single Steps.
Nicole Tretwer 1:19
Thank you, Amos. Thank you so much for having me.
Amos Tay 1:21
I remember this first Swarovski pen that I received as a gift. I’m not too sure if you know, that’s like one of the most popular item and I always associate Swarovski with a female product. But only after I received the pen, I realized the significance of it and I- ever since then I’ve been walking into the store checking out new items myself.
Nicole Tretwer 1:47
Yes. No, no. I mean we are- I mean, yes. I think in some cases we are, because of the jewelry perceived as a female brand. But I mean, it is just so much more. It’s of course, our beautiful crystal figurines, one- or some of them, are really in the upper, upper price segment because there’s just so much work and crafting going into these pieces. But there’s also accessories for your phone, for your wallets, for your keychains. So it’s really a crystallized world out there that you can really enjoy, both male and female.
Amos Tay 2:19
I always see luxury retail as a very interesting industry. I mean, the reason why I say that it’s because you have a hybrid of customers. Some customers who already know your brand, they have an affiliation with it, they know what they want, they know what they want to buy, they go online buy it. There will be another set of customers who say, “I want to see it. I want to feel it before I make that decision of buying” So that translate to a very omnichannel kind of marketing strategy for e-commerce. I’m not too sure how Swarovski is adopting it, or based on your experience, how do you see e-commerce being able to have a place with brick and mortar coming and play it together within the sector?
Nicole Tretwer 3:04
Yes, so absolutely. I mean, I think one of the beauties of Swarovski is that we have a hundred and twenty-five year heritage, right? So we have hundred and twenty-five years of people, of customers who know us, who love us, right, who are very familiar with the product. So in that case, of course going online and just knowing the product and having that confidence that what you are buying is really very crafty quality, it’s not too much of an issue. In terms of getting new customers, yes, that’s definitely a challenge if you don’t have the brick and mortar. And this is where you need to leverage off the technology, right? So it’s of course very difficult to capture the sparkle of crystals in a virtual reality or augmented reality. But we’re really working on that forefront to really go digital that you can try on your jewelry online, offline and have a very, very similar experience in that area. It will always be a mix of brick and mortar and online. I think you need to give people that space to experiment and to experience what the brand is about to tell you a story. For this, the stores and in this case, our Instant Wonder Stores are really key for people to come in, and to play. And then give them the opportunity to make their purchase wherever they are. On their phone, in the store, wherever, on Instagram, wherever they have access to our products and then to service them from a logistics point of view.
Amos Tay 4:36
Right. So this is where Swarovski deem as a conversation with their customer, allowing them to talk to their customer. We have seen a lot of ecommerce platform running different ideas on pushing up their product to customers, for example, live shows. We have seen probably Swarovski tapping on digital fashion show that will allow them to showcase new product, for example. That translate to a very challenging logistics constraint, right? Primarily because if you have a live show going on, and then you have a product showcase, and suddenly everybody say, “Okay, I want to buy. When can I buy? When’s the launching?” Where do you then think that e-commerce logistics would play from a competitive edge perspective?
Nicole Tretwer 5:27
Yeah. I think- and this is the part you know where you can make the key, right? You need to look at what are the customer expectations in regards to lead time. You need to think about where to place your inventory in the smartest way, in the smartest location so that you can fulfill your orders in a rather speedy manner. And then you of course need to set up your teams, your warehousing operations teams in a way that you can also handle those peaks, right? So if you have, for example, a show and then suddenly, you know that you’re showcasing certain products, right? So you need to make sure that you’re not running out of stock when those online orders come in in a peak, and that you have enough people, temporary or experienced people, that you can pull across from other areas to fulfill those orders in the swiftest way, right? So where we are- we have a very big commitment to fulfilling the orders that come in- in the fastest possible way. So we really aim to fulfill within the same day, if not the very next day; and it’s out on the road or out on the airplane or out on the ship; and to make sure that our product reaches then the customer in the fastest possible way.
Amos Tay 6:38
So Nicole, we know that omnichannel has been an important aspect of a brand that reaches out to customers. I think you share earlier on about the lead time customer expectations. It’s also a very debatable topic in retail to simplify and improve the customer buying experience. How does this affect supply chain in your opinion?
Nicole Tretwer 6:59
I think it just makes us need to react quicker to wherever a demand happens geographically, right? And this requires a very close collaboration with the different countries that we’re servicing to be aware about any shows, any events that they’re planning, right? So it’s a- it’s a lot about close communication and collaboration with those- with the sales teams, with the marketing teams, so that we are aware and are able to cater to those demands.
Amos Tay 7:29
Right. So Nicole this year has been a very good year for the logistics sector. I think it’s been busy. At the same time, we have also seeing a lot of companies coming in to talk about gender diversity, inclusions in their hiring policy. UPS led with the example. They have recently announced Michelle Ho as the newly appointed president for the APAC region, becoming its first female president. I think that’s good news. At the same time, within- I think after a week of the announcement, we saw DB Schenker appointed Ong Siew-Wei as the new CEO and president of Schenker-Seino Co. in Japan and also CEO of DB Schenker’s Northeast Asia Cluster.
What do you think about the industry now moving towards the direction of having more gender diversity? And what are some of the challenges you think companies are facing when they’re hiring or when they’re appointing their first female leaders?
Nicole Tretwer 8:28
Yeah. So I mean, Amos, this is of course, fantastic, fantastic news for women in supply chain, right? So we have here two trailblazers taking on very, very exposed roles in supply chain as females. So I’m very, very happy about these news, right. But, I mean, overall, you’re right. We have a problem in supply chain and getting women into supply chain. And the reasons for that are several, right?
But I think we all need to start by looking at redesigning our hiring processes, our talent development processes. So I think- I am sure you know about this, Amos. But many people are not aware about this inherent bias we have against women in supply chain or against women in leadership roles. And this is for both males and females, right? So when I go into an interview process as a candidate, as a female, and I am interviewed, and I’m in the running against other male candidates, I actually come in already with a disadvantage.
So it’s really important- and there are studies out there on how you can remove those biases from the hiring, from the candidate selection process to begin with, right? So there’s several studies. One of them, for example, says you should make sure that your interviewing candidates are at least you know, at least two female candidates should be in that candidate pool for your interviewing process. That removes bias, right? You should always push your HR, your recruiter to find more female candidates because of that disadvantage that females come in. So you just start this by levelling the playing field, right? And then another problem is, the job postings usually are wish lists of, you know, 20 things the candidate should do from, you know, flying to the moon to, you know, redesigning the supply chain. So, of course, females tend not to apply if they don’t tick every single box on that job posting. So you already have another roadblock on the way to be having a female candidate in the interview process.
So you see, there’s lots of things we can do and we should do, right? And I think this, these two nominations are, of course, a step in the right direction. And I hope it exposes the many, many more women that are working in supply chain, right. But we do need to do more in that area.
Amos Tay 11:06
Yeah. I have to agree with you because based on my experience and interactions with both gender during an interview process or selection process, the mentality of going forward is very different. We’re now seeing more women coming out like yourself, being more visible in the market, socially, online, for example, because you don’t just represent yourself. And many times, when you’re out there, you also represent your company, the brand. You can be an influence to bring new blood into the organization. That’s how I see the non-traditional way of recruiting now.
But then, again, I get a lot of roadblocks. When I invite a female guest to come on a podcast, I get more rejections than male. More than often, it’s not that I don’t want to balance out my guests. But more than often or more often than not, I get rejected. I don’t know why. But maybe you can share your perspective on how women can stand out, be more visible and, you know, within the sector. And that- that’s not just about branding.
Nicole Tretwer 12:11
Amos Tay 12:12
It’s about making the industry more prominent and encourage more gender diversity to come and join us.
Nicole Tretwer 12:22
Yes. So now you’re touching on a very, very important subject there, Amos, right? Women in supply chain and their visibility and their willingness to become visible. So I would say now, with my work experience that I’ve had so far, when you are the odd one out, one of the easiest ways is to keep your head down so not to be so prominent, right. And in the past, I think this is how we have dealt with, you know, being the only woman in a room with 40 men sitting at the table. So you are trying to adapt but, you know, not trying to stand out. The moment you start speaking and you start speaking up, you are standing out so you’re exposing yourself. And I think it’s very, very important that women in supply chain start to stand out more. We have a few very, very prominent women in the network globally, which is fantastic. But at the end of the day, if for 100 men working in supply chain only— sorry, 100 people working in supply chain, there are only 10 females and then out of those 10 females only one takes the baton and stands up and says, “Hello, I’m a woman in supply chain. And yes, I can talk supply chain,” then of course it will look like there’s very few women around right? So it’s very, very important to encourage women. And same as you Amos, whenever I am on a panel as a moderator or as a panellist or- I always look what’s the diversity rate and I try to push females in my network to come and talk.
I started my speaking career in 2019- that was the first time. And the reason for that was I was just tired of only men talking about supply chain, right? So I have to say it is very challenging and it takes courage to stand out there, and be loud and noisy, and, you know, to have an opinion. But after a while, it just becomes, you know, second nature. So it’s really about taking that first step. Make yourself visible on LinkedIn. Contribute actively with your own posts on supply chain topics. Have an opinion, and some people will not agree with you. And that is okay because this is how we start conversations right? So we should not be afraid to just be prominent and out there, and just make it more visible and also more attractive for the next generation moving in.
We need to show people that supply chain has changed. It is not the traditional warehouse, trucking, and spreadsheets. We’re undergoing a digital transformation supply chain. There’s jobs out there that were not there five, six years ago. We have analytics, sustainability, you know. We’re disrupting. We have network designs, you know. There are so many different jobs in supply chain that people may not even realize are out there and very, very exciting jobs. So yeah, show people that supply chain has changed. It’s also very important.
Amos Tay 15:31
I think it’s a very good insight that we hear from you today, Nicole. Time passes so fast. It’s a very good conversation. It gives me a lot of different perspective. I would love to have more women leaders from the supply chain sector coming forward and that I can speak with and exchange ideas with. Thank you so much for spending your morning with me and I hope to catch up with you again, Nicole.
Nicole Tretwer 15:54
Thank you so much Amos. It was a great discussion. Thank you.
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