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Kevin Blanchard – Genesco 

A shoe-in to lead Genesco’s IT 

Walk a mile in his shoes, and Kevin Blanchard will lead you to an ongoing digital transformation. 

Kevin Blanchard | Global Chief Information Officer |  Genesco 

Kevin Blanchard | Global Chief Information Officer |  Genesco

Now over 18 months in as global chief information officer of the Nashville-based global footwear retailer Genesco, he’s brought several transformative projects to closure, jump-started several others, and is gearing up for the annual long-range planning process, including establishing a set of forward-looking IT strategies. For starters, there’s the point-of-sale upgrade, a multi-year project that entailed a step-level advancement in the underlying Oracle software and new in-store hardware.  Working closely with project management, internal development teams, and various external partners,  he re-evaluated the approach and how the tasks were sequenced. The upgraded Oracle POS platform provides the capabilities & stability befitting modern commerce & a large fleet of stores. Closely related to POS has been enhanced omni-channel capabilities for customers to buy online and pick-up in store.

“It gives us the needed foundation as we work towards our store of the future within the divisions,” the friendly Blanchard tells Toggle in May. “It’s a solid platform that enables us to keep pace as the POS & mobile-POS space continues to evolve.” 

Another key initiative was the implementation of a new enterprise resource planning system supporting two Genesco divisions. For 20-plus years, Genesco had been tweaking and fine-tuning a legacy ERP that supported purchasing, planning, inventory management, and order processing.  

The ERP process is now sufficiently enhanced, with much credit due to Jesta I.S., a Montreal company whose software is a go-to for many in the retail and supply chain sectors. Jesta’s Supply Chain Management Suite now supports Genesco’s Johnston & Murphy & Genesco Branded Group divisions. Genesco also leverages Jesta’s merchandising solution for all North American-based divisions, including Journeys.   

“Jesta has been a long-running partner for Genesco and continues to support critical functions within our organization through capability enablement and innovation,” according to Blanchard. 

Genesco having nearly 1,400 stores across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland, along with a significant digital footprint, Blanchard emphasized the necessity for a modernized suite of technology. 

He’s wired 

“Technology is playing a larger and larger role in the overall user experience,” he says. “Customers expect and insist that there’s a unified experience as they move between digital and in-store interactions or through a catalog. It’s critical that we understand our customers and know who they are, what they want, and where/how they want to shop. With every passing year, technology becomes a bigger and bigger enabler of our business.” 

Kevin Blanchard | Global Chief Information Officer |  Genesco 

According to Blanchard, our customers are well-informed when they visit one of our websites or walk into a store. They’ve likely researched the brands and styles online and expect the items they want to be on display. As the lines between online and in-store shopping continue to blur, retailers must adapt and evolve. 

Blanchard sees artificial intelligence and machine learning playing a much larger role in retail going forward and says that while Genesco has an effective portfolio of current AI/ML solutions, there’s much to sort out with this rapidly evolving tech wave that, like fire, can be a useful tool or a dangerous master.  

“We’re in full-court mode as we get more organized around AI/ML and pursue additional high-value opportunities that will unleash new capabilities or enable higher levels of automation,” he says. “We’re looking to grow our AI practice but want to be smart and not just do AI/ML for AI/ML’s sake. We’ve got to be thoughtful and strategic about the opportunities we pursue that have meaningful impact and ROI”. 

With so much data collected online and in-store, they’ve got to be just as thoughtful about cybersecurity. Blanchard partners very closely with Steve Arrington, Genesco’s Chief Information Security & Privacy Officer and Deval Motka, Genesco’s VP of Data Insights, to ensure adequate tooling, monitoring, processes, and training are in place to protect the company’s critical assets and data. 

Goes with the territory 

For Blanchard, it’s all part of overseeing infotech for a global operation. He always seemed to be leaning toward it, though he got his start in banking even before enrolling at North Carolina Wesleyan University in the early 1990s to pursue a degree in business administration. Blanchard continued his studies, earning his master’s in technology management and an MBA.  

Kevin Blanchard | Global Chief Information Officer |  Genesco 

Blanchard spent fifteen years in banking and financial services, honing his IT skills at First Union Mortgage Corporation (now Wells Fargo) and Republic Mortgage Insurance Company. 

“I caught the IT bug early in my career,” he says. “It was the early days of AI in banking as automated underwriting emerged. From there, I moved through a series of larger IT roles. I knew that technology would be a big business enabler going forward.  I knew I wanted to be a CIO and had a few wonderful mentors along the way.” 

He prepped for it with senior IT roles at Hanesbrands Inc. in Winston Salem, North Carolina and David’s Bridal in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, before his first CIO role at Bassett Furniture Industries Inc., in Bassett, Virginia, in 2018. Afterward came a three-year stretch as Global CIO in Nashville, Tennessee, with SVP Worldwide (Singer, Husqvarna Viking, and Pfaff Sewing Machines) and most recently in 2023, as Global CIO with  Genesco (also based in Nashville, Tennessee), where he leads a staff of about 200 globally.  

Keeping things moving 

Busy times abound on all shores, with Blanchard immersed in a lengthy to-do list that, aside from AI and machine learning, includes the integration of U.S. and U.K. infotech. That, he says, will ensure full-value realization for global technology.  

Another focus is the continued development of a forward-looking IT strategy that will sustain Genesco’s standing in a competitive footwear market. Projects include modernizing the technology stack and application portfolio, supercharging automation, and enhancing talent and skills management. Partnering with Dayforce, he also expects a new human capital management platform to be in place for the U.K. division (schuh) later this year.   

Blanchard resides in Bradenton, Florida, but can remotely keep tabs on Genesco’s global IT operations, though he travels to Nashville weekly.      

But wired as he is, Blanchard says an organization doesn’t function on technology alone. Channeling his inner Steve Jobs, he says tech by itself is useless. People must make it work, and just as Blanchard was mentored by tech-savvy types, he counsels those under his wing. 

“As Jobs said, if you have faith in good, smart people and give them the tools, they’ll do wonderful things,” Blanchard says. 

When asked if he has other advice to share, Blanchard quotes the legendary Jedi Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” 

Published on: June 21, 2024

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