Sandra Campos is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who moved to Texas to open a tortilla factory. Campos and her five other siblings spent her childhood helping their parents pack tortillas in the warehouse after school and observing everything: product development, pricing, production, packaging, distribution, and more. Now, she is the copresident of women’s apparel for Global Brands Group Holdings LLC (GBG), one of the world’s leading branded apparel, footwear, and fashion accessories companies. Campos attributes much of her success in retail to her upbringing, which taught her valuable lessons about not only work ethic but also understanding the consumer. “Regardless of what the product is, you have to give consumers what they want to spend money on,” Campos says.
Campos has built her twenty-year career on managing some of the world’s most recognizable global fashion and consumer lifestyle brands, as well as starting her own celebrity brand management company that launched Selena Gomez’s brand. Her current roster at Global Brands Group includes Juicy Couture, Bebe, Buffalo, Tretorn, and BCBG. Campos spoke with Hispanic Executive about her passion for retail, her role at the highly inclusive and entrepreneurial Global Brands Group, and staying one step ahead of an industry in a state of rapid evolution.
How has being a first-generation Hispanic American impacted your career?
Like many first-generation Americans, it’s about work ethic, a drive to succeed, and being a leader. Coming from a diverse background has also encouraged me to try to help others and make a difference, whether it’s through volunteering or mentoring others. I’ve also been very sensitive to diversity and the need for inclusiveness.
Why were you attracted to the retail industry?
I always made my own clothes, for myself and for my siblings growing up. In college, my friend and I would make dresses and sell them to girls in our sorority. I was always attracted to color and pattern, and in college, I started taking classes focused on that. My first internship was at a Dallas apparel manufacturer and from there I moved into sales at J G Hook, and then into sales for companies including Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. Retail was a natural transition for me into something I’d always loved.
What drew you to Global Brands Group?
I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. I was attracted to GBG because it brings together so many talented, smart entrepreneurs who built amazing, successful businesses before selling them to GBG. This focus gave me confidence in being able to use my entrepreneurial experience to shape my position while growing with the company. Working for GBG is having the benefit of entrepreneurship with the resources and support of a large, global organization.
What about Global Brand Group’s company culture speaks most to you or is impressive to you?
GBG is a culture of innovation. Retail has changed and it’s going to continue to change, and GBG is at the forefront. For example, we are rethinking everything from product delivery, to how we market it to consumers and beyond, whether it is the “store of the future” or targeted, experiential in-store environments, we are looking to engage consumers in new and different ways. Every part of a brand should create community, and respond to how consumers are living the brand you are creating.
The culture at GBG is also extremely diverse. We bring together people from all over the world who come together to focus on every aspect of the business. Also, GBG’s multiple offices around the globe give people opportunities to work across different brands and portfolios. It’s inspiring and empowering.
“I’m focused on how GBG can build more profitable brands within each territory in a way that is meaningful and suited to the unique needs of our customers there.”
What are you focused on at Global Brands Group? Where would you make the most impact?
My challenge is ensuring we are delivering product that is innovative, unique, and defines the attributes of each brand. In some cases, that means becoming more direct-to-consumer like independent brands. In others, it is about considering the different cultural and lifestyle needs of customers across the globe. For example, a customer in the Middle East has much different needs in terms of lifestyle, income, climate, fabrics, and colors, for example, than someone in Latin America or Asia. I’m focused on how GBG can build more profitable brands within each territory in a way that is meaningful and suited to the unique needs of our customers there.
The industry has been undergoing constant changes. How do you keep up with so many changes?
In this industry, you need to be curious and have an ability to educate yourself, particularly on your target customer. I’m constantly reading and traveling. Social media has become a huge part of my research as well, and I am actively following bloggers, important international media, and celebrities that help me understand what is happening in each territory and what people are reacting to. People are more about experiences as opposed to acquiring items.
How important is it for retailers and brands to understand different cultures? How does it contribute to their success?
Since GBG is internationally focused, it is critical that we understand and can differentiate between different climates and cultures around the world. I went to Russia a year ago in September, and it was absolutely freezing. It turns out we were not offering items that were warm enough. I looked in stores at what people were buying in September, and it was heavy leggings with fleece linings, heavier fabrics, and outerwear, and styles for girls that included leggings under everything. Compare Russia against the Middle East where it’s 104 degrees in May and they only buy very light, bright colors, and you see the importance of understanding different global audiences and what they are buying at the same time. Even different parts of the same region can prove challenging. In China, for example, while some provinces are cold, Hong Kong can be muggy.
What do you see as some of your biggest professional and personal wins during your career?
I’m very proud of being able to build something successful as an entrepreneur and then transitioning smoothly back to the corporate world. Selena Gomez was fifteen years old when we approached her to build her lifestyle brand, and it was a big win. It was an uphill battle to convince the industry she would have longevity, but we were right. I’m also very proud of being able to identify with businesses and brands and grow and transform them. Much of this success I can attribute to being able to use a left-brain, right-brain approach to problem-solving, as well as my broad experience across many industry categories. I like to think I push people to be more innovative and ahead of the game, also.
How would you advise Hispanic Americans interested in careers in retail on how to be successful?
First and foremost, you must be passionate about the industry, as well as curious with a willingness to learn everything you can about your product and customer. It helps to spend time on retail floors doing customer service and sales. This builds appreciation for the product and an ability to understand its end use for the consumer. You should also learn who your consumer is, find out what he or she is following socially and what is important culturally. Lastly, you should look for the white space—an opportunity to have an impact by developing a new idea or improving on something that can be done better.