Marci Carl, director of real estate for Crate and Barrel, has retail running in her blood. She grew up with parents who had retail stores and were in the furniture business. Carl remembers sitting around the dinner table and talking about work and deal making with her dad, who died when she was young. She remembers listening to him negotiate and answering the house phone to relay that day’s sales to her dad across the room.
Now, Carl lives in Northbrook with her husband Adam Carl and their 9-year-old and 12-year-old daughters. She spends a lot of time with her family and they escape to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin to enjoy being outside and on the water when they can.
Carl’s childhood set her up to thrive in the retail leasing industry. She loved deal making, math and everything about the retail industry. As far as figuring out her career path, Carl said she had to do that on her own since there wasn’t a straightforward track at the time. At the University of Wisconsin she received a bachelors degree in business administration and began working at General Growth Properties.
There she worked with Laurie Pawley who didn’t hesitate “throwing her straight into the fire,” as a test to see if Carl could really sell. At GGP Carl worked hard to prove herself. One of her first assignments was leasing the carts kiosk and temporary space—barely anyone had credit or spoke English but Carl worked hard to be successful. When Carl was put under Pawley, she learned a lot about merchandising, setting up shopping centers and luxury leasing. Luxury retail is one of the hardest and complicated type of retailers because those tenants don’t have to rush and can be very picky, but Carl loved the challenge.
After her 11 year run at GGP she then moved on to Bucksbaum Retail Properties for more than five years. Carl exclusively leased the 1-million-square-feet NEW CITY development which includes retailers such as Arc Light Cinemas, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mariano’s and Sak’s Off 5th. Now, Carl oversees all of Crate and Barrel’s retail and, although its a change, she loves working on this side of the business.
“At Crate I get to see the big picture of what retailers deal with and I get to be invested and focused on one company. I’m learning a lot about the store, design, distribution and how the customer experiences our company,” said Carl.
She also pointed out that the needs of retailers like Crate have changed dramatically. She spends a lot of time with the research, architecture and construction departments to learn all the ways consumer behaviors are changing. That helps Carl figure out what each store location needs to be successful.
For example, Crate needs a lot of back of house space because customer’s will order furniture online and pick up in the store. The retailer needs to accommodate the stock for the store and also have a place for online orders. The store layout is important as well and making sure there is a good mix of product upfront ensures that customers are aware Crate and Barrel isn’t just a housewares company—it’s a furniture store too.
All this information is important because it determines what size, location and other aspects make a store successful. At any given time, about a third of Crate’s leases across the country are expiring or up for renewal so Carl is incredibly busy making sure all 90 locations are worthwhile for the company.
What she loves about her job is being able to dive into all aspects of retail and learn so much more about the business. Early on in her career it was easy to be deal hungry, now she gets to slow down and completely “nerd out” on supply chain and why each decision is made. Carl is responsible for every lease Crate has, so she also steps outside of retail, taking care of corporate office and industrial leases.
At the end of the day, Carl separates herself from the mainstream by having an honest, deep-rooted passion for the industry.
“I feel like I’ve reach a point in my life where I’ve come full circle, now that I’m in a similar business as my dad. The larger picture here is I’m part of a family, people are happy to furnish a home and start a life and it’s an exciting thing to work for a company that can cultivate that experience,” Carl said.