Retail isn’t dying; it’s evolving. The retail industry is transforming, driven by new technology, changing consumer behavior and bold innovators. Retail has always been in a constant state of change, and throughout all the industry’s twists and turns over the past several decades, retailers have evolved and thrived. Retail is currently a $2.6-trillion industry in the United States and drives the nation’s economy.
In retail, evolution doesn’t stop. As consumer behavior changes with every technological advancement or cultural shift, retailers must rise to meet new demands. And that means staying focused on the changing consumer.
Ghadi Hobeika is Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s (URW) chief digital officer and the CMO of U.S. operations. Hobeika specializes in marketing and e-commerce, with a strong focus on digital media, data and analytics. He is always looking for innovative avenues to optimize the customer journey and has broad experience that includes big-data approaches, predictive marketing, mobile marketing and loyalty programs.
Hobeika joined URW in December 2016 as CMO for Europe after working in European retail companies — both online and multichannel — in strategy, marketing and digital marketing roles. He also spent five years in strategy consulting at Bain & Company in Paris. Hobeika holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the American University of Beirut and an MBA from the ESSEC Business School in Paris.
Grant Barth is the founder and president of ThenWhat, a world-class brand and innovation lab that connects global partners to creatively develop client aspirations. ThenWhat’s mission is to revolutionize the fashion, apparel and consumer goods business model through connecting brands to individual values.
A fan of the Levi's® brand since childhood, Barth became the company’s chief merchandising officer in 2013, a role that gave him responsibility for global merchandising excellence across all product categories: men's, women's and kids’. An accomplished merchandiser, he brought a clear and simple point of view combined with 25 years of product experience to this role. He created and led brand strategies that propelled Levi’s to a successful initial public offering in 2019.
Barth arrived at Levi's® after 16 years with Nike, where he worked across the enterprise in a variety of categories. He credits his merchandising excellence to working for industry leaders such as Mindy Grossman. Several of Nike’s most successful initiatives resulted from his global merchandising leadership in sportswear, running, football, technical outerwear and the Olympic Games.
Barth credits his success to being able to build great international teams while utilizing simple strategies to dynamically bring products to life in the marketplace. He proudly serves as an executive sponsor for a variety of LGBT and community organizations.
Adam Goldston is the co-founder of APL and former two-sport athlete (basketball and football) at USC. Goldston was honored at the White House as part of the Empact 100, which recognizes the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35; was named to the 2015 Game Changers list by Men’s Fitness; was selected to the Forbes 30 Under 30 class in 2016 in the Retail & Ecommerce category as well as the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 20 in their 20s list; was selected to the WWD 40 Under 40 list in 2017; and the company was named most innovative brand by Men’s Health in 2017. He and his twin brother and fellow co-founder, Ryan, are the first two members of an athletic brand to be inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America, whose membership consists of America’s foremost designers. In 2019, Goldston was named to the Power 100 by Footwear News, which recognizes the most powerful people in the footwear industry globally.
APL created the first shoes to be banned by the NBA for providing the wearer with an undue competitive advantage, due to the company’s Load ’n Launch technology. This patented technology has been scientifically proven to increase vertical leap up to 3.5 inches instantly. APL pioneered the luxury-performance category, and its products have been sold in/by many of the world’s top luxury retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Shopbop, Net-a-Porter, MR PORTER, Carbon38, Le Bon Marché, Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford and many others.
APL recently opened a flagship store at The Grove in Los Angeles, and in honor of that milestone, Mayor Eric Garcetti declared October 12, 2019, as APL Day in Los Angeles. To this day, APL remains 100% independent, as the company has never had to raise outside capital.
As founder of Lunya and Lahgo, Ashley Merrill is reinventing sleepwear for modern women and men. Both brands share a simple mission: to make people feel confidently comfortable.
Beyond her entrepreneurship in sleepwear, Merrill is a principal at impact investing firm NaHCO3, where she leverages her background in venture, technology and the arts to invest in ways that utilize business to create opportunity and move humanity forward. She is also CEO and co-founder of The Deep, a media platform that makes philosophy and personal exploration accessible through thought-provoking questions and content. Both personally and professionally, she is an active supporter of organizations like Girls Inc., Upstream and United Medical Corps. She is a Southern California native and continues to reside there with her husband and their two young children.
A proven brand builder and entrepreneur with deep experience in innovative media ventures and consumer products, John Tabis is founder and CEO of The Bouqs Company. In 2012, along with co-founder Juan Pablo Montúfar, Tabis launched the Marina del Rey, California-based company, a distinguished industry leader in the online floral space that delivers flowers and plants fresh from eco-friendly, sustainable farms around the world to doorsteps nationwide.
Redefining the flower-buying experience for consumers under Tabis’ leadership, The Bouqs Company has received top recognition, including multiple features on Entrepreneur’s 360 list and being named as one of Inc.’s Top 15 Companies to Watch in 2017. Individually, Tabis has been recognized as a Techweek 100 ambassador for the L.A. Region and as a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Prior to launching The Bouqs Company, Tabis worked in corporate brand strategy at The Walt Disney Company and ShoeDazzle, as well as in management consulting at Bain & Company. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and earned his MBA, with honors, from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, where he concentrated on fellowship.
Tabis is a coveted speaker on brand strategy and startups; has appeared on numerous TV shows, including “Shark Tank,” “Access Hollywood” and “20/20”; and acts as a mentor to early-stage startups at blue-chip accelerators Techstars and Amplify.LA. He also serves as a board member for the National Association of Women Business Owners in Los Angeles and is the host of the podcast “Give’m the Biz.”
Tabis currently resides with his wife and three young children in Venice, California, where he’s likely to be seen riding his longboard to work.
James Hotson was the first employee of Retention Science, guiding it to No. 697 on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list. Hotson is now head of sales for Retention Science, the first and only autonomous artificial intelligence marketing platform. Previously, he launched the e-commerce footwear brand Tweak Footwear, which crowdsourced shoe design via YouTube videos and took design submissions on Facebook. He has written articles for Forbes to help salespeople better sell software as a service.
Amelia Thomas is the founder of Resident, a social-impact clothing company. After working in the fashion industry for nearly a decade, Thomas became frustrated with its materialistic side. During her time as an undergraduate at USC, she began working as a volunteer with the homeless population in downtown Los Angeles. She became very passionate about the issue of homelessness and wanted to make more of an impact, so she combined her two passions and launched Resident, a clothing company that gives back with every purchase, in September 2019. With a revolving donation model, each collection contributes to a different organization that is fighting to end homelessness in Los Angeles. Additionally, customers can see at checkout exactly how much of their purchase is going toward that goal. While building Resident, Thomas is pursuing her master’s degree at the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. She is also a social impact consultant and has completed homeless-oriented projects in both the public and private sectors.
Mabel Frias (’14)
Director of Site Merchandising and E-Commerce Strategy Savage X Fenty
Director of Site Merchandising and E-Commerce Strategy, Savage X Fenty
Mabel Frias is an accomplished digital merchant with more than a decade of progressive experience in merchandising/buying and e-commerce strategy at Fortune 200 companies (Macy’s and Nordstrom) and high-growth digital startups (One Kings Lane and VIOLET GRAY). In her current role as director of site merchandising and e-commerce strategy at Savage X Fenty, Lingerie by Rihanna, Frias’s focus is to leverage customer behavior and insights to inform the digital road map strategy in support of the brand's commitment to diversity and inclusivity. She is most passionate about the intersections of fashion/lifestyle and technology and how these can be leveraged to deliver great storytelling and best-in-class online customer experiences.
Mabel holds a B.A. in history from New York University and a M.A. in history of decorative arts and design offered jointly by Parsons Design School and the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution. She also completed the UCLA Anderson Riordan MBA Fellows Program.
Rob Fagnani (’15)
Head of Business Development and Operations, Formation
Head of Business Development and Operations, Formation
Rob Fagnani is a founding team member at Formation and currently leads business development and operations for the company. Fagnani has extensive experience working with executives across the consumer/retail, travel and financial services industries on utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive digital strategy, transformation and value creation.
Prior to Formation, Fagnani was a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised consumer and financial services companies on corporate strategy, M&A and marketing analytics. Additionally, he was an investor at Morgan Stanley, where he was responsible for $4 billion of credit investments for Morgan Stanley's investment funds.
Fagnani earned his MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and his bachelor’s degree from Lehigh University. He is also a CFA charterholder.
Birdie Bartholomew is the director of retail partnerships at Happy Returns, a service for shoppers and retailers that solves the number-one pain point of online shopping: returns. Happy Returns provides comprehensive return solutions for forward-thinking retailers and their customers with best-in-class returns software and reverse logistics. Shoppers enjoy multiple ways to return: in person via Happy Returns’ nationwide network of Return Bar locations, through the retailers’; own stores or by carrier. With aggregated shipping and logistics across all channels, retailers benefit by reducing their return costs and retaining revenue — all while increasing shopper loyalty and reducing their carbon footprint.
Bartholomew has been with Happy Returns for two years and spearheads the sales team. Prior to Happy Returns, she worked at Trunk Club for six years. She began her career as a top-performing stylist, and in her promotion to head of office, she was responsible for recruiting and building the first expansion office in Dallas. Her time at Trunk Club Los Angeles was spent mentoring and developing an entirely new division of its sales team.
Breakfast and Registration
Welcome and Kickoff
Korn Convocation Hall
Co-Founder and President, ThenWhat Inc.
Korn Convocation Hall
The Power of Experiential Retail
Starting at the Source: Sustainability in the Retail Supply Chain
Doing Good Is Good Business: The Motivation Behind Mission-Driven Brands
Technology and Intelligent Retail
Executive Dining Room
Founders Keynote Panel
Founder and CEO, Lunya and Lahgo
Founder and CEO, The Bouqs Company
Korn Convocation Hall
Chief Marketing Officer U.S. at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield