Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2007


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The View from the Top

The View from the Top

From a buyer for Bloomingdale´s to the Vice Chairman of Federated Department Stores, Susan D. Kronick ´73 rose to the top echelons of retailing.

by David Treadwell

Sue Kronick´s journey to the peak of the retail world included a passage to India — but before that important detour, it began in a classroom at Connecticut College.

Today, Kronick is vice chairman of Federated Department Stores, a retailing powerhouse with $27 billion in annual sales. The CEOs of its eight department store divisions — operating under the nameplates of Macy´s and Bloomingdale´s — all report to her. On April 30, Parsons The New School for Design gave the alumna a major award (Oscar de la Renta was the presenter) for her support of rising American fashion designers. Not surprisingly, Kronick is someone who can tell you exactly what choices led her where she is today.

“I came to Connecticut College because I wanted a liberal arts education, a multiple lens with which to look at the world. I was going to major in sociology, but then a friend who was a year older — Ann Lopatto — suggested I take a course in the history of India from Ed Brodkin. He was fantastic, a great story-teller, so I majored in Asian Studies,” says Kronick from her spacious, yet unpretentious, Miami office.

Early in her senior year, Kronick discovered that she had enough credits to graduate early. “I decided that I wanted to visit the places that I had been studying, so I convinced my father that I´d learn more by going to India than staying on at CC.”

Kronick went to India where she spent several months with Lopatto, who was there on a Watson Fellowship. “I learned an important, although obvious, lesson very early on in India: The way you see a solution to a problem has a lot to do with your vantage point. I also became inspired by the luscious richness of India´s colors, smells, food, art, music, languages and ideas. It made me insatiably curious and interested in how others see the world. Fundamentally, I grew up. The trip ignited my self-confidence and my ability to listen and appreciate others with very divergent points of view and lifestyles.”

On her return to the States, Kronick took a job as an executive trainee with Bloomingdale´s, the first step in her 33-year retailing career. “The retail gene is in my DNA,” says Kronick, whose father, Albert M. Kronick, was CEO of Abraham and Strauss, the Brooklyn department store. She spent 20 years rising through the ranks at Bloomingdale´s. During that time she made many buying trips to India. “India is a tough place to do business. You have to keep probing to develop good business relationships. I learned how to listen to different viewpoints by studying the same problem through the history, literature, art and dance prisms at Connecticut College.”

Before arriving at her current position with Federated Department Stores, Kronick followed a career path that led to Rich´s (now Macy´s South) in Atlanta as president and then to Burdines (now Macy´s Florida) in Miami as CEO. She works out of her office in Miami rather than in New York City, where she spends one quarter of her time, because she didn´t want her husband, who has his own busy career, to make yet another move.
When describing the rewards of her job, Kronick particularly highlights the successes of the employees she has mentored. “When people tell me that something I said to them made a big difference in their careers, it gives me goose bumps.”

In her not-so-spare time, Kronick enjoys the ballet, working out and travel. “You earn no badge for being a workaholic. In the very end, no one will remember that you beat the business plan by five percent.”

She finds retirement difficult to envision but says she´d like to learn new things, such as scuba diving or speaking Spanish. “And I´ll do something on the give-back side,” she adds. Kronick is modest about her extensive community service, including having served on the boards of the United Way, YMCA and Exodus Cities and Schools for at-risk children.

The executive´s mother, Emeritus Trustee Joan Jacobson Kronick ´46, recalls that her daughter has always been looking for excitement, something she has now found in her career.

“What´s wonderful about Sue,” says her mother, “is that she is still who she always was — totally without pretension. She´s a fabulous daughter and a wonderful friend.”

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