For Julie Magner, visiting a store has always been about more than making a purchase. It’s an experience that involves exploring products, discovering new items, and interacting with employees and other customers.
“My favorite thing is seeing a customer leave a store happy, so it was always about making people happy,” Magner explains. “That’s a great approach: everyone walks away from the store feeling great and having something awesome to wear.”
With this mindset, it makes a lot of sense that Magner has flourished in the retail world. Her successful career has culminated in her position as vice president of merchandising for Hudson’s Bay, the renowned department store chain headquartered in Ontario. In her current role, she leads the buying team and is responsible for curation and product assortment for footwear, jewelry, handbags, accessories, and intimates.
“For as long as I can remember, I always loved working in stores,” Magner shares. “I loved products and always had this leadership type of attitude.”
Her leadership skills have been paying off for her since high school, when she would quickly earn the position of evening manager at the stores where she worked.
“That’s where it all started,” Magner says. “I just loved working with customers, merchandising products, training staff, being in retail and fashion, and having fun.”
After graduating from the University of Toronto, Magner landed a job as a buyer with Holt Renfrew before joining Hudson’s Bay in the 1990s. She left to run the retail operations as well as food and beverage departments for an amusement park for five years before returning to Hudson’s Bay in 2006.
“I call myself a coach. I’m an influencer. I love for everyone to feel comfortable and have fun in what they’re doing, and I love helping them build upon their strengths and opportunities.”
In addition to business savvy, Magner has a creative side that she has applied to product development and determining how new fashions can succeed commercially.
“That was just a talent that I have and a passion I have. I love home décor, product development, marketing, and that whole part of the business,” she notes. “It’s always made me stay very close to product with my team.”
That closeness also reflects her ability to create partnerships with the people she works with.
“I call myself a coach,” Magner says. “I’m an influencer. I love for everyone to feel comfortable and have fun in what they’re doing, and I love helping them build upon their strengths and opportunities. That’s really how I see myself: as a background coach who allows each person to be the best that they can be. Their success is my success.”
Magner has high expectations for her team, as she is driven by what she calls her “make it happen” philosophy. The words “can’t” and “no” are unacceptable to her. This core principle dates back to her success in public speaking contests in school, when she was a quiet and introverted student.
“It really brought me out of my shell, and that’s when I started to learn that it doesn’t matter what fears you may have. You just have to make things happen,” she says. “I didn’t realize until later on that ‘make it happen’ was something that I always lived my life with. I don’t allow anything to hold me back.”
Magner’s accomplishments in product development also include her work with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees through Hudson Bay’s role as the official outfitter for Team Canada.
“Every time there was an Olympic Games, that was our gear that everybody was wearing on the field, during opening ceremonies, when they were getting their medals,” she notes. “When they were living in the Olympic Village, they were wearing gear we had designed for them. The end result was to make the athletes feel like winners.”
She takes particular pride in Hudson Bay’s efforts to raise $40 million through the Canadian Olympic Foundation and other organizations in support of the nation’s athletes.
Magner’s work has also allowed her to attend the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, with the latter having a great effect on her.
“That’s a whole different world,” she notes. Inspired by watching athletes with disabilities competing at the top of their game, she joined the board of directors of the Paralympic Foundation. “As you grow in your career and life, there comes a time when you want to give back, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that.”
Magner’s other great passion is her family, including her daughter Krystle and her granddaughters, Dylan and Elle.
“They are the ones who allow me to get through every day,” Magner says. “They keep me young and they force me to keep pushing myself. And we’re very fortunate to still have my mother with us, so we’re four generations of great women.”