Peer Perspective: Judy Rancour, Saint Louis Zoo
Director of Retail Operations, Saint Louis Zoo
Incoming board president, Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group (ZAG)
What is your professional background?
My retail background started in 1981 in St. Louis, at the now defunct Stix Baer and Fuller department store. An acquisition in 1983 by Dillard’s Department Store gave me the opportunity to join their executive training program. For the next 28 years, I called Dillard’s my home and held various roles including buyer, divisional merchandise manager, and product development manager. It was an exciting place to be and offered many opportunities in a variety of product categories including junior sportswear, seasonal swim and outerwear, ladies apparel and young men’s.
In 2011, I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to work with a regional department store chain called Gordman’s, where I was the vice president of sales for accessories, children’s and cosmetics. In 2014, the (Saint Louis) Zoo offered me the opportunity to return full time to St. Louis and it has been a fun-filled adventure in the gift and souvenir business!
What do you enjoy most about what you?
The best thing about the retail business is the great people you meet in the stores, at market and while networking with other institutions. The workdays are varied with something unexpected always popping up!
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve received is “Lead by example.” In order to foster a strong team, we have to be willing to pitch in and help in both the easy and tough situations.
What do you look for when searching for new products?
I’m always looking for something that stops me in my tracks — new, different or simply unique. A good message is important, but items that sell themselves are critical.
What’s the best part of being a member of ZAG?
ZAG is the go-to group for answering new buyer questions, getting referrals on specific items or categories, meeting other member institutions and providing aid and support to member buyers.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have two grandchildren who get the bulk of my free time!