A way forward: Old Navy general manager finds limitless opportunity in retail

When we met Garrett Ledbetter in 2015, he was a full-time student at Indiana University while holding down a full-time position at Macy’s. It was not surprising to anyone when this curious and talented young man was honored as a finalist for the NRF Foundation’s Next Generation Scholarship and found a leadership role in retail quickly after graduating. Just a few years out of college, Ledbetter is now a general manager for Old Navy, overseeing 40 brand associates. We chatted with Ledbetter to learn more about his retail career path, how he’s already shaping retail’s next generation of talent and what the industry means to him today.

Tell us about your job.

I am a general manager for Old Navy in South Bend, Ind. I’ve been in this role for about five months, and I’m absolutely loving the journey. Our company was founded on the principle of doing more than just selling clothes, and it’s very evident in all we do. It’s incredibly empowering to work for a company that’s set out to change the world through our positioning in the retail space.

In my current role, I oversee about 40 brand associates, and I spend almost all my time coaching and developing them to their potential. It’s very motivating for me to get out of bed each day and be the best leader I can be. My team is almost entirely high school and college students, and I get the opportunity to help set them on a path to success — whether they choose to stay in retail or not. I’m a firm believer that retail jobs give everyone skills they need for the rest of their lives.

“I’m a firm believer that retail jobs give everyone skills they need for the rest of their lives.”

Garrett Ledbetter

What has been the highlight of your retail career thus far?

The highlight of my career so far has been joining Old Navy and becoming a store manager for the first time. Becoming a store manager has always been a short-term goal of mine, and I honestly didn’t expect it to come so soon after graduating college. It’s been a really cool experience developing a high-performance store through coaching and developing associates.

Old Navy is a dream company to work for. I recently just got back from Austin, Texas, for our annual general manager conference, and it’s evident why Old Navy keeps winning. The culture is unparalleled, and we are a company who truly lives and breathes our values of fashion, family, fun and value. I can’t imagine working for a better company. 

What do you enjoy most about working in retail?

It’s such a dynamic industry that’s based on evolutionary problem solving. We’re all trying to satisfy our customers’ needs, and those needs change on almost a daily basis. It’s a lot of fun for me to lead the transformation in how we think about retail.

There aren’t many industries where you gain so much responsibility right off the bat. In my first role, just out of college, I was responsible for almost $7 million in annual revenue and in charge of a team of 25. In retail, you get placed into an environment where you have to learn and figure things out very quickly to be successful. For me, retail is a synonym for opportunity. If you grab the bull by the horns, there’s no limit to your successes. 

I also really enjoy the bigger picture behind what retail means to our nation. Retail offers opportunity to all, and there’s no better place to discover what you’re great at and what your contribution to the world will be. I recently saw a picture that [NRF Foundation President] Ellen Davis posted from Uganda highlighting a jewelry company that provided a loan to one of their workers, who then opened a crushed peanut shop at their market. To me, this is what retail is all about. Retail is a way forward when no other path exists.

A post shared by National Retail Federation (@nrf) on Jun 1, 2018 at 7:15am PDT

If you had to convince a college student to choose a career in retail, what would you tell them?

I would tell them about all the possibilities that exist within retail. Whether they want to run a store or work in finance, there’s a place in retail for them. I believe that retail offers a lot of experience right out of the gate, and it really gives students a place where they can grow every single day. The amount of opportunity that has been given to me so far is unparalleled. I can say with conviction that no other industry provides as much opportunity to grow your career as retail does. 

How have NRF Foundation programs or scholarships impacted you?

Being a Next Generation Scholarship finalist gave me a lot of access to people that I really admire and look up to. That experience helped me find clarity in exactly what I wanted to do and how to get there while helping build a network full of close friends and colleagues. Being a part of the NRF Foundation provides me with unwavering inspiration that has fueled my career. It’s also provided me opportunities to give back to Indiana University and continue to work with our next generation of talent.  

How do you hope to shape retail’s future?

My ambition is to revolutionize leadership within our industry. I strongly believe that a great leader can change someone’s life trajectory based on the attentiveness to their development. For many, retail can be a multiplier — with the right leadership, anyone can be anybody. My hope is to continue to create tomorrow’s leaders as I develop my team today.