A Woman with Purpose: Manuela Beer

A Woman with Purpose: Manuela Beer

Manuela Beer is a passionate fashion connoisseur. Even in her youth, she was inspired by international fashion magazines, drew her own designs, and traveled to Italy to buy fabrics. As the woman at the helm of PKZ, Switzerland's oldest fashion store, she has been demonstrating since 2014 how brick-and-mortar fashion retail retains its relevance even in times of omnipresent online shopping. She invites customers to fashion nights, offers styling workshops, refreshes the product range and, as CEO, bucks the trend by investing in new stores, such as the 1,400 square-meter PKZ Men Store that has just opened at Zurich's Löwenplatz.

Manuela Beer is a true Woman with Purpose, passionate about the future of retail and shaping a corporate culture that empowers women in all their facets.

PKZ is celebrating its 140th birthday this year. Which milestone makes you particularly proud and what are your wishes for the future?
For me, there is no single milestone that I am particularly proud of. Rather, it is the "total package", the long history of PKZ, which we can successfully continue to tell 140 years after its founding - for past and future generations. With 40 stores and a successful online store, PKZ is now the leading independent fashion house in Switzerland. My wish for the future is that we continue to give our customers a lot of pleasure with our fashion and that even more young people become aware of PKZ's wide range of labels.

Despite a declining retail market, you are investing in its future. Your plea for brick-and-mortar retail?
I am generally a person who always thinks in terms of possibilities. Although our online store is very popular and growing immensely, I am convinced that the need for a "live" shopping experience on site will actually increase in the future. The more digital the world becomes, the more we long for analog experiences. Consciously taking time, choosing clothes in beautiful surroundings, exchanging ideas with your best friend in the fitting room - all of this arouses emotions that cannot be retrieved digitally. At PKZ, personal advice and the experience inside the stores are an important USP. For me, success lies in the connection of online and offline, which is why I rely on an omni-channel strategy.

Personally, which store concepts have fascinated you recently - apart from PKZ?
Above all, smaller boutique concepts that are lovingly tailored to their target group, with food and lifestyle offerings that complement the shopping experience.

Why are there still so few women at the top of fashion companies?
We have many women in PKZ's management; in general, there are more female managers in fashion than in other industries. However, as far as top management is concerned: Here, as in other companies, women still face the challenge of balancing family and a top position. Unfortunately. I hope that the framework conditions will be adapted in the near future so that there are more development opportunities for women.

What is the most important leadership lesson you have learned in your career?
The fact that employees are crucial to the success of a company - that is why a good management style is central. This includes individually adapting it to the industry, the area, and the respective people. Motivated employees who have a purpose make the difference!

What advice would you give your younger self, or current female graduates, regarding your career?
Don't chase your career too doggedly. Enjoying your work automatically leads to a high level of commitment - and that in turn leads to promotions. Nevertheless, you should have clear ideas about the direction you want to take. And be well organized when it comes to balancing family and career.

What role does courage play in your job as (female) CEO and how has it helped you get to where you are today?
Of course, nothing works without courage. Nevertheless, I prefer a calculated risk. It is important to combine courage with know-how, passion, and a great commitment, because no pain, no gain...

Fashion and courage. How bold can a CEO's wardrobe be?
I love fashion and always look forward to the new trends that I like to try out. Still, fashion has to be appropriate for my type and age, and for me as CEO, it also has to be occasion specific. I dress differently for a meeting with the Board of Directors than for our Fashion Night. That is the beauty of fashion: it underlines personality and is a non-verbal communication tool.

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