CEOs Talk About Their 2015 Outlook

As they head into 2015, U.S.-based CEOs wonder if the economic glass is half-empty or half-full both in the United States and around the world. And for the first time since the Great Recession, their collective expectations for the New Year tip toward steady growth and a smoother path for doing business despite lingering questions about the strength of economic recovery.

Not since 2007 have American CEOs held a rosier net view of the near-term future.

“I think the glass is half-full,” said Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, the fast-growing casual restaurant chain. “But we’ve been through five tough years, and it’s definitely still sitting right at the halfway mark.”

The biggest potential hiccup CEOs see? “Geopolitical craziness that would shut down entire markets to us if people get nervous,” said Bob Paul, CEO of Compuware.

Annually, Chief Executive magazine talks with a handful of CEOs, diversified by size, industry and geography, about their outlooks. This year’s group includes a wide swath of notable consumer and business-to-business companies. We asked them three questions: What is in your crystal ball for your company and your industry for the year ahead? What is your outlook for the U.S. and global economies? And what issue or challenge are you most concerned about? Here are synopses of what they said.

Kathryn-BufanoWooing the Net-Conscious Shopper
Kathryn Bufano, CEO, Bon-Ton Stores

The economy is steadily improving but not as quickly as everyone would like. In the middle of the country, unemployment rates have improved in most markets, and—hopefully—our business will see an uptick in 2015. Also, if you look at how
shopping and GDP plummeted last winter because of poor weather, we should see the benefit in the first quarter in terms of relative performance.

We’ll benefit from some general lifts. Our home business right now is pretty strong. Gasoline prices have been falling on a relative basis, and that frees up money and helps consumer spending.

But the retailing business is evolving; and in the department-store sector, the influence of e-commerce and the Internet is very strong. So we’re initiating an “omni-channel” initiative called “Let us find it,” [so that] when a customer is in our store and wants an item, we’ll find it via Internet from anywhere within our store footprint or e-commerce and get it to her. Plus, everyone is competition now, not just department stores. So, we have to be very aggressive in terms of wooing and holding on to our consumer and making it exciting to shop in our stores.

Headquartered in Milwaukee and York, Pennsylvania, the company operates 273 stores in 26 states and had fiscal-2013 revenues of $2.8 billion.


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