People to Watch 2021: Jessica Jaeger

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05/04/2021

Jessica Jaeger

Company: Scotts Miracle-Gro

Title: Director of Sales for Walmart

Age: 35

Education: Penn State University (bachelor’s, marketing; minor in economics)

a woman smiling for the camera
Jessica Jaeger

Jessica Jaeger had business acumen from a very early age, having used all of her chore money to buy office supplies and then work role playing with her sister. She took her first job at 15 because she wanted to, not because she had to.

After graduating from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business with a degree in marketing, she started working at Dick’s Sporting Goods in the retailer’s merchant training program. It was a very competitive but very well organized yearlong program that sets people up for success, she says. “The foundation of my success was definitely built from that.”

Jaeger became an assistant buyer for baseball at the retailer, a position she held for two years. She then continued her merchant career at Big Lots for two years before joining start-up Zulily in a satellite office, starting as a buyer for several different categories and then moving into merchandising. She spent nearly seven years there, ultimately working on macro-level strategic initiatives and making Zulily the destination for online shopping for women.

At the end of 2019, Jaeger joined Scotts Miracle-Gro as a business development manager in e-commerce. An avid gardener, she quickly became passionate about the company’s product line. Her responsibilities included sales and marketing support for key retailer partners including The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and Target, with the goals of optimizing product assortments and educating shoppers about the portfolio to drive purchases, whether in-store or online.

“I work[ed] closely with internal and external teams to make sure Scotts Miracle-Gro is top-of-mind for the customer shopping cycle,” she says, adding that being in this position when the COVID-19 pandemic hit was exciting. “Every dream we ever shared with retailers ... they were forced to expedite, and we wanted to be partners to support them.”

Jaeger was recently promoted to director of sales for Walmart, managing store and online sales.

With an estimated 21 million new gardeners created by the pandemic, e-commerce has become a stronger focus at the company, Jaeger says. “We have all kinds of amazing data for some of these new customers who never bought online before and [we] supply them with targeted products we know they will want or need to buy based on things they’ve purchased in the past,” she explains. “The speed our retailers showed to support their customers was an amazing thing to witness. We had retailers transition from all purchasing activity happening in-store, to developing infrastructure to allow for curbside pickup with no employee interaction.”

As things move back to the “new normal,” she knows retailers will never be the same. “Customers expect more, they want their shopping experience to be easier, better, faster – and I will be there to support Scotts Miracle-Gro in this.”

Jaeger has a proven track record of learning new businesses, finding white space, solving complex issues and executing solid strategies while exceeding financial and profitability goals, but she says her greatest pleasure has been developing her teams. “There is no greater success than watching someone else succeed and creating bench strength for the company.”

As BOPIS and curbside experiences continue to grow, physical stores will still remain the hub of fulfillment, she predicts, and she sees the space becoming more optimized to support this evolution. “This space could also be used for mini-store shipping hubs to be close, quicker and cheaper to deliver to the customer.”

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