Melissa Webster

Since 1903, Gordon Brothers Group has been a leader in the excess inventory liquidation business, primarily catering to the retail industry.

Chief Technology Officer,
Age: 49
Education: Bachelor of Arts Degree from Wellesley College
Car: Subaru Legacy Wagon
Stress reliever: Eventing. "Its sort of the triathlon of the equestrian world."

Since 1903, Gordon Brothers Group has been a leader in the excess inventory liquidation business, primarily catering to the retail industry. The rise of the Internet saw start-ups move in to try to steal its business. So, in February 2000, Gordon Brothers struck back with the help of Internet Capital Group and launched its own dot-com venture, Melissa Webster was lured away from Oracle, where she was director of client services, to help guide RetailExchanges technology rollout and manage strategic partnerships. She spoke with Section B Editor Mel Duvall.

Why did the company want an executive to be in charge of both technology and strategic partnerships?

A lot of our strategic partnerships have driven our technology. In some part, [having one executive in charge of both areas] unites the work around cobranded exchanges that weve been doing, and building our network of customers and partners.

Your background includes experience in sales and marketing. How does that help in your role as chief technology officer?

My roles up until 1993 were in technology. I was a general manager of a 50-person division [at Information Builders], building software for a living . . . so I have the technology background in my past. Also, if youve done some of every role in a software company, from delivering projects to selling to marketing, it helps you think through what your customers are telling you and make better judgment calls.

RetailExchange has been in business a year now. What is its revenue?

We dont release that, Im afraid, but its multimillion [dollars]. We do have between $200 [million] and $300 million in inventory on the site on any given day.

What are your top priorities?

Were continuing to be customer-driven in new-feature development. Were looking to improve our negotiations tools and provide better targeting of alerts. On the sell side, were looking for better ways for our sellers to highlight their goods, so the links between buyers and sellers are as strong as possible.

RetailExchange recently opened a brick-and-mortar showroom in New York City. Why?

We realized early on that customers need time to change the way they do business, and we need to help them make the transition gracefully. In the showroom, the buyer can meet with us in the heart of the garment district. They can see samples of goods, browse inventory listed on our site at computer workstations and write an order on the spot.

Why doesnt RetailExchange have a chief information officer?

CTO describes the kind of software delivery we do here better than CIO, because CIO carries with it the connotation of implementing ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] and other in-house business apps. Although part of my organization is responsible for in-house business apps, the majority of my people are involved in developing and enhancing our exchange.