Tom Shull is an American businessman and Director/CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange), No. 62 on the National Retail Federation's STORE magazine's Top 100 Retailers list. Shull joined the Exchange in 2012 as the first civilian to lead the Department of Defense's largest retailer. He also serves on the Exchange's Board of Directors.
Early life and education[edit | edit source]
Shull was born at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colo., while his father was on joint assignment at Peterson Air Force Base. His father served for 30 years in the United States Army and spent more than 40 months in combat. Shull is a graduate of Heidelberg High School in Heidelberg, Germany. He earned a bachelor of science from the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he was among the top 1 percent in leadership. Shull's military schooling included Ranger and Airborne Schools. He holds a master of business administration from Harvard Business School, where he graduated with honors.
Military service[edit | edit source]
During his time in the Army, Shull served as Rifle Platoon Leader, Scout Platoon Leader, Support Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Infantry Company Commander. He had numerous line and staff assignments, including serving as assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy and commander of a Mechanized Infantry Company. Shull's company was ranked No. 1 in combat readiness out of more than 30 others in the 4th Infantry Division. Shull earned several honors, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Expert Infantryman's Badge, Ranger Tab and Airborne Wings.
In 1981, Shull was named to the 17th class of White House Fellows and served in the Office of the Chief of Staff. During his last active-duty assignment, then-Major Shull served as Military Assistant to Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. During his time at the White House, Shull led a major re-evaluation and revision of White House management systems. He also conducted a comprehensive review of the National Security Council, was a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and helped coordinate National Security Council low-intensity conflict policy initiatives. Shull represented the White House in helping to oversee the construction and dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He earned the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Business career[edit | edit source]
Shull began his retail career in 1985 at Sanger-Harris, formed by Federated Department Stores, in Dallas, Texas, where he led business planning, training and recruiting. He served as Divisional Merchandise Manager of $20 million hard good businesses for the prominent regional 22-store chain.
In 1990, Shull co-founded Meridian Ventures and served as CEO until 2012. He served clients including Federated Department Stores, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, Mobil Corp., Tecstar Corp. and Spiegel Brands as senior adviser and assumed senior executive roles to identify acquisitions, raise equity capital and implement turnarounds.
From 1992 to 1994, Shull served at Macy's. He was a key leader in creating $2 billion of value in two years as a senior vice president of strategic planning, group senior vice president and then executive vice president. He developed a restructuring plan and served as principal negotiator in Macy's exit from bankruptcy.
Shull joined Barneys New York in 1997. He was Barneys first non-family member CEO and led the company out of bankruptcy. Under his leadership, Barneys realized earnings improvements of 6 percentage points in 20 months.
From 2000 to 2004, Shull served as president and chief executive of Hanover Direct. At Hanover, profitability improved by more than $45 million on a $460 million sales base as he repositioned the company's e-commerce business and increased sales from $20 million to more than $125 million. Shull led efforts to save brands such as The Company Store, Gump's and Improvements.
In 2004, Shull joined Wise Foods as chairman and chief executive officer. He increased earnings by 10 percentage points and positioned the company for sale after a successful turnaround. He served until 2008.
Shull was elected to the Zale Corporation Board of Directors from 2004 to 2010, serving on the Compensation Committee and as Chairman of the Audit Committee for three years. As Audit Committee Chair, he successfully resolved two SEC investigations and led improvements in governance and accounting practices through early adoption of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.
In 2009, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York named Shull the chief restructuring officer of Fred Leighton Jewelers.
In 2012, Shull was named the Director/CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, becoming the first civilian to lead the Department of Defense retailer. Shull's business acumen and passion for taking care of military families have been the foundation to keeping the Exchange benefit thriving for America's Warfighters and their families. When he came aboard, Shull applied private-sector best practices to the Exchange and focused on growth initiatives such as intensifying national brands, growing concessions and its convenience stores, transforming the online experience.
The Exchange is a nonappropriated fund entity of the Department of Defense operating more than 4,000 retail facilities in more than 30 countries. Like commercial retailers, the Exchange is reliant on the sale of products and services to fund its operations and generate a profit. In 2015, the Exchange achieved more than $400 million in earnings, despite military personnel downsizing of 13 percent since 2011. This performance represents an increase of three percentage points in terms of profitability, and is on par with or exceeds that of Walmart and Target. Record operating earnings in 2015 allowed the Exchange to distribute $237.2 million in dividends to military Quality-of-Life Programs. Each year, the Exchange distributes two-thirds of its earnings to these programs. In 2016, Shull became the longest-serving leader of the Exchange.
Under Shull's leadership, the Exchange has more closely aligned itself with private-sector competitors by tightening cost controls, reducing its number of employees, and introducing top brands such as Disney and Michael Kors. The Exchange has also improved its E-commerce operation at ShopMyExchange.com, establishing shipping centers inside brick-and-mortar stores to reduce shipping costs and increase delivery speeds. In 2018, the Exchange continued to perform well, reporting $386 million in earnings, $223 million of which was reinvested into installation Quality-of-Life programs that promote military readiness and resiliency including Child, Youth and School Services, Armed Forces Recreation Centers and more.
Shull is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also helped lead the first major Capital Campaign in USMA history. Shull is former Chairman and member of the Board of Directors, Deafness Research Foundation, the largest private charity for funding research in the causes and treatment of hearing loss.
Veterans advocacy[edit | edit source]
Shull is a lifelong advocate for veterans' issues. While serving as a White House Fellow assigned to the White House, Shull was chosen to be an intermediary during the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, helping to ensure compromises were reached to facilitate the construction and dedication of the memorial. In a Harvard Business School Bulletin article "Making Peace," Jack Wheeler (a driving force in getting the Memorial built on the National Mall) said, "There would have been no memorial without Tom Shull. Period."
Once Shull came to the Exchange, he began planning for a way to recognize and honor all honorably discharged veterans for their service. In a 2014 memo to the Undersecretary of Defense, Shull proposed allowing all honorably discharged veterans to shop the exchanges online as a modest recognition of their service, especially since the vast majority of veterans who served honorably do not meet the 20-year criteria or certified 100% disabled by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to retain exchange benefits. The Veterans online shopping benefit represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to strengthen funding of Quality-of-Life programs in support of service members’ and their families.
On Jan. 11, 2017, after years of coordination with the Exchange, Departments of Defense, Army and Air Force as well as several other federal agencies, Shull received word that a change to DoD policy would extend limited online exchange privileges to all honorably discharged veterans starting Nov. 11, 2017—Veterans Day. Congressional oversight committees were notified as well and had 30 days to comment. No comments were provided, and the Veterans online shopping benefit—the first new benefit for Veterans since 1953—began on Veterans Day 2017.
The Veterans online shopping benefit allows approximately 15 million veterans to shop online at military exchanges. As of June 2019, nearly 90,000 Veterans saved more than $5 million in sales tax . The initiative is projected to add approximately $200 million in sales to the Exchange's annual revenue within three years, making the Exchange more competitive with private-sector competitors such as Amazon.com and offsetting a 13 percent decline in the number of active-duty Soldiers and Airmen since 2011.
On Jan. 1, 2020, the Exchange welcomed home disabled Veterans, Purple Heart recipients and certain caregivers—4.1 million Americans— with in-store shopping privileges. Privileges expanded to all Veterans with service-connected disabilities, Veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, Veterans who are former prisoners of war and primary family caregivers for Veterans who are enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
Before the expansion, only Veterans with 100% service-connected disabilities could shop in person. (Active-duty service members, their dependents and military retirees also have in-store and online privileges.)
Awards and Decorations[edit | edit source]
Mr. Shull's awards and decorations include:
- Presidential Service Badge
- Meritorious Service Medal (United States)
- Expert Infantryman's Badge
- Ranger Tab
- Airborne Wings
- Defense Superior Service Medal.
- Reserve Officer's Association's Minuteman Hall of Fame
- American Logistics Association Distinguished Service Award
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Shull and his wife, Dorothy, reside in Dallas, TX. They have three children. Shull is a former Elder in the Presbyterian Church.
References[edit | edit source]
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