I freaking love working in retail….and here’s why

I am obsessed with absolutely everything related to brick and mortar retail, and I have spent almost 3 decades working in my dream industry. This does not mean that I am infatuated with only fashion, or luxury, or any specific type of retail, because for me we are all created equal, we all work hard, and we all face many of the same successes on great days and challenges on others.

Typically, when the idea of working in retail comes to mind, people cringe. We are also experiencing a daily barrage of bad news, some legitimate and some completely exaggerated. What I have come to realize is that often it is not until you start working in this incredible industry do you discover that it can be one of the best experiences of your life and you cannot imagine doing anything else.

In honor of this tenth blogpost, I thought I would list the TOP 10 reasons why I freaking love working in retail…. because as tough as it is out there, we are here to stay and we need to motivate each other to keep going!

THE INSPIRING A TEAM — every type of industry and most companies are made up of a group of people who call themselves a “team”, and I am not going to try to define what does or does not create one, but when you have the pleasure of leading one, or being on one that communicates well, focused on goals and results, offering support to each other, and authentically enjoying the journey, there is nothing better. I would challenge all of us to spend a little less time on execution and a little more time on inspiration.

CUSTOMERS, AND CREATING EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR THEM- “Experiential Retail” is biggest buzz word in the industry today and we continue to read about how creating unique experiences for the customer is the only way we will survive. I would counter that by saying if you are just now figuring this out, then you are in the wrong industry. People who love working in retail are customer obsessed, and think every day about how we can make the experiences better, more authentic, utilizing more empathy. The reason for naming my blog Retail Fitness is because fitness is not about being the best, it’s about being better than you were yesterday. The same thing should apply to how you are creating exceptional customer experiences- be better than you were yesterday.

THE PRODUCT — I have sold everything from kid’s clothes to computers to furniture to luxury handbags and I have loved each and every step along the way, discovering what I can bring to that particular product category at that particular time. You have to LOVE the product you are selling whether you relate to it or not. As a great retailer, you should be able to sell anything, and your role as a leader is to inspire your team to sell it too.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING- outside of having an incredible team who purposely create exceptional customer experiences with each and every customer in an impeccable environment, visual merchandising makes the largest impact on a customer’s decision to make a purchase. Whether you have a very strict corporate guideline that needs you to just execute well, or you are small retail business owner who is in complete control of your merchandising, do it well, morning to night, showcase your product in a compelling and inspiring way.

RECRUITING/INTERVIEWING/HIRING AND SHARING A VISION — this is absolutely one of my top 10. I am obsessed with not only providing a great candidate experience, but taking a risk on someone based on “potential vs. pedigree”. There is NO question that your success or failure in business is related to how well you recruit, interview, hire, and tell your brand story to candidates. Contrary to what we all hear, there are exceptionally talented people in every city, in every mall, in every state, you just have to work a little harder to find them, and maybe you need to take a smart risk. When you do this well, your ability to create magic grows exponentially and nothing can stop you.

BEING PART OF A BIGGER RETAIL TRIBE — we all want to belong to a bigger community, it’s our nature as human beings. As I wrote in a previous blog, when you choose to identify yourself with one of the many tribes in your life, be proud of the one you call your “retail tribe” as you are among an incredibly successful, powerful, hard working group of people. We have a significant impact on the economy and we have a network of talent that is unparalleled. Spend a few minutes today telling someone how proud you are to work in retail, and inspire a future leader to choose this one just like you did.

EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT AND IT IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING — I hear this comment often… that one of the greatest things about working in retail is you never know where the day is going to take you, who will (or won’t) walk through the door, who you will meet throughout the day, what successes or challenges you might face, and how you will take these challenges head-on to achieve your goals. One of the many things that we have in common is that we are competitive in nature and love to win. The pleasure of NOT knowing what you might need to do to win that day makes it even more exciting.

LEADING A MULIT-MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS- whether you work in a $3 million store or a $30 million flagship, it’s a complicated business that requires a wide range of skills. One day you are an HR Manager, the next you are styling the mannequins in the window, the next you are opening dozens of boxes of shipment, simultaneously thinking at a high level and getting our hands dirty. All of it requires extraordinary balance and flexibility.

THE INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY COMBINED WITH COMPLICATED HUMAN INTERACTIONS- rarely is there a day that we are all not required to use both left brain and right brain functions. Your left side of the brain is the intellectual side, using logic, facts and details. The left brain likes routine and repletion. In very general terms, the right side of your brain is responsible for social development, reading body language, facial expressions, and regulating emotions. Mix all of this with an integrated use of technology and it provides a daily challenge for your brain!

RELATIONSHIPS THAT LAST DECADES — this last one is very special to me. The majority of my closest friendships are those with whom I have worked in some capacity over many years. There is a common working relationship, experience or brand that brought us together and I am forever grateful to call these people my friends now. There is something special about all of the first 9 reasons listed first, but the “retail relationships” are the most beautiful part of it all.

Thank you for reading today, and I hope that something here resonates or inspires you to continue to bring a positive and productive attitude to our industry. We all need to stick together and be “better than we were yesterday”.