9 Quotes from Successful Retailers That Will Inspire You to Run Your Store Better

This post was originally published on the Vend Blog.

While being a retailer can be very rewarding, running a store is no piece of cake. There are days when you’ll need extra helpings of motivation and inspiration to remind you why you’re in this business in the first place.

At Vend, we are all about delighting retailers and helping you be more awesome, so we’ve compiled a collection of inspiring quotes from some of the world’s most successful retailers. Check out their words of wisdom below. And feel free to bookmark this page or print out the quotes that speak to you, so you can refer to them whenever you need a boost.

“Retail is a customer business. You’re trying to take care of the customer — solve something for the customer. And there’s no way to learn that in the classroom or in the corner office…”

– Erik Nordstrom, President, Nordstrom Direct

Erik Nordstrom, despite being part of the family that owns the company, worked his way up in the organization and had experience in various departments, from the stockroom to the sales floor. This helped him understand the retail business and the store’s customers on a different level, thus enabling him to perform better as one of the heads of the company.

Take a page from Nordstrom’s playbook when running your business. Don’t spend all day in your office. Make it a point to spend time on the floor interacting with your customers so you can get firsthand insights into their wants and needs.

Apply the same principle when you’re looking to fill C-level or upper management positions. You should aim to hire or appoint someone with a deep understanding of your business and your customers, so look for people who have been in the trenches and have had direct interactions with shoppers.

“My company is an extension of me, so when I designed my stores I wanted people to feel that they were in my home.”

– Tory Burch, Founder & Creative Director, Tory Burch

The best way to differentiate your store from its competitors is to incorporate your personality, your style, and even your lovable quirks into the business. This will not only make your store unique, but it will help you attract the types of customers you want, which will make running your business more fun, natural, and fulfilling.

“I was reading all these reports that were down on retail brick and mortar, saying it’s all about online… I think brick and mortar is an amazing opportunity to use our stores and our store staff as a vehicle to truly engage with the community in a way no other retailers are doing.”

– Jim Brett, President, West Elm

Jim Brett transformed West Elm from an unprofitable furniture store chain to Williams-Sonoma’s fastest-growing brand by humanizing its products and stores. One of the things he did was encourage associates to forge relationships with customers and build communities around its shops.

For instance, West Elm offers a home-decorating service where design consultants would visit customers’ homes for free and help them pick out furniture — even if the items didn’t come from West Elm. Stores also held events such as dumpling-making classes, paving the way for additional foot traffic, stronger relationships, and more sales.

Find ways to do something similar in your business by offering services or events that add value and enrich the community.

“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”

– Tony Hsieh, Ceo, Zappos

Zappos’ excellent customer service stems from its 10 core values, which it uses to develop its culture and brand. These values are also deeply instilled in its employees; everyone in the company lives by them.

Strive to create an amazing culture for your business. Don’t just write down your mission and values — demonstrate them. Make day-to-day decisions based on these values and see to it that your employees do the same.

[On the Apple store staff] “Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it’s a product Apple doesn’t carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don’t want or need it. That doesn’t enrich their lives, and it doesn’t deepen the retailer’s relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.”

– Ron Johnson, CEO at ENJOY (and Former Senior VP of Retail at Apple)

You may want to show this quote to your sales associates. See to it that they recognize that helping shoppers trumps selling to them. Instead of motivating your staff using commissions, encourage them to find solutions to your customers’ needs — even if those solutions don’t come in the products or services that you offer.

This genuine willingness to help customers may not always result in immediate sales, but it sure goes a long way when it comes to building trust and loyalty.

“This was one of my most important principles: never have a mandatory sell. This rule gets violated all the time; it just drives me nuts: ‘Buy now!’ you never give an order to a customer.”

– Joe Coulombe, Founder, Trader Joe’s

You don’t get people to complete a purchase by telling them to buy. Rather, you do it by giving them great in-store experiences, providing amazing customer service, and selling products that offer real value. Need advice on how to do these things?

Check out Vend U for tips and resources that can help you achieve retail success.

“We know who our customer is and we’re a company standing firm with our point of view.”

– Ralph Lauren, CEO, Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren Corporation sells many things, from apparel and fragrances to home furnishings and food. But even with various subsidiaries, the corporation manages to stay consistent with its brand, and one of the reasons for this is that everyone at the company knows its vision and — as Lauren put it — works from the same point of view.

Put this nugget to work in your business by hiring people who share your point of view. It also helps to constantly communicate with your staff so they always have a clear idea of what your business stands for.

“Too many businesses today are based on driving prices lower by screwing over somebody: pounding suppliers or squeezing employees. We’re the opposite. We put employees first, radically… if you take care of them, they will take care of your customer better than anybody else.”

– Kip Tindell, CEO, Container Store

Happy employees work harder and stay longer. The Container Store recognizes this, which is why it offers great pay, excellent benefits, and a whole range of perks. It even celebrates its own “National We Love Our Employees Day.”

Named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For thirteen years in a row, this retailer definitely knows how to take care of its employees

Take a cue from The Container Store and invest in your staff. Ask yourself — or better yet, ask them — how you can make their lives better, and if it’s feasible for your business, then go for it.

“Why are you doing this? How are you making a difference? What is your reason for being, besides making money? There is no engine or vehicle like business to make a difference.”

– Walter Robb, Co-CEO, Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market makes a difference in the lives of its customers and society in general. It is committed to high-quality and organic foods, and it demonstrates this commitment by selling natural products, sourcing food from organic farms, and supporting various causes, including animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and more.

Remember, making money is great, but making money while making a difference is even better. Figure out how you can do that in your business, and you’ll be much more fulfilled and inspired.