Brick and Mortar Inspiration


My January blogs have been all about YOU. January Week 1 was about completing a 2019 Reflection Exercise. January Week 2 was the Stop, Start, Continue exercise. If you completed either or both, my guess is you are prioritizing your list for 2020 and how to run the BEST retail store possible. I hope this blog will inspire you and how you are thinking about developing your team this year. With volume and traffic soft this time of the year, there is no better time to train your team to be the super stars you need to win.

My recent Trip to NYC

As a relocated New Yorker, I do not get to NYC as often as I would like.  In the past few weeks however, I have had the opportunity to be in NYC three times looking for remarkable experiences inside brick and mortar stores. Here is what I found…

It is ALWAYS about the Talent

Store #1. I was at Garden State Plaza in NJ. Great mall. Full of all my favorite brands. After walking around a bit, I walked into an athletic specialty store.  The store had just opened.  There was one customer in the store and 5 associates on the selling floor.  With that much labor, I was hoping for a wow experience.  As I walked towards the cash wrap, I saw the manager, wearing a pin that said 2018 Manager of the Year.  Wow!  I knew I had to talk to him.  How did he win that honor?  What did running a great store mean to him?  What impact did he have on this store?

Fly on the Wall

I thought you might like to be a fly on the wall of our conversation.

Me:  How did you win Manager of the Year?

Him: It isn’t magic, I do my job the best I can. I hire talent and train the team.

Me:  You make it sound easy. Tell me what you  think ‘doing your job the best you can’ means?

Him:  It is always about the talent you hire and the time you invest in training them. In this past year, I grew the store volume by $1M!  This is my second year in this location. My team is clear on our mission and they just deliver every day they work. I keep it simple.

Wow. This manager was incredibly humble and dead on with what running a great store is about.  It is always about the talent!  This mall has several Athletic stores in it. This manager could have said, I can’t grow my Store’s volume with all this competition in my mall. There are so many athletic stores in the center. But he didn’t. He focused on what he could control and was winning. This is brick and mortar inspiration!

Mindset Matters

Store #2. I left Garden State Plaza and headed back into NYC to visit stores in Times Square.  I walked into the same brand as in NJ and I found the highest energy team I have met in a long time.  While there were many associates in the store, all doing a great job, one young woman stood out.  Her name is Imani.  She was doing figure eights throughout this store with urgency and passion, I was sure she was the store manager.  So I stopped her and asked her if she was a manager.  She said to me “In my mind, I am the store manager, but in real life, I am a manager in training.”  I was wowed by this young lady.  

She reinforced another point that I believe about running great stores. If you can dream it, if you have the mindset to believe that you can do it, and you are willing to take the first step, then you will absolutely achieve the goal. My guess is Imani will be a store manager in the not to distant future.  This store is very high volume and every associate working behaves as if they own the store; all inspired by their store manager who creates a culture of ownership with the team. The store standards were incredible (& if you know me, you know I don’t say that lightly!) I left inspired. It is always difficult to walk into more locations after a stellar one. The standards is now set very high…but my visits continued.

Amidst the issues, still FOCUSED on the Customer

Store #3. I walked a few more blocks to visit one more store in this family of brands.  Reality hit me in this location. This store didn’t appear to have all the right marketing up, some associates had their lanyard on and others didn’t.  Things were not quite right, but I met genuine and happy associates who were engaging every customer.  I am experienced and practical enough to know that every store won’t be perfect every day.  (Although my personal standard has been that the store should be ready for the customers every day with flawless execution.) There will be stores who miss the mark.  But even with the opportunities, I still found one important component, the people were focused on the customer.  They were friendly and genuine.  They just needed some operational focus.

So what is my point?  3 stores. 3 different teams. All focused on the customer. Were there opportunities? Yes. Will there always be opportunities? Yes. But the right focus by the leader to hire great talent delivers consistent customer experiences.

Hire talent.  It always pays.  

If your managers are struggling, give them a little grace and help them over the hurdles.  We aren’t robots, we are humans and humans are imperfect.  If you can regroup and get back on track, that is what matters!

Time to Jump In

It’s January. What are you focused on? Traffic and sales are lower volume this month than just a few short week’s ago. What is your focus? Are you assessing your leadership team and putting plans in place to develop them? What about your associates? I want to encourage you to force rank the teams, both managers and sales associates and put a plan in place to inspire and develop your top and middle performers and move out your bottom performers. Waiting and hoping doesn’t work. Removing under performers makes room for more top performers and this will help you be the store you want to be!

With Gratitude,


“In my mind, I am the store manager, but in real life, I am a manager in training.”

p.s. If you enjoyed the read, would you click “like” below? And share these with your friends! It’s nice to share!

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