Kindred Spirits

Though retail’s challenges are many, there’s no lack of creativity or innovation driving the industry forward
Posted December 2, 2019

One of the best aspects of my job is the fact that I’m privileged spend time with some of the smartest professionals on the planet when it comes to retail. Whether it’s conducting an interview or doing a store visit, moderating a panel discussion, judging an industry competition or attending the wealth of retail-related events throughout the year, the common thread through all of these experiences is that I’m exposed to a constant influx of creative ideas, brilliant strategies and unfettered passion all focused on taking retail to the next level.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend an innovation workshop with Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney (Burbank, Calif.), hosted by the Hollywood, Fla.-based Shop! Association. During the four-hour interactive workshop, Wardle put attendees through their paces, outlining common barriers to innovation, offering a framework to elicit the best ideas rooted in consumer needs and then breaking the group into teams to put his tools to the test.

As each group pondered the challenge at hand and worked feverishly to beat the clock, the level of energy and excitement in the room was palpable. Four individuals thrown together and asked to solve a problem were transformed into a team, kindred spirits excited to hone their contrasting thoughts into a single, focused concept to share with the entire audience, using the tools and framework Wardle had provided.

Sure, it can be easy to lament retail’s “glory days” or fret over the contraction our industry has experienced as of late. But as a student of consumer brands and retail for the majority of my career, I’d offer that this is truly the most exciting time for the retail industry. Though the constraints are numerous and the battle uphill, the brainpower and pure passion that are behind the retail reinvention we are currently witnessing are second to none.