Remarkable Retail

Retail Pride Hits The Road with Special Guest Ron Thurston

Episode Summary

Our special guest this week is Ron Thurston, fellow Rethink Retail top influencer, best-selling author of Retail Pride: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career, and deeply experienced retail executive, having done stings at Intermix, YSL, Bonobos, Tory Burch, Apple and more. Ron joins us from his Airsteam just a couple of months into his "Retail In America" tour, which will literally take him from sea to shining sea.

Episode Notes

Our special guest this week is Ron Thurston, fellow Rethink Retail top influencer, best-selling author of Retail Pride: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career, and deeply experienced retail executive, having done stings at Intermix, YSL, Bonobos, Tory Burch, Apple and more.

Ron joins us from his Airsteam just a couple of months into his "Retail In America" tour, which will literally take him from sea to shining sea. He's on a journey to discover everyday retail heroes and we find him just outside of Memphis eager to talk about all that he is learning. It's a wide-ranging discussion of what it's really like on the ground, away from the often narrow views from the fashion hubs of New York and LA. But just to keep it a wee bit glam, we also learn about Ron's recent chat with none other than Sarah Jessica Parker.

But first we we dive into the big retail news of the week, which starts of with how recent earnings highlight the continuing bifurcation of retail that is being exacerbated by inflation and rebalancing to pre-COVID spending patterns. We also discuss, JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon's revised weather forecast, get additional proof that everything Eddie Lampert touches dies. We then conclude with Missguided's "named to fail" strategy and former Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz's move to become the new CEO of Intermix. 


About Ron

Ron Thurston is a highly accomplished retail leadership Executive, Board Advisor, and Amazon Bestselling Author with extensive experience leading retail operations for America’s most prominent brands. He is adept at turning around underperforming businesses, developing and implementing innovative growth strategies, architecting improved training programs, building high-performing and dedicated teams, launching new brands, expanding brands into new markets, and ensuring customer growth and satisfaction. 

In 2021 and 2022, Ron was named one of the top 100 Retail Influencers globally, is a board member of GOODWILL NY/NJ, and currently sits on the advisory boards of several emerging retail technology brands, including Reflex Careers, Job Pixel, and IMMERSS. 

In 2022 Ron is launching his audio and video platforms for a year-long tour called “Retail In America,” live from an Airstream trailer to discover the real retail heroes all across the country.


About Us

Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his       website.    The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book  Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at  Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a      Forbes senior contributor and on       Twitter and       LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel      here.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus  Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  ,      The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext!  You can learn more about Michael   here  or on     LinkedIn. 

Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!

Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:05

Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast, Season 4, Episode 21. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Steve Dennis  00:11

And I'm Steve Dennis.

Michael LeBlanc  00:13

Well, Steve, it's been a busy week, I think for both of us. And we're heading towards our final episode, Episode 22. Next episode next week, which will be a predictions wrap up. So, I'm looking forward to that, but in advance we've got a great episode coming up with a very special guest back on the podcast.

Steve Dennis  00:31

Yes, it's great to bring Ron Thurston back. He was a, as we'll talk about a little bit, he was a guest, I guess early in Season 2, shortly after his book came out, and he was someone that popped on our radar screen. And since then, he has been a busy, busy guy.

Michael LeBlanc  00:48

So, it's so fun to catch up. We're going to learn all about his Retail in America Tour. He's got this, you know, he's got an Airstream. He's the journey to discover everyday retail heroes. We talk we caught up with him in as he was in Memphis, but he's criss-crossing America. And it's so interesting what he's doing and it's a really fun interview. And, and he's had special guests and retailers. So, it's just a pile of fun. So, we'll get to that in a minute or two or nine or 10 minutes or two. So, let's talk about news of the week. So, let's do a quick pop on earnings wasn't a particularly big week anything jumped to mind anything, hit your radar screen worth talking about?

Steve Dennis  01:27

Well, some of it is a continuation of themes we've touched on, if you look at the retailers that are doing well, for example, Lululemon was a was a significant beat this week. And the ones that are maybe disappointing a bit, I would say RHs, earnings, were a bit of a disappointment. I think the pattern is if you are a retailer that largely serves a more upscale consumer, you're probably not getting hit by inflation concerns very much. And if you also are a retailer that is not kind of getting caught up in this COVID rebalancing. So, I think RH is being hit a little bit by people who have already bought that, that dining room table that so for whatever reason, it is only so many of those, you're going to buy so but you know they are caught up in some of the supply chain stuff, as well. But to the extent that demand for certain big ticket items, big screen TVs, Peloton, the washers and dryers, whatever was pulled forward, I think you're going to continue to see some of those retailers face some pretty big headwinds. If you're in those categories, where you've got that upscale consumer, people going back out traveling, all those kinds of kinds of things, you know, the more luxury retailers I think we're going to see those, those companies continue to perform disproportionately well.

Michael LeBlanc  02:46

Yeah, I mean, none of this is, is a surprise. I don't think to anyone.

Steve Dennis  02:50

Yeah, I think as you know, as the quarters tick by we'll, we'll see. You know, I keep talking about it as as this rebalancing reversion to the mean, you know, those sorts of things. And I think the more data we get the more, that seems to be what's going on.

Michael LeBlanc  03:02

So, breaking news, Jamie Dimon might be a familiar name to some of the listeners, Chief Executive of JPMorgan has a new job. Very exciting. He's now in the weather prediction business So, yeah, he's and he's upgrade, He's changing the forecast. So, he's, he's really grabbed on to the meme of being a weather, a weather reporter. But what's the latest forecast from Jamie Dimon? 

Steve Dennis  03:24

Well, he, he and I'm not sure exactly when he first said this, because I'm lazy, and I didn't go back and look, but he's been talking about there being storm clouds on the horizon. But yes, he changed his forecast to talk about a hurricane a brewing. And that, that sent some shockwaves through, through the markets. I mean, certainly he's a guy that's got a ton of experience. A great perspective also he happened to go to the same college and business school as I did. So, you know, we got that in common you know, he does make a few you know, 100 million dollars more a year than I make but you know, (crossover talk), I know it's details, but I'm sure I'm happier. So, that's ultimately, (crossover talk), what counts but yeah, he but he then he's sort of caveated the, the dire warnings with well, we're not really sure whether it's kind of a category one or a superstorm Sandy. So, so, there appears to still be some wiggle room in the, the degree of buckling up, buttercupping we need to do.

Michael LeBlanc  04:20

What else do we got. So, Eddie Lampert. I guess that's the Sears Hometown Stores are closing I didn't even know they had still 100 Sears Hometown, but I guess the Volvo Mont touch of death as affected those as well.

Steve Dennis  04:32

Well, yes, as I said on social media, continuing the theme that I've been on for probably six or seven years now. You know, Sears being the world's slowest liquidation sale but everything Eddie Lampert touches seems to die. Actually, the Sears so people may not realize this because it's a little bit inside baseball but the Sears Hometown Stores which were specialty stores focused on home products as, as you might have figured out from the name. They were actually spun off from the overall Sears Holding Company or whatever. I mean, it's had different names over the years, but they were spun out. And then essentially are licensed or franchised sort of business so they were spun out a number of years ago. So, they are not part of the same corporate entity that the Sears and Kmart stores were. But so, they're, they're actually probably in terms of locations, the last real vestige of, of, of a significant footprint and so 100 more stores are going to close some last one here, turn off the lights. Think well, we'll see very few things with the name Sears on it. 

Steve Dennis  05:35

I was also going to mention very quickly, that it still drives me a little bit crazy this, this past week when I was driving around, I heard Lowe's advertising their Craftsman tool days. And some folks may remember that Craftsman was an exclusive brand for Sears that was the case way back when, when I worked there and we actually looked at partnering with Lowe's or Home Depot this is almost 20 years ago and for reasons that are perhaps worth a separate episode that didn't happen but once, once Eddie got his hands on it and they were trying to sell things off to keep the lights on Craftsman was, was in essence sold too Lowe's so, -

Michael LeBlanc  06:15

yeah, and I have a connection to that we actually have a mutual connection because I they were sold I think was for 400 million to Stanley Black & Decker which I work for, -

Steve Dennis  06:23

yep, -

Michael LeBlanc  06:24

and, and made some of the Craftsman tools myself so I still see them like you know kind of like a fu-, I, it's funny, right, no one even connects them to Sears anymore like the new generation and they're just a brand like there's not there's not even the connection. But a couple other quick (inaudible), I noticed you know give it to the to the British to name their, their retailers appropriately Misguided has filed for protection. And even though Boohoo was going to buy them.

Steve Dennis  06:49

Wa, Wa, to this story. Yeah, you know, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  06:54

we've, we've built to fail I guess or named to fail.

Steve Dennis  06:57

Yeah, yeah, I think sometimes there, there are these rather ironically named retailers but yeah, this is kind of part of the continuing shakeout in the pure play online. And yeah, Boohoo was rumored to be perhaps purchasing them so they've apparently taken a pass so Missguided is going to go into file.  Boohoo was actually one of the companies a few years ago I used to point to, as an exception to my comments about the lack of profitability in eCommerce but they have actually also fallen on harder (inaudible), perhaps they're not in the this is your falling knife analogy, perhaps they're unstable situation wasn't going to be enhanced by catching a falling knife.

Michael LeBlanc  07:40

And, and relevant to our, our guest. I just saw a former not a former guest but a former colleague of yours, so to speak, and, and a previous guest on the show, Karen Katz has got a new job over at Intermix. So, that's, that's interesting, because Ron, of course came out of the Intermix organization when it's part of the Gap. Yeah.

Steve Dennis  07:59

Yeah. I was interested to see this actually. Two former Neiman executives are now CEOs of, of smaller brands. Jim Gold, now at Moda Operandi, sorry, I'm drawing a little bit blank there and Karen at Intermix. It's kind of funny, Karen and I worked with for many years at Neiman Marcus, she was briefly my boss when she was getting elevated to CEO. Yeah, Intermix back, back in the day at Neiman Marcus, when we were working on our specialty format for younger customers called CUSP Intermix was one of the companies we paid a lot of attention to. So, certainly Karen's got a ton of relevant experience to, to bring to that and then Intermix was acquired, I forget how many years ago by the Gap, resold. 

Michael LeBlanc  08:42

(crossover talk), capital partners, private equity owned business. Yeah.

Steve Dennis  08:46

Yeah. So, I think it'll be interesting to see. I mean, I think it's, it's a solid business, but a business that's struggled a little bit to really gain a lot of traction. So, it'll be interesting to watch.

Michael LeBlanc  08:57

Well, you know, when you get someone who's as good as Ron Thurston running it, and they don't make a go at it, you have to wonder, you know, certainly the issue wasn't in the stores that we can say that for sure. So, speaking of Ron, let's, let's get to our discussion with Ron Thurston live from an Airstream trailer in parts unknown. As he criss-crosses, the country actually I think he's in the outskirts of Memphis. So, let's, let's, let's listen into our interview with Ron.

Steve Dennis  09:22

Well, Michael and I are excited to welcome Ron Thurston back to the podcast. He was our guest, I think on Episode 2 of Season 2. And now he's just two away from the end of Season 4. So, Ron, welcome back.

Ron Thurston  09:37

Thank you so much, Steve and Michael. It's such a pleasure to, to be back on the show. I feel like you have been such a supporter of my journey the last 18 months. So, I'm excited to come back and give you an update.

Steve Dennis  09:48

Well, thank you for saying that. You know, I don't we did not know each other until about, I don't know 18 months or so ago when somehow rather we ran into your, your book, Retail Pride which we'll talk about that in a second. But you've done quite a lot of interesting things since then. But before we get into your book and the Retail in America Tour, and everything else you've got going on. Maybe for people who aren't familiar with you, could you just tell them a little bit about your personal and professional journey?

Ron Thurston  10:17

Yeah, of course, I'd love to, thank you. I am, I've, I am someone that has spent three plus decades working my way in store, up in stores. And the, the, the j-, the joy of that and discovering that I was really good at the brick and mortar side of retail was something I've discovered of late 20s, after thinking I might want to be a designer. And I realized that actually, the best part of the industry is in stores. And I started at Gap, Gap Kids specifically, as an Assistant Store Manager Sales, it became a General Manager became a District Manager, and spent the next decade at Gap, which for me, was the foundation for a lot of what I needed to learn to grow my career into some other really exciting brands. So, I was able to jump in with some former Gap leadership team and help build what is West Town, today. 

Ron Thurston  11:20

I helped grow and established Tory Burch, I'm based out of the West Coast and expand that business. I ran Apple Stores, I moved to New York to launch the retail business model that has been Bonobos today. I ran St. Laurent for North and South America. And most recently until the middle of 2021, I was the Vice President of Stores for Intermix. 

Ron Thurston  11:43

And so, all of that to say that this is the joy of this industry. And the excitement that happens every day in stores all around the world, is something I've been so, thoroughly engaged with and excited about and have, you know, opened dozens of stores and interviewed hundreds, if not 1000s of people and traveled around the world visiting stores. And never thought for a minute that being in stores was something I wouldn't do. And being able to then write a book about it and be able to now travel and speak about it is really such a pleasure to celebrate an industry that in for, you know, I would say, really all time has not been one that has been recognized for all the hard work that goes into, you know, a career and running a brick and mortar retail business.

Michael LeBlanc  12:38

You know, we had you on as Steve said in, in early in our podcast journey, and it was about the book and, and we'll put a link into that interview and a link, of course to the book, you really tapped into a vibe like you really you, you hit, I would say you hit a nerve and all the great ways because that book really took off for you. And it really hit me with so much love for the book, right? Like, like it was very, very emotional as you read kind of the the way people responded to the book. So, just give us a for those who haven't, who haven't read it yet, but give us a, a sense of what the book, you know, where did you start with the book and then what's the book about?

Ron Thurston  13:14

Yeah, I'd love to I, through that kind of journey that I just described, there were some very common themes, and, and still are today that are very relevant to the industry that this is an industry on the store side that maybe it was not given credit, as I mentioned earlier, but there are themes around being very self taught that your success in this industry is often dictated by how hard you work, the leaders that you have around you, the companies you work for, the resources that they provide, that it's very often accidental, that it is not something that someone studies and says, oh, I'm my plan is to be a store manager or a district manager a head of stores, there are usually some other education component or, or not. 

Ron Thurston  13:23

So, those themes around an accidental career, a need to work for great companies, a need to have great mentors and people around you to move you forward. And at all of that I just the, the themes were so consistent, and recognizing the fact that I had been a leader of trying to put on conferences, and trying to find leadership books trying to find things around book clubs and what can I get for my team to help them feel great about what they do, other than me telling them that they're great. And I came to this realization of like, you know what, that actually doesn't exist. It doesn't exist for the field. There are incredible books, like Steve's that help us understand the industry at a at a more complex and higher level. But as a part time sales, sales, store managers, stock, district managers, there's never been a book written for them, and I think then that idea of, we're, we're going to choose to take pride in a career that has not always been celebrated, and may have been accidental. 

Ron Thurston   14:01

But I'm going to really encourage us to change this conversation to being intentional about the fact that we work in retail, and providing language to them. So, that when someone asks them what they do, they actually have a context and an idea around how to communicate to their friends and family about their career. And that, that was new, I think that's why the traction of the book took off, it was written by someone that has done all of those, those jobs, it's written in a language that's very familiar to them. And really, for the first time, it's like, people said to me, this guy understands. He understands what we do every day. And thank you for giving us some inspiration to celebrate with our teams every day.

Michael LeBlanc  16:04

You know, e-, e-, even before you set out on this wonderful journey you're on, and we're going to  get to that a little later, in more detail. Talk about the impact that the book has had, I mean, I've watched and, and we've watched, you got a pod-, you're a podcaster, fellow podcaster, you know,I've listened to the podcast, we'll put a link into that it's, and just the way that people relate to you. And your framework. I mean, they're so excited to talk about their careers, but and, and the journey, sometimes the journeys have been, you know, they're overcoming obstacles in these journeys, but talk about the, the impact the book has had up to now, because it really seems, as I said, to have really tapped into something?

Ron Thurston  16:38

It, it really has. Thank you, Michael, I, I think what's struck me most is that I, I primarily worked for Amer-, big American brands, or emer-, big emerging American brands. And I had this kind of American sensibility, to my perspective on retail. 

Ron Thurston  16:58

What has really been inspired me most is that this conversation about retail pride has is happening all over the world. And I get messages from India and from Asia and Latin America and Europe, and people discover the book or they'll see something on LinkedIn, and then they'll buy it for their teams. And then their teams get excited and buy it as gifts for somebody else. It's like this idea of passing it on, like there's this need to find resources and gifts to people in the industry. 

Ron Thurston  17:31

And when I can go to a conference and speak to a group, more specifically store managers, district managers, they are, they're thrilled that there's someone that's speaking directly to them. And that is has nothing to do with their company. It has nothing to do with whatever it is that they sell and I think of retail is so wide in its price points and business models and the variety of eComm versus brick and mortar businesses, all of it, it's so wide. But it's kind of very democratic at the same time. 

Ron Thurston  18:08

And I share that of like your, your pride in your in your career should never be dictated by the price. And that just because maybe you work in luxury, that you should feel more proud of the fact that I work at Dollar Tree, because working at Dollar Tree is really hard work. And should you should be extremely proud of that. And the work that you put into that and how you support your local communities. And when you say that to them, that's the nerve that, that strikes. Because there's a sense of judgment, when you don't work in luxury, that you are not good enough to do that. And I use pride in a very intentional way. How do we remove kind of the stigma of shame of working maybe in Walmart, that you should be working in Louis Vuitton. And that it for me is a is an underlying kind of dark side of a retail career. And I very much want to change that conversation.

Steve Dennis  19:07

Well, I think there's a number of things you've done that are so impressive, but I think you actually illustrate a lot of what we talk about with this idea of of being remarkable, remarkable being something that is unique and memorable and very, very well done. 

Steve Dennis  19:24

But also, and this is really the secret sauce. I think it's something that people talk about. So, the success you've had with people sharing your ideas and recommending it to other people, I think I mean, I'm a little jealous, but I think it's quite, quite amazing. Now, let's talk about, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  19:42

let's talk about this tour, and that's what, (crossover talk), - 

Steve Dennis  19:45

So, I am also jealous that I saw several pictures of Ron with Sarah Jessica Parker. So, maybe we can weave that in somehow. But anyway, yeah, now you're on this, this tour. You've got an Airstream and you've been traveling around to a whole bunch of cities coming to I think you're in Memphis. now, you're coming to Texas in the next few weeks. What is this Retail in America Tour? Tell us tell us about it.

Ron Thurston  20:07

The book was launched and the majority of all the work I did to get it off the ground happened while I was still the Vice President of Stores at intermix, and the middle of 2021, and I kind of came to this realization of this is big enough to create something that can impact a much larger audience. 

Ron Thurston  20:30

But this can't be done from my comfortable apartment in New York City. I need to get out onto the road and meet people in person, see their businesses, experience the, the feeling that have you know, to your point, Steve, like there's remarkable work happening in big cities, small towns all over this country, but they don't have the opportunity to, for someone to maybe see it and recognize it and celebrate it. 

Ron Thurston  20:59

And I'll give you a couple examples of that in a moment. But then and my husband, and I said, hey, could we leave New York City? And he's a he's a designer and has had a very successful career? And could we could we leave New York City? Could we do this? And then maybe we should get an Airstream? Which turned into, you know, how do you do that? And how do you buy a truck? And how do you live in campgrounds. And it took nearly a year of planning to make it happen. 

Ron Thurston  21:31

I've had also some very generous sponsors who love this idea. So, Ubik being a big training platform, a training communication tool, used by 300 brands all over the world. Spotify advertising, is very interested in how to communicate what retail pride means to an in store experience from a music point of view, and KWI is a large POS vendor. So they jumped in and said we'd love to help you. And that turned into, you know, what 2022 has become. So, it's a minimum 20 city tour, which at this point is going to be much bigger than that. And a podcast called Retail in America. And just it's sharing stories all done live from their local cities. 

Ron Thurston  22:18

And when we're recording the podcast here in, in our Airstream and this kind of feeling very familiar, very local, staying in a city, you know, on average a week and seeing what's really happening and who do I need to meet? And what conversations do I need to have. And I've met, I've just bring a couple of examples because they're fresh in my mind. We were in Asheville, North Carolina for about 10 days, which is an incredible city. But two of the people that I met, one of which is a cycling brand called Kitsbow, who has a very loyal following, but the CEO, David Billstrom, said, you know what, we're going to move all of our production to, to local or to Old Fort North Carolina, and we're only going to produce what is ordered on our website. And in order to do that they had to build a factory in Old Fort. And they hired about 60 local people in the community and taught them how to sew, they have an entire of curriculum about teaching people how to sew so that they can work in the factory and produce the product for Kitsbow, with no waste, no over producing of inventory. They built a coffee shop on site, they built a retail business. They and they are like the hub of the local community has become this, this part of fashion world and sports world. And that was very enthralling for me.

Ron Thurston  23:50

And, and to help tell their story, right, I mean, that's such you know, they're doing such amazing things that you're describing. But how do you get that story out, right? You did leave out one particular session that did catch our eyes in addition to those, Ms. Sarah Jessica Parker. So, how did that come about? Tell us a little bit about that. I mean, that's, that's not that. I don't think that happened in Tennessee that felt like a more New York, you're back in back in New York again back in Manhattan again, talk about it for a bit?

Ron Thurston  23:50

And I also met up with this the CEO of Broad River Retail, which is a large franchise of Ashley Furniture, they have stores all over the Carolinas, 30, 32 locations, and to watch him in his own. He met me in Nashville, walked through the store. And then I had two of his team members on my podcast, which you will hear this month, just those stories of local communities and the impact that they have can't be replaced. And they're they were so proud to have someone come in and talk about retail pride and to sign books and to meet customers, you know, everywhere I go. I just want to do more of this because the smiles on their faces just means everything

Ron Thurston  25:02

Yes, I did. Thank you. They, I did go back to New York. So, her footwear and accessories brand is a customer of KWI. And KWI, had the opportunity to say, Sarah Jessica Parker would like to come in, and meet and share about her love of retail. And, you know, have you interview her for your, your podcast, and there's, it's all been filmed and will be released. And it was quite an experience for me, that's not something I'm, you know,  used to kind of all the cameras and the crew and, and all of that are, but I just launched this week, and the feedbacks been really positive, she could not have been more lovely, and if you listen to it, what you hear is a very authentic entrepreneur. And in addition to all the other, you know, awards and impact she's had in, in fashion and retail in New York City and, and Broadway, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  26:02

culture, -I

Ron Thurston  26:02

culture I mean, but when you listen to her, describe her love of that store on 54th Street, and how she's been engaged with, with the store and the team. You know, they that store was supposed to open right before COVID. And then, you know, she was in there quite a bit, making sure that the customer was engaged, delivering shoes, working on the sales floor, and her love of that business is real. And it was such a pleasure for me to be able to do that.

Michael LeBlanc  26:32

You're like a chapter from a Dr. Zeus book. Oh, the places you'll go. Like, did you imagine these things happening as you planned out? Well, we're gonna get a trailer and we're going to meet Jessica, you know, we're going to meet Sarah Jessica Parker. Yeah, yeah, tick, tick. Come on. The place is your, (inaudible) let's, let's, (crosover talk), -

Steve Dennis  26:49

How is this not like a Bravo or a Discovery Channel, (crossover talk), show, (crossover talk), -

Ron Thurston  26:57

I'm not opposed to that. Steve, if you have some connections.

Steve Dennis  26:59

I have zero connections. I have a question, Ron, as, as a guy who has spent it sounds like most of his time, at least as a as a grown-up on the different coasts, where you know, and even my being in Dallas, which is obviously a huge retail market, I sometimes feel that the general view of retail is so in fashion, in particular, certainly is so driven by what goes on in New York, LA, you know, a couple of other, other markets. You've, you've been in some of those cities, I know you were in Miami, but (inaudible) is like what's your sense of the view of the world from the smaller cities, the smaller towns compared to, you know, kind of the fash-, you know, the Women's Wear Daily view, or the stock analyst view, any, any major impressions, differences that stand out?

Ron Thurston  27:54

I think my, my biggest impression is that we get so caught up in that world, when you are when you work for really important fashion brands like I did and live in New York City or LA, and that you actually think that work is really important. And you realize really quickly when you're not in those cities, how unimportant it is. And that the translation of some of that to entry price points or to Target and Walmart, and where most of America shops has nothing to do with any of that work. And that is, in many ways been incredibly inspiring, is that there are much bigger things that we need to worry about, than what's on trend for fall. And I have loved it. I've loved being in Walmart and watching what, what how, how, maybe a trend maybe not even to how most of America shops, and that is who works there, and who is the customer and what is that experience and kind of take you out of the bubble of New York, LA, Miami, and those are, you know, it's trust me, it's a lot of fun. I've had the most incredible times working for those houses, and but you do get caught up in that world. That may not seem or there's no knowledge of that in general America also in things like Metaverse, no one has spoken to me once about that, like may not even know what it is, 

Michael LeBlanc  29:29

and what! 

Ron Thurston  29:30

you know, I know. And so, but then you're like, you know, this is such an every dinner party I was in in New York City. That was the number one conversation. You leave New York and people like I, I don't know what you're talking about. I think that that's this is like, this is real life here. That's an important perspective for, for me to have when you think about retail because retail is not just major cities.

Michael LeBlanc  29:56

Well, listen, there's an opportunity here for you. You got the mic? You you're you've had a lifetime of service and contribution. For the listeners out there. What, you know, a couple of things have you learned, meeting people and talking to them? I'm you you're already sharing some of that perspective. But you know, what, what, what lessons or insights would couple of insights that you could you share with the listeners about retail that you've, you've learned not new to the tour, because you've got so many insights in the book and previous conversations. But if you had, you know, a minute to say, listen, here's what I've learned, you need to know this as a leader, no matter where you're operating as a retailer, what would that be?

Ron Thurston  30:31

So, here's what I would say to answer that, Michael, I would say that there are incredible people in every city, and all over this country that I've already met, and so much, so much more ahead. But those people will require continued investment and continued training and career growth opportunities.

Ron Thurston  30:56

And when someone chooses brick and mortar retail as a career, that also then puts the pressure back on brands to do the right thing. And not all the stories have are positive about their experiences working in retail. And a lot of it is dictated by investments that brands make in people and or lack of, and the challenges that many brands have faced the last couple of years and continue to face in the challenging hiring market do does put pressure on them to do better. But I would say that that's not going to change. 

Ron Thurston  31:34

And if you want incredible people to continue to join your organization, continue to do good work, be really proud of what they do, that they need to be invested in. And that may be platforms like UBIK they give them micro-training every day on their phone, or big investments like Walmart just made, you know, two recent college graduates because Walmart recognized that we don't have enough store managers for all the stores that we're going to open. And this kind of they're calling it this emerging coach program for you know, young people to choose to be a store manager for Walmart at a six figure role that can have that before they're 30. Those kinds of investments are what will keep this industry growing and expanding and being exciting and making one that people will continue to choose in a very proud way. And if you can hear, (crossover talk), you hear the rain on the top of the Airstream it's pretty hard to miss.

Michael LeBlanc  32:35

It sounds like it sounds like s-, some birds tweeting it's a wonderful background actually because you are not faking you're not faking it man you're on the road, (crossover talk), I love it

Steve Dennis  32:47

If you can't find Ron's authenticity, we'll just make it up. We'll just, we'll just fake it, (inaudible), - 

Steve Dennis  32:47

We're, we're going to get the rain and birds to all future podcasts even if, you know, Michael's got some the sound effects thing. So, you know we haven't not use that nearly enough, (crossover talk),  -

Steve Dennis  33:06

We should definitely try harder to be authentic, (crossover talk), I think i will take your advice. So, Ron, what's, what's next for you? You're, you're I know, heading out to a bunch more, more cities. Do you want to talk a little bit about the tour as well as anything else you've got on the radar screen?

Ron Thurston  33:21

Yeah, I'd love to. Yeah, we're about six weeks in of the actual Airstream. So, this will take us through the next several stops Texas then into New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming kind of up that part of the, the country. But the (inaudible) I would say September to the end of the year is really from Seattle, to San Diego, and all down the West Coast. And they are, are some of the most beautiful parts of this country, of course, but there are also incredible retail businesses and people and startups and entrepreneurs that will really fuel this, these continued conversations for the podcast and in store events and everywhere I go, it just want to meet kind of the best of and, and have their voices heard, you know, using this platform, this kind of growth vehicle of Retail Pride and Retail in America to help them share how much they love working in this industry because that inspires others to also make the same choice. 

Ron Thurston  34:30

And some of the actually the best episodes or the most downloaded episodes that I've had our store managers who have been my guest, who sat here in the Airstream and share their story about you know, I started in stock. I didn't ever plan to do this. And this a store manager role is my opinion, the most important role to have in retail. You set the tone for those four walls every single day. No matter what the company's doing. You set that tone and when you hear store managers speak about leading a team of six or 60 or 600 in an Apple Store. Those are very important jobs. And I want to continue to, to showcase them.

Steve Dennis  35:12

So, Ron, aside from getting your book, listening to your podcast, how do you want people to engage with you when you're out, out on the road or you're looking for ideas of places to visit? Do you want people to stop by what, what, what's the best way to see what you're up to and possibly meet you and engage with you when you're and if you happen to be in their town?

Ron Thurston  35:30

I'm pretty easy to find I have been, you know, accused of taking over your LinkedIn feed pretty, pretty quickly. And so, LinkedIn messages, you know, on Instagram at Retail Pride through the website, I'm very easy to find. And I would love to (inaudible) here, really interesting things that are happening in your city, I would love to come and say hello. I've been hosting some just retail networking events, where we can bring some books and have a cocktail and have conversations about retail. potentially have you as a guest on on my podcast, too. So, anything that seems like hey, you know what, there are great things happening in this city. I would love for you to get involved. Please message me, it would be a pleasure.

Michael LeBlanc  36:18

Well, it's fantastic. Well, it's been fantastic catching up with you. Literally, we're you know, we're literally catching up with you as on your road. We often wish our guests safe travels. But that holds double for you. As you as you continue your journey you're in, you're in as your words your growth vehicle. You're growing the message and you're doing, you're doing wonderful work across the nation. So, thanks, Ron, for joining us and continued success. And, and we'll look forward to following yes, indeed, you do fill up my LinkedIn. But they're wonderful, folks. So, look forward to continuing to follow the journey and, and wish you much, much continued success.

Ron Thurston  36:53

Great. Thank you. Thank you, Michael and thank you, Steve for having me back. And maybe we can do this again in six months and I will have even more stories to share. It will be no shortage of stories about great retail in this country.

Michael LeBlanc  37:08

If you liked what you heard, please follow us on Apple Spotify, your favorite podcast platform so you can catch up with all our great interviews, like our discussion with Target SVP, Nancy King on their innovative approach to harmonize retail. New episodes will show up each and every week. And be sure and tell your friends and colleagues in the retail industry all about us.

Steve Dennis  37:26

And I'm Steve Dennis, author of the best selling book, ‘Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption’. You can learn more about me, my consulting and keynote speaking

Michael LeBlanc  37:39

And I'm Michael LeBlanc, producer and co-host of the Conversations with CommerceNext podcast, The Voice of Retail podcast, keynote speaker and host of the all new Last Request Barbecue cooking show on YouTube. You can learn even more about me on LinkedIn, or 

Safe travels everyone.


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