Retail Podcast 607: Brent Hollowell The Mental Shift to Sales Tech

Bob Phibbs interviewed Brent Hollowell, chief marketing officer at Volumental, on being of service, providing value, and more on this episode of Tell Me Something Good About Retail. 


Tell me something good about retail

Brent Hollowell: The Mental Shift to Sales Tech



Bob: I’m talking with Brent Hollowell. He has had roles such as the VP of Global Marketing at Footlocker, Director of Marketing and Retail at Adidas America, Chief Marketing Officer at Fleet Feet. And he’s currently the CMO at Volumental, which will hear more about that in a minute. And he has led the product and marketing efforts for the leading fit tech company, helping shoppers find their perfect fit and some of the world’s best brands and retailers. Welcome, Brent.

Brent: Hello, Bob. to see you. Good to hear you.

Bob: It’s good to see you, my friend. Now before we talk about your relationship with retail and you have stories. I know. I know. But I did see that you are on the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association in Pennsylvania. Can you tell me what that is?

Brent: Well, okay, I was on the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary board when I lived in Pennsylvania. I’m no longer on the board. But it is one of the most amazing places on the planet, and certainly in the state of Pennsylvania. But there is a peak where all the migrating birds go past basically from, you know, upwards from Canada, all the way down to South America or wherever birds go when they migrate. They go through this Hawk Mountain. And there are people who sit there on this peak and count the birds. And so from year to year, it changes. They don’t just count the birds. They count each species of bird as it goes by. And they’re all volunteers. But it is one of the world’s most prevalent, I should say leading bird sanctuaries. Crazy story. I didn’t even know you’re going to ask this question. But it was founded by a woman from New York City who wanted to preserve the wild places. And what was happening was hunters in Pennsylvania, which one thing they love to do there is hunt, they were just out there blasting these eagles and all these beautiful, magnificent birds out of the sky. And this woman, Rosalie Park, I think her name was... No, that’s not right, I’m wrong. But she basically bought up the property and said, “You guys can’t hunt here anymore.” And there’s almost like a huge turf war over because hunters would go out there and just fire away. So, anyway, they created a sanctuary and now they do training for bird sanctuaries all over the world. So people will come from Africa and Asia, and learn the art of bird preservation. And there’s a lot you can learn about the way the earth is going from how birds migrate, how many of them there are any given year, and so forth. But how are...? It’s amazing.

Bob: Say I had to round out your story a little bit because you’ve not only done CMO kind of things and then you had a big heart. See that’s...

Brent: That’s nice.

Bob: ...what people like to... You know, I live up here in the Hudson Valley. And we have bald eagles up here. In fact, we’ve just been named 60 miles south of Albany is this Hudson Eagle, recreate, not recreate, something else. But it’s all about that for 60 miles, this is one of the last places that you’re going to find them and we got to take care of it. So, I love that about you. Now, you work in Sweden. I appreciate you joining me late in the afternoon there. Can you tell us what your role is and what Volumental does? Let’s get that out.

Brent: Yeah, so under CMO at Volumental, and it’s kind of like that old Hair Club for Men ad, you know the guy, he liked the company so much he bought it. It helped him with his bald hair. I didn’t buy Volumental but I did come to work for them because I was a customer at Fleet Feet for, you know, almost four years. We were one of the early customers at Volumental. So, when we bought them on, it was basically a replacement for the brand device bringing digital tools into the sales floor. And we immediately got such a value out of the kind of data that we’re getting. We’re getting sort of these 12 data points of the foot. So it wasn’t just the length of the foot or the width, but we were actually seeing the girth of the foot, the height of the instep, the height of the art. So it opened up all these great conversations to get people in the right product. Over time, it’s migrated into building this gigantic database that Volumental has now about 12 million scans. And what we did is take the purchase data from the customer and match it to that 3D scan of that foot. So now you’re actually... You’re not using a device to measure the foot, you’re using feet to measure shoes. And so through the magic of AI, which I don’t... I mean, the great thing about being here is I’m always the dumbest guy in the meetings. There’s just a bunch of programmers and computer vision scientists and algorithm writers who figure all this out. But basically, if I take Bob’s foot and I see all the dimensions of his foot and I know what he bought, I can put that into the scene we call the Fit Engine, and we do that millions of times. When Bob’s brother comes in the store, we measure his foot, we can see the shoes that are going to fit his foot the best. So we can not only recommend, hey, this is your size, we can recommend you of the universe of shoes that have already been built that are sitting in your backroom or sitting in your warehouse, these are the shoes that are going to fit the shape and size of your foot the best.

And so, it’s incredible. You would have to be a shoe dog and do hundreds of fittings before you really knew what to go get out of the backroom in a running store, right? Well, we can make a person productive on the sales floor from day one because they’ve got the iPad in their hand, they’re getting recommendations of the stuff that’s sitting in the back room, and we’re just bringing it out the shoes that are in the backroom that will fit Bob’s foot the best. And of course, there’s personal preference. You might like it a little tighter than the next person. But we can show you, “Hey, Bob, your foot’s probably, you know, a little wider than 85% of the population. You should probably wear men’s size 10.5. About 80% of the people with your type of footwear, 10.5 in this style, not just 10.5, in general, but in this style, they buy the 10.5.” And then we can show you what happens if you were to buy the 10. You could try it on and you can make your own decisions. And then that decision, though, informs this feet engine and it keeps getting smarter and smarter. So it’s pretty incredible what we’re able to do with it.

Bob: I discovered Volumental at NRF, like I don’t know, four or five years ago, and they had this reception, where I think we went to the Swedish Embassy if I’m not mistaken. And you went in and they had the little device set up to scan your foot. And I remember at that time, it struck me because I’m an old shoe dog. And I was in shoes and boots for an awful long time. I put myself through college. And that really was your skill as you knew, why am I going to waste my time showing this guy the shoe? It’ll never fit the guy. He’s got too high an instep or it’s too low and this will fall off and all that stuff. So being able to for once not hear the buzzwords about AI but actually, oh, this is something that actually adds value to the customer and the retailer, that’s what I think probably sparked the interest from you. Right?

Brent: Absolutely.

Bob: You could see that opportunity.

Brent: I could see it. In my jobs, I’ve had in the past, I’ve spent 30 years onboarding retail technologies in various states. We can talk a little bit about that. But I’ve never seen a technology that checks all the boxes that are... It helps you acquire customers, onboard them. We see email capture rates go up from like, 10% to over 90% because people will give you their email address for that scan, hey, I’ll send you this cool scan, give me your email address, boom, not even a question. Now you’ve got their email address, you’ve onboarded them into your ecosystem. But also the value that beyond what the retailer gets to see the pure customer experience, you know, the idea of I don’t know about you, but I mean, I’ve held a lot of people’s feet in my hands. They’ll buy a size up to not be told they have a wide foot. But when you can say, “Hey, your foot is a double E and here it is. It’s like an MRI.” You’re not saying your ACL is blown out, I think. You’re showing them the MRI. Now you’re into a conversation where I can actually get this person the right, not only the size shoe but the width shoe. And so that lowers returns. It makes them more comfortable with what they’re walking out. You get a better outcome bottom line. And so...

Bob: Yeah, I love that. You’ve worked in running stores for so much of your career, Brent. And what I really liked is, what’s one of the biggest problems that running stores have? The guy comes in or a girl comes in, they’re an enthusiast, they go out for runs every day, or they’re training for a marathon or triathlon or where it’s going to be. And the problem is that they buy the one shoe from you, and then they wear it out. And so then they just buy online and get that same thing. And what I liked about this is with pretty good certainty, you could say, that worked really well but these three others would be an upgrade to your product. And now you’ve got data that supports it. That’s got to be huge for the retailers that have gotten out of the discounting mindset. The ones who realize like the money is in fit, the money is in cutting that voluminous shoe wall that footlocker had. Here’s 400 intimidating shoes. Good luck. And now you brought this down to... And these are the three just for you, that’s got to be powerful.

Brent: It’s really powerful. I mean, at Fleet Feet people hadn’t even shot the shoe wall. They just came in, were greeted. And we just started talking to them about what we had, and then we could just cut to the chase. They weren’t sort of standing there scratching their head for 20 minutes and wondering, should I talk to anybody or...? The intimidation factor went away because you were just able to be serviced around your unique needs. And so yeah, it’s really powerful. It helps with inventory management and the whole thing. The story about the width thing was interesting because we saw our width business jump by like 12% right out the gate, 20%. And so this old shoe dog story that we told ourselves was, either these people, they don’t believe they have wide feet, so I’m going to have to get them in a bigger shoe.

Bob: Too long.

Brent: Now it’s too long.

Bob: Differently in your gait. Yes, exactly.

Brent: So that’s really been reduced greatly. And so we see these great reduction in returns. And it is an in-store, too... I mean, the thing you said about you buy a shoe once, and then you go online and buy the next one, well, what happens is they have such a great in-store experience, they want to do that again and they want to see what other shoes fit them. They tend to... Oh, there were some other things in there that I was shown that I wouldn’t have even thought of because I’ve been, you know, an aficionado of this brand, or whatever, brand X, Y, or Z. So it opens up their mind, it opens up the sales people’s minds about, they think they might know what to pull out but now they’re pulling out some different things. Because the AI is basically saying, “Actually, you should...” And you have it in your backroom, by the way, you should pull up these other two and let them try it. And...

Bob: Excuse me, there’s a little delay between us in Sweden.

Brent: It’s going outer space now.

Bob: What?

Brent: It’s going outer space, Bob. Give it a...

Bob: That’s true. I know. I know. What I really like about that is in a time with supply chain, all we hear about is, “There’s 70 containers off of the California shore.” It’s like shut the hell up. All that matters is, show what you’ve got. And so what this does is, maybe I am a part-timer, I don’t know what the heck the Adidas 85621 from last year was. I guess they’re not selling. We should put those half off instead of Holy crap, a lot of people, that’s a great fit, we could easily turn that without making the discount. That has to make the difference just bottom line.

Brent: Exactly. And as I think about the supply chain was I think all the time about what our technology can do just from that perspective. Basically, everyone’s been talking about customization for years. We’re going to custom-build shoes, but there’s no guarantee if... Feet and shoes are puzzle pieces. They’re not plastic puzzle pieces. So just because I build a shoe that’s exactly the size of your foot doesn’t mean you’re going to like it. So, what if we could use technology to take all the shoes that are actually already built, and find the right feet in the world for those shoes. That’s what’s happening on a macro-level, but on a micro-level, we’re finding all the shoes, the stuff that you want to sell today in your backroom and we’re matching it to people’s feet who are walking through your store. That is something your best salesperson couldn’t do that on their own.

Bob: And they’re not going to get that online. They’re not going to get that online either because at the end of the day, that experience, for me when I was selling shoes, the whole goal is, get that shoe off that foot. If I get the shoe off, I’m in. That’s all I think about. And then with this, I think, all right, all I have to do is get the scan, get the scan and the world opens up to me. The report building has got to make this easy. It’s fun. Let’s try it. So this all sounds great. So, what is the learnings that you found out when you did this that might have been not so great? Because it’s a technology, let’s face it. There had to be a learning curve?

Brent: Yes. I mean, first of all, they had already decided on Volumental before I was hired at Fleet Feet. So, when I came aboard, my first thought was, didn’t we prove that scanning feet doesn’t work like 10 years ago with Dr. Scholl’s footpads or anything?

Bob: I think the X-ray thing or...

Brent: This is terrible. And so, first of all, that’s a bad idea. Second bad idea is this company is in Sweden. It’s 20 people in Sweden. We’re going to send these machines out to 180 stores. So that all just worked. Somehow these guys made these machines work and we didn’t have downtime. We didn’t have all these technology problems. That was a learning. But when we first tried to turn on the Fit Engine with the actual style recommendations thing, it was coming back with all kinds of wacky stuff that you didn’t have to be a shoe dog to know that this wasn’t a very good choice. And so, the Fit Engine was actually, we kind of launched it too early and had to go back and fix that and let more data get the algorithms better. And so we came back several months later and had to convince the stores to use the Fit Engine. But once they did, a few stores piloted it and said, “Wow, this is actually a really cool tool,” then it became much better. So you have learnings like that. No technology. I love technology because everybody understands that it’s always in data. Nothing is ever set. There’s always a V1, V2, V3. But the optimistic part of technology is that you know even if it’s not perfect, it can get better. And this is what happens. And so I think that’s a great learning.

Bob: Yes, no, I think that’s really important. I know we just refilmed all sales, our expert online retail sales training program. And you look back and you think, “Oh, I see what that was so cutting edge, or so great at the beginning.” And then you think you look at it again, you’re like, “Oh, well, what else could we do?” And I think, ultimately, I was reading an article this morning, they’re saying is the deck stacked against small and medium-sized retailers because of all the supply chain and all the big boys are doing these things. And I was like, the most creative people are the Indie retailers. They are those speedboats that are figuring it out. And you look at Fleet Feet, in particular, and what they have got this passionate group of running stores, we’re competing against the Nikes of the world and people getting an awful lot of PR. So, in your experience, and I know you’ve been in sports marketing and an awful lot of different things, what would you say are the top five things that retailers do really well in the best stores that you see. But also, we do need the five things that you think they shoot themselves in the foot or do wrong. And this has nothing to do with who you work for right now. Just you’re an expert, I want to see what you think the five best and then the five worst.

Brent: Okay, you threw a trick question at me here. So I have a hard time counting to three.

Bob: Whatever you can do.

Brent: So I’ll do the best I can with this. All right. One thing is that the top five and the bottom or the worst five, one thing I’ve learned in life is our best strengths are sometimes our biggest weaknesses. So I think there’d probably be some overlap between what people do well and what they don’t do well. But I’m a marketing guy. So I think what the best stores do, the best retailers do, whether you’re a single, shingle modern pop store or you’ve got a chain of stores, the very best ones define early on, who are we? What is our brand? What’s our why? If you were like, what are our brand standards? And so, with that, if you understand why you exist? Why would someone come to my store? They drove 15 miles. Why did they come here? What are we going to provide them? Defining that really, typically is the indicator of you’re going to have a good experience at that store. So defining your brand. And then aligning your practices behind that, not just saying this is what we mean and then hiring somebody who can’t possibly deliver that experience or hiring them and then not training them to deliver that experience. So that’s the best thing you can do is set the brand, hire the right people to deliver that experience. I really do think it’s a people thing, frankly, more than anything else that you.

Bob: If you go hire someone that’s trainable and you don’t train them, you’ve already set the game against yourself. So I don’t care what you say, customers are important. It’s clear it isn’t.

Brent: Yes, absolutely. And then I think it’s about what do you do after you sell them? So how do you onboard them into your ecosystem and give them something to take away or something to remember that it’s going to bring them back? And so I think today, it’s like capturing email addresses. I remember you did a clinic I saw a long time ago that you pull people up and you said, “Hey, we were talking about trails that are good in a local area. Give me your phone.” And you recorded yourself say, “Hey, Joe, we talked about this and I want to just remind you that these trails are over here, this trail’s here, this trail’s here, don’t forget to go out and run.” You put it right on their phone and they walked away. That’s a memorable experience that you actually physically take away with you. It’s not the standard stuff. So I think retailers that find that little extra secret sauce, whatever it is, it could be...

Bob: And it’s fun. I think it’s got to be fun for who’s on the sales floor. Because it’s not a check in the box. It’s like, how cool would it be if you were a customer and a new runner doesn’t know the area and you say, “Oh, the Chattahoochee trail just starts out here. It’s easy but we do a run too?” And they’re like, “Oh, I can participate too.” It’s like, yes, versus, if you sign up for our friends and family, we’ll give you 10% off. Like, “Oh, no, that’s...”

Brent: And no. Everybody’s like, “Okay, I’ll give you a fake email address to get out of here”. But you just put that down on their cell phone, they’re going to remember you. So I think that’s clearly something that you can do. And then I’m trying to think of like, what other things. I think delivering on that, yes.

Bob: You see people that shoot themselves in the foot. You go into a store, whatever that store is, running store, anything, what are the things that that you see? Because you have the same eyes as I do, you just have a different filter.

Brent: I see it all the time. There’s no theme. There’s no, where am I supposed to go? I’m in your store. There’s no like, where do you want me to go? There’s just stuff everywhere. It’s like a product truck exploded in the store. So, what am I supposed to buy? How do I navigate this environment? So I think just thinking about from a customer, you work in that environment every day so you know where everything is, but how can you make it really stand out and feel great to a person walking in? I see this more in smaller stores that don’t have a whole visual merchandising department and whatnot. It’s like, really focus in on what is it that you want people to see? What are you proud of about the store that you have, but also the product that you have in it and then guide people and do some visual storytelling in that space because you can get busy on a Saturday? You can’t always rely on one of your employees grabbing somebody and walking them through. So you got to think about the story that you want to tell in that space. And I see a lot of people just give very little thought to that. It’s like, oh, they’ll find it. And that’s just a big mistake.

Bob: They’ll figure it out.

Brent: Yes, they’ll figure it out.

Bob: That’s how we hire people. They’ll figure it out.

Brent: Yes. And I also think the other thing, I’ll go back to the training piece, it’s like, a lot of retailers, they hire people who think that their job is to sell people. And it’s obvious when you walk into a store where the attitude is I’m here to sell you something or I’m here to get you something If you’ve decided to buy it versus I’m here to serve you. I think if you can think about I’m here to serve people... I remember when I started at Footlocker, I graduated from college. I got recruited by Footlocker. My big dream was to go work in an ad agency. I wanted to get into marketing, but Footlocker, this was a division of the Woolworth Corporation at the time. And actually, Woolworth Corporation owned the Kinney Shoe Corporation. So Footlocker was an offshoot of Kinney Shoes.

Bob: So you're dating yourself now my friend...

Brent: You want to talk about bad brand stories, I mean, those two retail entities are extinct. They didn’t evolve with the cut. They didn’t think about... They just said, well, we have stuff in our stores. When the consumer evolved, when the mall evolved, they didn’t evolve with it. And so, Woolworth became basically Walmart. And Kinney Shoes became 100 other shoe stores that got more specialized sort of thing. Yes, Kinney kept trying to sell everything to everybody. And what they could have done was fragmented out more different types of shoe stores when the malls became more prevalent. You weren’t driving up with old family to a roadside store anymore. You were going into a mall where people could fragment. So, anyway I just think that when I started out of college and got recruited, I wasn’t super stoked to be working in a shoe store, I believed that I was going to be able to work my way up like all the Woolworth Corporation executives had. They started in the stores. And the whole recruiting track was if you start in retail stores, we’ll teach you the retail business and you can roll through. And by that time, they already had over 1,000 stores. So I don’t know what I was thinking that I was actually going to be able to get into marketing out of 1,000 people that they were hiring. But that is actually ended up happening. But I remember distinctly being not super stoked that I was going to be working in a shoe store and that the mental shift that I made was, you know what, you’re actually getting to help people. People are coming in, they want to play basketball, they want to run. And when I woke up every morning, I was excited about going to work because I had in my mind that I was helping people. That made me a better salesperson. That made me a happier employee. And I’d learned something about when I became a manager of my own stores, that we need to give people a vision of what it is that they’re actually there to do. And that’s help people. No matter what you’re doing, you’re helping people. That’s what’s great about retail is you get to help people get the things that they want and/or need.

Bob: Things you don’t even know that they want or need. When you’re just being a person as long as you have a structure underneath you, you understand it’s not just us hanging it out, that your role here is to serve and to serve the other people that work with you. I think it’s fabulous. Well, we’re going to continue in just a minute with Brent Hollowell but first a word from this season’s sponsor, CoreLogic. Okay. And we’re back with Brent, talking shoes, talking Volumental, talking hawks up on a mountain. So what kind of innovations have you seen in marketing? I think it’s easy for so many retailers to chase the shiny object. Oh, I should be on TikTok. Oh, we should be doing a Facebook Live Stream. And no one can do it all. But what are those changes that you think if you had your own store, let’s say a group of two or three retail stores of some kind, where do you think there would be a value or where we’re going that you could recommend?

Brent: Well, I mean, I’m going to assume that everybody got the memo during Covid that whether you like online or not, that you’ve got to be online. You may not love it. But it was a lifeline for a lot of people during Covid. And if you had been rejecting it before, you were in scramble mode for survival. So the world isn’t going backward. Even before Covid started, 80% of the people started their search for products online in the shoe business, for sure. That was even before Covid. So this isn’t going to change. So, if I own stores, I would want to make sure I had some sort of good online presence. I’m not trying to compete with Amazon, with the Dotcom. But locally, if someone searches on Google, are my reviews good? All the things that you can do around Yelp and all of that, make sure that your ship is tidy because they’re looking at those reviews. And if you’ve got a lot of bad reviews and things, it’s hard to reverse that. People just don’t want to show up to a restaurant or a retail store where they think they’re going to get lousy service. And people do look at this stuff. So optimize for those things that that you know that you yourself use. Ask your kids, what do they use to find out about how good something is before they go? And to try to look as good in those things as you can. I think people set up like appointment scheduling. There’s some cool things, there’s some cool plugins you can do now for appointment scheduling that came up during Covid on the virtual selling. There’s some great applications out there for that. And I think your customers are modifying their behavior. Therefore, we as retailers need to modify our behavior, to meet them where they are with what they want to do. You can rail against the system and all that or you can say, yes, the world’s changing, what are the right things for me to evolve? But don’t get FOMO and chase every single shiny object, but look at what your customers are really doing. Ask them, how did you find me? Just you can glean through conversation with your customers, how they’re going about their lives and you can use it to your own advantage, I think.

Bob: Well, and I think you’ve heard me say it forever is retail’s a game of being brilliant on the basics. It’s not like there’s a new way to build rapport. You either build rapport or you don’t. There’s not many ways. If you just take that idea, you can’t take a technology like Volumental and go like, “Well, it’ll also help you slice bread.” It’s like, no, we know who we are. We know what we do. Here’s what the great story is. And it becomes easy. And I think that’s the challenge. I think too many people have right now a lot of writers saying how awful it is to work retail, hospitality, restaurant. No wonder no one wants this. That’s why they’re all leaving. Okay, well, they left. All right. But I think most people will find that if you’re really interested in building a career, if you’re going to go into marketing, or you’re going to go into have your own business or whatever, the skills that you learned working in a retail store are second to none because you suddenly have to learn, it’s about making somebody else happy before they’re going to make you happy.

Brent: I mean, I wouldn’t have had the marketing career I had if I hadn’t started in a store because, all respect to a lot of my peers in the industry. You can listen to a lot of marketing people talk and everybody’s smart, but if you don’t have that practical experience of where the rubber hits the road, like, okay, what’s the impact of what marketing I’m building and how does that get actually implemented at the point of sale? That’s invaluable because you learn when you’re working with people, like on a retail floor, that there’s only so much attention or focus they can have on any one thing. We have all these great brand promises. We got a million features and benefits and all that kind of stuff. I mean, people used to walk into a Footlocker store. We paid a million dollars a year to have banners. We’re in a mall. We’d have banners at the door going Christmas sale. We’d spend a million dollars a year, people would hit their head on the banner as they walk to the store and say, “Do you have anything on sale?” So, they’re not focused on what you think they’re focused on. So, I remember coming out of the store when I got to the Footlocker, I said, I’m looking at this line item when I became head of marketing, I’m going, “Guys, I was in a store as late as three years ago, nobody’s looking at these banners.” They’re at the mall. They know it’s Christmas time. We don’t need a banner across the front of the door telling them there’s a sale. So let’s use that real estate for other things. Hey, we have the cool view Air Jordans or whatever it might be. So, these are the lessons that you learn working on the retail sales floor that people have a narrow focus. They don’t see everything that you think they see. They don’t hear everything that you think they hear. Our brains can only handle so much. And so I think that understanding that when you’re talking to people in a retail environment really makes you better, just about any job you can have. Whether it be operations, marketing, buying, you name it, yeah, it’ll prepare you.

Bob: I think to your point, coming from that sales floor, but then also valuing people’s opinions who are there. Now, in this day and age, everyone’s got an opinion. That still sucks. Why? I just hate it. Well, that’s not valuable to me. Thank you very much. But if I’m bringing this shoe out eight times and eight times people are like, yes, there’s just something about it, that’s probably information that would be valuable if nothing else than to the buyer because it might be something wrong with the run. There’s a million things, but I think we have so vilified working in retail, that we haven’t really passionately gone into schools and said, “Look at all the people that are looked at as great.” Almost 90% of the leaders that you follow, and they’re inspirational or doing things or actors, other things, at some level, they probably had a connection to retail.

Brent: Yes, they were selling ice cream cones at a shopper. Doing something where they had to deal with, you know, customers and understood that your stuff has to work where the rubber hits the road. And I think that makes you a better business person all around, whatever role you end up with. Even just basic people skills. You can’t work in retail. But that goes back to the question you asked about, like what makes a store great or not? I think one of the reasons it’s easy not to want to work in retail is because a lot of retailers don’t make it a place that you would want to work, make it fun and engaging. But they don’t train you. They don’t give you a North Star to follow about why you’re there and what you’re doing, and then reward that great behavior when you’re doing the right things. And so, it’s pretty easy to quit a job like that. I mean, so yes.

Bob: Absolutely. I was talking to Tom Sullivan, founder of Lumber Liquidators and Cabinets To Go in a few episodes earlier. And he said, “My goal was to build a company I would want to work at.” I was like, “Dude, that’s it.” That’s it.

Brent: Yes, it’s the simplest way you could put it. Or if you have kids, would you want your kids to work there? And are we building an environment where I want my own kids to work? And I think a lot of retail store owners or operator, if they really thought about it and thought about it honestly, it’s like, yes, would I? Am I treating these employees that I’m hiring like I would once treat my son or daughter if they came to work here?

Bob: I think the going joke I’ve always heard is, oh, no, I wouldn’t want them to work that hard. And they don’t even value the job that they have learned on the fly. So we’re coming to the end of our time here. You’ve been great over in Sweden to talk to you, Brent. And the title of this podcast is “Tell Me Something Good About Retail.” So tell me something good about retail today, Brent?

Brent: Well, I mean, I feel like we’ve said a lot of good things. But I think the bottom line is, if you’re worried about the future of retail, don’t because humans are humans. We’re social animals. We need to get out in the world. We want to talk to each other. We want to see each other. But we only want to do that if it’s rewarding. And so, our job is to make it a rewarding place to land. If we do that, then human nature is going to take over. Everybody just wants to sit in their underwear at their house and punch buttons online. That’s not what we’re made to do. There’s thousands and thousands of years of evolution working for us if we let it take its course. It’s going to come back. It is coming back and there’s going to be great things ahead for physical retail.

Bob: Fabulous. That’s a great way for us to end today, Brent, and I appreciate you being on the podcast with us today.

Brent: You bet, sure. Great to see you, Bob. Take care.



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