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Brobston Group Blog

Retail Evolution

April 12, 2019

By Tim Ceci at


The year 2019 began with extensive analysis of last year’s retail performance along with plenty of commentary and key priority recommendations for this fast-changing omni channel environment. Although the results are still coming in, there’s plenty to consider in terms of profitability, number/size of store locations, ratio of wholesale/online/retail distribution, customer shopping behaviors, and brand awareness, to name just a few.

The “retail correction” has been well underway for several years and will continue. The industry, like many others, has seen a record number of store and company closures resulting in thousands of employees being made redundant. The painful impact on communities, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, and other related participants has been significant. Despite the grim headlines, retail is far from dying—it’s simply evolving. Combined with the online business (representing a 13% share), 2018 overall sales exceeded 2017 by an estimated 4.6%.

Despite the challenging environment, there are plenty of brands successfully growing their retail presence, all sharing sensible and modern approaches that contribute to a meaningful store visit, profitability, and growth. My recent visits to Warby Parker, Rent the Runway, The Real Real, Shakespeare& Co., Glossier, and KITH confirmed this fact. The common elements are straightforward, sensible, and well suited to meet and often exceed consumers’ expectations.

These include:

  • A clear, well-defined brand
  • Seamless online integration
  • A friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient team that is welcoming and values your time
  • A proportioned and well-laid-out physical space relative to the product or service
  • Understandable visual merchandising and sign age
  • Carefully thought-out product/service assortment and pricing
  • Amenities that enhance and lengthen the visit experience (cafes, stylists, events, etc.)
  • Innovative and sensible policies(returns, shipping, etc.)
  • Smart use of technology(customer files, checkout, returns, etc.)
  • Meaningful relationship building through in-store behaviors and ongoing engagement•Well-placed store locations

These critical elements underline the fact that when you are connecting with your customer who has chosen to personally visit your store, or website for that matter, you want to make sure the stage is set without compromise. Regardless of the size of the stage, aim to provide an experience that will be social, inspire, build loyalty, and drive referrals as well. Retail is alive and well, just evolving with a concert of refreshed approaches.

Warby Parker

Forbes,3/23/16,“What’s Behind Warby Parker’s Success?”

Rent the Runway

New Yorker,10/22/18,“Rent the Runway Wants to Lend You Your Look”

The Real Real

New York Times,1/23/19,“Tycoon of the Pre-Owned”

Shakespeare & Co.


New York Times,3/13/18,“Shakespeare and Company is Coming Back to the West Side and the Village”


Forbes,11/5/18,“Glossier to Open New Flagship Store in New York”


New York Times,11/25/17,“Kith’s Ronnie Fieg Knows Exactly What You Want”

About the contributor
Tim Ceci

Tim Ceci has served a wide variety of retail brands in executive leadership roles in the United States and abroad.

Tim builds solid organizational foundations and vibrant work environments that maximize the customer experience and potential for growth. His expansive knowledge of key retail categories (monobrand/multibrand, luxury/contemporary, hardline/softline, full-price/off-price, for- profit/nonprofit) and diverse formats (multistore, flagship, freestanding, concession, pop-up, warehouse sale events) stems from working with iconic brands such as Nordstrom, Celine, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, National Graphic, Nike, Gap International, and Pier 1 Imports.

Tim’s mission is to support organizations that are new to the marketplace, in need of help with their brand identity, or seeking fresh ideas in order to advance to the next level of growth in the evolving omni-channel landscape. As corporate executive, partner, team leader, or consultant, he uses a 360-degree approach to achieve strategic objectives and leverage the core disciplines of finance, merchandising, operations, marketing, visual presentation, and customer service to drive results.

Tim is well respected in the industry as a mission-focused leader possessing the high degree of emotional intelligence necessary to develop complex global businesses. He is a connector of people and ideas, sharing his experience and expertise as an adjunct professor at LIM College; a board member at Brooklyn Fashion Incubator, Oumlil, and Yacker Talent; an advisor to Qvalon (New York) and Retail Hive (London); and a volunteer at Riverside Park Conservancy (New York) and Beacon for Change (South

Tim has a BA in Business Administration and Marketing from Hofstra University, is an avid marathon runner, and resides in New York City.


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