The Role of People in Physical Retail

Retail Done Right 3 Podcast Show Notes:

People: Still a Critical Element of the Customer Channel


We’re in the era of the Customer Channel – shoppers now call the shots and retailers and brands need to embrace and optimize their entire ecosystem to support their customers in how, when and where they want to shop.

Have there been changes in the role of the physical store? No doubt…

  • Mission-driven shopping

  • Fewer store visits

  • Less traffic (which was already a trend pre-pandemic)

  • An educated consumer who has researched extensively online prior to coming to the store

  • New shifts like fulfillment in store and from the store as well as curbside pickup

We’re still shopping in stores. And, as a % of in-store versus online, the vast majority happens in-store. – 84%, according to the most recent US Census Bureau statistics.

Technology and the transformation in consumer shopping habits get most of the press right now… But I think we are missing something here. It’s not about the technology. It’s about the people that make this happen. All the people – from behind the scenes to the front-line team.


Our guests are former colleagues from Sunglass Hut, and who are now principals with Next Performance Horizon, Jackie Culp and Lou Chestman.

The conversation began with the guiding principle that People Work for People.

As Jackie shared, “I believe in SERVANT LEADERSHIP; the practice of putting the needs of the employee first, of empowering others; allowing them to be their very best. It is important to meet people where THEY need to be met both professionally and personally. You need to be present and pay attention; when you ask someone “How Are You?” you need to take the time to LISTEN with Empathy and connect with their response. This helps to build trust in the relationship. “

Lou built on this, “If you are a leader, you are in the relationship business. Relationships are fostered when people feel listened to and valued, but listening takes a lot of practice. You have to be present in the moment; ignore internal noise and preconceived thoughts. You have to listen with an attitude of genuine curiosity and interest in the other person. Finally, listen with empathy in hopes to sense the other persons perspective, feelings, actions and desires.“

The physical retail experience is people + people + stuff. Great retail managers work not just to create a great customer experience, but a good staff experience too. You know when you walk into a well-run store - especially at closing time when people are cleaning but not too busy for customers as there’s a sense of purpose around the action.



We ended with a conversation about ENERGY. As Lou stated, “At the epicenter of the customer experience and the associate experience is energy.” It’s that simple.

At the epicenter of the customer experience and the associate experience is energy.

It’s about the Customer Channel. Tech is helping to make retail better. But more importantly, tech is helping to support the way customers want to shop, how they want to shop, when they want to shop.

And in physical retail, the staff is your key differentiator.

Jeff Fisher


I create shopping experiences, which are at the intersection of store design, visual merchandising, interactive technologies and in-store communications. Let me help you navigate through the changing nature of retail.

Please connect with me on LinkedIn, visit my website and follow me on Instagram.

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