it's time to stand up and be proud that we work in retail
A team, a community, an industry, a tribe......these words can have similar connotations of groups of people who share a common interest, employed within the same organization, or are working toward a common goal.
A tribe is defined as "a division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader”. Seth Godin writes that "it's human nature to seek out tribes, and in a digital world where we crave human interaction at an increasing rate, it's completely understandable that all of us naturally gravitate to others where conversation is easy and you enjoy their company.
What tribes do you identify yourself with? If you think about all the different activities you like to do, and groups of people with whom you spend your time, you could probably list out several. You might even say as retail leader that your store team is a tribe, or maybe your brand identifies itself as a group of people that share a common love of a product like Apple.
But do you consider "retail" a tribe? When you first thought about the question I proposed did “retail tribe" come to mind? Or are we just millions of people who work in the same industry? I am here to say yes, we are, and we are in search of a movement that can connect us in one of the most critical times in the history of our industry. In many respects, we have governed ourselves as an industry for over 100 years, and we have developed our own thriving systems of nurturing and teaching the youth entering the industry with no consistent resource of information.
As many of you do, I meet people every day who have had very successful, fulfilling retail careers, but often they happened by accident. There is a part time job in college while you study something completely unrelated, and suddenly, the "retail bug" bites you (are we the only industry that uses that term?) There is no specific degree, no well-known universities where you go to become a great retail manager. If you are lucky enough to have a great leader or a mentor, it means more than anything.
Your value is often only determined by the experiences you gain through hard work and the companies you choose to spend time doing it.
I hear how parents and family members were disappointed that the college degree you worked so hard to earn is unused because you fell in love with working in retail. You had early success, and now you can't think of doing anything else. It's almost frowned upon that we work in retail, as if your real career is just on hold until you start something else. You work in the mall? That must be terrible! No, it's amazing, I meet incredible people every day and can influence dozens of employees and create experiences for thousands of customers walking in the door.
My first experiences after graduating from FIDM in California in the 80's were actually in fashion design. After several years working my way up, and dreaming about becoming a famous fashion designer, I took the leap to the other side and unexpectedly ended up in GAP KIDS in 1996. It was a perfect fit with an organization of people who loved what they did, were completely invested in training and development, and my commitment was through the roof. From that moment on I knew exactly where I belonged, and it's been an amazing journey of which I am very proud.
I had found my tribe.
And now it's time to start a movement. It's time to mobilize. It's time to fight to survive.
When you choose to identify yourself with one of the many tribes in your life, be proud of the one you call your “retail tribe”, you are among an incredibly successful, powerful, hard working group of people who lead multi-million dollar businesses. We have a significant impact on the economy and we have a network of talent that is unparalleled. Spend a few minutes today telling someone how proud you are to work in retail, and inspire a future leader to choose this just like you did…. invite them into our tribe.