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After 30 Years in Retail, Here’s What I Know For Sure

Team Graff Spotlight:  Mary

Spring always causes me to reminisce.  I’m not entirely sure why, but earlier this week as we busy ourselves with all the prep for RCC’s STORE Conference, I found myself going down memory lane, back to the first STORE Conference I ever attended.  That’s when I did the math and realized, this is my 30th anniversary of working in the retail industry!  It sounds unbelievable to me, but it is a fact.

I grew up in retail and started actively working in my father’s chain of leather goods shops in the Niagara Peninsula when I was just 16 years old…hence the 30 year count.  I know, I know, as a teenager in retail, what could I possibly have been doing that counts as valid experience?  Well, as my dad always said, “Come with me today and you’ll learn more at the stores than you’ll ever learn at school!”  I loved those days…skipping class and going on buying trips, helping get a big delivery out on the sales floor, doing store visits all day, helping train the staff and, of course, getting to attend an RCC Conference or two, many years ago. 

I honestly didn’t know just how rich my father’s retail training ground was until I got out in the retail world on my own.  As a result, I’ve had a chance to really do it all in retail…operate my own stores, climb the corporate ladder inside a big retail chain, ecommerce, marketing, merchandising, buying, frontline training and the list goes on.  Unintentionally, with this ‘jack-of-all-trades’ approach to my career path, it dawned on me that I have never really specialized in any particular area of retail, which begs the question, what is it that I really love about retail then?

When I break it all down, all the exposure I’ve had in all these areas, and now, in the enriching work I do at Graff supporting retailers on their road to success, I’ve concluded that it all comes down to people.  It’s the people part of retail that feeds my passion for the industry!  If you think about it, it’s people that drive every aspect of retail…building brands that attract people, products that provide solutions for people, shopping experiences for people to enjoy, growing and developing teams of people, driving performance of people through excellence in leadership…it’s all about people…internal people (staff) and external people (customers).  It never occurred to me until now, yet it’s so simple.

After 30 years in retail, it’s the one thing I know for sure…retail is all about the people and it’s the people part of the business that drives me every day.  What is it about retail that drives you?

Blog Authors: Mary & Kim

Mary GordonKim McCutcheon

Mary Gordon and Kim McCutcheon have been supporting retail front lines for as long as they can remember. A dynamic duo, Mary and Kim understand what it takes to make training work at store level and know how to inspire, coach and support retail teams in all of their training endeavours.


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