Being Positive In Today’s Retail Landscape

Being Positive In Today’s Retail Landscape

Authentically positive people inside the retail industry are rare – most retailer leaders and team members walk around with a “negativity bias“. It is an unfortunate but very real trait we encounter in most of our retail coworkers and team members. One of my greatest challenges last year was really trying to turn around this propensity of people to possess a dangerous and overwhelming sensitivity to unpleasant or negative thoughts, comments, and/or news.

Research shows that because we tend to favor the negative over the positive feelings/memories that we have to have a ratio of five positive events to one negative to maintain a healthy “balance”. Given the current retail industry environment – we experience a barrage of negative information and news coming at us about our industry [especially those of us involved – primarily – in brick and mortar retail] – so toxic people are the overwhelming population inside our industry right now. There is certainly more uncertainty and question about what our evolving industry will look like this year and over the next few years – than answers, at this point in time.  We see these challenges and changes every day and we use “it” to excuse our results, negative attitudes, and performance issues.

Personally – I am extremely excited and encouraged about the evolution we are experiencing in our industry. Retail executives who refuse to adapt to the new retail industry will continue to find themselves obsolete – whereas…retailers who aren’t consumed with hubris and retail history will create new, vivid, and exciting brand propositions and customer experiences. Brick and mortar retail isn’t going anywhere for the brands and leaders who are willing to develop, learn, and grow with the fast-paced and exciting incarnations of retail.

According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, “Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable—such as smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfast—complaining isn’t good for you.

Recently, I was speaking with a former colleague and current friend of mine who works for a retail organization that is undergoing some significant changes/challenges following the holiday season and they are concerned about the future outlook of their organization. My friend’s New Year’s Resolution was not to complain so much this year – especially about work issues. Which made the recent company conference call announcing organizational changes and layoffs even more difficult for my former colleague to process as most of the phone calls that took place from store to store following the conference call were very negative and gloomy in nature.

Dr. Bradberry cites, “Since human beings are inherently social, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, particularly people we spend a great deal of time with. This process is called neuronal mirroring, and it’s the basis for our ability to feel empathy. The flip side, however, is that it makes complaining a lot like smoking—you don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the ill effects. You need to be cautious about spending time with people who complain about everything.

About four months ago I had an amazing and honest conversation with a focus group of retail store managers from a variety of retail organizations and one of the questions I asked was how much time they spend, in a day, speaking or texting with their peers – the answer was approximately two to three hours out of an average eight hour day. My follow up question was how much of that time was spent discussing forward-thinking ideas, solutions, best practices, etc. – their answer was an average of 15-45 minutes. The rest of the time was spent gossiping [they freely shared this] and kvetching about their jobs, other managers, processes, policies, executives, bosses, and team members.

Why Positive Thinking Is Important

As Barbara Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory (a.k.a. PEP Lab) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found in her research – “when you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that proved that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.

Happiness and positive thinking inside the retail industry is one of the traits that make truly remarkable retail leaders stand out. The ability to create and support a positive culture will support solutions, collaboration, and growth which is essential in today’s quickly-changing retail landscape. As adaptable and agile retail leaders we cannot allow the challenges we encounter interfere with what needs to be accomplished today and we can only do that through focusing on positive and incremental improvements and accomplishments.

7 Traits of Positive Retail Leaders

  • They Understand The Distinction Between Quitting And Letting Go: Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and thoughts that aren’t healthy or supportive for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative “things” in their lives. They don’t entertain others complaints when they have moved on from a topic and they don’t revisit issues once they let them go.
  • They Recognize The Gratitude Is Essential For Happiness and Productivity: In order to find find things to be happy and positive about, strong people truly appreciate everything they have and find happiness and a level of satisfaction with what they possess. When we don’t find the positives and happiness we are always going to be focused finding the “cons” to what we have – no matter how much we already have to be grateful for.  Remarkable, memorable, and strong retail leaders express gratitude, openly and often, for all the great things that are happening around them and to them, and forget what they “could” have and, instead, in-the-moment – focus on what they DO have and where their positive actions and ambitions will take them tomorrow.

  • They Don’t Let Their Day Just Happen – They Deliberately Create Days That Are Positive & Filled With Accomplishment: Waiting, hoping and wishing rarely have a place in the vocabulary of positive retailers. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active, courageous, and deliberate. Passivity leads to a lack of personal responsibility, while positive people are very passionate about constructing their success and deriving personal satisfaction from it. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than hope their feelings away. After all, hope is never a strategy of successful people. Positive days are created by design by positive people – it’s really that simple.
  • They Have A Pathological Focus on the Present: The best retail leaders absolutely understand the past is the past. Happy/Positive people tend to live in the moment. They aren’t preoccupied with what has occurred in the past, and they aren’t constantly thinking about the far-off future. It doesn’t matter whether these thoughts are positive or negative; you could be very encouraged about the future, but if we aren’t focused on the present, we can’t make the most of it, which is critical to being positive and productive and setting our future selves up for the same. It’s important to remember and learn from the lessons of the past, but it’s damaging to dwell in it.
  • They Are Adaptable & Agile: One of the greatest impediments to success and happiness is hanging onto the outdated and moldy mantra of “but this is how we’ve always done it”. Retail times – they are a-changin’ – fast and frequently. The most positive [and, again, productive] people in retail aren’t the ones who focus on the obstacles they encounter each day – they’re the ones who focus on finding the solutions – the ways around the obstacles – that is what leads them to inspire and motivate others. Because most positive people in retail, they don’t have to worry about everyday unpredictability and they aren’t as distressed and willing to throw in the towel and complain when they encounter a challenge. They simply find another way forward, and proceed toward their goals and vision.

  • They Do Not Assign Blame or Play The Victim:  Positive people know and own that they are 100% in charge of their destiny and – as such – they take their lumps and own their mistakes and self-inflicted challenges and move forward determined and resolute to get back on track. As a matter of fact, the most positive and productive of retailers do what it takes to avoid toxic coworkers who seek to impede growth and progress of the team and the organization and they focus on adding value and contributing to the health of the business.
  • They Have Lots Of Humor: Humor is critical and key, especially in today’s retail! Truly happy [and positive] people are typically able to find humor in almost anything. They appreciate others with humor and aren’t afraid to laugh out loud at themselves or entertaining encounters. Laughing is exceedingly beneficial not only for our mental and emotional health, but also our physical health. It helps us manage the challenges of each day a little bit better. Even the simple act of smiling can help put ourselves and others at ease. Positive people understand the power of humor and surround themselves with others who appreciate and embrace that same quality.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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6 thoughts on “Being Positive In Today’s Retail Landscape

  1. Thank you Elizabeth for all that you do! You have been such an inspiration to so many including myself. With 30+ years in the retail sector, I am still learning and growing to be an even better leader. Your blogs and amazing posts are fulfilled with strength and heart.

    Thank you again for setting the example and your continuous being a role model and mentor.

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