Creativity In Retail

Creativity in Retail

Aside from the obvious, that probably popped into you mind, creativity in retail is beneficial in all areas of the business. Clearly, those of us who love Visual Merchandising and creating moments and visual experiences for our customers understand the tangible “creativity”. It used to be that people were categorized in various compartments inside retail. Certainly people that were more “operationally” driven or analytical couldn’t be more creatively inclined and vice versa…the “creative” ones whose forte is visuals and building a beautiful display or a aesthetically perfect denim wall couldn’t possibly be strong in operations. Thankfully, that is not the case any longer (even though titles still exist) and people have found that there is a tremendous amount of creativity needed for strategy and a high-level of business acumen. We are taught as business leaders to be linear thinkers, to use analytics and reports to drive our decisions. But that only delivers information of what we know to be true today – creativity can spark ideas and inspire us determine how to reinvent our leadership, coaching, directions to impact results tomorrow and the following days – creative people are forward thinkers, problem solvers, solution drivers and optimists.

Possessing critical, linear, and creative thinking abilities is absolutely beneficial in today’s fast-paced retail world that is constantly evolving and changing. Not only are we competing with our industry/genre specific retailers but we are competing against our very own e-commerce sites. As retail leaders it is imperative that we can take, interpret, and reinvent what we know to be able to react to the needs of the business. Linear thinking and critical thinking will help you analyze the facts that you have in front on you. Creativity will help you create roadmaps to impact, positively, the state of the business through ideas – after all we’ve all heard/seen the quotes about The most dangerous phrase in business is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ …creativity equals solutions to problems, challenging the “status quo”, thinking outside the box. By being creative enough to overcome obstacles, challenges, to be able to quickly identify and adapt to the changes in the workplace

Everyone has the ability to be creative in different ways. Never discount your ability to think, behave or express your creativity. Here are some suggestions on how to tap into and inspire your inner creative beast:

(1) Get out and experience life
(a) You will not be able to virtually experience life – you need to get out and live it
(b) You cannot have inspiring experiences if you work all the time
(c) It is a fact that we are productive relative to hours worked up to 49 hours per week. Leaving 119 hours per week. Pick eight of those hours to do something new, learn something new, experience something new, eat new food, have a great adventure, go to a retail networking event – you will have GREAT dialogue and learn new perspectives about retail topics that are trending or have been around for a while, go out to lunch with a coworker who you do not know well and who works in a different department – collaboratively brainstorm with someone who has an entirely different point-of-view or perspective on work

(2) Make Notes
If you suffer from constant ideas, thoughts, mental reminders running through your brain 24 hours a day, each day of the week…
(a) Use a notebook to write down your business thoughts or ideas when they pop into your head as they could be gone in a second
(b) If you are more technical – use your phone “notes” to keep them documented so that when you have the time or are at work you can recollect the idea
(c) Tweet it! I LOVE Twitter for so many reasons but in this case…I can #BBMentalNotes for work or #EPCMentalNotes for my family projects and keep a collection of articles or ideas that I want to reference at a later time in my feed – easy enough to type in and review

(3) Do Things Differently
Don’t get yourself stuck in a work rut
(b) Take a different route to work
(c) Change your work space seasonally
(d) Work when you are most productive which doesn’t mean only during the antiquated “8-5” system. Companies are FINALLY starting to understand that you cannot dictate productivity – as humans we have different and unique patterns of productivity and it is paramount to success to allow employees to work when they are most productive – allowing this will exponentially grow business contributions and results
(e) Here is an interesting fact from The Economist from a 2013 article: The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.
(f) Discuss with your executive team your most productive time and see how they can work with you to accommodate – even if only a day or two a week

There are lots of benefits to retailers in hiring employees that show a balance between creative and analytical competencies. You can read a great article by Faisal Hoque on Fast Company called “10 Paradoxical Traits of Creative People”. Here are the points:

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest
2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time
3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility
4.Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.
5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted
6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time
7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping
8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative
9.Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well
10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment

…and a few more I would like to add:
11. Creative people are introverts, extroverts, strong collaborators and capable autonomous employees
12. Creative people are more inclined to be honest – we recognize our flaws and our abilities and openly articulate those
13. Creative people are voracious seekers of self-development (especially if someone says it can’t be done)
14. Creative people are curious – we will seek to find the solution, answer to an challenge, problem, or obstacle – in doing so we learn more – we are inspired
15. Creative people have the courage to try something new and reinvent it for improvement

Again, in the constant evolution and change that is retail it is imperative that you have employees that can adapt and change to the landscape of business. 40% of the Fortune 500 companies that existed in 2000 were gone by 2010 because they somehow became obsolete in the world – which is scary. This trend continues to be a real possibility to retailers today. Here are a couple recent articles the struggles of retailers:

From Fashionista: “It’s Not A Great Time To Be A Department Store”; “In The Midst Of Bankruptcy, American Apparel Sales Continue To Slide”; “Richemont Indicates A Tough Holiday Season For Luxury”

The struggle is real and retail organizations have to be more diligent then ever in overcoming challenges and obstacles in their business. Creative people are a HUGE benefit when there are opportunities to stay ahead of trends in retail! Creativity is a competency that is valuable and effective in retail. Everyone possesses some level of creativity and that should be embraced. Every retail organization should value and help to inspire creativity to maximum productivity, engagement, and results on their teams.


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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