10 Books Every Retail Leader Should Read
We break down the must-read books on retail management and strategy 📚
There’s no one trait that makes someone a great leader, but most people would agree that a willingness to learn is crucial—especially in retail. Leaders who continue their quest for knowledge throughout their careers keep companies and their employees agile and adaptable as the retail industry constantly evolves. And there’s a simple way to do it: reading books about working in retail.
So, in the spirit of encouraging growth and development at all stages of a retail leader’s career, we’ve compiled a list of books that present classic concepts, interesting analyses, and new perspectives on both the retail industry specifically and people management in general.
It’s never too late to learn something new (or at least gain a new perspective on something you already know), and we hope that each of the books on this list provides just that—a reference or blueprint for better retail management.
So, put on your reading glasses. 🤓
Top Books on Retail Management and Strategy That Every Retail Leader Should Read
The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence
By Robert Spector & BreAnne Reeves
This book delves into the employee experience at Nordstrom, asserting that stores’ ability to deliver an excellent customer experience starts with employee culture. It’s that culture of respect, trust, and fun that allows store associates to thrive and provide customers with a great service.
In order to support that kind of company culture, the luxury department store chain has equipped its employees with technology-based solutions to make their jobs easier, and customers’ experiences better. It’s just one example of how Nordstrom empowers its employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability, but it’s a poignant reminder of the importance of setting up employees for success.
By investing time, training, and technology into your workforce, your employees will feel valued, and as a result, will provide you with the kind of customer service that drives sales.
Plus, Nordstrom has consistently ranked as one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For,” so they know what they’re doing.
Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know
By John Stanley
This book is exactly what it sounds like—a guide to pretty much everything a retail manager might come across in their job. Handily organized with a detailed table of contents, it’s the kind of book you’ll want to keep around for quick references and advice on managing day-to-day store operations—it’s got tips for everything from conveying your company’s values to customers to visual merchandising to handling in-store emergencies.
Stanley gives readers a solid foundation for basically every aspect of managing a retail store, teaching concepts that can be elaborated on and given personal flourishes in real-world settings.
In addition to being a useful resource for store managers, this book will also provide valuable insight for corporate leaders into the minutiae that store teams deal with on a daily basis.
100 Practical Ways to Improve Customer Experience
By Martin Newman and Malcolm McDonald
Newman and McDonald understand the challenges that disruptors like Amazon present to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and suggest 100 practical ways stores can remain competitive—all of which centre on improving the customer experience.
It shares best practices, strategies, and various case studies, demonstrating how retailers can easily adopt their suggestions to hold their ground against digital competitors.
The book walks through the importance of company culture, treating retail as a service, and understanding data to create actionable insights, giving readers a strong foundation before listing the aforementioned 100 practical suggestions to improve the customer experience.
But don’t just take it from us. Domino’s CEO David Wild had this to say about the book: “The vital importance of customer-centricity is an enduring business truth. Newman and McDonald’s book creates a contemporary perspective on how businesses can embrace this goal in new ways. Typically, their ideas are hugely practical and straightforward for organizations to implement.”
Retail Isn’t Dead: Innovative Strategies for Brick and Mortar Retail Success
By Matthias Spanke
Rather than suggesting that the digitization of shopping is the end of retail, Spanke sees the move online as an opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers to adapt and expand what they can offer to customers.
The book shows retailers how to embrace the benefits of the digital world by transferring them into physical stores, creating exciting brand experiences, and utilizing modern in-store technology.
For stores that aren’t ready to throw the towel in against the so-called “retail apocalypse,” this book has plenty of helpful ideas to continue evolving and thriving.
Rant of a Retailer: True Stories From a Retail Manager
By Macy May Marcus
Any retail leader needs to be able to put themselves back in the position of standing on the sales floor as a green, naive store associate—because once you move on, it’s easy to forget the absolute ridiculousness that associates witness and have to deal with daily. Luckily, Marcus is here to remind you of exactly that.
Her hilarious memoir from her time as a department store manager—Rant of a Retailer: True Stories From a Retail Manager—recounts tales of “insane customers, worse employees, and one horrendous boss.”
It’s a book that will remind corporate employees of what happens on the frontlines and give store team members a chance to laugh at someone else’s wacky experiences working in retail.
Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption
By Steve Dennis
Over the last 30 years, Dennis has been a strategic advisor, board member, general manager, and C-level executive at two Fortune 500 retailers, and he brings that experience to his reflections on digital disruption.
Praised for his pragmatism and straightforward approach to stimulating growth at brick-and-mortar stores in the digital age—and in a post-pandemic world—Dennis’s work has received recommendations from the likes of Hubert Joly (former Best Buy CEO), Jim Gold (former Neiman Marcus Group president), and Steve Sadove (former Saks Inc. CEO) for his research and writing.
Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing
By Herb Sorensen
Taking a psychological approach to retail, Sorensen looks at how consumers’ shopping behaviours are influenced as they move through physical stores.
It’s a great tool for thinking (and rethinking) how design, layout, and merchandising can have a massive effect on shoppers, outlining strategies for making small and simple tweaks that can drive dramatic change in retail spaces.
He also emphasizes the importance of tracking and analyzing data beyond just what a POS system can provide, and recommends conducting shopper surveys to really get to the heart (and mind) of how shoppers interact with the shelves in a store.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
By Yvon Chouinard
When people think of value-driven retailers, Patagonia is often at the top of the list. Their sustainable and environmentally-conscious products go hand-in-hand with the outdoorsy lifestyle they’re intended for. And that’s exactly what founder Chouinard was going for.
In his own words, from the book: “I’ve been a businessman for almost fifty years… I’ve never respected the profession. It’s business that has to take the majority of the blame for being the enemy of nature, for destroying native cultures, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and for poisoning the earth with the effluent from its factories. Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people, and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul. That’s what this book is about.”
And if you’re wondering about the title, Chouinard has extended those values to the people who work at his company—advocating for surf breaks and getting outside whenever possible. It’s an impressive demonstration of how a product and company culture can intertwine.
Sam Walton: Made In America
By Sam Walton and John Huey
As a company, Walmart couldn’t be more different than Patagonia, but its founder’s story is also worth reading.
Whether he foresaw Walmart becoming the ubiquitous box store that it is today, Sam Walton predicated his original store’s success on providing excellent customer service. Two of Walton’s most admirable traits, according to Huey, were his dedication to improvement and his total lack of fear of being afraid.
It’s a good lesson for any retail leader to learn: mistakes will be made in your quest for improvement. But setbacks clearly don’t have to mean a lack of future success, as Walton’s retail giant has demonstrated over the years.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie
An oldie but a goodie, Carnegie’s 1936 book continues to stand the test of time. Though opinions on the book’s lessons have changed throughout the years, it’s still a great foundational read for any leader in any industry.
The author preaches lessons like kindness, taking a genuine interest in others, finding common ground, acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake, and making other people feel valued and important—all of which may seem basic, but can lead to extremely poor employee engagement in workplaces where these traits are absent.
The book also forces the reader to do some self-reflection, encouraging them to view other people from a new perspective. This openness to learning and self-improvement can have a massive trickle-down effect on company culture and create a better environment for everyone.
It’s no wonder over 30 million copies of this book have been sold.
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About the Author
Sarah Murphy is a content marketing specialist with a background in journalism. She lives in Hamilton, ON, where she is mom to a 13-year-old wiener dog named Penny. When not watching bad reality TV, she’s probably chasing squirrels out of her garden or baking cookies.