SAVE THE DATE: Sleep Summit Oct 8-11, 2024

Telling Stories from the Stores with Ron Thurston

Is retail your passion or was it an accidental career you fell into?

Whether you set out on your career path to be in retail or it was something you did as a filler and it has consumed a decade of your life, Amazon best-selling author Ron Thurston is setting out on a roadshow across America to tell the stories of those of you in the trenches.


With a background that spans more than three decades in retail, Thurston is anxious to hear the journeys of individuals on the front lines. From his conversations and analysis, people are rarely in retail for the products they sell. Rather, it’s because of community, customers, and generational family ties. 


Join Thurston as he hitches his airstream up to his F-250 and travels across the U.S. sharing gratitude, listening, and giving your voice and story to a worldwide audience. 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Mark Kinsley 

He gave up his apartment in New York City. He has an Airstream on order I think there might be an F 350 sitting in his driveway. He is one of the world’s foremost champions for the accidental career that you ended up with. We’re talking about retail and we’re talking to Ron Thurston and the Dos Marcos show begins in 60 seconds/

Mark Quinn 

Tequila shots, you gotta love it. You know, I had no tequila shots this weekend Kinsey. But I’m gonna I’m going to tell you a quick story. And I’m gonna lead it into why we’re here today. But So Nick, my son 17 plays basketball. So my brother Jeff was in town, and he got to see Nick play home game team rivalry, Nick had a really good game. And when you’re on a team, it’s like, you’re not just playing for yourself, right? You’re playing for the team as well. So if you don’t do well, then I mean, you know, I was watching football this weekend. And some of these quarterbacks and you know, they take so much on themselves. And there’s a mistake and you feel like you let your team down. So there’s that dynamic. And then the very next day, we drove for hours to Norman, Oklahoma, where Nick was an attract me in to taken fourth in the high jump, which I’m so proud of them for. But now in that situation, you’re on an independent team, it’s just you. And you’re jumping kind of yourself, because it wasn’t really a team meet it was, you know, just kind of individual events. So way different, right? So you can really only let yourself down. And so the guy we have on the show today is both of those. He is a team player. And he is an individual guy. So he was doing a lot of great work for a retailer. But now he’s he’s going in an Airstream as an independent guy. And he’s, he’s for himself in terms of, you know, promoting his book, and all of those things. But the great thing about Ron is he’s a massive team player, because he’s on Team retail. And so he gets to be both he’s that he’s that superstar. That’s jumping seven feet, no problem in his bare feet, but also he’s part of that bigger team for retail. And I love it. We love Ron’s energy. We love it. Ron does Ron Thurston welcome. Thank you,

Ron Thurston 

Mark. I feel like I’m about to go on stage to accept an award. And the tour hasn’t even begun. But thank you guys, I know this is our second time together. And you said earlier, like our worlds keep crossing paths, our circles keep connecting. And that’s one of the things I love about this industry. Most is that as large as it is, and millions and millions of people work in it. We that have, you know, a really positive people centric approach gravitate toward each other. And so I’m really happy to be here. Thanks.

Mark Kinsley 

I was honoured to have you back around. And for those who don’t know, Ron is the number one best selling author, retail pride. He was named one of the top 100 retailer influencers globally. And that’s just kind of tip of the iceberg. For people that don’t know your Ron, tell us a little more about about you and we want to get into this is rumour. It’s a rumour at this point that you’re about to take off from New York City in an air stream. Give us the lay of the land.

Ron Thurston 

Thanks. Thanks Kinsley. I am so for those that don’t know me. I am a West Coast guy and California guy who has really spent the last 30 plus years closer to 40. Now is working in retail and that is From working part time sales, sales, dot sales store manager, district manager regional corporate visual roles and vice president of stores for a few brands over the last decade. And even the industry for me is so powerful in the way that we think about the energy that’s driven through retail. And whether you want to talk about the last two years or not, because our relevance and importance and in the world has never been more critical, and we are reconnecting the world via reach out. And that is how all of us really want to show us. And I have had the luck and the joy to lead really great teams all over the countries in multiple countries. And that prompted me to write a book called retail pride, which is the guide to celebrating your accidental career through the same publisher that you guys use, that’s having a mess. And that has really changed the conversation for many about how you show up and take pride in working in retail. That has not always been the first thing that someone says when you tell them you work in retail. And so many people sat across the desk from me during job interviews and store visits. And it was almost like this sense of an accidental shame. Like, yeah, I kind of started in this and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. And here I am 10 years later, 20 years later, it’s like they didn’t own it. And I wanted to say, it may have been accidental, but this is your career. And now it’s time to take have intention behind it and celebrate it. Because when you do that, you make better choices. You choose great brands, you choose great companies, you choose great leaders, and from there, your career just grows. And if you continually think about your career as an accident, then you may not progress to the level that you want to be. And it’s a really common response to say I studied something else. But this is what I love, and used to do this, but this is what I love it. And I want to celebrate those people, I want to talk to all those people. And when I get messages from other places in the world, a gentleman messaged me over the weekend from Germany and said, I love what you’re doing on LinkedIn, I have to find your love what you’re doing. And I just signed to speak in South Africa. So like retail prides can be a global conversation that is so important to the success of millions and millions of people all over the world. So what’s the idea

Mark Kinsley 

behind going out into the world? And taking an Airstream and camping at campgrounds and going to all these communities? Tell us what this so if you go to retail pride.com By the way, you can see more about this retail in America. And you call it the journey to discover every day retail heroes. So what is this mission all about?

Ron Thurston 

So when I once retail pride came in many ways, just a I’m not going to take credit and call it a movement. But what I’m going to say is it has become part of the conversation for many people about celebrating their career. And over the holidays. I love there were companies that bought it for all their employees, there were district managers and store managers and all kinds of different brands that said, I know that our teams need this, we’re going to get this for everyone. And you know, can you sign a bunch of these. And that idea turned into this kind of vision for me that said, the only way you really get the story, the power of what’s happening in retail is to go out and spend a year and speak to all the people doing the work those unsung retail heroes. And yes, I sit here in New York City. And if you’re on video, you know the view behind me. That’s my kitchen. And I could do it from here. And but what I really thought was most important is that the majority of the country doesn’t have the opportunity to sit with someone that maybe has a book that maybe hasn’t visited their store for quite a while, maybe hasn’t had the chance to tell their story on a on a bigger platform. And I want to hear it. I want to hear those stories and share them. And I knew the only way I could do it was to go to them. They’re not going to come here. I’m going to come to you and I want to hear your story and I want to sit around the campfire. I kind of jokingly called this like campfire conversations with Ron. But that’s what it is. I want to sit around the campfire and talk about retail and talk about why this isn’t a important career choice. And why you why they love it so much. And a lot of that is about community. It’s about customer. It’s about family, generational businesses, it has nothing to do with what you sell. It has everything to do with their own individual story, their own individual story.

Mark Quinn 

Right? You’ve been doing this for a while, and you wrote the book. And so now you’re getting feedback from the book. And something from that has inspired you to get the airstream and, and go do this tour. So I love that, um, what what impact is it having? Right? When you start engaging people in this conversation? What are you? What are you learning that maybe you didn’t expect to learn? Yeah, that you feel the need to go out and share, right? Because now, now you’re like, Okay, this is different than I thought, and I’m getting more than I thought. And I need to get out there and share like ways to

Ron Thurston 

leave that I the last two years have have put retail frontline people as urgently customer facing as they’ve ever been before, in the most difficult situation they’ve ever been placed. And this kind of combination of I love what I do. And I’m highly committed to the company I work for, and my customer and my community. But this has never been harder. And this kind of combination of listening and learning. And sharing is, in some ways, a celebration of frontline retail work that has, again, not always been celebrated. It’s kind of when we engage with it, and we dismiss it, we don’t think about every time we engage with multiple times a day with retail, and we kind of dismiss it at or we get annoyed that they’ve had to shorten their hours, or that they have the clothes for the day because everyone was exposed to COVID, or all the things that have put pressure on the industry. It don’t think we’ve stepped back and said, Thank you, thank you for showing up every day, doing the hard work, engaging with customers who have not always been nice the last couple of years, and still showing up. And that, if anything, the last two years motivated me to do this even more. Because it is it’s almost a gratitude tour. In many ways. It’s not about the celebrating the brands you work for, it’s saying thank you to you, and the work that you have done for four decades or for a year

Mark Kinsley 

on your time talking about going out and sitting around the campfire, and just having some of those really casual but meaningful conversations. You know, we we often talk about this podcast in the fam as a campfire where you gather around share stories, you trade ideas, you walk away more enriched than you were before, and more connected. So tell us about more having launched the book, and having had a chance to go out and maybe have some of these pre campfire conversations. What are some of your favourite stories that you’ve heard about people taking pride in in their jobs or about retail as service to the community? What are some of the stories that stand out to you?

Ron Thurston 

You know, I would have to reference because they probably my friends viewership, leading brands and travelling around. So even this would be you know, the last 510 years. And you think about the commitment and the stories that I’ve heard around in promotions that have changed my life. So I’ll give you one example most recent company I lead was intermix and intermixes luxury multi brand women’s largest in the US and they are highly commission you know, it’s it’s engaging and it’s high. It’s a high power a client base and there’s a lot of joy when it comes to like being a leader in the fashion space, like hard to break into luxury commissioned sales harder. Luxury. Just recently, I heard some gentlemen who I had hired to work part time stock, like part time sales support slash stock was studying. I’m here in New York at FIT, who was in the Soho location, who then messaged me that he had been moved into sales and another store since my departure, and then was moved to the flagship uptown and sold his first million dollars. And so this gentleman, these this idea of doesn’t take a particular background, it doesn’t take a particular education, experience level your success is so dedicated on your commitment to your craft, and then people who believe in your craft. And so they really believed in him selling a million dollars at a pretty high commission rate. And event now a handful of clients in New York City, his life is dramatically different. And that is real power in retail, that is just everywhere we return, if we really pay attention to the people that we really, and listen to the people that are around us, of where they want to go, and what they want to do. I have a lot of those kinds of stories of, of success or promotions, or in many ways, just listening to what’s going on. And I felt sometimes it isn’t about giving someone more it’s about showing empathy, about their experience, and then just saying thank you. So that that means so much as a leader, all you so much your entire intent is only to be curious, and then do something with what they say. And then do something with what they said.

Mark Quinn 

In Iran, I love what you’re saying. And I think when when you were talking empathy was the word that kept like coming up in my mind. And you’re getting it right, because you’ve loved it. What are if you’re talking to managers out there in the retail space, what is your message to them? Like, if you guys would just think a little bit or show a little bit more empathy? Or do this a little bit? Like, what would you coach them on so that they’re getting the most out of their team members, so that their their team members feel appreciated so that their team members feel like they’re part of something bigger? Like, how would you coach those guys to max out that human resource,

Ron Thurston 

approach that from a couple different angles, one at the senior leadership level, but all of us sit in a level that all of us if you are going to take the time and the energy and the financial investment and go on tour, and listen to what’s happening in stores, it is your responsibility, then to do something with that feedback. So if you approach this about, not as a just showing up and saying, Well, we hit the store looks great, I’ve been on a lot of these visits, by the way, store looks great, like high five, good, your business is good, you got a good comp sales number going like everything was good here, like, so happy to see you, I’ll see you in a year, I’ve been on a lot of those on the on both ends of the table, both sides of the table. And I would say to them, the there’s a reason why the store is looks great, it has positive performance, it’s because of the store manager in that building. And if you do something with that store manager that is about listening and acting, and giving them and supporting them. That’s how you change the culture of the company. And what I would say to the people on what’s in store is, don’t be afraid to ask for what you lose, tend to be more aggressive about the feedback that you need to share. Because we’re very, in retail, we were so nice it we live a life of service. And sometimes the frustrations don’t get escalated. Because we’re afraid of the feet. We’re afraid to escalate it. And I encourage them up like, ask for what you need. Ask for what’s happening in the company, ask more questions, and ask for training, ask for development, ask for these things. Because today, the the employee is in charge. Now is your moment to say if this if the company I’ve been I have aggressively asked for what I need and has not been delivered. There’s 15 other brands in the mall by the way that might be doing. And this might be the time for you to make the change. And that’s kind of the intention behind your career. Like don’t settle. Don’t just settle for all it’s good enough. They’re nice to me, like actively own your career, no matter what your job is in retail. And that’s how it grows and fine. I’ve followed the same person three times to three different companies. There are people who have exceptional leaders who you should follow. There are there brands that do great things that you should try to work for. I wanted to work at Apple, I was like, I want to know how this works. And when they when I joined Apple and they said and I had been a regional manager I’d run 150 stores they said you can come to Apple but you need to run one store. You need to be a store manager again. hadn’t been a store manager for a decade. Cool like I’ve not done this job for long time, but it sounds like a lot of fun. And that is hard work and go back in and run our one store. This is for iPhone to launch, I launched iPad in some of these big launches. Those are massive undertakings as a store manager. So every time you say, I want to learn what they’re doing, by coaching, this is a long answer to your question. But my coaching is he a student of the industry, not just a brand you work for, and not just cover what’s happening, listen and watch. And choose those brands. That’s how you grow your career.

Mark Kinsley 

Think it’s such an important point to pause on to and go back to employee is in charge, this is your moment in the marketplace is your moment dramatically. And you see $1,000 bonuses at fast food restaurants, to attract employees. And you can see, hey, this is a time whenever I can be very intentional about my career. And it’s also a time whenever you can double down and you can go to leadership, and you can have that conversation, you don’t have to just jump ship to change things, you can be an agent of change internally. And I think you know management. And people in leadership positions are really going to value you to an even higher degree for not turning the screws on them not threatening to leave. But saying, hey, it’s time for some change. And I’m going to be much more vocal and aggressive about making sure I’m doing my part to sound the alarm where needed to get the resources this team needs to thrive and to serve this company and serve our customers. So I really like my taking a moment just to recognise the dynamics of the marketplace that we’re in from an employee standpoint, and using that to make things better where you are, or to potentially pursue something different.

Ron Thurston 

Thank you and and to not again, kind of not settle for it’s good enough. Because there are great options out there. And I think it’s a mindset that’s not uncommon in retail, is that if you are you’re self taught, you say this is an industry that doesn’t have a specific education for success. And you’ve learned along the way and you’ve had some okay managers, you settles and you’re like, you know, I paid enough, I’m like, It’s good enough. And I just I’d love to sit in front of those people and say, let’s talk about your resume. Let’s let me share some language with you. That will empower you to be the best version of yourself. You’re a million dollar sales person. In a multimillion dollar business. You have the biggest clients who’ve learned visual merchandising, your depth of brand knowledge, you have insight into how people think your listening skills and follow up and try and tellings like, let me give you some language and all of a sudden, it’s like they light up. And they all of a sudden, like their power, their light turns on. And like wow, you know what I do do all those things. I am that person, and they can go get the job of their dreams. But it’s almost like no one coaches you in retail how to do that there’s a little bit of like, companies want to hold on to their best people. And that’s and they should and, and I do the same thing. But if you have opportunities and you say I love this industry, be a student of it and choose great brands. And choose.

Mark Quinn 

It’s been said Kinsey and I talk about it, people don’t lose. They don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Right. And so a lot of this is so relevant to them. Run you’re going to be in Gosh 10 cities you’re starting in April with Asheville, North Carolina. And again, everyone please go to retail pride that calm you can check all this off yourself. Nashville, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Austin, Dallas, Marfa, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico. And so can you tell us a little bit about the format when you go into one of these towns? You were saying earlier to Mark and I that you’re going to a podcast playlist for every every town that’s very cool. You’re going to be doing podcasts. But when you get in when you roll into Asheville, like what what does that look like for anyone listening to that? And how can people be connected with you and kind of watch you progress through this whole awesome thing.

Ron Thurston 

Part of the power of the tour was also getting some other important brands behind me the ubec which is something I believe so strongly, and it’s some of that pride that comes from retail is through companies who are highly invested in training and development. So Ubik is a platform that provides information and ongoing training, micro trainings, gaming acumen The occasion feed right in the hands of over 200 brands. And so ubix part of this kind of employee engagement Kwi as part of the POS systems as an omni and kind of Omni one touch, access to your inventory levels, which is also a really important part of retail price is you want to serve be able to serve your customers. And you do that by understanding where your mentor is. And Spotify advertising because music is such an important part of the retail experience. And they have really enormous platform that supports retail. And so those three behind me, will then help set up say, well, who’s using some of these brands would love for you to have conversations, I have intention of doing like local press, and media so that you know you think about media living, I’m in Nashville, I would love to be on the morning, the morning news show so that they can see that there’s actually someone that understands their work and appreciates their work. And they’re not always have access to some of the things that those of us in senior leadership roles do. So it could be local press, it’s going to be partnership with the sponsors. But then it’s just going to be me out and about maybe with the camera crew, maybe we’ll see of having conversations and inviting people to to my Airstream where we’ll film some film and record some podcast videos. So there’s a there’s a lot of different angles of this understanding community, the history, part of the choice of some of these cities is the importance of mortality in those communities. And why it started what it did, how it has evolved, what’s happening there. So there’s a little bit of like retail history, a little bit of people doing the work family businesses that maybe haven’t been there for generations in these cities, and every city will be different. And so they’ll be video content, certainly Instagram podcast called retail in America and kind of a Video albums go with that sounds

Mark Kinsley 

like a lot of fun. Are you allowed to have that much fun? Is that

Ron Thurston 

at this point in my career, yes, I am 100% allowed

Mark Quinn 

Kinsley it’s clear to me we need our own Airstream, obviously, I mean, Ron’s gonna have an Airstream that does mark his podcast.

Ron Thurston 

I mean, imagine being and being parked in front of some of these big conferences, like streaming from, you know, just finished up NRF here being parked in front of Javits centre with the airstream broadcasting sounds like something I wanted.

Mark Kinsley 

I’d walk out in the morning, my robe, just really Kinsey. So I’m at the conference. Yes, Miss showers in there.

Mark Quinn 

The problem is, for you and me Kinsley is that if you and I were to invite people into our air stream to roll video, they’d be like, That’s a hell no, for me, we’re not coming in your

Ron Thurston 

thing of wine, tequila, while it’s all still, you know, it’s a dream right now, but it’s quickly going to become a reality.

Mark Kinsley 

Well, this sounds like an absolute blast. If you come across any Furniture and Mattress retailers. As you make your tour across America, tell them dos Marco said hi. We want to hear those stories. So you know, we can definitely link up to those on the fam. So make sure anybody that’s listening is subscribed at fam dot news. We’re gonna follow Ron’s journey, and the air stream with the playlist from Spotify and the good people from Kwi and Ubik. And it sounds like a great way to maybe even spur another book. I mean, those stories are going to be so rich and I know you’re going to cattle I go out of that. But I’m glad that you’re you’re out there being a champion for a category and an industry that touches so many people and industry that has been through such a turbulent time. And here we are coming out maybe on the other side of this and in this new, strange new normal that we live in with people that are proud of what they did and what they accomplished along the way and, and communities that understand the power of their local retail. I mean, I think, you know, I’ve talked about this in the past where, during all the COVID shutdowns back in 2020, we walked outside, we went downtown, and we saw what it looks like when the flavour of your community those local retailers are gone. Whenever it looks like a ghost town, and so I think people have a lot more, you know, compassion and empathy for this category. And I love that you have a message of have compassion and empathy for yourself and celebrate who you are what you do. Let’s be frank. proud of it. And let’s continue serving. So Ron, Okay, before we wrap up and get out of here, I know people can go to retail pride.com. What else do they need to know? What do we miss here?

Ron Thurston 

What else that’s the biggest one there, or Instagram or retail pride, like those are the biggest charts because you’re going to be able to find you won’t be able to miss this. I think on multiple, wherever you kind of take your your social retail feed, you’ll find that I really appreciate I appreciate that people want to follow along and learn. Because this, this is far less about me and more about hearing the stories from the field. And I also think part of the challenge of last couple of years is kind of not as many store visits, not as many people out in the field, a lot of people come to working remotely, which doesn’t always support this vision of, hey, let’s all go together, which is what I used to do, let’s meet in a store on Tuesday morning, and do a quick walkthrough. That’s not happening. And so we have to find other ways to capture this feedback. And following along means you are willing to listen to what’s happening in retail, from the field, because the headline is the great resignation, reset, whatever you want to call it. And there’s a lot of proposed, this is what we think is probably happening. I’m going to tell you what’s really happening. And that’s when you follow this is with your intent to listen and learn. And measure principle

Mark Kinsley 

there that I love. It’s Go and see for yourself. So often we hear theory and we hear speculation and gossip. And then you show up and you talk to people and you see it with your own eyes. And this is not just you going exploring what’s happening at retail. This is a principle of life, go and see for yourself

Mark Quinn 

Grice it cuz you can you can hear it from someone, you can read it. But if you’re there and you’re living it, you experience it as a different way of indexing your soul in mind, right? So when you’re there, and you’re like in the room, and you’re experiencing that we love it. Ron, we love you, man, your your spirit of abundance is awesome. And that’s why we connect with you. And we’re so happy for you. And we think it’s going to be a huge success. Everybody. Again, retail pride.com Ron Thurston at retail pride.com is his email address. So you can get him there. And if you’re listening to this, run, send us pictures, we’ll update our audience on your progress and all the good stuff. I want to see some cool Airstream photos in your campsite. That’d be neat. And see could they come up there on the campfire and we want we want to follow you. And if you’re following this show, please go to Spotify or wherever you listen to the show. And like it and share it because to Ron’s point earlier, it’s a campfire and we want as many people around the

Mark Kinsley 

news, all of the people that have pride in their jobs within your walls, to get connected to Ron get connected to us. Make sure that you’re consuming this content we put out because it’s there to serve you. It’s there to make you better at your job. And it’s there to give you pride in what you do. And Ron, thanks so much for being on the show today. It’s great to see you again and best of luck and if you need a spot to park Quinn’s driveways wide open

Ron Thurston 

Don’t be surprised around door because I might need a shower and a good meal Awesome, thanks guys.

Mark Quinn 

We got you covered man.

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