Karen S. Herman

CEO, Design Director and Disruptive Retail Specialist, Gustie Creative LLC

With more than 25 years of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management and strategic marketing, I am passionate about good design, retail design strategy and design innovation.

I’ve worked with architecture firms, retailers, advertising and marketing firms, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small to medium size businesses, to design corporate, commercial, retail, hospitality, and mixed use interior spaces, destination experiences and collateral materials.

I enjoy beta testing new technologies (Google Glass, Project Tango) and writing articles on design and technology for trade publications. Also enjoy speaking to small and large groups on both topics. I believe in giving back to my community through mentoring and serving on non-profit boards.

Gustie Creative is a full service design firm specializing in commercial and retail design, retail design strategy, and design innovation. We are passionate about creating disruptive retail. Our exclusive and unique approach to disruptive retail consists of five Pillars of strategy and 30 Paths of design that take our clients’ brand or business into the marketplace when, where, and for as long as they desire. Our clients include Zimmerman Advertising, Warren Technology Inc., Wind2Share, FloSpine, Bagel Twins Bagelry and Restaurant and HelpedHope.

Gustie Creative is my second company. My first was Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., founded in Stamford, CT, in 1995. This company was in business for 13 years and focused on delivering a tailored design approach that integrated technology with a clear design aesthetic, project management and customer service. Clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace, MediaPost, GRS and The Ledges.

Prior to starting Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., I worked for ten years in senior interior design and project management positions with architecture firms including Mancini-Duffy Inc. and Gould Evans. I attended the University of Kansas where I completed studies in interior design and was a varsity member of the women’s golf team.

Other Links From Karen S. Herman
Karen’s Design Blog

  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    Agree with your comments here, Dave. Integration of efforts between retailers and/or with mall management is key and can drive more sales and help generate a positive experience for shoppers.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    Recently I met with the General Manager of a newly renovated Simon Mall and we discussed what's ahead. The renovation itself is telling. It includes gathering spaces throughout the mall that encourage relaxation and conversation, while offering discreet charging for devices. VR dining experiences are coming and will appeal to digital natives and entertain digital immigrants, too. With Disruptive Retail, I'm working to bring in pop-ups, certainly at in-line spaces but also in the cart and kiosk areas. This is where retailers can create interactive and engaging online-to-offline retailing that captures shoppers who are in the mall for entertainment or dining. People are looking for connection and the mall offers a community. Integrating online-to-offline retailing is key.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Will Barneys find success setting up shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue?

    I love this deal in the works between Authentic Brands and HBC. It looks like a win-win and a great opportunity to optimize a small retail footprint with a Barney's store-within-a-store format in select Saks locations. (This is a format nicely used by Kiehl's Since 1851, as one example.) The Barneys brand in the luxury space has always been strong and a Barneys store-within-a-store should resonate with a younger, hipper demographic by offering direct interaction with merchandise and ease of purchase. It also offers discovery for the typical Saks shopper who may not yet shop at Barneys.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    Will shoe swapping be the new shoe shopping?

    Shoes are an important fashion accessory for men and women and I do not believe that traditional shoe retailers will be impacted by shoe swapping platforms such as Shoe Bank. I see this service fulfilling a need for a limited range of consumers but I'm most concerned that it could impact charitable donations of new and used shoes to nonprofits such as Soles4Souls.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2019

    Barnes & Noble College goes to school on Gen Z

    The Gen Z shopper is highly visual, hyper-connected and socially responsible. This is the first generation of shoppers that is digital first. Retailers need to invest in understanding their needs, as BNC is doing quite nicely. This is important, because the Gen Z shopper is contributing to the popularity and growth of experiential retailing and sees offline, physical shopping as a destination, an experience, and a place to connect, learn and indulge their particular interests. I think BNC is spot-on in their efforts.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    How profitable is online selling?

    Online selling alone limits a brand's opportunity to engage consumers. Most digitally native brands today are developing online-to-offline retailing strategies to maximize their omni-reach. Pop-up stores are the most popular entry into offline retailing and give online brands and businesses an easy way to disrupt their way of doing business and reach new consumers. Disruptive retailers such as Amazon and Tesla have online-to-offline retailing strategies. Consumers enjoy the Tesla pop-up store and the Amazon Treasure Truck. These forms of disruptive retail are unique and memorable brand experiences that directly engage consumers and work to build a brand relationship, something online selling alone cannot do.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2019

    Will miniature Meijers be a big hit?

    A few features of this second small format, neighborhood grocery store concept from Meijer are very appealing to me. I like the fact that the company invested in updating their IT operations and offers a shop and scan smartphone app. This makes discovery of hyperlocal products and learning about vendors and artisans a fun experience for the customer. I like the management focus on an agile operation that will work to accommodate "in-the-moment" customer requests. And I like the fact that value and low pricing are highlighted.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Great points here Ken and I'm glad you've made the important distinction between voice shopping and smart speakers. I agree that we will be using more sophisticated in-home devices with screens and speakers (I use voice on Xfinity with a remote all the time) and voice assistants will have better integration into mobile and desktop browsers. Eventually, smart speakers will be left behind.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    Yes, I am confident that voice assistants and voice commerce will play a significant role in the shoppers path-to-purchase in the future. Voice commerce is frictionless and makes shopping faster and easier. Adaption by consumers is important and already taking place, as Jaimie Chung states ... “New users are testing out the shopping-related features of their devices, and early adopters continue to utilize voice to search for products, ask for prices, and more.” Today, brands and businesses need to create content for their products and services to be found through voice commerce. When 5G rolls out and all of our connected IoT devices are super fast and most smartphones are AR enabled, voice commerce will be a significant factor.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Shake Shack founder says, ‘Do it. Don’t talk about it (sustainability initiatives) until asked.’

    I applaud Danny Meyer for letting his establishments spread the word on sustainability though quality food made with locally sourced ingredients. It appears that these establishments support sustainable design practices, too. For instance, Shack Shake restaurants feature dining tables made of reclaimed wood from bowling alley floors. Quality ingredients and attention to details like this are where storytelling begins. People notice when a brand or business follows sustainable practices and the word-of-mouth advertising they use to share their experience can be priceless.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

    Kudos to Macy's for giving the store-in-store format exciting new possibilities with STORY. What do I like about this launch? Practically everything. Macy's is offering experiential shopping that is highly curated and supported with a well-trained staff. The merchandise is a mix of local, national and international brands, offering a wide range of appeal to shoppers. The "discovery led, narrative experience" offers uniqueness for shoppers and brings the personal experience of digital engagement with platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to life. And, the launch is significant with 36 STORY concept shops in 15 states. Way to go, Macy's!
  • Posted on: 03/01/2019

    Retailers take on massive legacy system challenges one module at a time

    Retail technologies are continuously evolving. Along with this fact, we have new technologies constantly emerging that can be excellent future solutions for today's retailers. A wise approach for any retailer, small or large, is to implement a technology upgrade strategy that is agile, adaptable and incorporates the IoT. Targeting pain points is the first step and determining niche or small point solutions is next. Having a dedicated team to implement and educate is key. No technology can work effectively unless employees know how to use it.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    Tide to roll out laundry cleaning service nationwide

    Tide tested the value that consumers place on convenience and comfort with their initial rollout of Tide Cleaners and clearly it hit a sweet spot. I've watched Tide Cleaners locations grow in Overland Park, KS and South Florida and think this next expansion will be successful. I definitely see more benefits than risks, as Tide is offering a wide range of solutions to provide convenience to consumers where they live. Who wouldn't want to gain back their time and still have clean clothes?
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    Does anyone pay the full retail price anymore?

    Discount retailers are hot these days and continue to open stores, catering to this cultural shift in shopping behavior that is Millennial-driven and stems from the Great Recession and, yes, I believe it is here to stay. Discount retailers are making the in-store experience much nicer that the Ben Franklin stores I grew up with. Today, I am seeing Tuesday Morning opening next to Five Below. Here's a great strategy that directly caters to this cultural shift and offers value shopping for the whole family.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’

    With Amazon's deep rooted use of retail data analytics, clearly this move to test a Plant & Plate store-in-store is based on the shopper's needs and interests, such as this "nesting" theme launching in Bridgewater, NJ, a suburban community close to New York City. As a "lifestyle shop featuring a variety of home, beauty and garden goods rooted in nature," Plant & Plate is a great fit and Amazon will see what sticks. A store-in-store is a good way to groom a new brand. Possibly the plan is to launch Plant & Plate in Whole Foods and, if successful, transition to a stand alone store? With Amazon, think outside the box.

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