Karen S. Herman

CEO and Disruptive Retail Specialist, Gustie Creative LLC

With two decades of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management, and strategic marketing, Karen Herman is passionate about good design, design strategy and design innovation. She works with architecture firms, retailers, creative agencies, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small-to-large size businesses to design highly specialized brand experiences, interior spaces, short-term retail destinations, interactive displays and collateral materials. Karen has completed many small-to-large scale projects ranging from under $1M to over $300M, in the US and abroad.

Karen’s first design consultancy was in business for 13 years and clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace and MediaPost Communications. In 2011, she completed the Kauffman FastTrac New Venture Program for Women and received an award during Global Entrepreneurship Week for her concept video on Strategic Stores. In 2013, Karen launched Gustie Creative LLC, a design and strategy firm that creates end-to-end sustainable design solutions and specializes in Disruptive Retail. In 2015, she designed the highly innovative Live Media Trading Room for Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Karen’s latest entrepreneurial venture is Founder of Create Disruptive Retail, a mobile design platform that offers Disruptive Retail resources and solutions for brands, businesses, agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Karen is the author of The Definitive Guides to Disruptive Retail and enjoys hosting DisruptShops in North America, South America, Western Europe, and the Caribbean, to facilitate Disruptive Retail for brands and businesses.

Karen supports design innovation as a Judge for Shop! Design Awards 2020, a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust and a contributing writer to Simply the Best magazine.

Other Links From Karen Herman

Design Blog:

  • Posted on: 05/10/2022

    Can Starbucks replicate the ‘third place’ in the metaverse?

    Starbucks' concept of creating a “digital third place” that is powered with NFTs and metaverse content is spot-on. I am already talking with partners and clients about the new brand journey. It is a fluid movement between offline, online, and the metaverse. Brands and businesses need to start planning now and Starbucks, as usual, is ahead of the game.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2022

    Will ‘aspirational independents’ swing results for retailers and politicians?

    I also joined the NRF's “State of Retail and the Consumer in 2022” presentation yesterday and found Bill Knapp's segment insightful because it supports our research on the values that drive today's consumer. The "aspirational independent" is shopping online-to-offline and engages with brands that entertain, educate, offer exploration and digital engagement while sharing authentic brand values. Also interesting were the four shopper profiles - conscious shopper, value shopper, bargain shopper and budget shopper. As John Furner, President and CEO of Walmart US said, "Necessity is inspiration for innovation." Clearly, giving "aspirational independents" the shopping experience they desire is key. Retailers can achieve this by innovating with disruptive retail solutions like pop-up stores, fashion trucks, digital trunk shows, shoppable walls or virtual stores -- a few examples that integrate online-to-offline retailing.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2022

    Will customers grow to love Walgreens’ digital cooler doors?

    Hey Walgreens, this pilot program with Cooler Screens technology is not working. Deploying a retail media network in-store where shoppers want to simply grab a drink and go is the wrong collaboration. I'd rather see a technology here that offers a QR code and delivers my drink of choice to me efficiently and quickly. Give me that and you can collect data and also keep a happy customer!
  • Posted on: 03/15/2022

    Chief Retail Officer sees connections and collaboration as key to Office Depot’s future

    For the past few years, Office Depot has been innovating and investing in technology that has led to today's digital teams that can collaborate and effectively apply user-centered design to improve the customer experience. Office Depot invested in focus groups from as early as 2014 to gain insight that led to the smaller footprint and small business focused Store of the Future roll-out in 2017. These investments in innovation helped to refined the user-centered design that is Office Depot's current focus and I applaud Kevin Moffitt for his efforts to "prioritize opportunities for digital and physical connections to create a virtuous customer cycle."
  • Posted on: 03/14/2022

    Will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ignite a global food crisis?

    This is a succinct overview, Tom. Clearly the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is affecting food prices, supply chains and food security around the world. To keep consumers aware of food shortages and rising prices, grocers, food suppliers and owners/operators of restaurants can use their social channels that most likely grew much more personalized through the COVID-19 crisis to keep consumers informed. Today's consumer is adaptive and resourceful and they appreciate time-saving information as well as an honest update on the status of the businesses they rely on.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2022

    Is the metaverse a bubble waiting to pop?

    Good insight and I agree with your view, Megan.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2022

    Is the metaverse a bubble waiting to pop?

    Virtual worlds are the evolution of the internet, and they are the foundation of the metaverse. With 2.5 billion people globally using VR daily and 43 million active users on Roblox daily, it is important for brands and businesses to take the metaverse seriously. Marketing in the metaverse can take many forms and first mover advantage is important, as long as it is managed in a controlled way, to avoid fallouts which are inevitable. This is a very exciting time as we transition into Web 3.0.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2022

    Is Foxtrot primed for major expansion?

    A digital-first in-store experience during the pandemic has been a vital driver of customer acquisition, across all retail categories, most clearly with grocery, and Foxtrot's expansion is a clear sign of their success. Foxtrot drives digital to bring customers in-store, elevates the grocery shopping journey through discovery and curation, then finishes it with convenience in pick-up and delivery. Growth potential is significant as they expand to Austin and Boston, cities with digital savvy shoppers.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2021

    Walmart is making store deliveries for the first time with driverless trucks

    Innovation cannot happen unless new ideas are tested in a controlled environment and I applaud Walmart for taking a crucial next step with this pilot program. Working with a tech partner like Gatik brings essential expertise to deploying autonomous vehicles on a greater scale and expedites problem-solving in the middle- to last-mile delivery process.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2021

    What’s really behind Facebook’s rebrand to Meta?

    The best news on the metaverse is that Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss are investing in Somnium Space and becoming advisors to this rapidly expanding virtual world. The fact that Facebook is rebranding as Meta does seem a desperate move to grab some spotlight, but the real leaders in the metaverse will continue to build vibrant communities with dedicated consumer participants, leading to more ad spend and increased adaption to emerging technologies.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2021

    Will Walmart’s latest test ‘pave the way for autonomous delivery’?

    A key indicator for me in regard to AI is the growing popularity of the use of Siri and Google Assistant by consumers worldwide. Both are powered by artificial intelligence and get smarter with use, day by day. There is no question that AI systems are learning fast and it is vital that companies like Walmart run these pilot programs to give emerging tech companies, like Argo and Nuro, a controlled real-life scenario to develop products that will become mainstream within the next decade. Kudos Walmart, and rock on!
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

    COVID-19 and the emerging variants remain a global public health crisis whose first victim has been people and whose second victim has been our economy. In particular, retail and how today's consumer is shopping has transformed at every step. In fact, the consumer has transformed, period. Ensuring that store personnel are vaccinated is essential, and providing a high level of comfort for the in-store shopper remains a priority. Some shoppers look for masks on staff and other shoppers, and most continue to observe social distancing. But to really get consumers back in-store, especially as we move into the holiday season, a retailer has to offer consumers a mix of digital first choices. Curbside pickup, BOPIS, virtual queuing, QR codes, mobile vending, scan, pay and go and virtual assistants are advances to protect shoppers and they provide control and comfort.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    Should retail robots go humanoid?

    Humanoid robots have been used in malls to interact with shoppers and hotels to interact with guests. Would you find that interesting to try?
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    Should retail robots go humanoid?

    Actually I see humanoid robots, autonomous delivery robots and delivery drones all growing in use in retail over the next decade. In fact, all three are in use in retail right now. They are being used in types of disruptive retail that are innovative and technology driven. A few are succeeding, like Starship and their autonomous delivery robot. Others have failed, such as Pepper, the humanoid robot from Softbank. It was tested in various retail applications, even at the Mall of America, and failed to find a customer base. I hope Elon Musk's version resonates with consumers and retailers in a more successful way. I think humanoid robots have a lot of potential.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2021

    Have flagships become obsolete?

    Clearly, the flagship stores that are launching in the era of COVID-19 are highly experiential and brand driven. This is important because the perceived value of having a flagship presence for a company is still important. Integrating immersive short-term offline retail experiences into the brick-and-mortar shopping journey for the consumer is key now and going forward, regardless of location. The consumer has changed and retailers need to adapt.

Contact Karen


  • Apply to be a BrainTrust Panelist

  • Please briefly describe your qualifications — specifically, your expertise and experience in the retail industry.
  • By submitting this form, I give you permission to forward my contact information to designated members of the RetailWire staff.

    See RetailWire's privacy policy for more information about what data we collect and how it is used.