Kevin Graff

President, Graff Retail

Kevin is the President of Graff Retail Inc. He is a retail and training professional with over 20 years of related experience. Founded in 1988, Kevin started what is now Canada’s leading training and consulting firm that specializes in working with retail organizations around the globe.

His years of consulting and delivering speeches and training seminars makes him keenly aware of the real life challenges facing the retail industry. All aspects of the retail operation including hiring and orientation of employees, staff and sales management, customer service initiatives and selling and retail strategies are areas of practical experience and success for Kevin.

Keynote Speaker: Kevin has presented hundreds of keynote addresses to a variety of retail, sales and service business audiences around the globe. Inevitably, the highlight of most conferences.

Author: Authored the books Winning Retail and Selling with Passion. Kevin also writes The Graff Retail Report, a monthly newsletter read by thousands of retailers around the globe.

Trainer Extraordinaire: Kevin consistently receives ratings that exceed 95% when he delivers training programs. Audiences love him!

Program Design: Kevin has lead the development of literally hundreds of training programs and systems over the past 20 years. Of great pride is the accomplishment of having these programs win The Retail Council of Canada’s Best Employee Development Programs Award not once, not twice … FIVE times!

Membership: Kevin is a member of The President’s Club at The Retail Council of Canada. He is also actively involved in several Retail Council of Canada events.

Over the past few years we have had the opportunity to work with clients such as Costco Wholesale, Roots, Sony, Home Hardware, Staples, Canada Post Corporation, Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws and hundreds of other retailers across the globe.

  • Posted on: 09/25/2020

    Will curbside pickup be Costco’s Achilles heel?

    I remember a conversation I had with a Costco exec years ago. I suggested they should have an express checkout for those with minimal items so that they could avoid the longer lines. He shook his head and said, "Why would I want to encourage you to buy less?" His belief was that if you knew you were going to have to stand in line, you might as well shop more of the aisles while you are there. Curbside pickup goes against what he said, and I'm on his side with that. I've written here that curbside pickup, while needed by many, is likely the Grim Reaper in disguise. Convenient? Yes. In demand? Yes. But the store becomes nothing more than a warehouse with a pick up option. No brand experience. No incremental sales. No discovery. No experience. Oh and it's expensive to run too. I'd bet on Costco every day of the year.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Has COVID-19 revealed pickup’s pain points?

    Communication. Technology. Safety protocols. All keys to make curbside work for the customer. I'm going to step aside from the "service" angle here and turn to what I've called the "devil in disguise" argument. My fear, which has been supported by many retailers I speak to, is that curbside pickup turns your store into just a warehouse with a pick up option. No discovery. No brand experience. No relationships. No impulse or add-on sales. I accept the reality of needing to provide this service (for now), but the true cost to the retailer is unbelievably high.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Pandemic ‘fast-forwarded everything’ for nation’s largest cannabis retailer

    Hello from the land of legalized cannabis ... Canada. Some of the best looking stores here are in the cannabis sector. There's still invisible handcuffs on them that doesn't allow them to run their business the way the liquor industry does. However they are quickly moving in the right direction, and the pandemic has pushed them along faster. There is amazing demand and not nearly enough stores yet. Five years from now will see cannabis retail being completely mainstreamed and operating the same, if not better, than every other retailer. Curaleaf is just one of many that are on the right path.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Best Buy connects strong sales to frontline worker performance

    Thrilled to see this story here today. It's been shockingly quiet on the media front on the positive impact frontline staff make. The leadership team at Best Buy "gets" the importance of store staff, and has for a long time. They've invested in them consistently every year. Every other brick and mortar retailer needs to take note: Invest in your staff, or watch your top and bottom lines disintegrate faster than ever.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2020

    Do Americans want retailers to keep their social distance after COVID-19 is gone?

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Curbside pickup is the Grim Reaper in disguise for retail stores. Sure you might have to offer it in this new world (for now, anyway). Just know that you're losing 20 to 50 percent in sales along the way as impulse and discovery sales drop off. Not to mention any connection with the retailer (read: staff, who are the biggest part of the brand at store level). Classic example: I go to a hardware store at the height of COVID-19, only being able to use curbside pickup. What do I buy? The one item I went for. Next trip, I can go into the hardware store. What do I buy? The one item I went for -- and four other items!
  • Posted on: 06/08/2020

    Is remote working bad for corporate culture?

    Like everything else, there are pros and cons to WFH. Who doesn't want to avoid the commute? Who doesn't want the freedom that comes from working at home to get a few personal things done during the day? Just beware: Humans are hard-wired for connection. Video calls, while good, are no replacement for face to face interactions. My fear is you'll see a breakdown of company culture (remember, culture eats strategy for breakfast) in the mid to long term. Not to mention relationships. A hybrid model (part WFH, part in-office) may be the way forward.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    What’s J.C. Penney’s next move?

    How about the landlords just accept the reality that the B and C mall properties (where most J.C. Penney stores live) need a complete rethink. Consider transforming these properties into full mixed-use assets. Knock down the anchors (ironically anchors always sink), add in residential, grocery, community centers, gyms, health care. View this bankruptcy, and those to come, as the opportunity to finally move forward instead of hoping these dinosaurs can live again.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2020

    Are Amazon’s at-cost face shields an act of goodwill or predatory behavior?

    I'm not one to trust Amazon and its forays into private label. However, this is more than fine with me. In fact, it's a good business move that also demonstrates a social conscience on their part. I don't say this too often when it comes to Amazon, but -- well done!
  • Posted on: 05/14/2020

    Pandemic stresses retail HR departments

    I have to approach this from the brick-and-mortar angle, as that's where I "live." The reality is that frontline staff are now way more important than ever. There's going to be less traffic in the stores for a long time, so the only way to maintain/grow sales is to increase conversion rates and average sale. That falls predominantly on the shoulders of the staff. So amid the need for safety training and protocols is the immense need to give staff the skills and knowledge they need to create a great customer experience, and through that process, drive sales. HR is going to have to step up, find the resources, and put staff at the front of the line.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2020

    PepsiCo launches direct-to-consumer sites for its brands

    Another entry into the growing D2C market. Light bulbs re-order themselves direct from the manufacturer. Furnace filters do the same. The spotlight here is how brands are looking to move past the retailers and go direct to consumers. Once a consumer goes direct, the data flow to the brand and the brand now owns the relationship and can begin to leverage it. Nothing big here in the short term -- but it's a slippery slope to watch out for.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2020

    Gap plans move into non-apparel categories

    Interesting move, and one that reminds me of how big box book stores morphed into lifestyle stores to maintain relevance and foot traffic. For many, that worked out very well. Apparel sales will likely head south for a long time, and the category is extremely over stored. The same was the case for books. So if they can execute this well, this may in fact be a great move.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is curbside pickup just getting started?

    Retailers should be careful about "pushing" curbside pickup as an option. Some customers may like it, But the drop off in impulse sales makes this likely just another part of the race to the bottom. The brand experience, discovery, personal connection and more all disappear. Curbside pickup turns the store into just a warehouse. It may be a bedfellow retailers need to live with ... but don't cozy up to it too much.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2020

    Will the new normal look a lot like the old normal?

    Some great commentary here, which is a breath of fresh air given the non-stop negative views pushed by the media. There's a lot we all know, and lot more we don't. Fact-based decision making is essential at times like this. The fact we know best, and that's been researched for years, is that humans are hard-wired for connection and social interaction. That doesn't exist with much depth online. Will there be changes? Yes, but what they will be are mostly guesses now. What's most likely is that retailers of all types are going to have to raise their games substantially in all areas of operation. The consumer will win again.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2020

    Is it okay to profit from a pandemic?

    Profit isn't a bad word. Gouging is. The price of a thing is what it will bring -- so if someone wants to spend $200 on a fashionable/branded mask then it's their choice. People have spent thousands on a simple designer handbag that does no more than a plastic bag does. It's a very transparent world. So as we've seen and retailers have all learned, when you step outside the lines you get called on it quickly.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2020

    Does anybody remember Earth Day?

    Do you get the feeling that Mother Nature has sent us to our room to think about what we've done to the world? Take a look at how the Earth is healing during this pandemic. Pollution levels have plunged. The Venice canals are clear. Wildlife is returning. Heck, if you can't get recycling right, how are you going to heal the world? This isn't that hard people. It just needs some solid leadership for a change, and a little less money worship.

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