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We sat down with Patricia Waldron to talk about her role in the retail industry, and it was a fruitful conversation. She shares invaluable retail insights and nuggets of wisdom, as well as a deep understanding of the ever-evolving world of retail.

Patricia Waldron Introduction & Background

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Patricia grew up in Minnesota, then moved to Texas, Philadelphia, and currently resides in beautiful San Diego. The podcast begins with a warm welcome that highlights some of Patricia’s achievements:

  • Founder of Vision First
  • Contributing editor at RetailWire and a member of our BrainTrust
  • Began in retail and the food service industry
  • Transitioned to management, food specialty, finance, and operations
  • Switched industries to vendors in retail technology solutions and services
  • Advanced into developing and marketing technology solutions

Specializing in Business Solutions

As the interview begins, Patricia offers retail insights on how businesses struggle with:

“…Putting together what is the actual problem that you want to solve and then how can you develop a solution to use it? And that kind of goes to what we look for in a lot of our discussions on RetailWire and what I help a lot of clients with…What is it that you want to accomplish and then how do we get there? As opposed to saying, I want this activity or I want this widget, it’s more about saying, okay, what do we want to accomplish? And making the strategy and then the action plan to get there and then executing it and measuring the results.”

She continues to explain that there is a disconnect between problems and solutions that needs to be addressed. Additionally, businesses regularly deal with multiple perspectives and points of view. As a result, leadership needs to articulate a way to merge all those ideas together seamlessly. The challenge is formulating a solution that not only satisfies the needs of the business internally but also benefits the customers.

Brian then shares how businesses can easily name what they want to accomplish and list the required tasks to reach that goal. However, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Patricia also shares her experiences and retail insights on this issue:

“Most of my clients are in the retail technology field and they come to me to help them develop a brand and a strategy that makes them stand out from the crowd. It’s a crowded marketplace and you have to determine what is your value proposition, what are your competitive advantages. Is there a compelling reason for someone to purchase your services and then how do you go to market? So for me it’s more of a holistic approach to determining what is the goal, articulating that and then how do you get there?” 

Brian asks if there are any specific types of businesses that struggle more than others. Patricia explains that it’s more of a blanket problem that affects every business regardless of the company’s size and line of trade. She lists out the requirements that every business needs to have dialed in:

  • Consistent brand
  • All activities have to flow from what that brand value is 
  • What does the brand invest in? 
  • How the company hires 
  • People management
  • Clear idea of products offered

All of these elements need to be revealed through marketing, and the same value system that reaches stakeholders. 

Retail Business Structure

In this next section, Brian suggests that many retail businesses suffer because of the nature of the industry. Patricia agrees and explains:

  1. One, I think it has to be top-down and leadership has to constantly inform and follow their guiding principles. 
  2. Two, I think our industry is extremely fast-moving, low-margin, and constantly changing. It is vulnerable to economic cycles, to the latest viral thing on social media, and the latest cool project. Every product that comes out is met with this fast-moving, low-margin, high-pressure situation. 

She elaborates on how her years of experience have exposed her to large corporations and countless people all around the world. And unfortunately, it’s impossible to satisfy everybody’s expectations all the time, especially from their business perspective. Sometimes goals don’t align and it’s important to know how to adapt and compromise. This is powerful wisdom that needs to come from the top-down in business leadership and must remain congruent with core values, metrics, and responsibilities.

Professional Evolution in the World of Retail

Brian asks about how her experiences have shaped her, what they’ve taught her, and what has been revealed from her core. At this stage in her career, Patricia replies that her main focus is on selecting the projects that interest her the most, and to prioritize working with people that she synergizes with. 

This same philosophy is applied to the people that she mentors. Patricia believes that everyone needs to come up with their own personalized criteria. She has two primary aspects to look for:

  1. How to learn something new or gain something like a skill, segment, technology, or something similar. 
  2. How to make an immediate contribution to the organization.

Next, they discuss how we are in a transformative technology age. Things have shifted from a centralized computer to distributed computing and back. The landscape has gone from digital to retail and now e-commerce. Further elaboration continues with invaluable retail insights in these areas.

The Future of Retail

The future that is happening now is artificial intelligence, generative AI, and new technologies that are changing customer interactions and employee empowerment.  Operations are being optimized and production is changing completely. Further retail insights reveal how the future of retail is shaping up.

Patricia predicts how retailers and vendors need to be, “looking at auditing all of your processes and watching new technologies as they come out and determining how you can plug them into your processes to make things better for any one of those constituencies…The industry is going to completely transform just as it transformed when Amazon started selling stuff online.” 

She elaborates on the importance of critically analyzing any new tools before fully diving into them. This requires, “a whole new set of processes, carefulness, and vigilance on the side of both people who create solutions and those who use it.” 

We all need to focus on the back-end and question user-generated content:

  • How do you know if it’s true or not? 
  • Who or where did it come from? 
  • What’s the purpose behind it?

Brian and Patricia also examine how balancing the front-end with the back-end is key for the future of retail companies. For example, as procedures become more optimized in the back-end, the front-end should take advantage of virtual aesthetics like bots, avatars, and different forms of digital selling differentiators. 

Even as these factors coalesce, a company’s brand promise must always remain the top priority. What a brand stands for must not be jeopardized by broken promises resulting in the failure of supply chain, service levels, and so forth. 

Brian weighs in with additional retail insights by explaining how a new frontier is forming before our very eyes. Brand new skill sets and levels of expertise are coming to fruition and emerging constantly. He believes that we are barely tapping into the brimming potential that awaits and we all need to be aware of what new types of jobs might manifest.

In response, Patricia explains leaders need to be competent and curious. A leader’s team must share these qualities by researching and bringing back new topics and good ideas. Meanwhile, leaders need to set clear goals, and parameters, and give feedback in a timely manner. But the most important part, she explains, is that, “simple acts of humanity are what set you apart from a leadership standpoint.”

Both Brian and Patricia agree on how organizations with leaders that emphasize the human element thrive while others who do not end up imploding when they don’t take their employees into careful consideration. This is further exemplified by how being first to market is no longer a guarantee for success, let alone sustainability. It is retail insights like these that are striking.

Patricia believes that, “there’s a lot of lessons to be learned probably as these different services and brands roll out the different tools for both customer-facing or internal facing. I think it’s going to be really good to kind of keep in mind that, hey, just because you might be first to market with something you better keep developing and learn the lessons from the others who also go before you too.” 

Conclusion & Advice

In the final segment, Patricia offers retail insights and advice about how each and every one of our journeys is unique. We all move in different directions, whether it is constantly upward, or it might go down, and even sideways from time to time. The most important thing is to continually learn something new and useful along the way.

The audience is reminded to check out Patricia and RetailWire on LinkedIn for more retail insights.  Also, audiences should make sure and stay up-to-date with the latest podcasts, news articles, and blogs available on RetailWire’s website.

If you’re interested in connecting professional networks in the retail industry, be sure to check out the top retail conferences in the world. It’s a whole new world out there and the circle of professionals on our BrainTrust are here with you helping pave the way with retail insights.

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