Nicole Leinbach Reyhle (RTS #27)
Guest: Nicole Leinbach Reyhle
Topics: National Independent Retail Conference, Forbes
Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management. Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I’m joined by Nicole LEINBACH RYLA. Nicole is the owner of retail minded.com, the founder of the national independent retail conference, and an author, and is a contributor on Forbes. I am excited for her to join us today. Welcome to the show, Nicole.
Nicole Leinbach Reyhle 0:43
Thanks for having me, Chris, I’m excited to be here.
You do a lot in retail. If you were to explain it to us, what are you doing retail nickel.
So essentially, I am a retail key because I would self described myself I researched business or retail. More specifically, I researched the business of small business and independent retail. And so when we look at the depths of that that, of course means everything from store location to the technology they use to operate their businesses, to the marketing to the employees and every other piece of the puzzle that makes their stores operate. What I do in the general business of retail myself, besides that research component is I create content. I’ve always said content creates conversation, I create content through the traditional way in which you would expect meeting writing books writing for Forbes writing articles. But I also, you know, do a lot of content in the form of video podcasts like we’re doing now, webinars, trainings, I used to be for COVID travel the world and speak at events, and really just helped to fuel the business of retail. Wow,
what a unique role in retail. I love everything you said there. And one of the things I have found really interesting that you do. And I’d like to talk more about is you founded the National independent retailer conference. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Absolutely. So, you know, retail mind has been around 13 years. And I’d say about five years into that, I realized that we needed to hear more from the industry leaders, we needed to get them in front of retailers. And what better place to do that than at existing trade shows places where retailers were sourcing inventory. So the independent retailer conference was founded for the goal of connecting retailers to those industry leaders that can help them with their business. So we’re looking at experts from companies like Yelp, Shopify, Twitter, IBM, these are all companies that we’ve worked with, where we bring these experts to our stages of the independent retail conference positioned on site at trade shows. So we are a pop up conference, we were up until COVID, taking place twice a year on site at ASD Market Week in Las Vegas, which is one of the largest trade shows for retailers with over 40,000 attendees each year for each show. So that’s twice a year. And we create dynamic engaging, but very educational, informative sessions quick learning experiences, too. So we were doing 15 minute popup learning experiences seven years ago, every 30 minutes, though. So you’d have 15 minutes to learn. And then you’d go connect, our tagline is engage, learn connect, we want you to talk to those leaders and connect with those service providers. And then we of course did panels and you know, our breakout sessions and our keynotes and all those great things. But our goal was just to bring conversation to life and connectivity of business leaders and retailers so they could make their business stronger by education.
Love that. That’s incredible. And it’s incredible. Here’s why I love it. Because there is a ton of conferences in the world that the national retailers attend, they have big. They have large staff, and they send people all over the world in all the different sectors of retail, whether that’s technology, real estate, finance supply chain, but I haven’t seen a ton that the independent retailer could attend. That makes this unique. That’s why I love it. Give us some context. How How big is this? How many independent retailers come to this conference?
That Chris, to your point, that’s exactly the sentiment of why it was founded because we really feel like although the retail is a robust, dynamic industry globally, there’s not enough supporting small businesses. There’s not enough supporting those independent businesses that might only have one store at a strip mall in a local town but that one store is everything to them and you know what else? It’s a lot to a lot of other people and people that attend their stores right their customers. So we So true, passionate about bringing this independent retailer experience to life connecting them with these, sometimes intimidating companies, right? Because let’s face it, if we’re bringing Yelp to our state, Yelp is intimidating in the sense of like, wow, they’re a huge global brand. But also, as a small business, you don’t always understand how Yelp can help you. Sometimes you think it only hurts you. So we have to unravel all these conversations, right and tear down stereotypes, if you will. Even technology at large in general, we have to interrupt we don’t have to, but we want to introduce these technology providers to small businesses. And you know, because we do partner with a trade shows such as ASD Market Week, which already has 40,000 attendees, including their exhibitors combined, they have about almost 3000 exhibitors, and then combined with the attendance of those in combination with their retail attendees, you’re looking at 40,000 plus per show. So what we do is we pop up in the middle of this trade show, so people can still source their inventory. So we’re actually welcoming, everyday 1000s of people that are either sitting down or just simply standing up and learning to we create this pop up experience for we don’t want people to have to settle in all day, we want them to keep also engaging in their inventory sourcing, but what we find is that they’re coming back, they’re looking at our schedule of 10 to 15 sessions a day, and they’re coming back for, let’s say, three to five, we definitely have some attendees who plan their show around our schedule, right? They’re saying these are the 10 must attend experiences from an independent retail conference. And then we’ll make our appointments with our vendors to get our inventory. And we have people who have even come to that market AC market because of the independent retailer conference first. And now they’re also being introduced to this trade show. So it’s really dynamic. We’ve partnered with other trade shows as well in different categories. And it’s just a great way to connect with industry leaders and those retailers.
Wow, that is incredible. I’m curious, are you familiar with the ICSC? Yes. Have you done any work with the ICSE? No, I have not. 2020 was a tough year for trade shows, what did you do?
So 2020 obviously changed everybody’s perspective on how they have to operate business, a lot of people were better positioned than others. I am a small business owner myself. So in addition to me supporting the small business owners, I get it because I am an SMB, right. So I can look at it from a variety of angles. But that said, I work with large, large, large companies as well. So and then again, go back to business. So I feel like I had a lot of different perspectives to collectively consider as I approached my 2020, we did produce a virtual conference called action in retail. So air, basically. And it was a digital, one day experience that you could also kind of replay over the 30. Following days, we had great fantastic leaders from companies that included Klarna, which is you know, fantastic. If you’re not familiar with it already. IBM we had just a variety Lightspeed Point of Sale zooboo, a lot of technology providers, essentially, that helped fuel the business of small businesses. So that was cool, it was great to not only produce it and learn about it behind the scenes, but keeping connectivity between SMBs and people to help push them forward in the challenges of 2020 was our goal. That was truly the goal of action and retail. And then that was something that, you know, we produce, but then of course, I attended quite a few other experiences. Just recently, even at the Halloween party Expo, this was just literally last week. So granted, we’re looking at 2021, but they’re still doing virtual trade shows, as you know, but I was able to deliver six educational sessions to their attendees. And historically, I have worked physically at their shows right in the past in New Orleans. And this is the trade show that works at your party city stores. And I know, you know, you guys are familiar with a lot of these party store tenants, right? So the attendees of this show that I’ve worked with for many, many years, which by the way, we’ve also produced the independent retailer conference at, but individually myself, I also go to a lot of these events and speak. And so I did that again, just recently digitally. And I was so impressed with the fact that there was you know, 1000s of digital touch points of communication within their 3d experience. You know, I really applaud the show producers for making connectivity still a priority, and also learning still a priority. Because for me, that is so essential. Small businesses need to continue to learn. I look at it as as the path to purchase. So I’m kind of going off track a little bit here, but the path to purchase is what’s important for consumers. How can I as a consumer, how can I make the transaction happen that I don’t only want to but need to or how Actually, right? Well, as a business, you have to think about how can I stay on past to purchase that my customers want to be on as well. And so it’s just a very dynamic complex marketplace right now. And I think that, as a small business owner, myself, and supporting small businesses, I think that perhaps the purchase is something we have to all keep top of mind.
Wow. I couldn’t agree more. I think the whole connectivity piece that you talk about is really key and the learning piece. The small business owners in 2020, were busy, they were thrown off course they were doing a myriad of things, working with landlords working with vendors, trying to get move from physical to digital, trying to move from digital to physical occupancy concerns, all these things with the pandemic. Did you have a good turnout for your conference, your virtual conference with small business owners?
You know, I will tell you this, we had the turnout that we wanted, but I would have loved to see more get engaged. Okay, so we met the numbers that our goal was because we were looking at what other shows were achieving during similar time we did in summer of 2020, we were looking at past because we also, you know, I had produced a variety of webinar and digital experiences and at the start of COVID, for clients. And so I had some idea of how many people tune in. But the reason I say it wasn’t good enough, is because I wish more businesses took the time to hit pause and learn. They were in chase mode of I just need to sell and keep my doors open. But how they said I’m going to learn for eight hours this week, right? Even if they split it up over five days, they may have gained stuff to help them chase a little bit more strategically and a little bit more profitably. So I constantly talk to small businesses, too. And many of them don’t take the time to engage themselves and learn. And so that’s why I say yeah, it was good. Was it great? No, I would tell you, it’s absolutely wasn’t great. Because it should have been better. We should have all the millions of small businesses in the US, we should have absolutely had more attempts.
Hey, understand, are we talking north or south of 100? Oh, no, no, we
were in the 1000s.
Okay, wow. Yeah.
But you know, again, I got I got high goals, I want to see I love it
if it goes to.
Yeah, we had 1000s. And we were, you know, thrilled with that. And we captured some great data. So for us to understand who is tuning in, and who is wanting to learn, whether it’s category specific across the retail sector, or business decision makers, you know, what types of decision makers, so that’s always good, too. It’s just, you know, my heart genuinely wants to see small businesses succeed. So I want to see success for each of them. And when I say I personally can see sometimes that they’re not getting there as fast or maybe as easily as they could. That’s why I wish more people would hit pause to educate themselves on the ways in which they can enhance their operations, and in return, be more proactive and profitable in their business.
I couldn’t agree more i i say all the time, you need to give yourself the emotional permission to stop working in the business and start working on your business. But it takes that emotional permission to step away and get out of the weeds and go to the big picture. And the ones who do that are able to, as you say, sell more strategically, and probably pass by those that didn’t take the time to step away, brainstorm, collect new ideas, connect with others, and learn. Absolutely. So kudos to you. That brings me to the next piece. We’re talking about the conferences and the engagement of the independent retailers. What was your take on the state of independent retailers, small businesses in 2020? In retail, and where what is the state of it today?
So sadly, 2020, we saw a lot of loss right within the Small Business category specifically. So when we separate these larger retail chains that households are familiar with and we look more at or smaller businesses, we saw a tremendous amount of loss. And with that communities are changing. So the footprint of my hometown, right, the community I get to call home is absolutely changed because of 2020s small businesses that closed now on the upside of that, Chris is that what also happened is there’s a lot of people who weren’t necessarily operating or owning their own small businesses. They lost their jobs for other reasons, or they decided, hey, you know what, life is short. I want to shift gears in my own professional journey. So we’re actually now starting to see See some new businesses opening up because people have the opportunity to just say I’m shifting gears or they want to shift gears. So while we’ve seen a lot of sadness in terms of SMBs, having to close, we’re seeing an uprising, new ones beginning to open applying for the opportunity to open getting loans make a decision to say this is the type of business I want to open. So that’s been cool, too. So as much as it’s been sad to see, like closed, we’re seeing new ones open. And I do want to highlight that while there was a lot of small business, unfortunate closures in 2020, there was also a lot of success stories told. So I think that, you know, with with the challenges of 2020, we certainly do want to recognize and applaud for that matter. Those retailers who came out and said, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone or you know what, hell no, am I going to let the COVID Shake my world I’m going to shake it right back. Right. And so that was cool, too.
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That’s what I want to talk about who were those and what did they do? So some examples of small business retailers that impressed you you met 1000s of them. And what did they do to have success and 2020.
So I’m going to highlight one that I’ve mentioned before over the years is because I follow 1000s. And with that I often find that some of the top continue to remain at the top for a reason, right? And that’s because they’re willing to step outside their comfort go goal or comfort zone and achieve new goals that they attain for themselves during these times. So it’s called Lockwood. It’s in Astoria in New York City. Lockwood is owned by a female entrepreneur who opened one store and over the following years she opened a few more but each one has a category. So the first one she opens Lockwood, like get obsessed, that is her flagship if you will, and Lockwood’s sells a variety of gifts, novelty stationery, babies clothes, Home Goods, random fun, like toys and games. And she would attend shows like New York now, which is a trade show in New York City. I’ve seen her there. I’ve met her there. I’ve visited her store. And what happened during COVID Was it was just before Easter, right. And she depends on those types of holidays for sales, gift holidays, things where people want to buy gifts. And so she started using her Instagram Stories, which she had always done. So that was to her advantage already that she had already had some familiarity with it. But she started to really boost her storytelling through Instagram, and Facebook. And talking customers through the store literally taking them throughout her store, communicating with them getting her employees involved, her employees became personalities of her brand, you know, like looking forward to see one talk versus another talk because they are totally different characters and personalities became fun for me as a spectator as a customer, right? And she would take you through like the idea of okay, let me create an Easter basket for you. I’m going to fill it for you, right. But then she’s like, if you have a budget of $50 you tell me what your favorite things are, but types of things will make this for you. And she started shipping things out. So now her local audience expanded to the US. And she started getting more followers and I love that story because she just shows that like her. Her store is sort of a landmark within her community. And now all of a sudden she’s reaching more of a national audience because of COVID. Right so she’s making up for the sales and she posted a few months later in tears. There’s a story. So a video story saying, like, you guys kept me alive, like I exceeded the numbers that I had thought I would make on those months. Wow. So she’s, you know, so heartfelt and like that emotion is so amazing. And these stores make communities you know. And so she’s also showed how other stores have closed around her, but she has stayed open. And definitely think that, you know, those types of stories are fantastic. And leveraging video was a huge part of those retailers who found success in 2020. So taking the time to communicate, because you and I as consumers, if we were going to physical stores, I know a lot of people had already chose to shop online as a majority. We missed the connectivity of conversation, the connectivity of movement through store merchandising experiences, and she brought that to life. So that’s just one example. But there’s many others.
Wow. Powerful story. Just looked up her website, she’s got a few locations, cute little store she has. She went and leveraged video that use That’s what you said was one of the successes I would call it. She became a storyteller. She became a storyteller, one of my favorite stories. Let me take that back. One of the stories that I think is interesting, I don’t think it’s, it’s not a favorite of mine. But it’s an interesting story is Kodak. Kodak invented the digital camera, but they did not want to push it for fear it would hurt their film business. And
a lot of marketing gurus have written about this story. And the one that I really connect with that really hit home is Kodak thought they were in the film business, and therefore they didn’t want to hurt that business.
What they didn’t realize is they were in the storytelling, storytelling business. And that’s why and that’s why they should have made that pivot, regardless of what they thought about the future of the technology. And I think this female entrepreneur from Lockwood realized she was in the storytelling business. And to me, that is really awesome because that her ability to storytel enabled her to gain customers that she never dreamed of because now her audience and customer base is national, not just in the story or Greenpoint, which is incredible. Yeah, I agree. So retailers that leverage video. Yeah. And I would say retailers that were able to storytel I think storytelling is something that’s going to be important to any business. I heard Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank say, I used to want to hire engineers. They were smart. They think they were analytical. That’s why I hired a college engineers, engineers. Now. I need storytellers. in a digital world. I need storytellers. That’s what I’m hiring. I thought that was really interesting. And to the point of this woman who owns Lockwood, well, and
also Chris, it takes me back to the original point of which I founded retail minded was that content creates conversation. Conversation is storytelling, right? Ie having dinner with a friend and telling them oh my gosh, don’t don’t waste your time trying to fill your Easter basket for the kids just go to lockwood.com and they’ll do it for you. Right? That’s conversation or the storytelling we’re talking about. So like, just content and communication in general, helps to push all of this to life.
Well, you have me in a feel good mood, heartfelt stories.
I want to pivot but
I want to hear another success story. Can you give me another one? Tell me about another small business and 2020 This is great. This is powerful. Give me another one.
Okay, so oh my gosh, there’s so many. I’m trying to think which one I want to do. There is a store in my hometown of Colorado. And it’s called interior delights. And so there are a home store in a strip mall. There’s like a McDonald’s and a goodwill and there’s like a local battery store and or so basically, they’re surrounded by all these things that aren’t super glamorous, but their store is very independent and local, but it’s off the main street of Parker, Colorado. Okay, so I actually don’t live in Parker, but I’m close enough to this place. And it’s off the main street and they were struggling because they had just opened prior to COVID. And they’re like, Oh, how’s anyone gonna know about now? Because we’re in a strip mall that we’ve barely been visited to because we really know now what so they using social media I started to basically tour their store, and they were using pictures. But then there’s, they’re saying, show me your picture, I’ll show you my picture, right. And then let’s, let’s create your home together, or a home store. And so like you said, you post a picture of your empty shelf, I’ll show you the things that would look good in it. You know, you show me a picture of the couch, and you new pillows on I’ll show you the pillows that we have. And it created sort of this back and forth. And so what I liked about that was it is something I refer to as shopper tainment. So shopper tainment is you’re engaging your audience or customers, they’re being entertained while they shop. So I thought it was a really fun way for them to get engaged with their audience and their local customers who are they were just getting to know right when their store shot.
Wow, that’s a really innovative idea. I say it’s an innovative idea. But I do think it takes us a step backwards. Because simple. Because technology today, there are platforms where you can submit your picture and design your store your house, your kitchen, yourself, you can go on Wayfair and place the couch and place this. But this actually is a reversion of the tech piece, because it’s more about the shopper team piece that you describe. And that I really like Plus, you’re getting consults from an expert, interior designer. And I just went on their website there, it looks like Joanna Gaines designed their whole store.
Yeah. So that brings me to the point of customer service and physical retail is so valued because of customer service. And so that was a challenge of 2020, how to physical retailers still deliver customer service. And even though chatbots are available, and applications for people to design their own rooms, people still like people in many parts of their shopping journeys. And so I think that that those two stories for me start at the top because they still allow that connectivity of people to people. And, you know, we do live in a very complex modern marketplace. But I strongly believe that people are such a huge piece of the Commerce component. And although some businesses do feel without ever having to have people conversations, there are so many customers who still want them. And I think that you know, 2021 will emerge showing some of those trends. And there’s some awesome technologies that combine people with tech with retail.
I’m excited to see that last point that I want to talk about in our conversation, those stories. Were out of the park for me, I’m excited about them. They got me fired up for the week. So thank you. The world is definitely this combination of physical and digital. The majority of the small businesses that are in America weren’t as prepared as some of these national brands who are innovating, innovating. like there’s no tomorrow you look at Walmart, Target Amazon,
they’re doing new things every day. They’re pouring dollars in how does the Small Business retailer compete when you have these battleship companies who are innovating and changing the way we shop by the second?
So personally, I’m not going to give you some super, you know, forward thinking 2030 type response. In other words, if we’re gonna go backwards in the sense of I go back to good old fashioned customer service. treat everybody like you’re starstruck, treat them like royalty get their autographs. That’s the three customary steps to customer service. I’ve been saying it for years, I think now more than ever, people need to deliver on it, because you can do this at every touchpoint during that path to purchase. So be starstruck treat them like royalty. What is royalty have to have standards and expectations, right? So what are your standards and expectations, define them? Use technology to help you deliver on them use data to help you understand them and be responsive to all of that right? Of course being star struck taking us back to point number one just means who is your favorite star? Right? If it’s, this is based off a real story. I was in Chicago once and a friend got a call from security from Brett, Brad Pitt and Angelina and they said they’re coming to shop. They you know, we need to close the store for off our and let them shop private. And of course she was thrilled right? But she said to me, Nicole, nobody on my team can work. There’s not one person I can have work today. So really, I’m surprised I feel like everybody would drop their schedules and just want to be there because no you don’t get it. None of them are qualified. I don’t want them to. And it was like, wow, you need all of your employees to be trained to be starstruck at every single customer to treat them like royalty with the standards and expectation Since a restore, and to get the autograph because if you’re getting the autograph and you’re processing the transaction, right, an autograph signifies you’re capturing the signature of a, quote unquote credit card, or whatever other payment is out there. Plus, extend that to your email marketing your newsletter, let’s stay in touch Social Media, make sure you’re staying in touch, it’s three quick steps. But if businesses deliver on an all the Omni central centric opportunities there are, then they’re going to lead against the Walmarts. And the Amazons and the bigger businesses of the world with no offense to those businesses that are customers that will want to shop at all of them. But the reality is, they do need to compete. So how can they compete, they have more mobility than these bigger companies in the sense that they can quickly shift gears. And they can define standards that might be of higher expectation, because their staff is smaller, and they can train it right. Even the larger companies with bigger staffs have, you know, some of them have amazing customer service. But you know, I won’t, I would love to see smaller businesses, really nurture that and say, I’m going to, I’m going to make 2021 in the year that I’m really going to finally kick ass and customer service. And I’m going to make sure that when somebody talks about me, it’s because of something good, right? We tend to talk about really, really bad things are really, really awesome thing. If you’re just average, you will not survive. It’s just one of those things nowadays, you need to be, you know,
memorable, remarkable, as Steve Dennis says, remarkable. One more time, give your three for the listener give your three points to customer service.
So be starstruck, every single customer should be somebody that you don’t want to take your eyes off of, so to speak, you want to, you know, be in awe of the fact that they’re giving you the attention and the time to be a part of your business. So make sure you’re giving them the attention and time that they’re there as well as treat them like royalty, royalty offers, and demands expectations, right from whoever they encounter. And so you as a team, your own team must have expectations and standards in place, so that no matter what customer walks in, they all get that same type of royal treatment that your business should deliver. And even if you are not, you know a luxury brand or anything of source, you can still deliver on royal treatment, so to speak of the consumer, right of any consumer. And the final piece to this puzzle is to get their autographs, you’re getting their autographs, that simply means you’ve either captured a sale, or you’re having connectivity or both. So that you’ll stay in touch, make sure they’re following your email, or your newsletter, make sure they’re connected with you on social media. And if you have the opportunity, and you should, by the way with technology to capture their email address and stay in touch, so you’re boosting your own CRM goals as well as well along the way.
Fantastic, great education to the listener. Thank you so much. This has been incredible. I am fired up about small business and 2021 and beyond. Thank you for doing that for me. Yeah. Thanks, Chris. Now to the last part of the show. We call it retail wisdom. I’ve got three questions for you. Are you ready?
Yes, I’m ready. All right. Question one. What extinct retailer, do you wish you’d come back from the dead?
Oh, gosh, I have so many ideas in this. Nobody’s gonna remember this unless you’re really old like me. But units or multiples.
Units or multiples. I’m not sure I remember them. And I know a lot of retailers. It was a
store when I was a teenage girl, a preteen teenage girl growing up in outside Chicago, Illinois. Both the units and multiples existed at my local mall, Hawthorne mall, when essentially they had a like shirts, bottoms, tops, all different colors, very few patterns. And you could, you could basically wear them with anything. It’s almost like a elevated version of athleisure wear. Okay, it’s all very comfortable cotton based products, that with a little spandex in them. But there were skirts and dresses and it gives you like this thing that you can put in the middle and plaster top out. And I just I think it has opportunity for comeback. And I always enjoy shopping.
Very cool. No one said that before. So thank you for sharing.
What is the last thing over $20 that you purchased in a store?
Handle where actually interior delights. So I mentioned them earlier today. And it was it had a little deer on the outside of it. And I was trying to get something that felt very wintry and warm and cozy. But once the candle melts, I know I’ll still be able to use that container. So I thought it was worth its value because I wasn’t going to toss the class that at the end. I was going to keep it. Very cool. Very cool. Last question.
If you and I were shopping at Costco and I watched you what I would I find you in
at Costco, you would probably find me in the snack aisle, reading ingredients, everything because they have so many different things there, and I have a son who’s allergic to something. And, you know, I personally have my own weird preferences. So I just sit there and everything’s all day long. But I will tell you, if you were to ask me of any other store, like let’s say, Target, I would tell you the home aisle, but not for any other reason that you would anticipate it mostly because I really enjoy watching customers shop in the home sections of big department or mass merchant stores like Target. It’s interesting to watch customers.
That it is, well this has been great. I really appreciate the time. Thank you so much for coming on. And let’s stay connected.
Absolutely. Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it. Love your show.
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