14 Inspiring Quotes from Successful Retailers About Life and Business

Man wearing a suit

By Tricia McKinnon

Looking for a dose of inspiration? Learn from the best by reading these quotes from inspiring retailers. You will uncover some of the secrets to success behind the retail icons that have created the brands and experiences we crave today.

1. “Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.  - Phil Knight, Co-Founder of Nike

2. "If it doesn't scare you, you're probably not dreaming big enough." - Tory Burch, Founder and Executive Chairman of Tory Burch

3. "The customer doesn't necessarily know what they want. Sometimes you have to find the answer within yourself. So Steve Jobs said, 'How do I revolutionize the customer experience with the phone? And he said get rid of all the buttons except for one on the bottom of the phone.' We asked ourselves the same question: How do we revolutionize how people think about, for example, thermal underwear, which over time has generally become a phenomenon itself with Heattech. People didn't say, 'I need it.' But we started to innovate and went through thousands of iterations in the fabric until we came up with what we have today.” - Yasunobu Kyogoku – former COO of Uniqlo

4. “When we launched retail [at Apple], I got this group together, people from a variety of walks of life,” Ron Johnson commented. “As an icebreaker, we said, ‘Tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had.'” “Of the 18 people, 16 said it was in a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: the concierge desk at a hotel isn’t selling anything; it’s there to help.” “We said, ‘Well, how do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons Hotel?'” The answer: “Let’s put a bar [the Genius Bar] in our stores. But instead of dispensing alcohol, we dispense advice.”– Ron Johnson, former CEO of J.C. Penny and former SVP of Retail Operations at Apple

5.  "If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering." – Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

6.  "We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient." – Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

7.  “If you want the people in the stores to take care of the customers, you have to make sure you're taking care of the people in the stores. That's the most important single ingredient of Walmart's success.” – Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart

8.  “I certainly don’t think we’re in the midst of a retail apocalypse. I do not believe that and I do not believe that Amazon is killing retailers. I believe retailers’ bad service is killing retailers. And I think because of that you might not go to the malls as much as you used to.” - Laura Alber, CEO of Williams-Sonoma

9.  “If you dream small dreams, you may succeed in building something small. For many people, that is enough. But if you want to achieve widespread impact and lasting value, be bold.”– Howard Shultz, former CEO of Starbucks

10. “We want all employees to feel as though it’s their name on the door and that they are empowered to do whatever it takes to serve the customer on their terms. Our open-door policy is connected to the idea that we all have a stake in this together. It’s up to each of us to play our role in delivering the best experience for the customer. – Blake Nordstrom, former President of Nordstrom

11.  "Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first." – Angela Ahrendts, former SVP of Retail at Apple 

12. “Six years ago, we focused on the basics. In this new phase, our purpose as a company is not to sell TVs or computers. It's to enrich lives through technology by addressing key human needs — entertainment, communication, productivity, security, food preparation and health. We want to go beyond just selling products through transactions to selling solutions and building relationships.– Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy 

13. "You cannot stop. I don't know what others might say about it, but I find [that failure] is a reasonably common condition among people, it's how people build companies."– Mikey Drexler, former CEO of J. Crew 

14.  “At the end of the day, especially in retail, you’ve got humans serving humans, and really, the more engaged and happier the associates are, the happier our guests are. It’s not complicated.” -  Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty


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Tricia McKinnon