Branded Environments by Stein.

Designer | Trend Forecaster | Speaker
Author of:


ONE Hundred Years, Two Immigrants, Three Generations, Four Hundred Projects

Growing Up In Retail

For ten years twin brothers, and mid-century entrepreneurs, Al and Lou Stein were proprietors of the “anti-brand” Jewelry and Toy Center in downtown Milwaukee. The shop, a popular retail curiosity, seemed more like a garage sale than a bona fide retail operation. While neither of these “from the gut” marketing guys had a formal education, they compensated for it with their ingenuity, drive, and legendary sense of humor. Al’s oldest son, Sandy, spent countless hours observing antics and absorbing insights in this petri dish of fifties consumerism. This primed him for a wide ranging career in retail design and consumer trending.

Branding, Design & the Bottom Line

The Twins reinvented themselves in the mid 1960’s, with the creation of Pill & Puff, a unique niche concept that would ultimately becoming a defining brand in the Milwaukee area. At the same time, two iconic national brands were being launched; which would alter retail history. Target and Walmart, had very different trajectories but each with a very clear set of brand objectives. That laser-like brand focus, first drilled during Al Stein’s “kitchen table pronouncements” is still being validated and shared with STEIN’s clients and audiences to this day. Sanford addresses the value proposition that combines great design, with a great customer experience and how it has become a game-changer in today’s marketplace by those brands that recognize the strategic advantage associated with this double-barreled approach. He also examines and objectifies the design process required to get there. Sandy effectively communicates the correlation between design and the bottom line; and how retailers and brands have been able to translate a great customer experience into a predictable sales outcome.

Speaking Of Retailing

Throughout the past 25 plus years, Sandy has had the opportunity to speak to audiences both nationally and internationally; drawing from his extensive background as a retail planner, designer, and trend forecaster. Sharing stories of his growing up in retail, along with the lessons learned from clients and mentors have always made his delivery highly entertaining and relevant. Sandy discovered early on that the power of storytelling engages audiences; creating a more memorable experience. Maintaining a strong awareness of consumer trends and understanding the fundamentals of trend convergence have benefited Stein’s clients and audiences over the decades.

E-Commerce Disruption

With the point of sale, now residing in the customers’ backpack, back pocket or purse, it has become more challenging than ever for the store-based retailer to connect with their consumer. This disruption has become the new normal as consumer behavior becomes ever more dynamic and changing regarding the brand touchpoint preference of any given demographic. That said the best retailers have turned their focus to achieving an omnichannel brand embodiment that creates a holistic customer experience across the touchpoints, for their highly demanding “market of one” customers.

A Book Is Born

While articles written and contributed to by Stein have appeared in national and international publications over three decades, he felt he had a larger story to share; thus RETAIL SCHMETAIL™ was born. Stein takes the reader on a thoughtful, in-depth, and highly entertaining examination of a century of retailing in America. From downtown to the suburbs and back again, department stores to specialty, store-in-store to pop-up retailing, catalog to e-commerce and everything in between. He lifts the veil on the psychological, emotional, and design constructs that separates defining brands from the also-rans, while sharing stories of the many leading client retailers, and change agents who inspired and guided his four decade long career. Looking forward he predicts what the “virtual” reinvention of retailing will mean to all of us as store based retailers begin to focus on the shift from selling good to staging experiences. Stein intended the book for retailers, brand managers, marketers, designers, and academics; all who are invested in understanding the most profound change taking place in the retail industry in a century.

Forecasting Change

For the last three decades Sanford Stein has consistently and correctly predicted consumer trends while advising some of this country's leading brands. He describes trend forecasting not as some mystical ‘vision thing’, but a highly objective process of observation and deductive reasoning, “It’s really about connecting the dots”. Stein recalls being asked to speak at the National Retail Federation Convention in 1999 and again in 2000, when e-commerce was in its infancy. “The retailers were either in complete denial over the new phenomenon, or convinced the stores were all about to vanish. I told them that the stores were not going away, and neither was the new e-commerce phenomenon; that they must understand and embrace the change as it would ultimately become just one more touchpoint in their brand’s embodiment”.