20 Questions with Katelin Allen
In a new series from Endear, we interview retail experts to get their take on a variety of industry-specific questions - 20 of them, to be exact. Our latest interview in this series is with Katelin Allen. As Director of Merchandising at The Sharper Image.com, Katelin is championing how merchandising can become more customer-centric. Here, she dives into her 15-year long career in retail and what she believes the next twenty years will look like over the course of 20 Questions with Endear.
How many years have you worked in retail?
Did you ever work in a retail store?
I've worked many retail jobs! My first was in high school working for Sears.
What's the best part about working in retail? Or the worst?
I loved being around product - playing with new items and seeing trends unfold.
In five words or less, how would you describe the future of retail?
Survival by putting customers first!
"I love a friendly greeting, be genuine and show interest in me. You can tell when an associate is just out to make a sale vs helping someone."
What's your favorite way to be approached as a shopper? Or least favorite?
I love a friendly greeting, be genuine and show interest in me. You can tell when an associate is just out to make a sale versus helping someone.
In your opinion, what are some of the most important qualities or skills someone working in retail can have?
A passion for people! Retail is centered around customer service, you have to enjoy being a problem solver for customers.
Tell us about an experience you had with a particularly noteworthy customer.
I remember doing a "preview" at [a] store one night, showing customers new designs that we were working on. One customer fell in love with the bag and gave me her number to call when it was available for sale. She was so happy when I called her 6 months later, she bought two! One for her and one for her friend's birthday!
Fill in the blank: "Working in retail is great, unless you _____, then don't even think about it!"
hate Christmas music ;)
Name a brand you think has a particularly great or unique approach to retail right now.
Neighborhood Goods - I love their approach to curation and storytelling.
What's your favorite thing to shop for?
Home Décor! I love finding inspiration for my new home.
What's the last thing you bought while shopping online?
Lake gear for my dog, George. The Orvis dog catalog gets me every time.
What store(s) are you shopping IRL right now?
I love my local houseware shops for gifts and unique finds. Their offerings change constantly!
What was your favorite store/mall to shop as a kid?
I'm from a small town so we would travel to Columbus, OH to do our back to school shopping. Going to Easton mall was such a treat! All the cool stores were there. A&F in 2005 was like whoa!
What was your first "big" retail purchase?
The coolest lambskin bomber jacket from the boutique I worked at in college. I wore it to every party, then ended up giving it to my little sister.
What technology trend do you think will have the largest impact on retail over the next 5 years? Over the next 20?
In 5 years: anything to support connected commerce. Brands that can seamlessly serve the customer on their own terms will win - BOPIS, same day delivery, omnichannel returns, etc. These things used to be a bonus, they are now expected.
In 20 years: There is so much tech and research behind sustainable materials. Those developments are going to change the world!
What's a current retail trend you're excited about?
Resale! I love seeing big brands & department stores supporting this idea of circular fashion. Bringing that aspect of sustainability into mass retailers is huge!
"Brands that can seamlessly serve the customer on their own terms will win - BOPIS, same day delivery, omnichannel returns, etc."
What's the best piece of advice you've gotten while working in retail?
Practice humility, that's how you learn.
Fill in the blank: "Shoppers today will never appreciate the art of _______."
Fill in the blank: "Ecommerce is to stores as ______ is to ______."
coffee is to Monday