Welcome to The Backroom, a window into what goes on behind the scenes as the Retail Dive team covers the stories and trends reshaping retail. You can check out all our podcast episodes (past and present) here and listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Spotify.
Joel Bines' retail career got off to a rocky start. His first sale at his first job — a marble and granite shop in Massachusetts in 1985 — he assured a customer that a clay-colored tile she had picked for an for indoor-outdoor room was waterproof.
"I had no idea whether it was or wasn't, I just wanted to make the sale," Bines said of the episode. The tile was not waterproof, and the store's owner was not pleased with his new salesman. It was a hard lesson for the teenage Bines in trafficking in what people want to hear as opposed to the truth.
Today Bines is a managing director with AlixPartners, a familiar name in the distressed retail world, as well an adviser to healthier retail companies undergoing transitions and transformations. (Macy's, for example, recently engaged the firm to advise on a potential spinoff of its e-commerce business, which the department store chain ultimately rejected.)
Bines is often called in to tell hard truths to retail management teams trying to reverse downward trajectories in sales and/or profits. He calls the executives who hire him "gluttons for punishment."
In Bines' new book, "The Metail Economy: 6 Strategies for Transforming Your Business to Thrive in the Me-Centric Consumer Revolution," he draws on his years as a retail turnaround consultant to explain how empowered consumers have reshaped the commercial environment and the jobs of retailers.
We sat down with Bines in February to talk about what he's learned about the industry over the years and what the retail world might look like post-pandemic.
- Welcome to the lucrative world of retail bankruptcy
- Why are department stores a target for e-commerce spinoffs?
- Macy's hires the firm behind Saks' e-commerce spinoff
- Macy's rejects e-commerce spinoff as it looks to build on digital growth
Editor's note: This show was produced and edited by Caroline Jansen. The Backroom's co-host Daphne Howland isn't featured in this episode.