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CNBC’s Lemonis stresses connection with customers at Emerson Group event


PHILADELPHIA  — The Emerson Group in late September hosted its 10th Annual Retail Industry Day to a packed room with hundreds of merchants eager to discover how to better proposition their products for tomorrow's ever-evolving consumer.

They weren't disappointed.

"It's a really dynamic time in our industry right now," said Emerson Group EVP marketing Matt Poli, who reflected on the decade the Emerson Group has been delivering provocative content as part of this event. "The world we live in, brick-and-mortar physical retail, over the last 10 years square footage in our industry has grown 23%. I know that runs counter [to what's been happening recently] but the small format has more than doubled their share of retail square footage and now represents 20% of the retail square footage in the United States. If you look at [these players], these are not retailers where we have widespread distribution."

Consumer shopping behavior has also evolved significantly in the past 10 years, he said. "It creates a lot of complexity. It's dynamic," Poli said. "We have to understand how the consumer is changing. The way we like to define it is 'Connection Capital.’ "The return on 'Connection Capital' is truly understanding how to build loyalty in today's digital environment at a profit."

Leading the all-star lineup of Emerson's 10th Annual Retail Industry Day was Marcus Lemonis, the retail "fixer" who hosts "The Profit” on CNBC, which features Lemonis' attempt each week to turn a failed business around by going back to the basics and making the front-line, customer-facing employees the heroes of each story.

"I don't believe that the key to business is actually our intelligence, at least the learned experience," Lemonis told attendees. "I don't believe that our success in business is based on some empirical data that we learned in business school. I really believe that the connection between people, and understanding how people think and how they're motivated, how to get them to react and how to get them to respond and how to manage with inspiration without intimidation is really the key."

And building a true connection with people means being vulnerable, Lemonis noted. "Business is not about spreadsheets. ... It is about your ability to connect with people," Lemonis said. "[The Profit] is really not about business. It uses business as a backdrop, as a vehicle, to get the message across. The show is really about [people]."

That focus on people is the true differentiator for small business, he added. It's how successful entrepreneurs break through the clutter.

"I chose small business because small business for me looks like how I felt [starting out], a little bit of an underdog, limited resources, not the sharpest tack in the shed. That was me as a human," he said. "I've always wanted my legacy to be how do we get people to think differently about business and attach a personal perspective to it. How does that, over time, not level the playing field with 'big business,' but how does the small business owner get an edge?"

Lemonis will be returning to prime time in November when CNBC’s popular hit series “The Profit” returns for a fifth season.

Every day next week, Drug Store News will be featuring content connected to the Emerson Group's 10th Annual Retail Industry Day, starting with an overview of how to capture lightning in a bottle not once, but consistently with Wieden+Kennedy chief creative officer Colleen DeCourcy.

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