Top 15 Books on the Future of Brick and Mortar Retail

Committed to a New Year’s reading challenge but not sure where to start? Instead of slogging through the same must-reads on top of everyone else’s list, leverage your resolution into tangible success by catching up on books from some of the best minds in retail.

The Retail Revival, by Doug Stephens

Consumer expectations have changed, and businesses have changed to match. Better technologies don’t necessarily point to an all-digital future, though. Brick-and-mortar retail will continue to play an important role in many lives, which is why retail industry guru Doug Stephens wants to help business owners in the retail space understand the trends and make the most of the opportunities to come.

 Why We Buy, by Paco Underhill

Paco Underhill snagged two spots on this list (one here, one as a co-author) for good reason. His classic retail advice book now comes in a revised edition that includes thoughts and recommendations for retail professionals struggling to make sense of a rapidly evolving retail world. Funny, fresh, and easy to put into action, Underhill’s words continue to stand the test of time.

The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz

More isn’t always more, at least when it comes to satisfied customers. Despite common belief that people want more options, people tend to run and hide when faced with excessive choices. Barry Schwartz provides a helpful guide for retailers to figure out exactly how much choice to offer and how to make customers feel like they have enough options without piling on stress in the process.

The New Rules of Retail, by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart

Today’s retail stores don’t just compete with one another — they also compete with Amazon, subscription services, and the thousands of other online boutique stores eager to steal their customers. This book examines the long odds of success for modern retailers and outlines the three critical factors that determine which companies make the cut.

The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence, by Robert Spector and breAnne Reeves 

Another revised and updated work, this retail management book is filled with the lessons and stories that took the Nordstrom brand to the top. Focused on customer service, Spector and Reeves clarify how even the smallest retailers can create better experiences for employees and customers alike. Now with new interviews from today’s Nordstrom executives, brick-and-mortar retailers shouldn’t miss this one.

Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh

Zappos built its legacy as an ecommerce giant, but founder Tony Hsieh’s guiding principles apply to every business everywhere. In his book, Hsieh talks about the lessons that helped him grow his company to $1 billion in annual sales and why his company consistently makes lists as a top employer. This is a fast and engaging read, making it the perfect start for any New Year’s list.

The Everything Store, by Brad Stone

Amazon’s empire stretches into every corner of the world. Many brick-and-mortar retailers wish Amazon’s footprint were a bit smaller, but the tactics and mindsets that grew Amazon into the powerhouse it is today apply to small businesses just as well as they do to mega-giants. Read about Jeff Bezos’s insistence on ambition in this definite biography of the world’s biggest retailer.

Minding the Store, by Stanley Marcus

Customer experience improvement may be the hottest new trend in retail, but Herbert Marcus figured that out a long time ago. Written by Herbert’s son, Stanley, this account of the rise of Nieman Marcus walks readers through the hard times and the good times, from world wars to economic booms. Filled with teaching moments and insightful tales, this is the perfect read for any retailer who wants to know what kind of decisions life at the top requires. 

Isn’t It Obvious? by Eli Goldratt

Following the story of Caroline and Paul, a couple working in retail, Eli Goldratt’s follow-up to The Goal brings the same simple truth to retail as his first book did for manufacturing. Caroline and Paul make a series of decisions to turn their small chain of stores into a massively profitable international enterprise. Along the way, Goldratt makes it clear how retail professionals can solve core problems to generate major improvements. 

We Are Market Basket, by Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker 

Working in brick-and-mortar retail means getting up close and personal with people and communities. Korschun and Welker tell the story of Market Basket, a popular chain of supermarkets in New England, and how everyone from workers to customers stood firm in defense of a beloved CEO. No matter how far technology develops, this book reminds retailers of the power of human connections.

Blue Ocean Shift, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

No business exists in a vacuum, but retail owners cannot afford to lose sight of their goals by focusing on the progress of the competition. Using a combination of market research and psychology, Kim and Mauborgne provide a blueprint to empower business owners to shift their thinking away from distraction and toward growth. Everyone from founders of bootstrapped startups to CEOs of multibillion-dollar organizations should own a copy.

Buyology, by Martin Lindstrom and Paco Underhill

 As much as we like to believe we are in control of our minds, subconscious processes make many of our decisions before we even know we have a choice. This book from Lindstrom and Underhill analyzes the results of a massive neuromarketing study to give retail owners some perspective on how and why different marketing tactics work. The authors address sex in advertising, the role of ritual, and the definition of “cool” in one of the smartest business books around.

 The Startup Owner’s Manual, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf 

If major universities like Stanford and professional organizations like the National Science Foundation teach startup best practices from the same book, that book must have something good to say. In this 608-page tome, Blake and Dorf include tons of research, stories, and guides to help small business owners take their companies to the promised land of profitability.

 The Shopping Revolution, by Barbara Kahn

Barbara Kahn takes a hard look at consumer expectations and how retailers must change to meet those expectations in her award-winning book about disruption. Covering big brands like Amazon, Walmart, and Warby Parker, Kahn examines the nature of disruption and what separates the most successful companies during periods of change. As the next few years promise plenty of shifts in retail, retailers should know what to expect and how to prepare.

The Retail Chronicles, by C.L. Lind

Extremely short and not always sweet, this collection of tales from C.L. Lind provides insight into a day in the life of a retail sales representative. Customer experiences depend on good employee experiences, which means retail store owners need to know how to support their employees when they face the unique challenges retail has to offer.

Take a seat by the fire, put on a pot of tea, and cozy up with one of these best brick-and-mortar books for 2020. The holiday shopping season may be over, but the battle for success in the new decade is just beginning.