The 8 Best Retailing Books

Carve out a road to success in this competitive industry

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Whether you are an online-only retailer or have been running a family business for years, you know that the world of retail is changing faster and faster every day. Industry giants and trusted brands are growing and evolving, and it is sometimes hard to know how to keep up. Understanding your business inside and out is the best way to secure a prosperous future. Being uncomfortable and challenging your business to be in front of the trends is the best way to stay relevant and thrive. Retail is not for the faint of heart. Learning from the best of the best will help carve out a path on the road to success. Keep reading to find the best retailing books to buy today to gain insights into the industry.

Best for Learning Current Trends: The Retail Revival

The Retail Revival
Courtesy of Amazon

Retail is far from dead — but the industry is dramatically changing. This entertaining and provocative book by Doug Stephens gets into the nitty-gritty of how the changing demographic makeup of the world, alongside technological developments, are pushing the retail industry into a new era, impacting the decisions consumers make, and the moves retailers must take to stay on top. This book provides an in-depth historical look at the distant and not-so-distant history of the retail industry, as well as a clear view of major trends that will continue to shape the sector in this decade and beyond. You will reexamine your deeply held beliefs about the industry and gain the insights you need to stay afloat, and even thrive, in the quickly transforming retail landscape.

Best for Store Curating: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

This book has a counterintuitive premise, arguing that too much choice is a bad thing. While retailers might sometimes feel a pressure to stuff their shelves with enticing options for their customers, Barry Schwartz convincingly argues that doing so leaves people feeling anxious and paralyzed rather than feeling like a world of possibilities lie at their fingertips. While having options is great up to a point, too many choices are psychologically and emotionally taxing, and sometimes even overwhelming to your customers. By the time you finish this book, you’ll likely feel as if the responsible thing for you as a retailer to do is to highly curate your store in a way that makes them accessible and enticing without being overwhelming. 

Learn What Drives Customer Buying: BUYOLOGY

In a world full of flashing neon signs and cacophonous advertisements everywhere you look, how can you ever hope to capture a customer’s attention? What makes someone choose to buy one product over another, and how can you tap into that process as a retailer? In this book, Martin Lindstrom examines the triggers that drive consumer behavior, the result of a groundbreaking neuromarketing study of 2,000 volunteers from across the globe. Some of your longstanding notions will definitely be challenged — what the definition of cool is, how interesting things actually impact the brain, the role of ritual — but you will come away feeling inspired and with more insight into how the mind motivates the decisions we make every day.

Best for Taking Care of the Backend: Delivering Happiness

Zappos is a quirky company — they are known for crazy tales of being over generous to their customers, a company culture that is at the core of everything they do, emphasizing happiness as a main value and even paying new hires to quit if the job is not a good fit. But at the end of the day, it’s known for its outstanding customer service and the company culture that puts people before product. In this book, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh explains how he launched the wildly successful company he is known for, his decision-making process, as well as how he manages to make customers, employees, vendors and investors all feel happy simultaneously. He also explains how you can put his fundamentals to work in your own life. 

Best for Online Companies: Why We Buy

It is one thing to get your customers and potential customers into the door — and it is a whole other challenge to get them to buy something once they are inside. In this book, retail guru Paco Underhill explores the science of not only how people make purchasing decisions — he’s even painstakingly tracked customers as they move through stores to monitor their purchase and browsing patterns — but also explains how the online retail industry is changing the rules of the game, what makes or breaks online companies in the 21st century, what globalization means for local store owners and an inside look at the movers and shakers who are proving that brick and mortar stores are here to stay. 

Best for Learning the Basics: Reality Check

If you want to start a business from the ground up and keep it running for generations to come, Guy Kawasaki is the man to consult. This book is as irreverent as it is brilliant, written with both the knowledge and smugness that only a true Silicon Valley insider could deliver. Are you lost when it comes to sending an e-mail? Afraid of networking, lest you come across as “sucking up?” Kawasaki is here to help you make sense of it all while keeping your wits about you and separate the true fundamentals from the trends that are only passing fads.

Best for Understanding Your Customers: The New Rules of Retail: Competing

Everyone knows that the world of retail is changing. But how is it changing, exactly, and how will those changes affect you personally? This book, which combines cutting-edge academic research with a conversational style, will help you understand current trends and what they might mean for the future. Inside, authors Robin Lewis and Michael Dart use some of the biggest names in the world — Vanity Fair, Sears, Trader Joe’s, Ralph Lauren and Lululemon — and illustrate exactly how enterprising leaders can leverage these changing times. You will learn how consumers have more power than ever, how to separate your brand from the others by developing necessary core competencies and how to exercise total control over public perception of your company.

Most Innovative: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

You did not really think we would get through this list without mentioning Amazon, did you? Especially after their acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Amazon has become the undisputed king of supply chain management and customer service. How did they go from humble bookseller to one of the most formidable companies in the world? In this book, Brad Stone speaks to Amazon employees and members of the Bezos “dynasty” about the secrets of the company’s success. You will learn the secrets of the corporate culture that drives the brand, the never-give-up attitude of Jeff Bezos and just how much Amazon has changed the way we make purchasing decisions.