by Marc Weiss

The Cloud, and the technology being developed, has changed our behaviors and the way we address our business. The access to real-time data, with smart actionable analytics, provides small retailers with a gateway to the same resources that were previously only available to big-budget stores. Small businesses, and especially independent specialty retailers, now have a runway to compete and grow. Their smaller size can be a powerful, nimble advantage.

I was speaking with Robert Rosenthal, president of Next and Xhibition stores in Cleveland. They are one of the premier men’s contemporary, advanced contemporary and streetwear retailers in the U.S. I was asking him about the success they are enjoying and his outlook for the near term. Robert has boundless energy and is one of the most creative and inspiring retailers I know.

He introduced me to the term “Fail Fast” and, in his words, “It is a philosophy where speed is everything. It pushes you to answer quicker.” Robert has been a first adopter, which plays to his philosophy, “First one to arrive wins.” He adds, “Do not expect everything to work 100 percent.”

Look no further than Zara, with their ongoing collection of data from every store, plus the feedback they receive from their managers and information systems. They know what is working, or not working, and act fast on that information.

“Fail Fast” is not intended to be a tool to use in your overall strategy. Instead, it can serve as a wake-up call. When the data tells you something is not working…act on it. The consequences of inaction, especially when competition is accelerating, can spell trouble to your bottom line.

Robert is bullish on the opportunity for independent specialty retailers. He and his business partner, Steve Silver, have helped build their business through collaboration with vendors and other corporate relationships. Robert sees the playing field as having been leveled out; technology has made it much easier to compete. Robert talks about being in a “fast, digitally driven market.” By hiring creative people, you can “tell your story digitally and look as good as the big guys.” By acting quickly on information, and having the digital platform to reach your audience, you put yourself in a position to win.

The availability of bits of information adds up to tell you something you can act on. As Robert suggests, “Color trend, size trend, traffic trend all can be pushed to the user instantly. It is all about speed and that information — that “something” — that can lead you to a point faster than your competition.”

Busting out of conventional thinking opens the door to a future full of potential and opportunity. Mickey Drexler’s confession in a recent Wall Street Journal article sums it up best: “I underestimated how tech would upend retail.”

“Fail Fast” is a culture that early adopters are employing to achieve rapid growth and capture market share. The edge of tomorrow is here and, along with it, the opportunity for seizing information to push your business forward.

“Fail Fast” will be presented as a Management One™ and UBM Exclusive Cocktail Party” event at MAGIC on Monday, August 14 at 5pm at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Attendance is limited, so RSVP at your earliest convenience.

Marc Weiss is president and CEO of Management One and Retail Orbit, a predictive retail analytics and consulting company for over 27 years. For information, visit