Retailers are some of the most resilient people in business, though the highs and lows they go through to reach success are invisible to most. NPR’s How I Built This features interviews with some of the greatest innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists in the world, including leaders in retail.
As the host, creator and editorial director of How I Built This and the TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz has interviewed hundreds of the world’s most fascinating people, and at NRF’s Shop.org conference in September, he’ll talk on stage with retailers about the behind-the-scenes efforts that keep their brands on top.
In the early 2000s, Niraj Shah and Steve Conine stumbled across an unexpected trend: people were buying furniture online to get a wider selection. Within a few years, the former college roommates launched 250 different websites, selling everything from barstools to birdhouses. Eventually, they consolidated these sites into one giant brand. Wayfair now carries more than 10 million items and made over $4 billion in sales in 2017.
Tariq Farid’s parents moved from Pakistan to the United States to give their children a better life. Farid helped wherever he could, opening his first flower shop when he was still in high school to bring in extra income for the family. Arranging flowers led to making bouquets from fruit, and Edible Arrangements is now a multimillion-dollar business.
After noticing more and more people signing up for yoga in the late 1990s, Chip Wilson bet everything on an athletic apparel company aimed toward young professional women. What started as a small pop-up store in Vancouver, Canada, eventually became Lululemon Athletica, spawning a new fashion trend and forever changing what women wear inside — and outside — the gym.
In 1973, Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to make high-quality climbing gear. Success has followed him over decades of growth — even as he actively tries to curb sales. “I will never go public,” he says. As the sole owner of the company, Chouinard encourages customers to re-use instead of buying new.
In 2010, Katrina Lake recruited 20 friends for an experiment: She wanted to see if she could choose clothes for them that accurately matched their style and personality. The idea sparked Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service that aims to take the guesswork out of shopping. Today, it has over 2 million customers and brings in nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.
To hear more episodes of How I Built This, featuring brands like Honest Tea, Wayfair and Warby Parker, visit NPR.
For more great retail stories from Guy Raz, attend Shop.org in Las Vegas, September 12 – 14. #shoporg18