How Kendra Scott delivers on a ‘fashion-for-philanthropy’ vision

Retail Gets Real episode 346: CEO Tom Nolan on authenticity and community involvement
Sheryll Poe
NRF Contributor

The second Sunday in May is an important date on the retail calendar for lifestyle and jewelry brand Kendra Scott.

“Moms are just superheroes, working moms are superheroes,” CEO Tom Nolan says on this episode of Retail Gets Real. “We appreciate the constituency more than anything, and we obviously value the business that’s generated as a result.” Mother’s Day is an official company holiday at Kendra Scott, a real-life example of its dedication to the founder’s vision of creating a fashion-for-philanthropy business that cares deeply about community and is committed to making a positive impact on the world.

Kendra Scott CEO Tom Nolan
Tom Nolan, CEO of Kendra Scott

“Philanthropy is one of our pillars,” Nolan says. “We’ve given back more than $65 million over the course of the last 10 years.” Kendra Scott, which recently signed a partnership with Make-A-Wish, hosted 21,000 events in 2023, mostly for philanthropic causes and in local communities,  he says, “helping people in a very one-to-one direct way.”

Nolan, who has served on the company board since 2012, connects its success and growth to that community impact. “We feel like — more than any other brand I’ve ever been a part of or seen — we really feel like we’re a fabric of local communities, and it lends itself to doing good and giving back, and it opens up opportunities for partnerships and collaborations.”

Some of those recent partnerships include Wrangler x Yellow Rose by Kendra Scott, a line of clothing and jewelry inspired by Scott’s family ranch, and a Barbie x Kendra Scott limited-edition capsule collection benefiting Girls Inc., a girls leadership program.

“It just goes to show … how hard the team works to make sure that we are relevant and we stay in the middle of things,” Nolan says. The Barbie collaboration, the company’s largest to date, resulted in 35% new customer growth, generating “multiple millions of dollars in less than three months of business.”

As for the future, Nolan says the company has plans to open more stores — it’s currently at 138 stores with plans to open 200 more over the next three years — plus international expansion, new categories of products, more exciting collaborations “and just listening to what the customer wants,” he says.

“I think too often brands jump the shark, so to speak, because they don’t ask the customer for permission,” he says. “We ask our customer, ‘What do you want to see more of from us?’ And then we test it out … and then we go in a more meaningful way.”

Listen to the full episode to hear how Nolan went from selling classified ads to CEO of a billion-dollar jewelry brand, his first Kendra Cares event, and what makes him most excited about the future of retail.

Episode transcript, edited for clarity

Bill Thorne: Welcome to Retail Gets Real, where we hear from retail's most fascinating leaders about the industry that impacts everyone, everywhere, every day. I'm Bill Thorne from the National Retail Federation, and on today's episode we're talking to Tom Nolan, CEO of billion-dollar jewelry brand Kendra Scott. Now, we're going to talk to Tom about how he got into retail, his role at Kendra Scott and how philanthropy is at the root of everything the brand does. 

Tom Nolan, welcome to Retail Gets Real.

Tom Nolan: Thanks, Bill. Happy to be here. 

Thorne: You know, when I pre-read and said, I'm going to talk to Tom about how he got into retail, and having looked at your bio and all the things you've done, that would take half the program. I mean, you have done so much and you've touched so many different aspects of retail. Um, I'm going to ask you about your career journey, and I'm just going to tell everybody, sit back and relax. This is going to be interesting. Take it away.

Nolan: Thanks, Bill. Yeah, my career, a lot of it's been on purpose, a lot of it hasn't been on purpose. I've been really fortunate to, you know, we kind of look back on things in life and recognize that I've worked with some really amazing brands. I've worked with some amazing people, and proud of all of it. It’s been a fun ride. The retail industry and the business is fun. I mean, you get to work with people. I think of all the industries out there like this … no more do you work in a lab every day. You get to see your customer come to life. You can hear feedback from them, and I think it's for great brands that are doing things in an authentic way. It’s fun. I mean, you got to be a little bit of a masochist, right, because the hours are crazy, you’re working through a lot of holidays, but it's a lot of fun. I'm very thankful for it all.

Thorne: It's really interesting because I think that when you talk — and we've had the opportunity to talk to a number of leaders in the program — you know, the one thing that always comes through is the passion. The passion for the people, the passion for the project, the passion for the competition, the passion for the brand, and the people that they serve. And I think that's at the core. I mean, doing everything that you've done, all of the experiences you have had, you've got to have that passion for retail. 

Nolan: Yeah, I mean, I'm a washed-up athlete, so I think there's no industry greater has an athletic mindset of, you know, every day you're winning or losing, right? And then you can game plan every day. We call the holiday season our Super Bowl. So, there's a lot of sports analogies that I take something out of, and I think the company's kind of gotten behind. All the companies I worked for in retail have kind of thought about it the same way. You win or you lose every day, and you learn something whether you win or lose. And unfortunately, you learn — as you know, and everybody knows — you learn a lot more when you lose than when you win, and you can put best practices best back into play. And I love it. I'm super passionate about it. I certainly didn't set out my career saying, “Man, I want to really, you know, I want to have a career in retail.” It just kind of happened that way, and hopefully I've made the most of it.

Thorne: I think when you talk to a lot of the leaders in retail, they will say — and they have said the exact same thing. It's not like I got went to college and said, “Oh, I'm going to be in retail someday.” It just happened and they're loving every minute of it. But now, you’re at Kendra Scott. Why Kendra Scott? 

Nolan: Yeah, so I'll just give you a quick bit about my background because it kind of paved the way for how I got into retail …

Thorne: Please.

Nolan: It's a unique background that I've been in the publishing industry. I've only worked for, and been a founder, kind of … and some of that was on purpose, a lot of it wasn't. I'm the only person in my family to graduate from high school. My dad's got a 10th grade education, and worked for the Long Island Railroad. He’s an electrician and a wonderful man. But, you know, education wasn't his thing. And truthfully, it really wasn't mine. But thankfully, you know, 20-30 years ago, I could throw a baseball pretty well, and baseball paid for college for me. Otherwise, I’d probably be an electrician or police officer, or something along those lines, what the rest of my family did.  

So got into college, get out of college, and I never did internships because I worked for my dad, and I worked for John Sparango Construction company, and I did roofing jobs, and I caddied. I actually did —my first foray into retail, I worked at a place called Larry's Golf on Long Island, where I grew up, if you’ve got any Long Island listeners in Seaford, and I loved it. Like it was great, great energy. It was like very athletic mindset. 

So anyway, out of school and I couldn't find a job because it turns out when you have resume that has nothing written on it, people tend to shy away from this individual. I had a hell of a time finding a job. I interviewed probably 20 different places, and I just kept getting the Heisman, and it was really frustrating. 

And went up kind of tripping into an organization called Ziff Davis. I got an interview to sell classified ads in the back of PC Magazine and PC Computing. I interviewed with a guy named Jason Sparks, and that interview really kind of changed the trajectory of my life. I sat down with him, and it was literally, this was like a $15,000-a-year job to sell classified ads in the back of these magazines. Jason asked me a really profound question, like within the first five minutes of meeting me, he was like, “What are your goals in life?” 

And nobody ever asked me that question before and my answer was terrible, and … I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was something nonsensical that, you know, a 21-year-old would deliver to somebody that hadn't asked it before. And he threw me out of his office and I get halfway down his office and I was like, “Oh man, I can't go home. If I go home, I'm going to be an electrician because I have to get this job.” And not there's anything wrong with being an electrician. My dad provided for our family well, and I respect the heck out of him, but that's not what I wanted to do. 

Anyway, I go back and I said, “Look, if I go home and, like, write my goals down, can I come back tomorrow and we can restart this and I can answer your question properly?” And he was like, “Yeah, whatever. Get out.” I just assumed he thought he'd never see me again, but I went home, I stayed up all night. I wrote my goals, 10 years of goals down — car I wanted to drive, money I wanted to make, job title, person I wanted to marry, house I wanted to live in — like everything. 

And get the job, and started the job, and it was selling classified ads and, it resonated with me because I was in a bullpen. The best way I could describe it was like a bullpen of sales. And like, we had a call volume scoreboard right above all of us, and it showed, you know, “Bill made this many calls. Tom made this many calls. Steve made this many calls.” And most people were like 25 calls a day.

And, you know, I was like … I didn't really particularly love that job. I didn't really have an interest in hanging out and going to drink beers with the people around me all the time. And I was like, “I'm just going to stay here and make a hundred calls a day.” And I had this goal sheet and I had it up in my little workstation. I wouldn't leave the office until I made at least a hundred phone calls a day. And it was like four times, five times what everybody else was doing.

And three things happened. The first was everybody I worked with started to hate me, like immediately. I was fine …

Thorne: I would hate you. 

Nolan: Yeah. No, I mean, I get it. I didn’t care. I had the only wherewithal I had. I didn't love this job. I don't care. I just, I want to do more.

Thorne: Yeah.

Nolan: The second thing was all the people I worked for — and people I didn't work for, [people] they worked for — noticed because it was public.  And then the third thing was like, my business got a lot better, right, because it was just output. And then it kind of mapped back to the goals, so I had a nice career at Ziff Davis.  
Then I wound up going to Condé Nast. I became a magazine publisher at Condé when I was 26, which is mind-blowing to me today. You know, being 46, working with a lot of people that are 26, and I can't believe somebody gave me the keys to a P&L when I was a baby, essentially. 

But got to work, had a really nice career in the publishing industry, left that to join Ralph Lauren, and I ran Ralph's golf and tennis and Olympics business, and worked with Roger Farah and Ralph and Joy [unintelligible], and Olin Lancaster, and a bunch of really great people there. 

And then, had been around kind of the entrepreneurial mindset so long that I wanted to, I had an itch I wanted to scratch. I left Ralph to start my own holding company, and we called it Prospect Brands. I partnered with a private equity fund. I called it Prospect Brands because I grew up on Prospect Place, and the thesis was to buy distressed assets, build them back up, flip 'em and sell 'em. And it was a pretty significant failure. I mean, we had one business that was really successful. The other couple didn't do well, and I learned a lot. It was the first time I was a CEO, and I think I was 32, 33 and just, I wasn't ready for it.  

But anyway, while I was there, I got a phone call from Norwest Venture Partners, who was the first institutional investor in a company called Kendra Scott (that I'd never heard of), and as part of their investment, they had a board seat to nominate and they found me somehow. I had never served on a board before, had no business in the accessories, but flew out to Austin, met with Kendra. 

Shortly before that, I had a sister who passed away a brain aneurysm, and Kendra … the two of us just kind of hit it off immediately. She's kind of become — 10 years later now — a surrogate sister to me. But joined the board 10 years ago, have remained on the board since, and at the time the company was doing right around $40 million in revenue and enterprise value was about $100 million. Three years later, we ran a process. Our new private equity partner Berkshire came in (who's been awesome) and pegged north of a $1 billion enterprise value on the business.  

Thorne: Nice. Very nice. 

Nolan: At that point, Kendra asked me to join the organization. 
I’m going to tell you this quick story because it’s important about our company and a little bit about me. She asked me to join the company full time and I had no interest. Like, I was living in Greensboro, as we talked about earlier. I'm from New York originally. I lived on the coast for a while. Like, I'm used to, you know, ocean. And the idea of living in Texas was like, it might as well have been living on the moon for all … I just had no interest, never really spent a lot of time there. But Kendra, one of the secrets to her success is, she is relentless and dogged and, you know, does not take no for an answer. And like she kept asking and finally I was like, “Listen, I'll go.” 

She asked me to go to a Kendra Cares event, and what Kendra Cares is, Bill, is when we take our color bar, which exists in our 138 stores where you can create your own jewelry, and we take a mobile version of that to hospitals, schools, businesses for people in need essentially. So, we did one, I was in New York, serving for another company I serve on the board of, and we had a Kendra Cares event at Sloan Kettering, and it was in their pediatric oncology ward. And I'm a father of four kids. I'd never been in a pediatric oncology ward, and — just a little something about me, I'm a very emotional, sappy person. Like every time I drop my daughter off at college, I cry. If I see a sad commercial, I'll cry. I cry in the office, I cry at the movies. It’s just the person I am.

Thorne: We share that, by the way. 

Nolan: OK, good. Got it. 

Thorne: National Anthem. Opening Day. 

Nolan: Yeah, so I didn't want to go to this thing. I'd never been in a pediatric oncology ward. And mostly I didn't want to go, not because I didn't want help people. Of course I do. But I didn't want to embarrass anybody and I didn't want to embarrass myself. I didn't think I'd be able to stay composed. I would imagine it to be a terrible place. So, but I begrudgingly go because I just know Kendra's never going to stop asking. 

So, I happen to be in New York. I get in the elevator, I go up to the eighth floor where the pediatric oncology floor is, and before the doors open, I could hear like bass on the other side of the door, like you’re kind of going into a nightclub or something. And the doors opened and there was a DJ and music playing and balloons and clowns. The company, Kendra Scott, took the most unhappy place on earth and made it the happiest place in New York City. And I served sick kids and their families, and I made jewelry for, you know, kids going through chemotherapy, and their parents and siblings and grandparents, and kept it together. Did not cry. Got in the elevator, got downstairs, went across the street, completely lost it. 

I called my family and I was like, “We’ve got to move to Austin. I'm never going to get to work and help people the way I just did for the last couple hours, and if we can do this on a large scale and grow the business bigger, like, imagine what we could do.” And that's how I wound up as Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer, and then president, and then a little over three years ago became CEO, and I've stayed on the board the whole time. 

And then in addition to that, I'm on a couple other boards. I own a little golf course and a bourbon business in Tennessee. I have a very full life with my wife and four kids and you know, a very busy organization. 

But you mentioned earlier something that I just wanted to zoom in on real quick because I think it's important in any business, but for particularly the retail business. You said the word “serve” earlier —that's a thousand percent how we think about it. I have never for one minute thought that anybody in this company works for me. I'm there to serve our customer. I serve our employees. I serve my family. I have this servant mentality and humility that, I think, pays high dividend in the retail business because consumers are smart and there's lots of places they can shop.

And you know, I think if you can tie in the fact that you've got an organization that is authentic, and a founder and namesake who cares, and is inspirational and aspirational, with a management team and employee base that listens to the customers and is there to serve them, because we recognize that she's our boss at the end of the day, and the customer signs our paychecks, then it leads to nice results.

Thorne: Well, Tom, so, wow. That is a fantastic story and what a testament to you, to your vision, to being exactly what we talked about at the beginning — not only being passionate about what you do, but who you do it with and for, and that makes all the difference in the world. I will say that I think the world of Roger Farah. He served on our board of directors. He was very direct. I was in a meeting and we were talking about doing a new logo design and I was going to present for 10 minutes. And then, you know, small discussion and then we move forward. I'll never forget Roger. 

Nolan: I've been so lucky to work with great people. Roger is maybe the best operator I've ever witnessed and I always admired — and I still talk to him pretty regularly and I admired how normal he was. I mean, he was running an organization that, you know, had a $11 billion market cap and 50,000 employees and like super approachable.

Thorne: Exactly the word I was going to use. 

Nolan: And you know, one of the things — I asked in the very first touch-base I had with him … I didn't know anything about retail. I mean, everything I've ever done, I knew nothing about going into, so I've had to be curious, which I think sort has served me well. But I asked him in the first meeting, I'm like, “I don’t anything about this business really. How can I learn?” And he taught me something I still do today. He was like, “Listen to earnings calls, read transcripts of not just businesses in our space — you know, other publicly traded retail businesses — but like things outside of our space.”

So, I would listen [to] Ford Motor Companies, or Clorox, and Proctor and Gamble, and other brands to like hear how executives spoke, hear how they talked to investors, hear how they talked about their business, about the future, about successes, about failures. And it's like, I just thought, “You know, I was an SVP there, but he didn't have to make time for me even. You know, regardless of that.” And he did, and it just … I think it said a lot about who he is as a human being and obviously he’s had a great track record of success because of his intelligence level that he has, and how he knows how to lead. But he was awesome. I can't say enough great things about him.

Thorne: Well, the one thing I'll never forget is after that trial — and it was 10 minutes turned into 40 — and he had question after question, held up examples. I made the mistake of wearing a blue shirt that day, so you'd see my sweat ring all the way down to my waist. But then we got it right, we went to the next board meeting, it was approved, and he came up to me afterwards and he said, “You did a great job.” And I said, “Well, I'm not so sure I could have done a great job without you helping me,” and he said, “I couldn't have done it. You did it. Congratulations.” So, he’s just a great guy.

Nolan: I think a commonality amongst really successful people is they recognize they have to surround themselves with really successful, smart people. Kendra's done it really well. I try to do that. Roger's done it really well over the course of his career. I mean, you can't do everything yourself, and that's an important lesson to learn.

Thorne: I want to talk a little bit more about Kendra Scott as a company. So, you know, the giving back to the community is such a big part of who you are, and the mission that you have, and to the core of your business. But you also do a lot of collaborations, I believe, and so you've got some that are in the works now. Who are they and why?

Nolan: Yeah, I mean, look, so, philanthropy is one of our pillars. I mean, Kendra put a stake in the ground 22 years ago and said, you know, she wants to be a fashion for philanthropy business, and she wants to do good and give back in the community, and I think we’ve done that in spades. We've given back more than $65 million over the course of the last 10 years. We did 21,000 events in 2023 that all of — you know, the large majority of them were for philanthropic causes and in local communities, helping people in a very one-to-one direct way. We just signed a partnership with Make-A-Wish earlier this week. 

And it is all of our collective for why we're here. And, I mean, and the bigger the business gets — and we had a remarkable year last year, Bill. We grew top line revenue by roughly 20% and free cash flow EBITDA by about 40% off a very significant base in a time when no one else was doing that. And I think it's a testament to the incredible team that we have and how we know how to execute. 
But I also think it says a lot about how we've connected with our consumer in communities. We feel like — more than any other brand I've ever been a part of or seen — we really feel like we're a fabric of local communities, and it lends itself to doing good and giving back, and it opens up opportunities for partnerships and collaborations.

Like, you know, when I was living in Greensboro, Scott Baxter became a friend. He was working VF at the time. Now he runs Kontoor Brands. Actually, his son and my son are the same age and play sports together. So, we launched a brand called Yellow Rose last year. It's also the name of Kendra Scott's ranch. Very analogous to what Ralph did with Double-RL. And it was a no-brainer, “Like, hey Wrangler would be an amazing partner in collaboration to work with here.” So, I called up Scott, very quickly got with the team, and we had an incredibly successful partnership with them to launch this brand, which has been very successful. 

We were at this kind of the center of culture, if you remember when Barbie, the movie came out last year. We were ahead of that thing pretty significantly, and did a partnership and collaboration with Barbie. And I think it just goes to show, you know, how hard the team works to make sure that we are kind of relevant and we stay in the middle of things. And we had, you know, 35% new customer growth from the Barbie collaboration. It was the biggest collaboration we did to date. It generated multiple millions of dollars in less than three months of business. 

And you know, Wrangler was no different. We signed a partnership with Target fourth quarter of 2023, which has been really successful, and proud of the team for being thoughtful in how they did that. But all of it — and all of it always has a give-back component to it, and, you know, making sure that we're helping people that aren't … haven’t been as fortunate as us, or a family in need.

Thorne: Well, you were in front of the wave, and when I say the wave, I mean, it has always been there. But, I mean, the idea that people want to work at, and shop in stores and with brands that are doing good. I mean, not just selling things. But doing good things for their employees, for their communities, for their families. And it's incredibly important. So, the growth and what you've seen in your business should hardly be a surprise because it is based on doing good.

Nolan: Yeah, I mean, it’s not a surprise. Our expectations are really high. We hold ourselves to a really [high] standard, and one of our operating principles is to do what you say you’re going to do, right? I think too many people in life don’t do that. So, we try to live by that, and we live by it in business. 
I think … the combination of a female founder, right? And it was really hard. You know, it’s still not as easy as it should be for most women. But 22 years ago, especially in Austin, Texas, it was a heck of a lot harder. And, you know, the doggedness and the resiliency and relentlessness that Kendra kind of exercised and built the muscles in — are serving us really well today. But female-founded business — when I joined the company, we were 99% female employees. Today, uh, today we’re 94-95% female with right around 3,000 total employees. 

And then, you know, with ESG becoming more important, and social giveback and just understanding community. And like, we’ve been doing these things for [twenty]-two years, right? So, I think a lot of brands wisely are waking up to the fact that the consumer’s smarter than they've ever been. They expect a lot and hold the companies they work with to a very high standard. They need to be there. 

But I think for some where it's not authentic, and built into the fabric, and the DNA of who they are, and who their employee base is — getting to that place is challenging. For us, it's been easy because it's been who we are authentically. It's who Kendra is as a human being, and all of our employees represent this, and it's the “why” for why we work here. There's lots of companies that we could all work at. We choose to work here because we're making a difference and an impact in people's lives. And I see it every day. 

I just came back … my youngest daughter, my wife and I just came back from a legacy retreat. We partnered with a company or an organization called Inheritance of Hope. And we found out about this organization because Kendra's best friend was going through metastatic breast cancer. But it takes a family who has a terminally ill parent on retreats. They go to Disney or New York City. And it is always young children are involved, and so my daughter and I have served for the last five years as volunteers. My wife came with me this year for the first time. And it's remarkable to see the connection we make with people. The gratitude, I mean, these are people that more than likely won't be on earth in less than a year, and they're so grateful and thankful for not just the impact our company's having, but every day that they get, and it's a great level set and reminder for all of us. I'm very proud that my family gets to witness this, and see all the little nuanced crap that we complain about, and think about on a day-to-day basis is really inconsequential in the greater picture.

Thorne: We need to be reminded of that more often than not.  It's a wonderful experience. How wonderful it is that you involve your daughter and what a life experience for her. It’ll be with her for the rest of her life. 

Nolan: Yeah. I mean, look, she’s now a sophomore in high school and she will have a life of serving as a result of this, and it's been awesome. But it's like, again, we do this, Bill, on a … literally every day. Like we did 21,000 events last year, most of them were for things exactly like that. And more importantly, working with one-to-one people to help an individual in need. I think there is something different about our business than most companies. When I was at Polo, we did … Ralph does a ton of give back and they had Pink Pony. But like, we don't work with big organizations generally speaking. We do it at a local level, and we expect and mandate our employees to do volunteer days. 

Thorne: So, what's next for Kendra Scott? I mean, where does Gen Z and Alpha fit into these plans for the future?

Nolan: I mean, you know, a lot of what's next for us is exactly kind of what we've been doing over the last 22 years. And we've got 138 stores, we've got plans to open 200 stores over the course of the next three years. One of the crazy things about our business, Bill, is that as big as we've gotten over the last two decades, there's still less than a 10% national brand awareness of who we are, which is mind-blowing and also really exciting that nine out of every 10 people you run into have never heard of us. So, massive expansion plans in the near term in the U.S., but also internationally is kind of what's next for us. So, a lot of the same stuff of what we've been doing.

Additionally, you know, new things like you'll see more of what we're doing with Yellow Rose, you'll see more really exciting collaborations. We're going to start dipping our toes in new categories. We're going to continue to invest in Kendra Scott as a lifestyle brand, but get into new categories like fragrance — which we launched last year — accessories, and then continue to invest in growing trends like Yellow Rose. And just listening to what the customer wants. I think too often brands jump the shark, so to speak, because they don't ask the customer for permission.

Thorne: Yep. 

Nolan: We ask our customer, “What do you want to see more of from us?” And then we test it out and then, and then we go in a more meaningful way.

Thorne: It is like … back in the old days, it was the retailer telling the customer what they want. Today, if the retailer isn't listening to the customer, they're not succeeding. It is the exact opposite. So, Mother's Day, that's an important holiday for Kendra Scott, I'm assuming.

Nolan: Yeah, it is. Again, back to the sports analogies, we talk about the holidays is like our Super Bowl, and then we've got major playoff games. Valentine's Day is one of them. Mother's Day is another one. So yeah. Mother's Day is a really big opportunity for us, and last year we made it a holiday for our organization. We have so many working moms as you can imagine, being 95% female. We gave them the day off and just said, “Let go.” Moms are just superheroes, working moms are superheroes. We appreciate the constituency more than anything, and we obviously value the business that's generated as a result. 

You know, Kendra Scott is an amazing place to shop for children or partners looking to get their moms something because of the customization nature of it, because of the high value proposition that we have, and because of, obviously, the quality in our business. But we'll do a ton of events … across the country. We’re really, really excited about it. The team is kind of fired up. I just looked at the most recent marketing collateral. We've got a lot of new product launching around Mother's Day too, so we expect it to be another success.

Thorne: And I know probably could write a book, so this question is not a fair question, but I'm going to ask it anyway because we ask it pretty much all of our guests. What is your best piece of career advice? I think you've given it. I think you've given like 10 examples of it, but proceed.

Nolan: I think great leaders are just great teachers and coaches, and that's what I'm passionate about. I like teaching and coaching. It’s a privilege every time I get to do it, and thankful for every day. I think the best piece of advice I could probably give is the same advice I give to my kids anytime I address college students. It’s: Don’t waste time. 

Time is the most important currency that we have. You can make more money, you can't make more time. And I've had a lot of loss in my life, you know, with family members, and I've seen it a lot, and, you know, recognizing where to invest time, and maybe more importantly, like where not to invest time is critical.
And the accountability that goes along with it, I think is really important too. Like, I'm in charge of this vessel, and try make the most out every day and every second and spend it with the people that matter and avoid the people that don’t. I think people younger in their career invest a lot of time, currency in things and people that don't matter and pays no return. So, finding people that are going to be uplifting and supportive, finding things that you’re passionate about, finding things that are going to make you better. 

Wake up early. Like, I wake up super early to get a head start on the day. I have this weird thing with my kids, where it’s like, “You know, I’m going to beat Wednesday. You know, I’m going to beat Thursday,” and I like to get a head start on it. But I think time is critical. I think too many people waste it. There’s too many things in life that we waste time on. I think of, like, social media pays a high dividend for our business, but man, what an awful way for kids to be managing expectations, you know, in a, in a world where that's not real.

Thorne: Absolutely. Spot on. Particularly as it relates to spending time with people that enhance the value of the time that you spend, not just because you feel like you are obligated to spend it. What excites you the most about the future of retail, Tom?

Nolan: It's a game, every day. I mentioned it earlier, like, I love my job. I love the people that I work with. I love our customer. I'm so thankful to be able to do this for a living. Like, you know, that old adage, which I used to think was stupid when I was a kid of like, you know, “If you love what you do, it's never going to feel like work.” I don't ever feel like I'm working. I really, really love what I do.

I think what's exciting is that the world's changing so fast, right? And I like being curious and I like asking questions, and you know, I like pressure testing things. So, like we're always trying new things to reinvent ourselves so that we can show up for our customer — who's our boss — in a better way.

So, I think, from an events perspective, how can we do that more effectively. From a web perspective, how do we bring to life what we do in our retail stores on our web platform in a more meaningful way? I mean, clearly we have a lot of people that shop omni. And then also our wholesale partners. Like I love our wholesale partners and love that business. How do we do that in a more thoughtful way? And technology. Artificial intelligence – it has a lot of scary components to it, but also a lot of great ones from a customer's perspective of how can we better serve our customers? And I think technology lends itself to that. And I think people coming out of COVID were so hungry for being social and having experience and it's serving us very well, because we've been at the center of that for a very long time.  That's what's fun for me. 

I'm really excited about the future of retail. I don't think it's going anywhere. Even through COVID, I was pretty bullish and we opened a ton of retail stores where we could. It's going to continue, I think. Since there has been people and currency, they have bought goods and services, right? So, I don't anticipate that changing at all. I think the brands that are authentic and show up in a meaningful way and are giving back in their community are going to continue to stand the test of time, as they have. And the customer's going to keep demanding a lot more of them. And I think we’ve got to show up in the right way for the people that we serve.

Thorne: Amen to that. Tom Nolan, it has been a distinct pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much for being a guest on Retail Gets Real.

Nolan: Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your time.

Thorne: And thank you all for listening to another episode of Retail Gets Real. You can find more information about this episode at retail gets real dot com. I'm Bill Thorne. This is Retail Gets Real. Thanks for listening. Until next time.


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