FIDM Grad and Former VP of Stores for INTERMIX Authors Retail Pride Book
A fourth generation Californian, Ron Thurston hails from South Lake Tahoe and attended Cordova Senior High in Rancho Cordova. After studying Retail Administration (now Merchandising & Marketing) and Fashion Design at FIDM in the 1980s, Ron embarked on a storied career at some of the biggest names in the retail industry. He was formerly Head of Stores for the West Coast at Tory Burch, Head of Stores for North America at Bonobos, and Vice President of Stores for North and South America for Saint Laurent. Most recently, he was Vice President of Stores at INTERMIX. He recently authored the bestselling book, Retail Pride, as a guide for retail employees, managers, and multi-store leaders who are looking to grow their career. We chatted with Ron, who is based in New York City, about his illustrious career, how FIDM helped prepare him for the industry, and what’s next.
How did you first hear about FIDM? I remember that someone from FIDM visited my high school campus when I was a junior, and I was incredibly excited to know that a school like FIDM existed! It would also create the opportunity for me to stay in California, so I applied during that junior year, and I was ready to go long before I graduated.
How did FIDM help prepare you for the industry? For my retail education, it was vital that I met industry professionals and learned more about their career trajectory, why they chose retail leadership/buying, and what could a career look like for me? For my fashion design education, it was also essential to meet industry professionals, but there are also specific skills that I needed to learn, including pattern making, sketching, draping, and sewing. My first full-time role out of school was as a pattern maker, and I put those skills to the test! I was not clear at the time exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to work in fashion in some capacity.
How has retail changed or evolved since you started your career? The core of great retail hasn't changed; my mantra is that retail should always be human-centric, community-based, tech-enabled, and product-focused. Today, all four of those pillars are still critical, and they shift based on the brand and the customer base. For example, the evolution of what "tech-enabled" looks like in retail is moving quickly, and it's inspiring. Still, we can't forget that retail has always been, and will always be, a human-centric business that should be positively contributing to its community.
What led you to write Retail Pride? For several years, the retail industry and choosing retail as a career have been negatively influenced by the media and the hype around the "retail apocalypse." Having spent the last three decades leading the retail teams for some of America's biggest brands, I knew that the joy and entrepreneurial spirit of the millions of people that work in retail were higher than ever. I was confident that I wanted to change the narrative to take pride in working in retail, in the multi-million-dollar businesses that they lead, and the endless career opportunities available.
I began the journey to becoming a published author by writing a blog and testing new ideas, pulled it all down after about six months, formulated a plan to find a publisher and some support, and here we are! During my entire journey of writing the book, publishing, and promoting it, I worked full time as the Vice President of Stores for INTERMIX, so don't wait for the perfect opportunity to do something; just go!
What has the reaction been from the retail community? The response has been incredibly positive, both from the larger retail leadership community and, more importantly, from store managers, salespeople, and multi-store leaders from all over the world. I have been generously asked to speak on dozens of podcasts, be on webinars, to speak at schools and conferences, and I am just getting started. Retail is an industry that is resilient, humble, hardworking, and dedicated to doing the right thing, and I am proud to be part of it.
Is there anything else you'd like to share? I will be going on a year-long road trip adventure that I call "Retail in America," and it will be well documented with a YouTube channel, podcast, and more. Please follow along!
Learn more at retailpride.com and on Instagram @retailpride.