Book Reviews

Kirkus Review

A veteran designer with roots in retail reflects on the changes he and his extended family have seen in the industry.

In this debut memoir, Stein combines personal reminiscences with business insights derived from half a century of experience, both as the child of a midcentury retailer and as an experienced designer and brand manager. Stein places his story within the context of cultural and geographic trends. Born shortly after the end of World War II, he grew up in Milwaukee’s Jewish community and was part of the family business. His father and uncle opened a jewelry and toy store, then a small chain of drugstores. Although he studied interior design and initially pursued it as a career, Stein found himself returning to his retail roots in recent decades as companies began to understand the importance of managing the customer’s entire shopping experience.

—Kirkus Review, September 2, 2014


A delight to read, Retail Schmetail is an essential guide to understanding the mechanics of making the sale, creating brands and working the magic of retail design. With engaging back stories for each concept he puts forward, Stein walks us through the steps of how retail works — or doesn't. And he is not afraid to call the industry to task: ‘Unless the design solution directly addresses the client's issues, it won't matter how great the solution is or how passionate the designer may be about his or her 'baby'. I personally believe that over the course of the last millennium, the design industry has had a PR problem.’

—Bruce N. Wright, AIA, AIGA assoc.


Excellent book! Mr. Stein could have written this like a text book and bored the daylights out of us. Instead, it was funny, entertaining and informative all rolled into one. It has good detail without being too much. I loved the quirky family tidbits.

—Judge #2, 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award - Best New Voice: Nonfiction

Stein takes readers on a guided tour of various retailers and brands from the last century through to today. His wry humor keeps things light and his knowledge of and passion for retail/branding is evident.

—Judge #1, 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award - Best New Voice: Nonfiction


"Join Sandy Stein on this wonderful, humor-filled journey through the retail landscape of the past century! Part history, part memoir, and all applicable to today's shift from merchandising goods to staging retail experiences."

—B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of The Experience Economy

"In the age of Amazon, Sandy Stein reminds us why retail is far from dead. There's much to learn from his experience."

—Robert Stephens, Founder of Geek Squad; former CTO of Best Buy

"...Sandy shares a comprehensive and entertaining look at the history of American retailing, along with an insightful view into its ever-evolving future."

—Tom Gegax, chairman emeritus of Tires Plus; author of The Big Book of Small Business

"In the book Sandy seamlessly weaves his personal family retailing history with his substaintial professional retail design experience; a historic retail travelogue that delinates what works in retail, and the focused attention and savvy diligence required for its continued success. I admire Sandy's frank and often humorous openness about his personal life too, making this a delightfull read. A retail design maven he is, and a thoughtful strategist that guides the reader in understanding what makes retail tick and how quickly it morphs over time. Must read for students and practitioners of retail, and those curious to glimpse the future of retailing."

—Henry Grabowski, Amazon Reviewer

"Through the use of personal history, extensive career experience and academic survey, Mr. Stein accompanies his reader on a journey through decades of retail evolution. Equally appropriate for the casual reader or the earnest student, Retail Schmetail weaves a compelling narrative rich in humor and insight."

—Joshua Fogelson, Amazon Reviewer

"I love learning about the past to understand how to succeed in the future. ... Most important to the next generation of retailers he offers his insights on what brick and mortar retailers need to offer customers to compete with internet based options. The in-store experience must be something the customer cannot get anywhere else."

—Marshall Lehman, Amazon Reviewer


Retail Design Institute
April 2015 Presentation by Sanford Stein — Minneapolis, MN

IPBA Ben Franklin Award
April 2015 IPBA — Austin, TX

Chain Store Age (
September 5, 2014 What’s the (Omni) Point-of-Sale? by Sanford Stein

Kirkus Reviews (
September 2, 2014 — Book Review — RETAIL SCHMETAIL™
August 27, 2014 Are Things Looking Up For Target? by Barbara Thau

Fashion Mannuscript
MANN Publications, August 2014 Sanford Stein Releases First Book, RETAIL SCHMETAIL™

Twin Cities Business (blog)
June 3, 2014 Retail Redux by Glenn Karwoski

Combined Book Exhibit (blog)
May 6, 2014 RETAIL SCHMETAIL™: An Interview with Author Sanford Stein by Claribel Ortega

Retail Design Diva (blog)
March 5, 2014 A New Retail Read by Janet Groeber

Minneapolis Star Tribune
SHORT TAKES, March 2, 2014 RETAIL SCHMETAIL™ Book Launch by Lee Schafer

March 2014 Writing The Family Business by Janet Groeber

Milwaukee Business Journal
February 26, 2014 Remember when? by Stacy Vogel Davis

February 14, 2014 By Sanford Stein, Pub. By. Beaver’s Pond Press

NRF’s STORES Magazine (
January 2014 Looking for Adventure: Auto Parts Retailer Sells the Off-Road Lifestyle
4 Wheel Parts Prototype Store — Riverside, CA

Minnesota Shopping Association
Volume 24, Number 4 —April 2010 Who, What and Now: Looking at Retailing in the New World by Sanford Stein

March 2010 What’s Next For The Specialty Fitness Retail Industry

Franchise Times SuperBook
February 2010 Five Components of Good Store Design by Sanford Stein

The Big Book of Small Business
February 2007 Brunswick Home & Billiard Case Study by Tom Gegax, Pub. by HarperBusiness

Bowling Center Management
2006, Isleta Fun Connection —; Isleta, NM

November 2006, ShopNBC store — Albertville, MN

Retail Design and Visual Presentation
September 2006, ShopNBC store — Albertville, MN

Visual Merchandising 4
ST Media Group — 2005, Brunswick Home & Billiard Store — Wilmette, IL

February 2004 Pool Cues: Brunswick Home & Billiard Store

Crain’s Chicago Business
February 2001 Weighing Anchor

June 2000 Can Stores Survive the Net?

Meio & Mensagem (Brazilian Advertising & Marketing)
May 2000 Marcas Na Vitrine [Brands on Showcase]

March 2000 Brave New World by Sanford Stein

Architecture Minnesota
January/February 2000 Face to Face

October 1999 A Wing and a Player: Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc.

May 1999 The Mall Doctor

City Business
May 1999 Malls Turning Inside Out

WWD/DNR Specialty Stores The Business Newsletter
March 1999 Success Strategies: Retailing for the Next Millennium

Chain Store Age
February 1999 Award: Single Unit — Auto Fun

October 1998 Retailing for the Next Millennium by Sanford Stein

Real Estate Journal
May 1998 Keeping Pace with Today’s Consumer: Andersen Renewal

Stores of the Year 10
1996 Runkel Bros. American Garage — Everything But Water

Presentation to Minneapolis chapter Retail Design Institute
1996 Runkel Bros. American Garage — Everything But Water