Clear Eyes, Full Heart

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In April of 1991, my first child was just four months old and I was itching to get back to retail writing when a good friend, Rick Gallagher, invited me to write a freelance piece. I have no recollection of what I wrote about, but for the next 28 years I continued to file stories for STORES Magazine.

With this issue’s cover story, I have officially filed my final story for STORES; as of December 31, we will sunset the brand. I am continuing in my role as a member of NRF’s Education team, programming content for various NRF events. And, while we’re still working out the details as this issue goes to press, I will continue to source content and do a bit of writing for NRF.com. (You didn’t think you would get rid of me that quickly, did you?)

While the transition here is bittersweet, the last few months have provided numerous moments of nostalgia. In the earliest days, I can recall writing two-page stories about merchandising everything from tops to toothpaste. In the mid-90s I was handed a “beat” — an emerging business called ecommerce — that was bubbling up in sync with AOL.com. There was a year or so when I dabbled in some tech features, until it became clear that I was never going to grasp concepts like thin client. The business of retail was what fed my passion and, gratefully, I’ve had many years to indulge and explore it.

Over nearly three decades at STORES Magazine, I’ve had the chance to meet and chat with some of the most celebrated and gifted merchants: Arthur Blank, Bernie Brennan, Donald Fisher, Charles Lazarus, Bernie Marcus, Allen Questrom, Jim Sinegal and Michael Jefferies. I will never forget the charm and excitement of walking through Crate & Barrel in Chicago with Gordon Segal — just hours before an opening party that evening — or sitting in Terry Lundgren’s office high above Macy’s Herald Square, hoping he wouldn’t notice the goosebumps on my arms.

Of course, the most memorable parts of this journey were the day-to-day minutiae of publishing the magazine. I am beyond fortunate to have had the pleasure to work closely with countless freelance writers and some extraordinarily talented luminaries at STORES. Rick Gallagher, Elena Caiola, Harrison Donnelly, Mary Alice Elmer, Tim Mercer, Susan Patterson and Lucy Reddaway all shaped my career with genuine feedback, endless encouragement, and great editing and design. Mike Gribbin and his amazing team at Executive Publishing, including Kim Daniele, Therese Draddy, Katie Gribbin, Chris Hodges, Dan McClure and Tim O’Connell could not have been more supportive of STORES and of me.

Then there’s Harry Lister. I’m not certain there was anyone who believed in me more — yet at the same time had no idea of the inspiration he provided me every day. And my right hand for the last nine years, Kris Stewart — she is an amazing wordsmith and editor, but more importantly Kris is an incredible collaborator, colleague and confidant.

I’ve always read that both career and life are considered a journey. It’s about challenging yourself, working to improve and learning lessons along the way. It’s never been about perfection. It’s about effort, character and respect for my colleagues. STORES Magazine reflected that issue after issue, and it’s been a privilege to play a pivotal role. As the journey continues, I look ahead with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing this is not a loss but a new opportunity to win.

Susan Reda, redas@nrf.com

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