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By: RETHINK Retail

Meet the TRI Q&A: Nick Harbaugh

Get to know RETHINK Retail’s Top Retail Influencers through the “Meet the TRI” Q&A series! Dive in to learn about a member of the thought leader community and follow their work and insights across our content and their social channels.

Hi, I’m Nick Harbaugh, VP The Americas at Flexecution, Inc.

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

“Tell us about your background.”

I have over 25 years of experience in the Retail Project Management and Construction industry. Throughout my career, I have worked on multimillion dollar projects in the retail and commercial sector, ranging from fixture installations to new store build-out programs. I consult with executives from various fields to create synergistic supply chain solutions.

In 1994, I co-founded RMS (Retail Marketing Services), which grew into a multi-million dollar business serving some of the world’s most respected retail chains. After selling my share of the company, I spent time traveling and pursuing personal interests before returning to the market as an independent consultant.

For the last 5+ years, I have been assisting Flexecution in building their fixture, millwork and décor signage installation business. I am a leading industry resource completing projects in over 100,000 locations (in 15+ countries) and an active member of the Shop! Association. I am also a round table facilitator and a leading member of the MOB (Maximizing Opportunities for your Business).

In 2022, I started a 22-country voyage to create retail content under the banner of The Retail Nomad, producing over 60 videos and winning the Top Retail Influencer 2023 award.

Although I call Costa Rica home, I have never forgotten my Ohio roots and strong work ethic.

“Can you give a brief description of your current role and your space in the industry.”

Currently, I assist Flexecution by introducing them to nationwide projects involving fixture, millwork and décor signage installation projects.

My network has recently completed fixture, millwork and décor signage installation projects ranging from brands such as, Aramark, Chanel, Clarks Shoes, Crate & Barrel, Disney, Dollar Tree, Dyson, Fabletics, FedEx, Guess, Harbor Freight Tools, Lacoste, Skechers, etc, just to name a few.

Combined with executing these in-store projects I have also continued creating video content for The Retail Nomad as well as engaging frequently in industry related podcasts.

“What challenges/opportunities are currently facing retailers?”

With the world currently rolling into what some call the “post Covid” phase retailers are quickly trying to define their new role.  Some are engaging new technologies (i.e., frictionless, scan & go checkout, eCommerce, BOPIS, curbside pick-up, etc) as we’ve seen many different approaches over the last 18 – 24 months.

“What hot topics or trends have you been seeing in the retail space? How do you support these hot topics?”

There is a plethora of changes occurring right now as retailers are trying to minimize inventory loads, help the consumer enter and exit the store faster and with fewer touch points, increase online, eCommerce efficiencies, as every consumer has different wants and needs.

Thankfully we’ve been able to adjust our installation services quickly since March 2020. We stopped installing fixtures, millwork on a dime and instantly converted to only installing signage to help direct the customer traffic flow.

Jumping forward to today, we’ve now advanced our Installation service capabilities to adjust to these new market demands. Combined with the reengagement of the fixtures and millwork projects as the new store openings and remodel projects are back to their 2019 levels.

“How has the retail industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?”

The majority of the changes over the last 5 years were driven by Covid. Truthfully, there were a number of brands who were suffering prior to the pandemic as the retail landscape definitely has a different look these days than it did in the first quarter of 2020.

It seems clear our retail sector will continue to evolve with more technology as we must follow the youth as our seniors continue to age.

The brands which have fallen behind will go ultimately go away such as, Bed Bath & Beyond and Tuesday Morning. As well as continued merger and acquisitions, such as the potential for Kroger and Albertsons could create many conversions. The Aetna and CVS partnership will create many changes to their interior layouts, etc as change creates opportunity within our industry.

“Do you have any interesting projects coming up?”

We do. We have upcoming projects centered around the Formula 1 races, installing their branded signage. We have a number of new convenient and gas station projects just around the corner involving remodeling their interiors as well as installing 32” monitors, we also have a number of US National Park projects upcoming, including remodeling their interiors, install fixtures, millwork. Plus, more dynamic work worth with Lacoste’s fixtures, millwork installations across the states, just to name a few.

“Which resources do you use to keep up with industry news?”

I use many resources to help keep my finger on the pulse of our amazing installation and retail industry. I start with LinkedIn, various industry media publications and newsletters, networking with our MOB group as well as conferences. We just finished up the amazing Shop! Marketplace event last week. This was the inaugural show that was held in Austin, Texas as our Flexecution team exhibited there.

“How do you continue to grow and develop as an influencer in the retail industry?”

For me, growing and developing as an influencer has been easy as I’m simply reporting what I see surrounding our retail space while traveling around the world. I truly enjoy my work and my travels as I’ve combined the two which now keeps us busier than ever.

“What are the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively?”

If I were to say one word, as to what is the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively, it would be, technology.

The world is being driven literally by technology as there’s no getting away from it so we must approach the future head on.

If you follow the failures within our industry the brands which failed i.e., Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Sears, Kodak, Borders, Circuit City, typically resisted the technical advances of the times.

Who is making the greatest advancements in the industry, and what are they doing?

I feel there are a few retailers making great advancements in the industry which would be, Sam’s Club with their Scan & Go technology as well as Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology.

We touched on this a little earlier yet it simply allows the customer to be more comfortable in their shopping experience by having fewer touch points upon the check-out process to leave the store.

“What has helped you get to where you are and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?”

I would say, “doing what I truly enjoy doing and having the independence to go after it” is the first step in helping me get to where I am. I definitely do not follow the majority as I prefer to travel the paths, less traveled. The advice I would suggest for those who want to set off in a similar direction would be to define your goals, wants and needs.

I left the USA in 2005 as it was clear (just under 20 years ago) that mine were quite different than everyone around me. Thank goodness I followed my own path as I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today, doing what I’m doing. Be you!

“What is the best resource for people who want to dive in deeper?”

Grab a Life Coach, create short term and long term goals for yourself, start with small steps, use LinkedIn to get laser focused to achieving these defined goals, don’t listen to the naysayers as they outweigh the positive influences around you and learn to be confident being you!

If anyone has any questions or comments they can easily contact me at: nickh@flexecutioninc.com or nick@theretailnomad.com.