If retail is indeed dying, nobody told the folks at Marshall Retail Group.
An independent specialty retailer with more than 600 employees based in Las Vegas and more than 1,300 in the U.S. and Canada, the company is on a growth trajectory that isn’t likely to slow anytime soon, according to its president and chief operating officer, David Charles.
“We’re growing at quite a clip,” said Charles, who has been with the company for more than three years.
While many who pass by its stores may not know the Marshall Retail Group name, they’ve likely been in or at least near one. The company leases space at touristy places such as airports and casinos and creates specialty shops for brands, including Lego, Harley-Davidson and Misura.
It operates 170 stores in 16 states, with its newest “Welcome to Las Vegas” store at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, which opened in August. In all, Marshall Retail has more than 20 “Welcome to Las Vegas” shops in the Valley.
At McCarran International Airport alone, there are 10 stores, according to an airport spokeswoman.
“We create retail concepts for the traveling customer,” Charles said. “What the customer wants, it’s constantly evolving. You won’t find us in general strip malls, that’s not our shtick. We develop concepts, do the design and construction, source the product and staff the store.”
Airports, which feature the coveted captive customer audience, represent a big part of Marshall Retail’s growth strategy.
Charles said Marshall Retail has plans to add stores soon inside airports in Atlanta, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Orlando and a “prominent” West Coast airport.
“We’re focused on chasing growth opportunities, and airports are getting nicer,” Charles said. “A lot of money is being spent on developing airport environments. They’re spending $4 billion on upgrading Terminal B at La Guardia, and we have a presence there. What they’ve done so far, it’s beautiful.”
The company was started in the mid-1950s by Art Marshall and Herb Rousso in Las Vegas and has mostly kept a low profile through the decades.
Part of that is because the company is essentially the brand behind the brand, Charles said.
“With a brand, that brand stands for one thing,” Charles said. “That brand’s entire history is tied into one thing. With us, we can morph and adapt and evolve without being concerned that people know us as something else. We can flex and offer thousands of brands as the customer is evolving.”
With about 177,000 individual items for sale in its catalogue of stores and nearly 50 employees in its merchandising department alone, Marshall Retail is a big operation filled with people who stay on top of the latest trends.
It’s also a fun company to work for, said Patty Wiggins, Marshall Retail’s senior vice president for fashion.
“I’ve been with MRG for over 16 years,” Wiggins said. “What we do is so unique—we don’t take a cookie-cutter approach. It’s exciting and fun to work for a company that is growing by leaps and bounds like we are.”
While media headlines continue to portray the demise of the traditional retail store, Marshall Retail doesn’t accept that narrative.
“With traditional brick-and-mortar retail, you’re ... reading that somebody has filed for bankruptcy,” Charles said. “It’s symptomatic of how brands are reacting to how the customer is changing. We’re doing the hard job of curating and putting the interesting stuff in front of the customer. Amazon has all these algorithms, but how are they going to know that you just happen to be at La Guardia, and we’ve put a ‘Made in Queens’ book in front of you? It’s time and place.”
To Charles, algorithms and technology can improve convenience for the shopper, but they still fail to offer an experience.
“People are looking to connect,” Charles said. “Part of what we do is offer traveling consumers a chance to give a piece of what they just experienced. That’s the magic moment and that’s what retail is trying to get to. Products are rich with stories if you go searching for them and teach your associates how to portray that.”
It’s likely, Charles said, the company will continue to grow in the coming years.
“We could get a lot bigger,” Charles said. “With what we’ve won in airports lately, we’ve doubled our size in three or four years. That’s pretty significant growth, and I think we can continue that.”