Not everyone gets the opportunity to learn from Arthur Rubinfeld in person. But, everyone can learn directly from him by reading Built for Growth: Expanding Your Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe. In it, he shares insights about retail business, including brand, location, people, finance, property management, and expansion strategy to help small or large companies build for growth.

"When I was starting out in the retail business a long time ago, first working for my father's clothing store and then starting a couple of retail businesses with my brother, I could have benefited from this book by Arthur Rubinfeld. Built for Growth: Expanding Your Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe is a valuable primer on all aspects of retail: brand, location, people, finance, property management, expansion strategy, and long-term thinking. He understands the difficulty of the small guy getting started and the big guy keeping the brand fresh. This book contains a lot of information that will not be obvious to most people. Even an experienced retailer should stop and reflect on Arthur's insights, which come from many years of experience in every aspect of the business."

From Foreword by Jeff Brotman, Chairman, Costco Corporation

Editorial reviews

"It's an intense examination of what goes into conceptualizing a viable retail plan. Whether it involves serving sushi on a conveyor belt or selling sunglasses, he explains how to grow a franchise into a powerful marketing presence. From the initial "ideation" and differentiation of the concept, to choosing the right location for the first store, making the design and merchandising decisions, and attracting venture capital-Rubinfeld walks anyone who wants, or needs, to understand retailing through the thought process at every decision-making opportunity."

From Built for Growth: Expanding Your Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe (Publishers Weekly) 

"Ever wondered what happened to the glass and metal storage bins full of coffee beans that used to stand around in Starbucks' coffee shops? The design team, apparently, thought they would give customers a subliminal connection to old-world in-store coffee roasters, but without that old-world fire risk.

But the company's operations people never liked the idea. The staff didn't use them. The storage bins became just a store decoration. And then they were slowly phased out.

The hand-made pendant lampshades over the curved wooden platform used to present drinks to the customer, on the other hand, are still around - spotlighting each beverage as if it were something more than, well, just a coffee.

After 10 years leading Starbucks' store development programme, during which time the company expanded from 150 stores to more than 4,000, Arthur Rubinfeld has an eye for that kind of detail.

Trained as an architect, his early career included working as construction manager on a hotel building in Manhattan; he moved on to directing workers on the building site of one of the most successful retail brands in recent business history.

So, appropriately for a man whose made his name in bricks and mortar, or at least in terracotta tile and modular countertops, he has written a very hands-on manual for the would-be entrepreneurial retail brand builder. Strangely, for a book that celebrates original thinking, Wharton Publishing (an imprint of Pearson, owner of the Financial Times) opted for a title that echoes Jim Collins' best selling Built to Last. But this is a far more wildly discursive production, ranging from tips on signing a good lease, to the importance of a unified concept of design, to plain old-fashioned business street smarts.

Trying to get a grip on the economic demographics of a potential location for a new store or restaurant? Check out the clothes hanging in a local dry cleaners (too many shirts is bad news). Or assess the range of ethnic foods available in a local supermarket - greater variety in an up-market supermarket means more adventurous shoppers.

But it is the anecdotes from Starbucks' evolution, and from Rubinfeld's subsequent career as a brand development consultant, that drive the book forward. From store design and location to "high touch" customer service, the brand's expansion provides the paradigm for the value of combining imaginative planning with hard-nosed execution.

The author describes, for instance, how a design team came up with the concept of using design "touchstones" of earth, fire, water and air that were supposed to evoke the development of the coffee bean (growth, roasting, brewing and aroma). Sounds zany, perhaps, but it inspired the palette of colours used and the organic feel of the stores, and in turn shaped other decisions, such as the choice of round, rather than square tables, aimed at creating a less formal mood that made customers more relaxed.

Taken all together, the design concept worked in a way that the company's rivals found impossible to emulate with attempts to mimic any individual element such as the wallpaper, or the lighting.

The process also resulted in a kit-of-parts approach, where 80 per cent of every new store could be fitted with a selection of mass produced standard components, with local designers then given leeway to customise the remaining 20 per cent to meet the conceptual requirement of individuality. The stores in turn were being directed to areas selected by both economic and educational demographics, with the exact location of each initial bridgehead outlet individually chosen for its high-profile impact.

Sometimes the authors' principles seem self-evident, such as seeking staff who are prepared to make eye contact with the customers. But there are also enough failures around the world's shopping zones to suggest there's a pretty big market for instruction, and he tells his stories with the enthusiasm of a man who clearly loves the detail of retail.

You can feel his pain over the foolishness of a cashier at the head of a long check-out line asking customers whether they had found everything they wanted. Or his discomfort over dirty tables in an ice-cream parlour, or chefs cooking out front in an Italian restaurant wearing tatty sneakers and scruffy beards.

This is the nitty-gritty of the competitive retail war being waged across the US, and elsewhere too, in the battle to persuade customers to differentiate. At its heart, he argues, is the struggle between two visions of the retail future - "the death spiral of commoditisation and price wars or the life spiral of creativity, quality and differentiation".

The big brands are increasingly seeking to personalise the impersonal - Wal-Mart already has its greeters at the door whose job is to make customers feel wanted.

For Rubinfeld, the smaller retailer will only survive in what he calls the "New Age of Retail" by defining a defensible lifestyle or speciality niche. And once there, they need to secure a position with "high touch and human engagement". After all, that's how Starbucks persuaded people to spend all that money on what is, well, just a cup of coffee."

From How Starbucks Conquered the World (Financial Times)


To read the full text of the reviews, please scroll down to the Editorial Reviews section of the Amazon Built for Growth: Expanding Your Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe page.


Reader ratings

4.1/5 on Goodreads

4.5/5 on Amazon