Karen S. Herman

CEO and Disruptive Retail Specialist, Gustie Creative LLC

With two decades of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management, and strategic marketing, Karen Herman is passionate about good design, design strategy and design innovation. She works with architecture firms, retailers, creative agencies, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small-to-large size businesses to design highly specialized brand experiences, interior spaces, short-term retail destinations, interactive displays and collateral materials. Karen has completed many small-to-large scale projects ranging from under $1M to over $300M, in the US and abroad.

Karen’s first design consultancy was in business for 13 years and clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace and MediaPost Communications. In 2011, she completed the Kauffman FastTrac New Venture Program for Women and received an award during Global Entrepreneurship Week for her concept video on Strategic Stores. In 2013, Karen launched Gustie Creative LLC, a design and strategy firm that creates end-to-end sustainable design solutions and specializes in Disruptive Retail. In 2015, she designed the highly innovative Live Media Trading Room for Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Karen’s latest entrepreneurial venture is Founder of Create Disruptive Retail, a mobile design platform that offers Disruptive Retail resources and solutions for brands, businesses, agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Karen is the author of The Definitive Guides to Disruptive Retail and enjoys hosting DisruptShops in North America, South America, Western Europe, and the Caribbean, to facilitate Disruptive Retail for brands and businesses.

Karen supports design innovation as a Judge for Shop! Design Awards 2020, a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust and a contributing writer to Simply the Best magazine.

Other Links From Karen Herman

Design Blog:

  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    EQ is the special ingredient to feed entrepreneurial success

    As an entrepreneur, I find that both Emotional Intelligence and a high IQ are important facets of the teams I interact with, and in a leadership role, Emotional Intelligence is essential to successful interpersonal interactions that drive positive results. Emotional Intelligence enables a leader to maintain a higher level of verbal and non-verbal communication with co-workers, including those with high IQs. Interestingly, as the use of AI becomes more popular, machines are being built with Emotion AI, because to truly be successful, decision-making needs to embrace the emotional aspects, whether it is human or AI.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2021

    Will the post-pandemic era be America’s next Roaring ‘20s?

    COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on consumers. One is economic, with a widening income gap that is leading to dual growth in discount shopping and luxury spending. And another is technological empowerment. Today's consumers like grab-and-go, scan-and-go, curbside pickup and frictionless checkout, for starters. They're also exploring mobile apps with AR to try cosmetics and Virtual Stores to buy products in the real and virtual worlds. Consumers will have many choices in how to shop post-COVID. I see a period of technological adaption that retailers need to plan for NOW.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Is suburban retail (malls, too) primed for a comeback?

    The consumer's need for product discovery and human interaction will be the main drivers of a significant boost in offline shopping as the "new normal" settles in. The question is, will these shoppers continue to support the local main street retailers that they connected with throughout the pandemic, or will these shoppers return to the malls? I'm betting that mall traffic stays light to moderate until the holiday season comes around.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    Brands that use text to communicate are fulfilling new found needs the customer is developing as they navigate shopping during the coronavirus pandemic. This customer wants information right away and demands frictionless shopping experiences that are contactless. Texting fulfills needs for immediacy, information, coordination, connection and safety between the brand and customer. It does need to be an opt-in that is approved by the customer for the brand to continue to build trust, however.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Will pop-up e-commerce fulfillment centers help Walmart manage demand?

    Once again, Walmart is innovating at a time when it is so necessary. Merging online and offline efficiencies with pop-up e-commerce fulfillment centers for this holiday season, in particular, should benefit the customer with on-time delivery of purchases and benefit the company by keeping fast-moving items in-stock and lowering shipping costs for last-mile delivery. It's a holiday win-win.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Trader Joe’s and Wegmans satisfy, others falter, through the pandemic

    One consumer benefit of in-store shopping is immediacy, we go out to shop because we want to get an item right away. When you combine immediacy with outstanding customer service and strict adherence to CDC recommended safety measures, such as social distancing, requiring face masks and having hand sanitizer readily available, you build trust with the consumer and earn repeat business. Grocery stores are an essential business through the coronavirus pandemic and those that combine safety with the convenience of products being in-stock and then step it up with attentive customer service will shine, throughout the pandemic and into the New Normal.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Is YouTube a shopping powerhouse waiting to happen?

    Offering creators the opportunity to host shoppable videos is a long-overdue value-add to YouTube. It offers deeper engagement as a marketing channel and increases interest for users. I see shoppable videos on YouTube working for the disruptive retail solution of digital trunk shows that are being explored by many small-to-large brands these days due to the coronavirus and their decision to cancel in-person trunk shows, as just one example.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    Consumers are faced with many challenges today and adapting to a deeper engagement with technology is one of them. Just in terms of bringing our homes up-to-date with WiFi and devices to connect on-demand streaming services, or improving those services for a home office, most consumers need assistance. This is where Walmart's sweet spot is with this low priced tech repair service pilot program. In the markets where the pilot program is active, a lower price for installation and repair services should attract Walmart shoppers and increase electronics sales. Providing online access to the service is smart. while the customer is on the retailers website, they can look at new electronics, compare reviews and get recommendations.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2020

    Lululemon is ready to tackle holiday crowd control

    Good to see Lululemon is doubling down on both online and offline retail channels this holiday season. Deploying seasonal pop-up stores in key markets gives shoppers an exclusive holiday experience and increases in-store foot traffic. Most promising for me is the Digital Educators offering. As virtual personal shopping, it helps the customer with a 15 minute slot to get the answer to a question or a 30 minute slot for a guided shopping experience and option to place an order. The only thing missing for me is the return policy. I'd like to see it clearly stated as part of the offering.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Learn about AI success from execs who are getting it right

    AI cuts through the noise in today's retailing environment. Developing an artificial intelligence strategy is essential to every business, large or small. There are plenty of ways to get started with existing platforms. Google Analytics uses machine learning algorithms and is easy to access. Facebook and Instagram offer features enhanced with machine learning algorithms. For big companies, there are many new platforms available to run pilot programs. For example, I am excited to see Mastercard's Shop Anywhere pilot with Circle K, Dunkin' and White Castle. The answer is to make AI a priority and find the right platform to get started. Period.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2020

    Has the local movement become a way of life for Americans?

    Independent retailers have a local, and more importantly, hyperlocal, advantage over regional and national chains. Today, the first course of action for an independent retailer is to adopt COVID-19 practices to help employees and customers stay safe through the entire purchase journey. A local store can schedule appointments or limit occupancy to make customers feel safer. A local restaurant can post a QR code that delivers an electronic menu to the smartphone of a socially distanced diner. Following CDC guidelines of requiring face masks, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing is key. The next course of action is to use social media for hyperlocal marketing and let the community know they are open, safe and ready for business. Supporting independent retailers benefits the entire community and "small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them" according to Fundera, Local Shopping Statistics 2020.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2020

    Are pop-up shops more relevant in a pandemic-altered world?

    I find it fascinating that pop-up stores were highly disruptive when they first emerged as a short-term offline retail solution and now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the pop-up store format is proving to be one of several short-term offline formats that can benefit besieged retailers. My company is also seeing an increase in offline flash sales as well as digital flash sales. Interest in digital trunk shows is growing along with interest in fashion trucks and mobile vending. The pop-up store is one of many disruptive retail formats that can offer significant advantage to retailers.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2020

    Has this digital fashion platform figured out personalized recommendations?

    This is fabulous. Let's start with the super smart rollout of The Yes. The app is available on iOS for the iPhone exclusively, it is only available in the U.S. and for women's apparel. Brilliant positioning and timing, considering where we are with the coronavirus and its impact on retail. The Yes generates highly-curated, personalized recommendations of brands and trends that are user specific and refined use by use. This offers immediate discovery, investigation and selection for the user and connects them to a variety of brands, from startups to established names. Very promising. I just wish the app was available for Android, too.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Bookstores could be in store for a post-lockdown boom

    I'm all-in on the benefits of retail therapy that offline, brick-and-mortar retail offers and I definitely expect a resurgence in popularity and increased sales at local bookstores, as they reopen. We are social creatures and a bookstore, independent or big box, is the perfect place to escape boredom, explore new ideas and enjoy buying something that makes you happy. To be successful, the bookstore needs to reassure customers that it is a safe place to shop. Clear and simple visual messaging is key here. Having hand sanitizer convenient to find and use is essential and I'd like to see complimentary cloth face coverings available, or create a workshop where shoppers can make their own. Clearly identifying social distancing in-store with graphic signage is helpful and reassuring to shoppers, too. This is too good of an opportunity for bookstore owners and operators to miss. Go for it!
  • Posted on: 05/26/2020

    Should Apple and other stores require shopper temperature checks?

    Definitely think that retailers should take temperature checks of associates as a standard daily practice and wearing cloth face coverings and having hand sanitizer readily available in-store should be the norm for associates and customers, without exception. Add in social distancing, and if all of these precautions are followed, I'm less concerned about taking temperature checks on customers. I do think that in tech retail stores, such as Apple, there is more direct engagement with products and it does warrant a higher level of assurance that customers are healthy.

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