From the International President

Event Recap: Mid-Winter Networking Happy Hour
February 21, 2022
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51st International Design Competition Sample Submission Form
March 23, 2022

From the International President

August 2022

Reasons to Believe
I’ve just returned from StorePoint Retail in greater Orlando. I wish more of our members could have been there to share the energy! The Institute hosted a panel discussion titled Retail Partnership Marketing: Trends driving the Brick & Mortar Experience, with Tom Ertler, senior vice president, creative director, Miller Zell, and Adimika Owens, RDI, senior director of visual merchandising and design, Floor & Décor, who joined me for the session moderated by Lindsay Henningfeld, our International Vice President. Our presentation was well received by the audience, and it caught the attention of several non-members who joined on the spot! The energy, excitement and knowledge shared on the stage was contagious and had everyone talking. We are looking forward to having more of our members join the Institute in insightful presentations across the industry.

Chapter Elections Happening Soon!
Atlanta| Southeast, New York, Northern California, Ohio and Pacific Northwest Chapters are holding elections for the 2022-2024 term. Members in those Chapters should watch email inboxes for a chance to nominate fellow members for President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Remember, President and Vice President must be professional members of the Institute. Any member can serve as Secretary or Treasurer.

Here’s the schedule:
September 16, Call for Nominations, due October 3.
October 4, Request to Accept Nominations, due October 10.
October 11, Chapter Officer ballots distributed. Voting begins.
October 24 to 28, Results reviewed and confirmed.
November 1, New officers announced. Term begins.

If you’re ready to take your professional development to the next level, then look no further than your local Chapter. Running for office, or volunteering to serve on a Chapter committee has benefits including:

• Developing and refining your leadership and communications skills (through events, content).
• Elevating you and your company’s standing within the industry.
• Sharing your knowledge and skills in support of our local and international organization.
• Creating lasting connections with people across the retail design industry.

Chapter Watch Parties October 12, 2022
The 51st International Design Awards Presentation will take place the evening of October 12. We’ll also be announcing Member of the Year and Trade Member of the Year in addition to new inductees to the Retail Design Legion of Honor. Watch the website to register for your Chapter’s watch party. If last year was any indication, you’re in for an evening of design inspiration.

Shop! Ideation and IRDC headed to Ohio
Reminder:  Ideation and IRDC will run from October 23 to 27 in downtown Columbus. Ideation is up first and will hold its Retail Design Challenge October 25 hosted by industry veteran Bevan Bloemendaal, RDI, chief brand and creative officer with Nelson Worldwide. If you can’t make it to Ideation, but are planning to attend IRDC, come in a day early and join on the fun! IRDC will also hold it’s annual Iron Merchant Challenge, where teams compete head-to-head in an interactive onsite window design project, and is scheduled for October 26 with emcee Joe Baer, co-founder and ceo, ZenGenius. Get Ideation (October 23 to 25) details here. IRDC (October 26 and 27) details here. The events feature educational seminars, networking receptions and retail tours.

Thought Leadership Series​ Continues​
​Check out Eric Feigenbaum’s latest think piece titled: The Art of Design. If you have thought leadership you’d like to share with members, please contact Janet Groeber, [email protected]org.

July 2022

We’ve got BIG NEWS!
Our newly revamped Design Resource Directory is LIVE as of today on our website. Find a wide range of top-notch manufacturers and suppliers as well as consultants and practitioners – all Institute members – organized by categories ranging from architectural elements to wallcoverings, plus design consultancies. Professional, Associate, Allied, Trade and Media members offering products and services to the industry receive complimentary listings for as long as they are members. The directory is an exciting addition to our member benefits as the previous version was a much visited section on our site. If you have any questions about your listing or would like to upgrade your listing (so you’ll stand out), contact Janet Groeber in the International Office for assistance.

51st International Design Awards Update
As we complete the judging process, we’ve decided to hold off announcing award winners and Store of the Year until October 12, 2022 at the awards presentation, which will again be live streamed. Chapters are gearing up to host local watch parties. Watch for more details coming soon – and the possibility of in-person viewing in NYC!

Thought Leadership Series​ Continues​
​Check out Eric Feigenbaum’s latest think piece titled: Design, Culture, and the Human Spirit.

Professional and Trade Member of the Year
There’s still time​ to nominate fellow members (in good standing) for Professional Member of the Year, Trade Member of the Year recognition, plus your nominations for Honorary member.​ The awards recognize an individual member’s contributions to the betterment of the Institute. Check your inbox for the nomination form emailed July 11​. They’re due August 1.

Welcome to Roe Palermo!
Design vet Roe Palermo, RDI, has signed on to help the Institute with events and communication at the International level. If you don’t know Roe, you should as she’s expert in visual merchandising, brand experience and store design. (And she has design awards and trade pub coverage to show for it!) Much of her professional career centered around divisions of Hudson’s Bay Company including Lord & Taylor and Saks Off 5th before heading off to assist the growing number of direct-to-consumer retailers entering the brick-and mortar realm. Roe is not only connected to hundreds in the industry, but she understands the type of events that will resonate with members. And, is particularly committed to driving next-level talent in the industry.

Institute Members in the Spotlight!
Late summer, early fall is shaping up to deliver an abundance of industry events with the Institute taking part in major ways. We’re jumping in to make more industry connections with leading manufacturers and suppliers, designers, brands, and retail professionals — to raise our profile and attract others to become a part of our inspiring community.

Starting with StorePoint Retail which takes place August 21 to 24 in greater Orlando. We’ll have a presence there for the first time! The Institute takes the stage Sunday afternoon with an industry panel discussion titled Retail Partnership Marketing: Trends driving the Brick & Mortar Experience. I’ll be there with Tom Ertler, senior vice president, creative director with Miller Zell, and Adimika Owens, senior director of visual merchandising and design with Floor & Décor, on a panel moderated by Lindsay Henningfeld, our International Vice President. .

Next up, Collaborate 2022 takes place September 13 to 15 in metro Washington, D.C. Julie Starzynski, a former International Treasurer of the Institute, currently director, construction & design with Floor & Décor, will keynote. She’ll be speaking on successful collaboration in a post-Covid world.

Shop! Ideation and IRDC headed to Ohio
Now co-located, Ideation and IRDC will run from October 23 to 27 in downtown Columbus. Ideation will hold its Retail Design Challenge October 25 hosted by industry veteran Bevan Bloemendaal, chief brand and creative officer with Nelson Worldwide. IRDC’s annual Iron Merchant Challenge, where teams compete head-to-head in an interactive onsite design project, is scheduled for October 26 with emcee Joe Baer, co-founder and ceo, ZenGenius. Get Ideation (October 23 to 25) details here. IRDC (October 26 and 27) details here. The events feature educational seminars, networking receptions and retail tours.

In Memoriam: Kent D. Hensley 1960 – 2022
On a sad note, we lost former member Kent Hensley to cancer July 14. A Celebration of Life will be held August 6 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Winter Lounge & Rooftop Deck (7th floor) of The Dayton’s Project building in downtown Minneapolis. In his 40-year career, Hensley touched many lives and his untimely passing inspired an outpouring of love and condolence on social media. Kent served as Minneapolis | St. Paul Chapter President and Chairman from 2013 to 2017. Kent was predeceased by his father, John Hensley. He will live on in the memories of his son, Tanner Hensley, his daughter Jessica Hensley, his mother Linda Hensley, his sister Amy Scholl, and his brothers Curt Hensley and Eric Hensley.

As a cancer survivor myself, I’d like to remind all of you to get your regular cancer screenings and be diligent when it comes to your health!

Please stay well everybody.

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

June 2022

Thought Leadership, Member Recognition and More

Greetings Members!

We are continuing to grow and add value to Institute membership. If you have ideas or would like to become more involved, please email me directly — [email protected]

Lots coming up and going on, so let’s get to it.

Thought Leadership Series Debuts on our Website!

The Institute counts many talented and influential members among our ranks. And we’re excited to announce that we have harnessed one such member – Eric Feigenbaum, Media RDI – who is kicking off our series with his piece on retail leadership. Eric has worked every side of the retail industry from retailer, to consultant, to educator, to journalist. Check out his article here and don’t forget to add your comments right there on the site. (You will need to be logged in.) Eric will be heading up this series every month, however, if you have a thought leadership column you’d like to submit for consideration, please contact Janet Groeber in the International Office — [email protected]

Design Resource Directory Gets a Revamp
More website news. We’ve reworked the Design Resource Directory on our site to include those members whose companies offers products and services for selling environments. You can take a peek here before it goes live. Keep in mind, this area is still under construction and once live, users will be able to access additional features. Professional, Associate, Allied, Trade and Media members are eligible for a basic, one-year listing at no charge. And for those who want their listing to stand out, we’ve included an upgrade option. For $250 annually, add your logo, company description, direct links to your website and up to two contacts with email and phone. Janet Groeber in the International Office will be following up by email to help you navigate how to get listed and the upgrade package. In the meanwhile, you can directly contact her — [email protected] — with all questions about directory listings.

Member Recognition: Timeline and Guidelines
After a two-year pandemic pause, we’re reviving a time-honored tradition that recognizes the contributions of members. On July 11, members will have a chance to nominate fellow members for Professional Member of the Year and Trade Member of the Year recognition. Watch your inbox for an official ballot. Beyond the Professional and Trade member recognition, the Institute introduced a “Certificate of Appreciation” several years ago. The Certificate of Appreciation offers each Chapter the opportunity to recognize one individual from either Student, Associate, Allied, Educator, Life or Media membership level for their contribution to the Institute. Of those nominated and recognized within each Chapter, the International Awards Committee will select a single member in good standing for recognition with the International Certificate of Appreciation. Due to the nature of the award, only the Chapter’s Board of Directors may submit nominations.

Officer Elections at International and Chapter Level
The International organization will be electing a new President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer for a two-year term commencing November 1, 2022 and ending October 21, 2024. Chapters electing new officers for the same time period are: Atlanta | Southeast; New York; Northern California; Ohio and Pacific Northwest.

International Officer Election Schedule for 2022-2024 Term
July 6, Call for Nominations, due July 30.
August 1, Request to Accept Nomination (for those nominated), responses due by August 8.
August 10, Executive Officer Voting Begins. Ballots due September 7. (New Executive Officers will be announced September 16 online at retaildesignistitute.org.)
November 1, Term begins.

Chapter Elections Schedule for 2022-2024 Term
(Atlanta | Southeast, New York, Northern California, Ohio and Pacific Northwest Chapters)
September 16, Call for Nominations, due October 3.
October 4, Request to Accept Nominations, due October 10.
October 11, Chapter Officer ballots distributed. Voting Begins.
October 24 to 28, Results reviewed and confirmed.
November 1, New officers announced. Term begins.

Wishing you a wonderful Canada Day and Independence Day!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

May 2022

Follow the Leaders

It’s nearly summer and I’ve been doing some serious thinking about coming days. Chapters have been holding in-person events and meetings with members and prospective members turning out in force. (Check out the website calendar to learn about upcoming gatherings.) We also know member’s employers are returning to the office, some with hybrid schedules. If the virtual office is future and workers continue to work remotely, there are some obvious questions looming.

Without day-to-day personal contact, do we run the risk of tamping down teamwork? Will collaboration among colleagues become a thing of the past? What about developing the next generation of company leadership? If you are looking to engage the current and future workforce, then you are right to be a bit worried.

But it’s your future – and the Institute’s too — that leads me to issue this challenge: Can you find your company’s future leaders?

Who are the persons with drive and ambition hoping to make it up the ladder? Do these individuals with potential need a chance to develop the decision-making, budgeting, planning and execution skills that make for a good leader? If you’re a creative lead or a studio head, prospecting today might help your plan for tomorrow.

Here’s where the Institute plays a less-obvious role in helping anyone jump start leadership skills. This year the Institute holds elections at the Chapter and International level for the 2022-2024 term. Serving as an officer builds confidence and a wealth of other transferable skills. Officers as well as board members learn to listen, build consensus and develop the resources needed to successfully run their Chapter, a small business unit for certain. That’s real-life experience.

We are the creative problem-solver professionals focused on the retail design industry. Let’s exercise that creativity to nurture current and prospective members who could benefit from such an opportunity to serve.

Perhaps you are a person ready for the next level.

Perhaps you’ll choose to run for office knowing that a volunteer experience — directly tied to your professional development – could positively impact your company standing. And just maybe there’s a person who ‘sits’ next to you and together, you’ll work to support each other as future Institute leaders.

Here’s hoping so and I welcome the chance to personally discuss opportunities with you!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

April 2022

Renewal in the Air

We often think of Spring as a time of renewal when sprouts, shoots and buds emerge as signs of growth. Well, for the majority of our current Institute membership, Spring signals another type of renewal. Beginning the first of May, hundreds of members will receive – via email – a request to rejoin the Institute for the 2022-2023 membership year. Yes, renewal is in the air.

We know members are still navigating the pandemic and that’s why we’re looking forward to having each and every one of you back for the coming year for the many opportunities that only membership can offer.

Allow me to reshare – in the voice of several members – their reasons for joining the Institute and why they are renewing. The comments are part of a testimonial campaign begun last year.

Amy Meadows, Allied Visual Merchandising member from the Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter, and founder of Windows Matter, explains, “Membership in the Institute provides value. There’s access to leaders and innovators; online panel discussions and webinar track responses and solutions; trends and problem-solving actions are often applicable to the Main Street communities, historic business districts and independents with whom I work.” Amy’s career includes time with Marshall Field’s and today she helps independent retailers as a consultant and students of design as an educator at Columbia College. She has been a member of the Institute since 2017.

“Last, and by no means least,” Amy says, “membership provides valuable resources for my work teaching Visual Merchandising and Space Planning in the Fashion Studies Department. The ‘Store of the Year’ presentation is always a hit, allowing us to travel — virtually — and experience a wide array of retail design successes. An inspiration, year after year!”

Thanks, Amy, for the solid endorsement.

Meanwhile, Adam Jones, Allied RDI, a retail operations vet, who joined the Institute’s Southern California Chapter in 2014, reports: “I found tremendous value in the automatic vetting of partners to connect and willing to cross promote each other, vital for our success.” Adam went to explain that the Institute attracts the best and brightest in the design industry who encourage and believe in supporting each other.

Well said Adam! We also thank Adam for his volunteer efforts at both the Chapter and International level where he serves as Southern California’s Chapter Secretary and helps to lead the International Communications Team.

I was also intrigued by comments made by Nina Ricciardi, RDI. She joined the New York Chapter in 2020 during the pandemic and has since renewed. Today she’s vice president and senior program manager, retail design at Citi.

“I was first introduced to the Retail Design Institute through being a judge for the annual design competition. I was impressed by the quality of entries and the high level of engagement displayed by the panel of judges as each entry was carefully reviewed, making for an unforgettable and valuable experience,” Nina explains. “During the year of Covid, the Institute through all of its virtual events became my lifeline to the retail industry, keeping me engaged, and connected to the design community through a wonderful series of events.I attended every event offered in 2020 and 2021. I loved the fact that as a member you are able to join any event hosted by any chapter. I highly recommend a professional membership in the Institute; it is great for continued design education as well as providing wonderful networking opportunities with peers.”

Nina, we appreciate you!

And there you have it – three members who have shared their personal and professional motivations for joining and renewing. If you agree with Amy, Adam and Nina’s “reasons to believe” in the Institute, thank you and welcome to another year of filled with opportunities for career and individual development.

We continue to look for members who want to give back to our industry. If you are passionate about retail, design and the Institute, please reach out to me to find out how you can be a part of your Institute’s renewal and growth.

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

March 2022

Retail in America

Beautiful weather is on the way and Institute Chapters are looking forward to hosting more in-person events and getting back together again! We look forward to seeing all as we finally find our way to a more normal way of life.

I’m also excited to share more details on my upcoming discussion with Ron Thurston as part of his Retail in America Tour.

If you’re not familiar with Ron, let me fill you in.

In January, Ron left corporate retail (his career includes time with Apple, Bonobos, Saint Laurent, Intermix, Tory Burch and West Elm) to find the untold retail success stories and the incredible people behind them. This month, Ron leaves his home in New York City in an Airstream trailer to travel the United States as his 20-city tour begins.

He’s turning this quest to find the stories into a RETAIL IN AMERICA podcast, a YouTube channel, and a way he can use his research to produce playlists and content to live stream on multiple platforms.

Back in October 2020, Ron wrote RETAIL PRIDE: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career, which became an Amazon No. 1 bestseller. Says Ron, “I have both the experience to write about the state of the retail industry and a story to tell. A good story. A story that people will want to talk about. Perhaps it has something in common with your story. Millions of people work in retail. The majority of us work in stores, and our stories need to be told.”

Would you like to have your story told? Get ready because Ron is making a virtual stop at the Institute Friday, April 8 at Noon Eastern to talk with our fellow members and friends. I’m preparing my questions now and you can feel free to send yours to me if you like. We will be opening the discussion for participants to join us live on screen to ask questions and get in on the commentary.

I hope you’ll plan to join us – no charge for members – so you can catch our conversation.

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

February 2022

The year is off to a terrific start for the Institute!

We are proud to share news that our St. Louis Chapter is re-branding as the Heartland Chapter to better include the area it represents — Missouri, Kansas, Southwest Illinois and Arkansas. President Jessie Sanders and the Heartland Board recently announced the Chapter’s first in-person event will be a tour and happy hour at City Foundry in St. Louis, March 9.

Meanwhile, our Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter recently announced a partnership with designs4dignity, a non-profit founded on the belief that every individual should have access to environments that support the wellness of the human spirit. This group works to transform spaces — offices, conference rooms, mental heath facilities and housing — for a a number of non-profits in the greater Chicago area with volunteer design help and product donations. If you want to learn more, please contact Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter President Maria Albulescu.

More news — I had the pleasure of presenting new New York City retail to members of POPAI France along with many amazing professionals from across the globe. Institute members are always in demand speakers, so join with me in offering congrats to Laura Davis-Taylor, RDI, Atlanta | Southeast Chapter, who will be speaking at the Retail Innovation this May in Chicago.

As always, look for our bi-weekly email listing events across the Institute! Don’t forget, as a member you can attend ANY Chapter event globally. Expand your reach and meet like-minded individuals who share the same passions as you.

I’m often asked what are some reasons for joining the Institute. People also want to know how to get involved and make the most of membership. Here’s our take:

If you’re ready to take your professional development to the next level, then look no further than your local Chapter. Running for office, or volunteering to serve on a Chapter committee has benefits including:
• Developing and refining your leadership and communications skills (through events, content).
• Elevating you and your company’s standing within the industry.
• Sharing your knowledge and skills in support of our local and international organization.
• Creating lasting connections with people across the retail design industry.

If you have ideas on ways to increase member value, please feel free to email your thoughts to [email protected]

As always, I look forward to your feedback and continued support of the Institute!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

January 2022

Happy New Year!

It is an exciting time for the Institute! We have so many wonderful things coming up for 2022 – both Internationally and locally within your Chapters. For starters, I hope everyone had the chance to read the VMSD story on the Institute celebrating our 60-year history. It’s a great read written by industry leader and Institute member Eric Feigenbaum. Our thanks to Jennifer Acevedo, Media RDI, VMSD magazine, for continued support of the Institute.

Recently, I had the honor to speak at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show at the Javits Center in NYC. Our session — “New York City Virtual Store Tour: A Sneak Preview of New Openings” — on January 16, was packed! We focused not only on high-end brands that the city is known for, but family favorites come to life such as Harry Potter New York and LEGO® Fifth Avenue. It was great to be in person once again.

The focus on new stores reminds me to mention the Institute’s Call for Entries for the 51st International Design Competition. We’re looking forward to seeing all the amazing stores that opened in 2021. You can find complete details here including special member rates (save $125 on entry fees).

Several winners from the 50th Design Competition are included in a piece for Forbes.com written by longtime member Sandy Stein, on how, in this time of unified commerce, and less emphasis on instore transactions, retail design is becoming an even more important brand differentiator.  Thank you Sandy for telling the world what we know and hold true as Institute members and practitioners. Find Sandy’s piece here.

A new year brings many good things and two of them are our International Sponsors, which you are seeing on our weekly International emailers and Chapter newsletters. Again supporting us in 2022 is PLANiT Construction. Founded in 2003, PLANiT is continuously focused on delivering high quality, dependable general contracting services, consulting, project management and comprehensive facilities maintenance for national clients across North America. Thanks to Claudio Stabile and his team!

TMS Lighting is our newest patron for 2022. Established in 1923, TMS started with a simple idea, build a light fixture, infuse it with quality and then back it with integrity. This has been the company’s formula for more than 90 years. Thanks to David Bahra and the team at TMS.

We are focused more than ever on increasing our offerings to members. If you have ideas on what you’d like to see, or want to get involved either on the International Board or within your local Chapter, please reach out to Janet Groeber ([email protected]) in the International Office.

Don’t forget to check out the Institute’s website for the Job Board  — it’s chock full of opportunities at every level of experience. If you are an employer, job posts are complimentary. And don’t forget Events, the lifeblood of our organization, which in most cases are free to members. Check them out here.

Wishing all good health, good fortune, much happiness, and much success in 2022!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

December 2020

It is with great sadness that I share the passing of two members of our Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter.

Joseph Peter “Joe” Sus, Jr. passed away March 3, 2021. Joe was the loving husband of Gina (nee Moskowitz) and proud father of Clare and Joey.

Joe joined the Institute in 2018 as a Professional member, but had been involved with the association for a decade, said fellow member Matt Nurre. “Joe was a kind-hearted guy who was truly passionate about the retail design trade to his core,” Nurre added.

At the time of his passing, Joe was store designer and telecom coordinator for Pete’s Fresh Market, the Chicago-based family-owned regional grocery chain. In November, Joe led the Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter’s “Virtually Frozen Turkey Trot” tour of Peter’s Fresh Market newest location.
He was a 1999 graduate of Purdue University, working as a Walgreens service clerk from his senior year in high school and while in college. Joe would begin his professional career as a designer for Walgreens in its Deerfield, Ill., headquarters and remain there for the next 13 years. Before joining Pete’s, Joe spent two years as an interior designer at Johnson Design Group, Chicago. Joe also had experience in designing and installing TDM and IP Telephone systems.

In 2015-16, Joe was a background actor in Chicago Fire, cast as a neighborhood resident, a political supporter and regular patron at Molly’s Bar.

Donations to Clare and Joey’s education fund. Contact www.smithcorcoran.com for more information.

Rosalind “Roz” Strapko, 56, passed away May 20, 2021 in her Algonquin, Ill., home, surrounded by her loving family.

In 1997, Roz was hired as a sales associate with MEG Store Fixtures, where she stayed for 11 years. She remained on the fixture side of the business working as business development director for Fleetwood and then for High Country before joining Sparks in 2019 as account director, the position she held at the time of her passing.

She joined the Institute through the Chicago Chapter in 2000 as an Allied member. Most recently Roz step up to serve on the International Events Committee.

Since 2017, Roz was involved with PANDAS Network, an organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of children with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) and PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome).

Roz is survived by her husband John; her daughter Hannah; siblings Susan Johnson and Trina Wilton; brother-in-law George (Peggy) Strapko; father-in-law Gregory (late Janina) Strapko. She was also a fond aunt to many.
A Celebration of Life gathering is planned for Saturday, June 12, 2021 from 11:00  a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a Time of Sharing to begin at 2:00 p.m. at Willow Funeral Home & Cremation Care, 1415 W. Algonquin Rd., Rolling Meadows, IL 60008.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123; 800-227-2345.

“A heart of gold, a smile of pure joy, a kindness that extended to all she knew. That was Roz.”

Cynthia Hirsch, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

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