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Top Women in Retail Design: Success Stories

This year’s trio of winners of VMSD’s Top Women in Retail Design are demonstrating their influence and challenging the status quo of the changing retail industry.




Among the 2019 winners of VMSD’s third annual Top Women in Retail Design awards you’ll notice a common thread – all three recipients embody the spirit of mentorship, giving back to the industry and creating compelling and thoughtful consumer experiences at retail. We created this award in 2017 to honor outstanding leading women in the retail design and visual merchandising universe. Nominated by our readers and selected by our editorial team, each honoree is chosen based on their career commitments to innovation, creative excellence and lifelong learning; active involvement in a mentorship role, and a body of accomplishments in the fields of retail design and visual merchandising. Read on to see who took home this year’s coveted honors.

Robin Alcorn, Albertsons

Robin Alcorn

Senior Director of Design and Store Planning
Albertsons, Boise, Idaho

Robin leads the team at Albertsons, charged with store planning and design, for 13 divisions located in 35 states and accounting for approximately 2300 stores. Among those responsibilities are determining criteria, lighting exterior elevations, site review and base plan development, which makes collaboration among division leadership, corporate merchandising, procurement and senior leadership of the essence. Colleagues say Robin’s natural leadership skills and ability to connect with people to form respectful relationships are a big part of her success. Despite having a full plate, she’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get hands-on, sketching on paper or exploring a concept in CAD. Robin has the ability to relate to her diverse team, with members of varying levels of experience and backgrounds.


What do you like most about your job?

The people I get to work with  – having the opportunity to work with people from all levels, from executive leadership to store level, from IT to marketing, we get to engage with every department in the company. It’s about continually developing relationships, supporting the team and learning the business from all perspectives so that we can develop effective designs that execute programs which drive the business success. It’s all about the people – engage, listen, learn, ask questions, develop relationships and build trust. 


What excites and motivates you every day working in retail design?

Opening a new store and seeing the customer’s excitement firsthand. Seeing how they love the full experience – from the environment to the layout, flow and the merchandise offering. I always think, “What can we do in our role in retail design to surprise and delight the customer?” That’s how we win!

Heidi DeMers, Kroger

Heidi DeMers

Director, Store Planning and Design
Kroger, Cincinnati

Heidi oversees the design strategy for more than 20 Kroger banners and nearly 2800 stores nationwide. Her 26 years of experience in retail, fixturing and architecture serve as a strong foundation as she guides the retailer’s brand design strategy. Colleagues say Heidi’s openness and natural curiosity make her skilled at sharing ideas and she is keenly perceptive when examining data, which she translates into relevant and compelling design strategies. Working within an evolving and data-driven retail organization, Heidi is a leader in retail technology integration in a business that interacts with millions of consumers on a daily basis. Heidi is also active in the retail industry, serving as an expert panelists and presenter for various conferences, podcasts and webinars. Her design team gives back by engaging design students through an internship program with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). Heidi also serves as an officer of The Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE).

What excites you and motivates you every day working in retail design?



Working for Kroger is an adventure every day! Our store environmental design affects the nine million customers who pass through our doors each day and that makes our jobs more important than ever.  We need to do everything we can to make their shopping experience seamless, hassle free and enjoyable. [The design work is exciting] because we have so many different categories within our stores, which gives us the opportunity to design new environments for a wide range of categories, like apparel, home goods, pharmacy, food halls and grocery. As designers, we need to balance all of these unique categories and stakeholder goals with the overall look and feel of the store, making sure it’s a cohesive experience. 

What do you like most about your job? 

I always like to tell my team that if things didn’t change we wouldn’t have jobs, and we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable with the speed and amount of change … and push the limits whenever we can. Change is inevitable and necessary, especially in the competitive retail world today.  We need to innovate and react to future trends and ideas as fast as possible. Because we are such a large company with more than 2800 locations in many different formats, we have to think creatively, work collaboratively and be able to scale ideas quickly to meet our stakeholders’ requests and customers’ every day needs. I love being involved during the inception of complex initiatives and ideas and then pull a team of creatives and implementers together to make the idea come to life. 


Lisa Ewing, lululemon

Lisa Ewing

Director, Store Design Innovation
Lululemon, Vancouver, British Columbia

Lisa led the development, design and execution of Lululemon’s largest project to date in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago this past summer. The 20,000-square-foot experiential flagship offers yoga classes and mediation sessions along with a full-service bar and restaurant that serves everything from smoothies to burgers. She was also responsible for the Flatiron, Meatpacking and Brooklyn locations in metro New York. Colleagues call Lisa a thoughtful leader and thorough designer who leads by example and inspires her peers to deliver their best work. A natural mentor, Lisa shares her knowledge with her team, supports them with feedback and coaching and challenges them to rise to the occasion when presented with challenges.



What do you like the most about your job?

Being part of multi-disciplinary team that is continuously searching for and creating innovative retail experiences. I get to be involved in a variety of projects from new fixture designs to [the design of] new retail concepts, which allows me the opportunity to express my passion for design in creating different solutions with a talented team and cross-functional partners.

What excites and motivates you every day working in retail design?

Every design project has its challenges and constraints. It’s in the constraint that the creativity often surfaces. Determining what is being solved for and finding the unique solution through collaboration and focused problem solving is what excites me.







MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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