A Beacon of Truth

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A Beacon of Truth

By Bill Schober - 02/20/2018

As we begin our coverage of our 25th Hall of Fame class, it seems fitting that we close a chapter on one of the legends of the past. I am referring to Joe Ricci, who is retiring his column, “Ricci at Retail,” as of the March issue of Shopper Marketing

Since its inception in the April 2003 issue, Joe’s column has become well-known throughout the in-store marketing business. There’s no mystery why. He felt a duty – first, last and always – to his readers “to take anyone on, regardless of size, if they weren’t doing things right.” Many P-O-P practitioners routinely open this magazine to his column first, hoping not to see their work critiqued. I distinctly remember one guy begging me, “Please, just keep that guy away from my stuff!” An understandable sentiment, I suppose, but Joe always was scrupulously fair.

A classic industry “lifer,” Joe had already logged three decades of merchandising experience (mostly with Duracell) when P-O-P Times (now Shopper Marketing) named him to its sixth Hall of Fame class in September 1999. He knew that the best designs are ones that communicate the right message succinctly without getting in the shopper’s way. But he also knew that developing good merchandising sometimes involves some very convoluted processes. Yes, when he spotted evidence of poor process – weak engineering or material under-specification – he’d pounce. But Joe would not go public with such a critique until he visually confirmed the same flaw or failure occurring three more times in other retail stores. That way he could ensure that it really was due to an upstream design or manufacturing defect and not just a random act of carelessness by a “retail gnome” (store employee). 

And so, to honor Joe as he steps off the stage, I asked some industry veterans to share their perspectives:

“During my four decades with P&G, I had the honor of tracing some of Joe’s footsteps through a shared business history. When I arrived at Duracell headquarters, I met many who had fond memories of Joe’s leadership and management style. 

“When I think of Joe, the word ‘generous’ comes to mind. Joe was generous to all, including everyone in the display industry, his Duracell associates, the young men he coached in football, his church, and most of all his wife, Eileen, and his children. There’s a very small ‘club’ of people who have been named to both the P-O-P Times and POPAI Halls of Fame. I’m proud that I stand alongside Joe with that distinction, and I thank him for 50 years of generous service to our industry.”

          – Bill Smith, Principal at Display Coach, LLC

“After so many years serving this industry, it’s Joe’s turn to enjoy life. Still, I’m pretty sure that wherever Joe goes – Arizona … Hawaii … Bali – we’ll find him still doing store checks instead of relaxing on the beach. You can take the man out of retail, but you can’t take the retail out of that man.”

          – Dennis Bonn, VP – Global Marketing, Menasha Packaging

“I remember, upon first entering this business all those many years ago, meeting creative and passionate people like you. Excited about an industry that was expanding. About good merchandising. About creating ‘experiences,’ not just P-O-P. Congratulations on all your years of passion, insights and authenticity.”

          – Don Hubbard, CEO – President, Niven Marketing

“I’ve read every issue of this magazine starting with the very first edition of P-O-P Times. But my excitement level rose by a factor of 10 when Joe Ricci began to show the world what in-store marketing really looked like when it finally got to the store. First I check to see if any of our displays/fixtures are featured, then study each one Joe has chosen and the comments he makes. Joe calls them how he sees them, regardless of whether you’re a big brand or small one; if you put out good work, he gives you the credit. If you put out poor work, he calls you on it. 

“Thanks Joe for the many years dedicated to the industry. You have been a beacon in the industry and an outstanding example for all of us to follow.”

          – Brian McCormick, VP, Sales and Marketing, Rapid Displays

“Joe Ricci, please do not retire. Nothing will be the same if you leave the scene. You’ve been a force in the world of merchandising for as long as any of us can remember. 

“I had college buddies who went to work for Duracell in the early 1980s and, already, 35-plus years ago, you were considered ‘The Man’ as far as they were concerned.

“And that was just the start of a long history of helping thousands of us come to a better understanding of the difference between great merchandising and everything else. Your straightforward, no-nonsense critiques in the pages of P-O-P Times and, subsequently, Shopper Marketing magazine helped thousands of readers appreciate the exquisite beauty of thoughtful, appropriate merchandising design. 

“Although, I will say that your column routinely tested our commitment to journalistic integrity. It was pretty much a given that whenever you lit into some subpar display, the responsible P-O-P firm and/or client would turn out to be one of our biggest customers and/or influential members. Angry phones calls ensued. But we never backed down. ‘Joe is an expert,’ I would insist. ‘His criticism of your display is consistent with his view of what constitutes best-in-class merchandising. So, no, we will not print a retraction or apology. It is what it is.’

“And we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Joe, you are and have always been a man of great integrity. And you are a generous man, always willing to help share your insights and ideas with the rest of us. This industry was lucky to have you. Please don’t go away.”

          – With great respect, Peter Hoyt, Founder, P2PI

NOTE: Would you like to reach out to Joe Ricci? Here's his email address: [email protected]

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