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What's Selling in America

If you want to convince customers to open their wallets, you've got to open your mind to new ways of connecting with them. That's why we set out on a nationwide shopping spree in search of the fearless companies and breakthrough ideas that are reinventing retail. Here's what we found.

There are two kinds of companies these days: companies whose sales are limping along (that's the vast majority) and those whose sales are going through the roof. My nationwide shopping spree focused on the latter. I spent a weekend at the country's most exciting music store. I made an undercover visit to the outermost fringes of the Wal-Mart empire. And I visited all sorts of other fascinating experiments in between — from an ESPN skateboard park at a mall to a specialty retailer that caters to the health needs of aging baby boomers. (Who says hip replacement can't be hip?) What follows is a set of dispatches — a memo, a letter, even some traditional articles — about five innovators that are figuring out what's selling in America.

"First You Get High on It, Then You Buy It."
Amoeba Music Marches to Its Own Beat
"How Does a 900-Pound Gorilla Get to Be an 1,800-Pound Gorilla?"
Wal-Mart Thinks Outside the Big Box
"Our Customers Can Sniff Through Any Kind of Hard Sell. And When They Do, They're Gone."
ESPN Takes Retailing to the Extreme
"We Decided to Merchandise Raised Toilet Seats in the Same Way You'd Merchandise Lamp Fixtures at Pottery Barn."
Can Take Good Care Make Hip Replacements Hip?
"The Lamest Question in Retail Is, 'Can I Help You?'"
How the Container Store Lays a Solid Foundation

A version of this article appeared in the January 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.