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Patrick McIntyre: “Challenge your own status quo — always”

Challenge your own status quo — always. Don’t just adapt. Instead, innovate and go big on who you are while removing friction from the shopping experience. Example: We understand that some may not be traveling at this time or do not want to visit our new store yet in Disney Springs. Opening a store is a big […]

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Challenge your own status quo — always. Don’t just adapt. Instead, innovate and go big on who you are while removing friction from the shopping experience.

Example: We understand that some may not be traveling at this time or do not want to visit our new store yet in Disney Springs. Opening a store is a big deal for our loyalists, and given the current state of the world, many are unable to join us in person. So we created a full 3D virtual tour, available on MMS.com. Once inside, guests are invited to “walk” through the store, where they can click to purchase M&M’S products directly from MMS.com.


As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick McIntyre, Director of Global Retail at Mars Retail Group, the operating force behind M&M’S stores around the world.

Patrick McIntyre is the Director of Global Retail at Mars Retail Group for Mars Inc., headquartered in Mount Arlington, N.J. He leads the global retail guest experience strategy and operations of the M&M’S Stores located in New York; Las Vegas; Disney Springs, Orlando; London; Shanghai, and 2021 opening stores in Mall of America, Minnesota, and Berlin, Germany. His responsibilities include managing the expansion strategy and global operations, including P&L, sales, guest experience, earnings, staffing, payroll, and training.

Patrick earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, with a concentration in International Relations, from Johnson and Wales University located in Providence, R.I. He further studied at Harvard Business School through the executive education program and resides in Minnesota where he enjoys spending time with his son.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Much of my backstory stems from my father, who was an immigrant and traveling salesman. I grew up with the influence of his entrepreneurial business mindset, which led me to start my own private retail business in pet accessories, which I eventually sold in 2007. I joined the team at Target then, holding a variety of store and business partner corporate roles over five years.

Currently, I work for MARS Inc., directly managing the Strategy & Operations of M&M’s Global Retail. I’m also responsible for the expansion and new store opening teams for Mars Retail Group.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

It took me a few years to be able to laugh at this one, but at 18 years old, I was fortunate enough to have access to a full-ride scholarship to the University of Rhode Island, which we know is an ideal situation for so many people. I was young and uninspired at the time, which led to me eventually dropping out and walking away from the scholarship. It took three years before I was ready to go back to school, which I did on my own terms at Johnson and Wales University. It was hard work — I waited tables and worked in retail to put myself through school. My Entrepreneurship 101 class was the ultimate catalyst to me starting my own business. The biggest takeaway from my experience there is to embrace and appreciate any path of passion — no matter how unconventional — you take in your career, because it ultimately got you to where you are.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There have been two key influencers who have helped me get where I am. My father Kevin McIntyre has instilled two key learnings that I hold close to me. First, to embrace the mantra of “I can, I must, and I will.” The second is to simply never stop learning.

My current General Manager, Jamie Dunning, is the second person who has helped me become the person I am today. Jamie shared an analogy for self-development, comparing it to going to the gym. He sees skill-building and professional development like going to the gym — the first time you ever go, you’ll be limited in what you can do. But with consistency and hard work, you build those muscles over time, and you really do see results down the line. This will always stick with me.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are so many I could list, but the latest book that’s made an impact is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csikszentmihalyi describes a “flow state” where challenge and skill intersect, and when you find the right edges of these two forces, you thrive.

This has resonated with me in my professional life, where I think my work has consistently moved me closer to that optimal point, and on a personal level, I really like that analogy as I have a passion for sailing, where you have to adjust the sails to reach the most optimal point as the wind never stops changing.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

To me, Mars Wrigley stands out because everything we do is focused on delivering better moments that make the world smile. This comes to life in many forms, whether it’s our products, our people or the places M&M’S fans interact with us, like M&M’S stores. I’m very proud to work for a company that is so focused on creating a world that champions fun to bridge and unite people. And we’ve been able to do this throughout the past year, which has required a great deal of agility and resilience from our entire organization. What stands out is how we are always focused on the right thing — our Associates and our guests.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

As I mentioned earlier, my father taught me to never stop learning, and I really stand by that. Beyond that, I also advocate that colleagues start with themselves. This means ignoring the constraints of an 8–5 and accepting fluidity where you can. I’m a big proponent of taking time throughout the day — whether that’s going for a run, reading a book or anything else that allows you to step aside and reset. I encourage everyone to reconsider what an “urgent” email really means in the wider context of things. It’s so important to know when you’re stressed, and to know how to handle it.

I also value the power of human connection. During work, hold time in your calendar just to say hi — while the physical water cooler is not available to many of us right now, we can still call and chat with people informally as we would in-person. Outside of work, make sacred, ring-fenced time with loved ones away from technology. Also, take a vacation! Be creative with how you ‘get away’ in these times.

Lastly, for those in leadership positions, communicate these values to your teams and demonstrate the behavior you’d like them to model.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

I believe that the key to a successful retailer is knowing how to meet your consumers where they are and create a retail experience that delivers on their ideal shopping environment. Are your shoppers looking for efficiency? Engagement? An experience? Successful brands in 2021 understood the requirements to connect with their consumers and were rewarded for it.

For a brand like M&M’S, where there are many options to purchase products without visiting an M&M’S store, it’s all about creating an immersive experience wherever they choose to go (direct online at mms.com or into a physical store location). Someone may not be able to see a friend in-person, but wants to simply brighten that person’s day, so they can send personalized M&M’S. Or, they may want to get out of the house as a momentary escape, where our world of colorful fun in M&M’S stores comes in. We encourage the consumers that come into our store to engage with us and experience the brand from all senses — and we’re creating this fun and memorable experience for free. Through the power of connection, M&M’S stores really bring our products to life for our store visitors, and it’s been an important factor to our success.

This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?

A great customer experience is essential. Now more than ever, people are demanding something beyond a transactional exchange from brands. Our insights continually reiterate that people want moments of belonging, sharing and connection. M&M’S Stores are intended — first and foremost — to be universally immersive. Our intent is that when guests walk in the doors, a brand experience will fully come to life. This includes beautifully designed and fun-inspired stores combined with the best customer service, all while delivering better moments and bigger smiles. And we continue to evolve and elevate that experience based on listening to our consumers and delivering on their needs in our people model, our product experiences, and our sense of place in the store design.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

A wise friend once told me: “Things that get measured, get paid attention to; things that get paid attention to get done.” Many organizations measure their sales, bottom line, repeat rate, basket size, etc., but may miss the opportunity to measure the voice on their consumers. I think many companies focus on creating a seamless user experience, which is of course necessary, but they are not creating a moment of true connection. At Mars Wrigley, we constantly seek insights from consumers to meet our commitment to creating better moments that make the world smile. That means going beyond completing a transaction, and intentionally creating the best possible experience for our fans, whether that’s through our products, marketing, or in retail’s case, curating an immersive experience inside our M&M’S stores.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We’ve had countless engagements, prom proposals and weddings from our customers and are truly honored to be a part of their celebratory moments in life. The one story that sticks out the most to me was a handwritten letter we received from a customer, who had learned that her husband had passed away at home while she was away on vacation in New York City. She couldn’t fly back home until the next day, and as she walked around the city, in shock and grief from the news she stumbled across our M&M’S World store in Times Square. She told us that her husband had been an M&M’S lover, and when she stepped inside, the store was playing one of their favorite songs. The moment moved her to dance with our famed Yellow character inside the store and expressed to us that that moment brought true happiness amidst the otherwise tragedy. To this day, that story resonates with me when I say that I’m in the business of connections that are more meaningful and powerful than chocolate.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

We frequently share this story internally, as it serves as the perfect example of how we can create better moments and care of our customers.

A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?

I believe that a fantastic retail experience starts from creating a consistent brand voice so consumers know what to expect before they enter your store. Then, when they do come into the store, you must surpass those expectations. This should be reflected in all touchpoints of the store — from store signage to Associate interaction — to really enforce what you stand for.

For example, M&M’S is a brand all about fun. Millions of people walk through our doors every year to have fun and engage with us. We deliver on their expectation of fun by offering analog and digital experiences, such as in-store character moments, personalized products and gifts, relevant and fun assortments, and shareable digital interactions that make you smile. Each of our store locations also infuses colorful design elements that incorporate the brand’s wit and humor throughout. Our Associates also are a ball of fun and no doubt will try to make you smile with anything, from giving a free chocolate sample or having you jump into a storewide dancing flash mob moment.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Take care of your team: Start with your Associates. They set the tone for the customer’s experience.

Example: We take pride in being an employer of choice in the retail space — in 2020, Mars was named to the World’s Best Workplaces™ list for the tenth year in a row and to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list for the eighth consecutive year. We’re continuously striving to live up to these recognitions. It is important that your most senior leaders have access and unfiltered connection to the Associates closest to the consumer. This is where real insights can be generated — and those insights can be acted upon much quicker than standard business processes can.

2. Take care of your guests: Create a space that connects to your consumers.

Example: Our newest M&M’S store at Disney Springs is focused on creating moments that matter. It fully immerses guests in an interactive M&M’S brand experience designed to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Disney Springs visitors — that includes offering exclusive Disney and M&M’S co-branded merchandise.

3. Challenge your own status quo — always. Don’t just adapt. Instead, innovate and go big on who you are while removing friction from the shopping experience.

Example: We understand that some may not be traveling at this time or do not want to visit our new store yet in Disney Springs. Opening a store is a big deal for our loyalists, and given the current state of the world, many are unable to join us in person. So we created a full 3D virtual tour, available on MMS.com. Once inside, guests are invited to “walk” through the store, where they can click to purchase M&M’S products directly from MMS.com.

4. Reward and embrace new thinking. Agility and resilience in the face of adversity is a key learning out of 2020.

Example: Despite the pandemic, we’re very proud to open our newest store. We listened to our Associates and fans and are confident we are bringing a safe environment that will bring smiles to our consumers.

5. Be where your customers are and surprise them. Develop a robust strategy for choosing locations.

Example: Our newest M&M’S Store at Disney Springs is the latest of our retail expansion. Choosing culturally vibrant locations is key to our strategy and tapping into the magic and emotion of the Disney brand is a perfect fit for M&M’S, the most popular confectionary in the world.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have been working on a side project for quite some time. This idea or ‘movement’ is centered around supporting organizations and brands to believe and invest in entry-level positions in retail. I believe that our industry offers workers the chance to learn more about themselves and to be encouraged about what their own future could hold. Sadly, 10% of retail Associates live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Equally, they are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree and appear to have far less opportunities from corporations.

I want to create a movement where the retail industry is seen more as a career. Retail is a path that can teach you life skills, emotional intelligence, business skills and analytical thinking. 25% of the U.S. population is involved in the retail/hospitality supply chain in some way or another, and I would like to be a force in improving the skills of the next generation of retail workers and supporting the ongoing personal development of that workforce. The more we can broaden our own perspectives, the more we can learn to appreciate and support each other. Leadership starts with us — inspiring others first.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Find me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/mcintyrepatrick/

Our new M&M’S store is now open at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort. Readers can also “visit” the store today with a virtual tour, available on MMS.com.

For more about our M&M’S experiential stores, visit M&M’S on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at MMS.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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