Top Workplaces for Retail Innovators

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

There’s enough talk about innovation in retail today to make anyone lose sight of what real “innovation” looks like. RIS recently released our annual “Pacesetters 2019: Fast Rising Retail Executives” feature to call out employees that are making an impact on the industry, but what about the companies that are fostering innovation from within?

To be effective, innovation needs to become part of a retailer's DNA just as it is in a retailer's DNA to create a great customer experience,” RIS’s editorial director Joe Skorupa has aptly noted in the past.

While most companies claim to embrace innovation, Fast Company collaborated with Accenture to identify 50 organizations that actually cultivate big ideas and encourage experimentation.

Three retailers and seven companies within the retail industry landed on Fast Company’s inaugural50 Best Workplaces for Innovators list.

The publication notes that to compile the list, it set out to find companies that “empower all employees—not just top executives, scientists, or coders—to create new products, improve operations, and take risks. We searched for businesses where innovation isn’t just a buzzword but a part of the value system and culture.

Click here to see the full list of companies across industries doing things like offering employees “time to pursue bold projects” and “giving people room to fail.”

Below RIS breaks out the best workplaces for innovators in the retail industry and dives into what makes the three retailers on the list shine.

Top workplaces for innovators in Retail


Amazon's approach to new product development is about “working backwards” from the customer. The product manager starts by writing a press release announcing the finished product. If the team begins development, the press release then serves as a guide for the team to reflect on and compare with what is being built. According to Fast Company, it’s how site features such as Prime Now and Amazon­Smile began.


L'Oréal’s visionary teams are building leading edge technologies, launching highly personalized products, reimagining consumer experiences, and developing creative solutions to reduce its environmental footprint.  

“Innovation has fueled our business for more than 100 years,” said Frederic Roze, president and CEO of L'Oréal USA. “To respond to the rapid transformations in our industry and meet our ambition to be the worldwide leader in beauty technology and sustainability, we will rely on our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to help us continually evolve."

Founded by a chemist 110 years ago, L’Oréal boasts over 4,000 Research and Innovation roles across its global workforce. The L'Oréal Technology Incubator, established in 2012, has a presence that spans three countries and collaborates with foremost leaders in academia, technology and design. 

In an effort to support employees and foster an inclusive workforce and business, L'Oréal USA has launched employee-led Think Tanks with a variety of tailored focuses, including the advancement of executive women; the recruitment and support of veterans reentering the workforce; employees with disabilities; and the advancement of LGTBQ initiatives and policies. To date, these Think Tanks have had a direct impact on the company’s policies, including a 2019 update of its parental leave policy, and resulted in L'Oréal’s perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2019 Corporate Equality Index.


Sephora Accelerate is dedicated to building a community of innovative female founders in beauty. The program begins with a one-week bootcamp where founders acquire the necessary skills to create a successful business. Participants receive help with structuring their business model, branding, marketing and a growth plan. They tackle business challenges and get one-on-one mentoring from beauty industry and Sephora leaders. On a final Demo Day, they get the opportunity to present their companies to industry experts, investors, and senior level Sephora leaders.


More than 360 companies applied between January 29 and March 22, 2019, answering 10 questions about R&D investment and company-wide programs and processes. All applications were assessed separately by Fast Company editors and Accenture researchers, and the two sets of scores were combined. The judging panel reviewed the 60 companies with the highest scores and recommended the final Top 50.


Offers CDN, DNS, DDoS protection and security


Workforce-management software company


Shopping-tech startup


Cloud-based software maker


Artificial intelligence company with a cloud-native, machine learning platform for retail


Customer relationship management solution


Analytics company which transforms data into intelligence

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