The retail landscape has been changing rapidly for years - no secret there. But amidst acquisitions, restructuring, and even the loss of major store brands, a number of innovative stores have sprung up and found ways to earn their customers’ business. How are they doing so in the face of competitors like Amazon and the rest of the industry’s behemoths? Sit in as Askov Finlayson’s Eric Dayton, BluDot’s John Christakos, and Fame’s Lynne Robertson share stories and insights on how they grew their brands and the strategies that led to critical marketing and business innovation.

In this session you'll learn:


  • Strategies that new, innovative retail brands have explored on their path to success

  • How digital marketing has impacted the growth of start-up brands

  • Ways to survive against behemoths like Amazon

  • Impact of digital channels on retail as a whole


Eric Dayton

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Eric co-founded Askov Finlayson, an outdoor clothing company inspired by year-round exploration with the mission to Keep The North Cold. Askov Finlayson has committed $1 million over the next five years to fund some of the world’s most innovative climate action organizations. Eric also co-owns North First Hospitality, which includes The Bachelor Farmer, named one of Bon Appetit’s top ten new restaurants, and Marvel Bar, a three-time James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program in America. Eric is the co-founder and board president of The Great Northern, an annual 10-day winter festival that celebrates Minnesota's signature season.



John Christakos

John Christakos cofounded Blu Dot in 1996, a design studio and manufacturer of modern furnishings, serving as CEO since its inception. Sold through stand-alone stores domestically and abroad, online at and in more than 50 independent retailers worldwide, Blu Dot’s work has received numerous national and international design awards, including the prestigious National Design Award for Product Design from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. In 2011, Slate magazine included John in “Top Right,” its list of “the top 25 most innovative and practical thinkers of our time.” Prior to Blu Dot, John was Consulting Director of Core Group in Minneapolis, where he advised consumer product companies in marketing strategy and branding. He began his career as a consultant with Bain & Company in their Boston office. John currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Trustees at Walker Art Center and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) Advisory Board.


John Christakos

Lynne Robertson

A proven industry force and frequent speaker, Lynne captured the attention of the industry when she purchased Fame from its global holding company in 2015, shedding the traditional agency model for a renewed focus on bold, category-redefining work. An AdFed Silver recipient, Effie winner, member of The Hub Braintrust, honorary AdFed Board member and VP of the Twin Cities Retail Design Institute, she is wholeheartedly committed to choreographing brand experiences that consumers love to love.