Will battery power energize retailing performance?

I believe that battery power and 5G will finally deliver the promise of real-time retail. We have been mired in a 50-year-old paradigm where we are constantly looking at yesterday’s data. Inventory is through last night not now/today/this minute so we constantly disappoint our customers on their journey. We limit the creativity of our marketing so we communicate with them when they are not in the store rather than real time where we can make a difference. I’m sick of ridiculously long receipts that promise a discount or reward on my NEXT trip. With longer battery life and 5G we will be able to revolutionize the customer journey to be whatever we and our customers want. Whether it is social significance, sustainability, environmental impact or diversity of a customer’s journey we will be able to bring that journey to life by leveraging these enabling technologies.

Ken Morris Joins Cambridge Retail Advisors as Managing Partner to Strengthen the Leadership Team and Accelerate Growth

Boston, MA – July 14, 2020 – Cambridge Retail Advisors (CRA), founded in November 2019, announced today that Ken Morris, retail industry leader for more than 40 years, has joined its leadership team as a managing partner. Ken brings extensive retail operations and information technology (IT) experience to the team. His entrepreneurial and leadership experience in launching consulting and software companies, building talented teams and accelerating growth will be a tremendous asset to CRA.
 “Ken Morris is a retail industry thought leader and we are delighted to have his leadership on our team,” said Marty Whitmore, managing partner at CRA. “Ken’s retail expertise and leadership were instrumental in the success of Boston Retail Partners and CRA will benefit from his proven consulting model and project methodologies. We look forward to building the CRA team and improving the success of retail and restaurant organizations, especially during this challenging time.”
 “I am excited to join the CRA team to continue the momentum they have established in the past nine months,” said Ken Morris, managing partner at CRA. “Leveraging CRA’s best practices for strategy, selection, and implementation projects, I look forward to seeing the success our clients achieve. I am passionate about making our clients’ success our mission.”
 Prior to joining CRA, Ken was co-founder and principal at Boston Retail Partners (BRP) where his leadership rapidly scaled the team to help hundreds of retailers optimize their IT and operations. BRP was acquired by EarthLink in 2016, which was later acquired by Windstream in 2017. Previously, he was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.

Will Boomers and Gen X keep shopping online post-pandemic?

I don’t think we will see a return to pre-COVID-19 shopping habits. People are very concerned with staying healthy and don’t want to risk infection needlessly. We need to do a better job as retailers to improve the customer journey for delivery, BOPIS and BOPAC. We can’t be satisfied with the broken Instacart model and the gouging currently going on with the food delivery vendors eating all the profit from restaurant sales. We have a scorpion and frog parable going on in the space where the delivery companies are killing their partner by overcharging. Few of these businesses can sustain 30 percent delivery fees when their in-restaurant capacity is at 50 percent.

Has the pandemic changed shopping behaviors forever?

This is an interesting question and I believe it is and will be an age-specific response. Generally my thought is that the older population (those 40 years old and up) will have their purchasing behavior changed forever. Folks 16-39 years old will be less affected as they will exhibit behaviors that are similar to what they are now doing which seems to be more open to the heard immunity concept and in my opinion less likely to be affected forever. Younger children 1-15 years old will embrace the values of their parents and reflect a behavior that is changed forever. Retailers as indicated by Cambridge Retail Advisors COVID-19 Impact Study believe that retail and dining will be changed forever.

Will Wegmans need a post-pandemic makeover?

I believe Wegmans should trim assortments and switch some stores to a semi-dark model with robotic pick and pack capabilities for customer pickup. Micro-fulfillment in a store footprint is the model of the future. I believe the grocery store of the future will provide a combination of customer browsing for perishables like fruit, vegetables, meat, prepared foods and deli. While ambient, chilled and frozen product is picked electronically in a high density cube that picks in-store orders along with pick up and delivery. These solutions are available, affordable and amazing.

Will a smaller Macy’s be a better Macy’s?

This is a smart move by Macy’s. The reality is that they have A, B, C and D stores with the grades denoting exactly how they perform. Macy’s needs to shutter the C and D locations and concentrate on their huge online business. Their Bluemercury concept is a winner and I see the curated idea with a smaller footprint and local product as another innovation that will help reinvent the brand.

Will expanded fresh and frozen food selection drive Target’s pickup business?

This is a winning strategy for Target. I happened to be shopping there yesterday and was surprised at the quality, the selection (they actually had bleach) and the price. There is clearly a move to BOPAC which won’t be toggling back after this pandemic. In a recent survey by Cambridge Retail Advisors 56 percent of C-level executives feel that it is likely or very likely that consumers will move exclusively to BOPIS or BOPAC. The challenge will be to integrate pickup within the footprint as the walk-around fulfillment model of folks like Instacart is broken, causing too much congestion and extended shopping time due to picker/customer interaction. Micro-fulfillment is one answer to this problem in a dark or semi-dark (hybrid) store environment.

Getting your associates ready to reopen stores

I would be sure to teach them how to deescalate conflict with irate customers. We are seeing a rash of angry customer moments as we start to reopen. Problems with social distancing, masks and just pent up, free flowing anger. We need to be sure to protect our associates and guests from this pandemic madness by scripting responses to situations and instructing how to identify, deescalate and respond appropriately.

Dick’s goes off-price with two new clearance concepts

I think it makes perfect sense for Dick’s to enter the off-price sporting goods business. They are creating a new space and have little or no competition. The history of off-price success following an economic downturn has been well documented so what better time to launch this concept. Many sporting goods retailers have been disintermediated by the vendor community which leaves Dick’s as almost the last chain standing. To remain standing they must reinvent themselves and this is a great start at exactly the right time.

Should retailers boycott Facebook?

I believe Facebook has crossed the line. They are more interested in profit than people. They are partly responsible for the political situation we now find ourselves in. They claim platform immunity but are really just courting favor in DC. What they are doing is giving a voice to the darkest element in our society and they are on the wrong side of history. They cannot be neutral when faced with fascism and white nationalism, they need to stand up for what is right.