Bob Amster

Principal, Retail Technology Group

Mr. Amster has served the retail and distribution industries as both a Consultant and Systems Manager since 1971. He currently heads The Retail Technology Group, an independent consulting firm.

Bob was a Senior Manager with the Northeast Retail Consulting Group of Ernst & Young. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Mr. Amster held Systems Management positions for large retailers such as Kmart Apparel, Waldenbooks, and Caldor. In addition, he has consulted to retail, distribution, and software companies since 1985.

Bob’s hands-on experience encompasses strategic planning; operational reviews; and systems design and implementation. He specializes in needs assessments; software analyses, selection and implementation; operational procedures and process improvement; and systems integration. His project experience includes numerous engagements in the evaluation, selection and implementation of merchandising, financial, warehouse and store systems packages.

Additionally, Bob has served as interim head of IT for Barneys New York and Shane Company, and as interim head of the Store Systems Group for Savers, Inc.

Bob also has provided due diligence assistance to a number of private equity firms and has served the advisory board of retailers and of a number of e-commerce merchants, to whom he provided retail industry perspective.

  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    Switching wholesale from brick-and-mortar retailing to e-commerce retailing is base on a mistaken notion that the business is in one channel and not in the other. In 90 percent of retail categories, it's in both. When a retailer fails in the brick-and mortar format, it's usually for more than one reason. To think that dropping one channel totally in favor of another will result in success is to be kidding oneself and not fixing the real problems.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2017

    Will customer tracking help save shopping malls?

    While the malls could certainly benefit from tracking customer shopping behavior, the customers should have to opt in to being tracked. Many customers prefer to remain anonymous to all but their favorite retailers and retail environments. That preference should be respected.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2017

    Will adding Spanish give Amazon an edge over rival sites?

    Don't the statistics speak for themselves? How can Amazon lose by catering to such significant numbers?
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Has proven that online sales are going to the dogs?

    Pets are an undeniable favorite of consumers. The convenience of online shopping combined with an adjustable, automatic replenishment model will continue to grow the business, not just for, but for any retailer with stores, an e-commerce site and the capability to replenish and deliver.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    The mom-and-pop shop has and will have a place in the market. There may be fewer of them going forward but their raison d'être is differentiation. I shop an apparel store in Lenox, MA. They have the most exquisite collection of men's and women's apparel (not cheap). The owner is the buyer and attends to the customers personally. The store is charming and always well-stocked with interesting assortments. As far as I can tell, he has a loyal following and makes money. You don't see that confluence of attributes too often. Those that can achieve it will make it and stay around, just like any other retailer.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2017

    Will VR/AR keep consumers out of stores?

    Over the long term, retailers may be in charge of their own stores' destiny depending on how and what they deliver to consumers in the way of AR/VR. Retailers can make it irrelevant to go to a store, or they can deliver just enough of a teaser to make consumers want to visit their stores to see and buy the real thing. As always, the impact will vary among merchandise categories. For example, there is little that is attractive about going to a supermarket to buy a can of soup or a bag of chips and I may opt to walk down the VR aisles of the supermarket, pick what I want along my virtual journey, pay for it and either have it wait for me to pick it up or have it delivered to my house.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    How omnichannel is offering wholesalers and retailers new partnering opportunities

    The landscape and the type of relationships between retailer, distributor and 3PL will evolve until the right balance is struck -- by type of commodity -- to provide timely, accurate, but profitable service to consumers. I don't like the idea of adding an intermediary to the supply chain if it is not absolutely necessary. Conversely, distributors of small products generally are not configured to pick ones and twos. In those cases, the 3PL may become a necessary additional expense. For large products, it makes little difference. However, new types of information exchange among all of three entities will become necessary. For example, retailers have not had to provide individual customers' delivery information to distributors; they will now.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2017

    Will smart shelves ever be smart enough for Kroger and other retailers?

    The biggest gains in smart shelves are in dynamic pricing. The retailer can offer the old blue-light special on demand and the labor savings are significant. The other benefits, such as customer engagement and inventory management, are close behind.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    The challenges of retailers are directly but not exclusively related to shipping costs. No one ships for free as evidenced by the huge losses in shipping costs that Amazon incurred. To think that this paradigm can continue indefinitely is unrealistic, unless retailers can make up for the losses to such an extent that free shipping becomes an affordable loss leader, which is doubtful.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Is Amazon’s Alexa a threat to rival retailers?

    Retailers need to be part of this evolution or they will be left out of that the piece of the retail pie. I would start aligning my partnerships and alliances with those AI portals so that some of that traffic comes to me.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Are Boomers being ignored by retailers?

    While it may not be "wise" for retailers to ignore Baby Boomers, us Baby Boomers may have to accept the fact that we don't run these companies anymore for the most part and those who do may have a diminished affinity for our generation. Sad but true.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    What will Walmart gain from its Moosejaw acquisition?

    If allowed to continue to operate independently, Moosejaw can only expand on Walmart's deep pockets, reduced operating costs and multiple e-commerce outlets through which to hawk more product. Walmart gains immediate expertise in a category that appeals to its customer base. The danger is that Walmart may decide to influence the culture at Moosejaw and that would be a mistake because of the brand image and following the Moosejaw has already built.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    Should L.L.Bean ditch its legendary return policy?

    The problem with these policies is that taking something away from the consumer never tastes good. Free shipping is one of those prerequisites. A liberal return policy, for those who are not abusing the privilege, is a welcome feature also. L.L. Bean could attempt to charge for shipping when the order total is below a certain minimum. That appears fair. As for fraudulent returns, without having the statistics it is difficult to tell how severe the problem is and if it is worth doing something about it. The company could insist on proof of purchase (from a retail store) but many bona fide customers will not be able to provide one. Online purchases should be easy enough to confirm.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Did President Trump go too far with his Nordstrom tweet?

    Do we really want to go there in this forum? What is my reaction to Donald Trump, period?
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

    How good is ‘close enough’ when it comes to in-store inventory?

    As exemplified by Jon Polin, the answer varies from category to category. Inventory accuracy for any retailer is important, and for omnichannel retailers it is extremely important. In those categories that can embrace it, RFID technology makes this a no-brainer. There are many ways to improve inventory accuracy in stores; process, technology, culture. Some retailers have been loath to implement all of them. Some have been distracted with gaining a digital presence and have forgone the basics. There is hope because there is at least one way to get there! While it is not easy to decide priorities, some business initiatives require simultaneous, parallel efforts in order to successfully achieve high inventory accuracy.

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