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: 06/26/2017

    Is e-commerce making vendor compliance programs more important?

    Two key factors directly impacting the degree of satisfaction with a company's e-commerce program are inventory availability (read: accuracy) and timelines of deliveries. If a supplier can't ship the quantities actually ordered, or if delivery is delayed and the vendor is at fault, the scorecards become more important because they impact the retailer's ability to deliver on the promise.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    Should brands ditch the slang?

    The reaction to the use of slang is generational. Messages to the public can be creative without lowering the standard of quality to the lowest common denominator. We already have enough problems with not speaking clearly and not using the correct terminology in common conversation.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    Will Amazon Prime Wardrobe change how Americans shop for clothes?

    This has been done before, but at the luxury-market level. What Amazon is doing is disruptive because Amazon's feature has a much broader appeal. Brick-and-mortar has just been stabbed again. Other retailers will have to follow suit. The trick is in determining the right value proposition so that the retailer makes money and customers are enticed to try before they buy.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    Customers should be willing to pay more for the last-minute service during peak periods. I think consumers understand that dynamic. Retailers cannot afford to take the hit for everything so they will find a way to pass the cost on.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Why are so many associates being deprived of tech by their employers?

    Retailers have been slow to provide technology to their store associates for a number of reasons. Among them, immediate attention and emphasis on all things omnichannel, a concern about the cost of deployment of in-store solutions and even a lack of understanding that these investments can have a significant ROI.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Is it time for stores to ditch the free Wi-Fi?

    If the retailer provides a robust Wi-Fi signal in its stores, the speed will surpass that of smartphones. Consequently, all other things being equal, speed-addicted shoppers would find those retail environments that offer free, robust Wi-Fi connections to be more attractive places in which to spend more time (and hopefully more money). It's too soon to announce the demise of free in-store Wi-Fi.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Will customers try Kohler showers before they buy?

    I just visited the store in the Flatiron District. The store is very nice and the assortment is plentiful. While the fact that one can shower in the store to try out a shower head may be appealing to those customers seeking hands-on experiences, I bet that more than 60 percent of people walking into the store will not take advantage of the "experience." PIRCH has done the same thing in about five stores -- one in SoHo. It's also beautiful. These stores will entice people to buy but not necessarily to try the shower heads.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Can Walmart’s sweepstakes game teach the unbanked to ‘bank’ their money?

    From the consumers' perspective, it gently forces them to address the problem caused by the fact that they may not have bank accounts or credit cards. From Walmart's perspective, although it may not be a material amount of money, Walmart can invest the money in the Vault overnight and make a return on it. By instituting such a program, Walmart strengthens the loyalty of its financially-constrained customers.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    What does it take to thrive in an over-stored marketplace?

    Well, "expansion" does not necessarily mean profit growth. It can mean dilution too because there is a fixed number of shopping dollars to be had. Private companies are not under the same pressure to grow, they need to be profitable. Consequently they should pick their spots carefully and measuredly and, as the article points out, there needs to be more focus on customer metrics in addition to store metrics. I am not sure I agree with "smaller ... " stores. If a retailer will have fewer stores in more cost-effective locations, maybe the stores can be larger so as to offer a wider assortment of products to the customers who may be forced to travel longer distances to shop them.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    How should self-checkout be incentivized?

    Once the consumer learns how to use self-checkout, it is faster to pay and get out of the store. That is and should be the incentive. For those consumers for whom self-checkout is a challenge, no reasonable incentive will be enough to make them use it. Younger generations will have no problem embracing it.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2017

    Is the $400B prescription drug business ripe for an Amazon disruption?

    One can try to be profound about this -- or just practical and say, Amazon can't lose on that bet. The question is whether or not Amazon can be innovative enough to bring the drugs to market at lower costs than are currently available. That would be disruptive.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2017

    Are digital CX initiatives being lost on Baby Boomers?

    I can answer from the perspective of the Baby Boomer that I am or as the retail consultant that I am. I am personally not attracted to most CX attempts because I think they are not relevant to me, as I only shop when I need something. I don't believe that Baby Boomers can be easily coaxed into shopping for things they don't need by a pleasant customer experience. Conversely, I am impressed by those ease-of-use experiences once I have made a decision to shop (digital coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond, digital commuter railroad tickets, purchasing with Apple Pay, etc.).As a consultant, I see that the younger generations will be the majority someday in the not-too-distant future, and so CX is definitely not wasted on them. Retailers whose product categories may appeal to a wide spectrum of age groups definitely have to keep the generational differences in mind when marketing to the wider audience. Not easy!
  • Posted on: 05/09/2017

    Should more brands offer rewards linked to store purchases?

    I have to agree with Gene Detroyer. The real benefit to the consumer is to make it easy (I like to use the word "elegant") for the consumer to have the grocery store purchase credited to the brand's loyalty program. That piece is going to take some standardization of data exchange between the supermarket industry and the brands that offer the loyalty programs. There are going to be choices to make, like who wants to participate in the many programs that will sprout. Good idea, still in its infancy. Needs maturity and sophistication.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2017

    Will retailers get cut out by consumers in the future economy?

    For as long as I remember, industry has turned to specialization. That means that for the most part, those who mine the diamonds don't sell the diamond rings. While in some product categories (as in the P&G example), it may make sense to sell D2C, in many other categories the manufacturer may not want to add a measure of distraction from manufacturing to wholesale distribution, or add retail or direct-to-consumer. In many cases, this kind of diversification can lead to diminished focus at the expense of all the business units. We have seen many companies drop a business segment "to concentrate on their core business." I predict that, as in many other cases, some manufacturers will bypass the retailer, some won't and some will and then return to pure manufacturing again.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2017

    Will consumers finally pay for service?

    Consumers are already expressing their desire (or lack thereof) to pay for service by selecting the retail establishments where they shop. The danger lies in reducing the service that customers came to expect from a specific retailer.

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