PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 04/27/2017

    Is Walmart’s Store No. 8 breaking boundaries or bonds with its core customers?

    Customers at all levels of the price-point spectrum are and will continue to use and embrace retailer innovation. What is notable is that Walmart is one of the retailers making this kind of investment into what is essentially R&D in order to compete better and maybe even get ahead of the competition.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2017

    Will 7-Eleven’s plan to deal with worker shortages in Japan migrate to America?

    Before the RFID concept makes its way to America, it has to succeed in Japan. RFID technology works well in certain categories and not so well in others (like a 16 oz. cup of Coke). While there are ways to work around the problems of RFID sensitivity, they will add cost to the process. The cost may be bearable in Japan as long as payroll costs are high, but that may not be the case in the U.S. Wait and see.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2017

    Can tailored digital video messaging transform grocery end-caps?

    Max is on the right track. Rather than the retailer being indebted to a specific brand or brands, the retailers themselves should implement the technology and promote the products they feel they should promote, when they want to promote them. This also offers a more level playing field to other brands, where there may be more margin for the retailer. How many brands can a retailer allow to take prominent space in their stores with such displays?
  • Posted on: 04/24/2017

    Should Bloomingdale’s sales associates receive commissions for online sales?

    The compensation paradigm is shifting and there is no perfect model in place. Retailers can test different approaches to see which appear to work best. But just as we have been suggesting that merchandising and marketing silos between channels need to be eliminated, so do compensation silos. The simplest model appears to be that some portion of all employees' compensation should be based on overall company performance and another portion based on either individual or individual channel performance.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Will Amazon’s on-demand manufacturing create trouble for fast-fashion?

    In categories such as bedding, curtains and towels, sizes are more standard than perfectly-fitting apparel and require less on-demand manufacturing. Customization such as a particular design or family initials are more appropriate for these categories. There is opportunity there like Things Remembered in the gifts category. In apparel, the need for a more customized fit presents a larger opportunity for on-demand manufacturing, a la Indochino in men's apparel. That model may prove very challenging to existing apparel retailers.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2017

    Will Chewy.com help PetSmart gobble up the online pet market?

    The acquisition of an e-commerce pure-play by a primarily brick-and-mortar retailer is a trend we have been seeing with a number other mergers, most recently with Walmart. This is an opportunity for PetSmart to gain e-commerce expertise and a large number of customers loyal to Chewy.com. It represents increased competition for PetSmart's rivals and an almost instant opportunity for PetSmart to improve its online presence without necessarily disrupting Chewy's brand. PetSmart should be careful not to destroy the brand value of Chewy.com in the process of acquiring it and its expertise.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Will image shopping jumpstart m-commerce?

    With certain growing demographics like Millennials and moving forward, this technology certainly has appeal and will garner increasing sales. The paradigm continues to shift to mobility-based applications, more instant gratification, easier navigability and, in the end, more efficient shopping.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2017

    Are retail CEOs ready to ‘disagree and commit’ like Jeff Bezos?

    I seriously doubt that many companies practice "disagree and commit." The company culture has to be one in which, if "disagree and commit" is allowed, and even encouraged, top management doesn't come back after a failure and fire those associated with the original idea. Nobody is going to want to take chances under those conditions.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2017

    What will retailers gain from HHGregg’s loss?

    The answer is in the numbers. Everyone will pick up some portion of the pie. But if the pie was not that big to start, the benefit can't be that significant. For Best Buy, who forecast flat sales, a 0.9 percent increase is a plus.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2017

    Can SpartanNash use BOPIS to take personalization to the next level?

    BOPIS can be more desirable in grocery than in other retail segments. You order your groceries (some are perishable) from wherever you are, you drive into the supermarket pickup area on your way home, you pick up your order and you make sure everything stays fresh as soon as you get home. In order for you to do this, the grocer has to know who you are and will know what you buy, when you buy it and what you don't buy that it would like you to buy. While it is not the only way to gain a path to personalization, it is certainly an effective way to enhance the personalization efforts. Grocers can accomplish similar objectives with the use of loyalty programs with those customers who don't shop online.
  • Posted on: 03/31/2017

    Is mobile POS largely about line-busting?

    Mobile POS or mPOS used as a line buster can certainly enhance the customer experience by quickly checking the customer out once the decision is reached to stop shopping. However, the ability for an associate to walk around with the customer, mPOS in hand, and make suggestions, cross-selling or up-selling can delay that decision to stop shopping and increase the size of the transaction.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2017

    Will personalized pricing end retailers’ use of dynamic pricing?

    Personalized pricing can potentially start a rebellion among consumers. When consumers start talking to each other about what they paid for the same product at the same outlet and find significant (or any) differences, there could be an uproar. It is as unsavory as finding out that the person sitting next to you on an airplane paid less than half of what you paid for the seat, although that is called dynamic pricing.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2017

    How can retailers foster staff enthusiasm for better customer experiences?

    I see two key elements. One is repeating the company mantra relentlessly from the top all the way down to the lowest levels of the organization (à la Starbucks). The other is for retailers to make an attempt to hire in their own image, that is, associates who already have an affinity for the product that the retailer is selling so there will be an emotional connection to the store, reflecting added enthusiasm for the job.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2017

    Lowe’s innovates because it has to

    Retailers traditionally have not been innovators when it comes to technology. It is long overdue and highly encouraging that retailers are investing in testing technology and concepts in their own environments. Eventually, those concepts that test well will be adopted by the industry as a whole. The important characteristic is that these concepts will have been developed by retailers, and in the retail environment, as opposed to solutions invented elsewhere looking for a problem to solve.
  • 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.

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