PROFILE

Ken Morris

Principal, Boston Retail Partners

Ken 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.

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  • Posted on: 11/22/2017

    Amazon launches exclusive with Calvin Klein

    Amazon has made its intentions about expanding its market share in fashion quite clear and this validates this mission. While fashion brands want to protect the brand and initially resisted selling through Amazon, many are now jumping in, as the revenue opportunities are quite attractive. This approach is a good way for Amazon to accelerate their path to change consumers’ perception and become the starting point for fashion merchandise searches – just like they are for other product searches. Fashion brands should be cautious, as what starts out with an exclusive product play may evolve to something much more than that. Amazon has disrupted other categories, such as electronics and department stores, and they have the power to do the same thing in fashion. Amazon has already launched private label brands and now has exclusive premium brand apparel. If I were an apparel retailer, I would be very afraid....
  • Posted on: 11/20/2017

    Who will be left standing after the next retail shakeout?

    The retailers that survive will be the ones that focus on the best mix of strategies as well as establishing a BRAND. From a Discount (D) or price perspective, retailers don’t necessarily need to be the lowest price or need to match Amazon, if they have a differentiated product (BRAND) or service level.I see the brand as critical to survival. The best brands in the world today frequently don't have discounts, convenience or third wave but they have a brand people want and will pay full price for. Long term survival requires the need to embrace at least the convenience strategy. Convenience (C) is crucial for the success of every retailer. A frictionless and easy shopping and buying process is imperative. I think Personalization may be a better descriptor than Third Wave (TW), but however you describe it, retailers need to adapt their model to what consumers want. Of the three strategies, Personalization will be the most important way to attract and keep customers for the long term. The challenge for retailers is to keep up with the rapidly changing customer expectations. This requires retailers to transform their business – and quickly!
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Is private label grocery about to go to the next level?

    With very small margins, grocery is one of the most competitive categories in retail. Many grocery chains have established private label brands to maximize margins and some have done it to differentiate their brand. More consumers are accepting private label brands as they recognize that the quality is often just as good if not better than manufacturers’ branded products. Costco’s Kirkland brand represents 25% of their sales and consumers recognize it for its reasonable prices and trusted quality. Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand and the Trader Joe’s branded products have also been embraced by a large base of loyal customers. They key to success of private label brands it to establish a brand positioning that will resonate with your customers. While big brands are often disintermediated by the private label brands which erode their brand equity, big brands are not always losing revenues as they are often the manufacturer of the private label brands. Retailers will establish their brand and increase margin with private label because manufacturers are squeezing them on margin every day.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2017

    Tech lets gift receivers decide what they get for Christmas

    GiftNow is a great way for shoppers to avoid the uncomfortable experience of buying a gift for someone and having it be the wrong size, color or style. For retailers that offer this service, it is another way to attract customers that value this new approach to gift giving.While GiftNow will likely be used more frequently online, sales associates may recommend this service if a shopper can’t decide on the perfect gift or don’t know exactly what the recipient likes. Since it is an electronically delivered gift, it is more conducive for gift giving that is not in-person.Another twist on this approach would be to develop a service where the recipients register with various brands and create wish lists or “like” items on the retailers’ website that can be “shared” with, or viewed by, gift givers. That way the shopper buys the perfect gift and it works very well for gifts that are given in-person. Just a thought.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2017

    Walmart’s online prices drive customers to its supercenters

    From an online perspective, Amazon is absolutely Walmart's biggest competitor. According to industry studies, more than 50% of consumers start their product searches on Amazon. Walmart would like consumers to think of Walmart.com as their product search starting point. Therefore, highlighting special price discounts for items picked up in the store (avoiding shipping costs) that are just as competitive or lower than Amazon’s prices is a smart strategy. The other huge benefit of steering customers to BOPIS purchases is the bump on in-store add-on sales driven by the number of customers that purchased online and picked up in the store. When the customers visit the store to pick up their online purchases they are likely to purchase additional impulse items while they are there. Walmart’s Mobile Express Returns program that enables customers to efficiently return online ordered products at the store is another tool to bring customers into their stores. With 90 percent of the U.S. population living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, it is their biggest competitive advantage over Amazon. I wouldn’t be surprised if other retailers follow Walmart’s lead on the dual prices showing the cost savings for picking-up online ordered items in the store. It is just another arrow in the quiver of Brick and Mortar to fend off online pure play.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2017

    Why is it so hard to get retail associates to upsell?

    Managers need to do three things to improve store associates’ upselling success: hire people with the right personality, educate them on the value it provides to customers and make it easier with the right tools. It takes the right people, process and technology. People: The first step is hiring people that are outgoing and understand that upselling is a value-added service that may ultimately increase customer satisfaction by helping them select the product that is best for them. Offering customers good, better, best options, which often results in an up-sell to the “best” option helps customer make more educated purchase decisions. Process: Once you overcome the mental resistance, you also need to make it easy for sales associates to up-sell. Teaching employees the best practices of an “A” employee can turn “B” and “C” level employees into “A” employees. With real-time access to information on a customer’s preferences and what’s in their closet, combined with product options, enable associates to truly offer a value-added service. Technology: It is impossible for employees to memorize everything. Equipping them with a mobile device with alerts to remind them and offering easy explanations on the benefits of upgrading to premium options will increase the frequency of up-selling.
  • Posted on: 11/03/2017

    Large brands and retailers expand the subscription economy

    Beyond the obvious motivator of increasing revenues on a reoccurring basis, many retailers are launching subscription-based programs to increase customer loyalty and accelerate the introduction and adoption of new products. Monthly subscriptions that are well executed are ones that curate the right products based on the unique preferences of each customer instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. This is personalization on steroids. With subscription services, retailers have the opportunity to develop an extensive profile of each customer to truly know their customers. The challenge with subscription services is for brands to keep customers as members as long as they can before they become disinterested. Consumable products are likely candidates for long-term subscription membership, as we need these products every month. The IoT will be a key component in the consumable space and to me provide the best opportunity for success.Fast fashion is another good category, as consumers that value variety in their wardrobe may keep their membership longer to keep getting the latest fashions.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2017

    Walmart plans to party hardy throughout the holidays

    Walmart’s in-store parties and demonstration events are a great way to increase store traffic and sales. Consumers love the theater of shopping and getting kids excited about the latest new toys will spur more items from Walmart on Christmas wish lists and ultimately result in incremental sales for Walmart. With 90% of the US population living within a 10 mile radius of a Walmart, this should increase traffic significantly. Maybe it is back to the future for children's toys. When I was a child the place you went was the department store where the toys where showcased and you clamored for your parents to take you to see the show. The multiple themed events will bring shoppers to Walmart several times during the holiday shopping season. The more often you can get customers to visit your store, the more selling opportunities it creates. This is another smart move by Walmart to take advantage of its stores to fend off Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2017

    Walmart plans to party hardy throughout the holidays

    Walmart’s in-store parties and demonstration events are a great way to increase store traffic and sales. Consumers love the theater of shopping and getting kids excited about the latest new toys will spur more items from Walmart on Christmas wish lists and will ultimately result in incremental sales for Walmart.The multiple themed events will bring shoppers to Walmart several times during the holiday shopping season. The more often you can get customers to visit your store, the more selling opportunities it creates. This is another smart move by Walmart to take advantage of its stores to fend off Amazon.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2017

    Is inventory or staffing the biggest omnichannel challenge for stores?

    Inventory visibility and staffing/processes are both big challenges in properly executing BOPIS. The one that is the greatest challenge depends on the retailer’s technology infrastructure and the quality of their employees. Without the right technology to enable enterprise inventory visibility, retailers can’t even offer BOPIS to their customers. And if the inventory visibility is not accurate, it presents other big problems -- dissatisfied customers. Understanding inventory in real-time makes BOPIS possible, but the technology is only one leg of the stool. The others are people and process and if you don't do all three well, execution will suffer. In many cases, training sales associates on new processes is a challenge, especially in stores where the associates are on commission and fulfilling a BOPIS order doesn’t help their commissions. Retailers need to refine their processes (including compensation plans) and train their associates to improve the efficiency of BOPIS. It needs to be a priority -- beyond special parking spots and pick-up counters.
  • Posted on: 10/27/2017

    When are text messages welcome from retailers?

    The best way for retailers to know what type of messages will be welcomed by their customers is to ask them. Everyone has their own preferences and it is best to respect the wishes of individual customers. As a general rule, consumers are most interested in getting order status and delivery updates on products they have purchased -- especially if it is a high-ticket item or one that requires a person to be home when the product is delivered. While a lot of people don’t want to be bothered with texts of promotions or special offers, some loyal customers may value these texts. As more and more retailers move to a real-time retail paradigm, contextual offers like discounts on umbrellas when it is raining in NYC will be welcomed with open arms. The key is to customize your communications plan to individual preferences.Just because you can doesn't mean you should!
  • Posted on: 10/24/2017

    Can Barneys tap into ‘drop’ culture?

    The exclusivity of product drops is very appealing to younger Millennials who are active on social media. Owning a sought-after exclusive product that they can show on social media creates admiration from their network of social friends and elevates their status. The addition of celebrity events included in the “[email protected]” campaign creates excitement and buzz that appeals to consumers’ love of the theater of shopping. Retailers are looking for ways to attract more consumers to their physical stores and making shopping fun and exciting is definitely a smart strategy and a trend that will continue to evolve with new creative approaches that tap into the theater of shopping. The key is to make shopping fun, unique and memorable. This curated concept will play well everywhere.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2017

    Will in-store clienteling aid Neiman Marcus’ digital push?

    In many cases, the physical store is falling short of meeting customer expectations for personalization that been reshaped by their digital retail experience. As consumers “check-in” on retailers’ e-commerce and mobile sites, they automatically receive personalized offers and recommendations based on their purchase and browsing history. However, most shoppers are still anonymous when shopping in a physical store so they don’t get the same level of personalized service. Putting mobile devices in the hands of store associates enables visibility to inventory (enterprise-wide) and customer data (purchase history, personal information, preferences, etc.) to deliver highly personalized customer experiences and timely follow-up communication with customers. To be effective, these tools can’t operate with yesterday’s information – they need real-time data, context and analytics. Many retailers have been slow to adopt these powerful mobile tools for their associates due to several challenges and obstacles that get in the way -- other urgent priorities (e.g. payment security), lack of real-time visibility of customer and inventory information across all channels (e.g. disparate, decentralized systems) and lack of budget to purchase mobile devices and software. The key here is to not only have the information available but to operationalize it and weave it seamlessly into the customer/associate experience.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2017

    Walmart to open web mall with Lord & Taylor as an anchor

    Walmart is aggressively trying to play catch-up with Amazon by expanding its product breath on its online marketplace. We will likely see a lot of other retailers added to its web mall – retailers that offer products not currently available at Walmart. While it is a potentially risky move for Lord & Taylor from a brand image perspective to be associated with Walmart, they expect to capture incremental sales with online exposure to a wider audience. Online marketplaces are making shopping convenient for consumers. If they can go to one website and compare prices across several retail offerings, it makes shopping easy and they feel like they are getting the best price. According to industry studies, more than 50% of consumers start their product searches on Amazon. Walmart would like consumers to think of its web mall as their product search starting point. The battle between Amazon and Walmart is heating up!
  • Posted on: 10/19/2017

    E-commerce chief expects Walmart to ‘crush it’ over next two years

    Scale is a big advantage in retail, as it offers significant competitive differentiation with lower costs and prices. Walmart has been laser-focused on expanding its e-commerce revenues through acquisitions, like Jet.com, and investing in Walmart.com with more capabilities and increasing its product breadth. They have also enhanced their omnichannel capabilities by offering more cross-channel capabilities such as buy online, pick-up in the store.Using their stores as distribution centers for online transactions is a huge advantage, as they have a store within 10 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population. Expanding the seller base on Walmart Marketplace is another opportunity area for Walmart to increase its e-commerce growth.Regarding future technologies, voice-assisted shopping, AI, VR an AR will all play a role in the future growth of online sales for Walmart and other retailers. The key is finding ways to truly personalize the shopping experience with these technologies to drive broad adoption, instead of merely deploying them as a novel idea.

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