Paula Rosenblum

Managing Partner, RSR Research

Paula Rosenblum is co-founder and Managing Partner at RSR Research and is widely recognized as one of the industry’s top retail technology analysts. She was selected as one of the “Top 50 Retail Influencers” in 2013 and writes a weekly blog for Forbes. Previous to her 12 years as an analyst, she spent over 20 years as a retail technology executive and CIO at companies including Hit or Miss, Morse Shoe, Domain Home Fashions and others.

Paula received her MBA in 1991 from Northeastern University, with a major in management of High Technology firms and was nominated to the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. She’s active in a variety of organizations supporting human growth and development, and has been involved with the RetailROI charity since its earliest days.

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RSR Research blog

  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Has Gap finally turned its business around?

    A slowing in annual comparable sales declines is not a positive. Even a large single digit increase against such short numbers would be a bit suspect.Gap will achieve some kind of stasis when its store count finally gets small enough to match its market (which is significantly smaller than it used to be). Its styling seems to have gone back to its roots, which is a plus. At some point, the company will be right-sized, and then it can move forward. Not yet.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Will Dunnhumby’s analytics do for Whole Foods what it did for Kroger?

    I think Whole Foods is battling on multiple fronts. As I said the other day, I think the technology refresh currently underway is a very big deal ... especially price optimization. Dunnhumby will help some, but I just don't see it as quite the same as Kroger's problem.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    Lidl is ahead of schedule for U.S. store openings

    Not discussed here, but mentioned elsewhere was Lidl's observation that "American's don't like discount grocers." I think this is correct, and Aldi is tweaking its format as well.If Lidl can look more like Trader Joe's and less like a dollar store, they'll do well. I hope they've had "boots on the ground" here for a while. One of my Aldi observations is that their store locations aren't exactly right for the market they are going after. That's because they don't understand neighborhood nuances.I'd use a Miami example, but it will likely be lost unless you live here. But think about having a "good" postal code, but being in a "bad" neighborhood. That's what Aldi managed to do.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Is Amazon the most innovative company in retailing?

    I agree with Doug Garnett (bring on those dislikes for nay sayers!). They are innovative in some areas, but let's be realistic ... it's not rocket science to sell an enormous assortment at a loss. If any other retailer did that it would be called something other than "innovative."I had an epiphany yesterday as I was throwing away yet another mound of cardboard because Amazon had put the two litter boxes I ordered in two separate boxes instead of stacking them and putting them in one. Why doesn't Amazon use some of that great innovation power to develop a custom box die cutter? They waste so much money on excess packaging, and then sometimes pack boxes so full (if they can) that the items arrive damaged. Before they buy their own airline fleet, why not learn to create their own boxes? Honestly, they'll never make money the way they ship stuff today. Not today. Not ever.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2017

    Will Neiman Marcus find gold with its women’s plus-size pilot?

    Hmmmm, tough question. More than 65 percent of women wear size 14 and above. Many of them have real money to spend, and tend to be not terribly price conscious. They're just looking for something that fits well and looks good (without lions and large ugly flocking on the tops, please).Good God, what's taking so long?
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    How price competitive does Whole Foods need to be?

    Whole Foods has never been very adept at keeping prices low on easily recognizable and available items while keeping them high on their unique foods, vitamins, etc. I don't usually call technology a panacea but, in this case, I am hoping rolling out new technology helps them get better at this. When seltzer cost 50 percent more at Whole Foods than Publix (same brand ... same everything), even though it's short money, you notice.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2017

    Will in-home consults give Amazon the keys to the smart home market?

    I'm going to be a little snarky here. If Amazon's in-home consultants are as helpful and knowledgeable as their white glove electronics installation people, it will be a disaster.I bought a big flat screen TV from them and was told because I'd spent so much, I was entitled to "enhanced delivery services." I said "sure" because I have a rather complicated set up.What I got was two high school students who didn't even have a screw driver or a box cutter. They plugged it into the wall and said "It works" and then asked me if I would keep the packaging. (Uh, no!). I resolved in that moment to never buy a big-ticket item from them again. I would have rather spent $65 with Best Buy and had it done right.I think, assuming I actually needed help, I'd call Best Buy instead (or my local guy). I don't trust Amazon to hire, train and retain the right people.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Did President Trump go too far with his Nordstrom tweet?

    Square footage in stores and D.C.'s is valuable. If it doesn't sell, it's out.Worse, he a.) singled out Nordstrom and b.) retweeted from the official POTUS account. I think it's a litigation waiting to happen.It's also incredibly embarrassing to me as an American.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2017

    What will lower Valentine’s Day sales mean for retail?

    Hang on a sec. It's not like we are talking about the holiday season. Valentine's Day has never been a major retail holiday. In fact, I was in the party supply business before becoming an analyst and it was one of the least "interesting" events from a sales perspective. Some candy, some cards and a lot of flowers got sold.I'm sure it's good for the jewelry business but, again, I can't see it as a total barn burner.Net-net, I think this is much ado about not too much.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2017

    Is Macy’s about to be sold?

    I can appreciate Mr. Lundgren's concern with his activist investor. I've said before that if Amazon had one of those on its board, AWS would have been split out into another business already.But finding a buyer for a chain as large as Macy's? That's a tall order, and any buyer would likely be doing the same kind of real estate play.I really wish Macy's the best of luck in staying as it is.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2017

    Will free two-day shipping give Walmart an edge over Amazon?

    I think it just leveled the playing field a little. Two-day shipping is becoming table stakes. No advantage ... just an eliminated disadvantage.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2017

    Should Macy’s have never gone national?

    I never thought the consolidation under one banner was a great idea, but Terry Lundgren made it work for a decade. So I had to declare that I was wrong.I think a.) he deserves some kind of award for steering that ship as long as he did and b.) as Tom points out above, the whole sector has a problem. People simply don't want to shop "by brand by department" anymore. They prefer to shop by lifestyle.If I had an easy fix, I'd report it here. But I've worried about department stores since long before the Macy's consolidation. They have felt dinosaur-like for a very long time. The world has changed.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2017

    Should retail still be nervous about the cloud?

    Jeff is a good friend of mine, but I have to disagree with him on this one. The "cloud" is a delivery mechanism. It's not a "thing." Functionality is what matters, not the delivery mechanism.Plus, it is no small thing for retailers to move their IT expense from the CAPEX line (below the EBITDA) to an expense (affecting earnings).It's easy to say that retailers just don't want to let go of their hardware, but I think the issue is far more complex. Along with the expense issue I mentioned above, retailers tend to believe they need certain customizations (right or wrong). That's lost in the cloud. The frequency of updates, while ostensibly frictionless, can potentially have a lot of friction (this one is real).I have always believed that for the most part, cloud has been driven by investors and vendors, while retailers have resisted until they're running out of gas.Should retailers have concerns? Yeah, I do.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2017

    Will smartphone payment app help Target get turned around?

    It didn't make sense for retailers to develop their own payment apps three years ago and it doesn't today. Target has retail-specific issues to deal with: merchandise mix, out-of-stocks, loss in foot traffic, solving its grocery problem ...Many of these things could be solved with technology. Why they would choose to do this instead is beyond me. I mean, I get that all the members of MCX are trying to get some kind of value on their original investment, but there are just better things to do. Write it off and move on.The uptake of mobile payments, even when they're easy, has been slow. Why add another?
  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Is four-wall profitability still a relevant metric?

    Well, first of all, Ms. Serow may have "stolen" the idea from a UK retailer but Staples was doing something very similar in this very country more than 20 years ago.I always wondered how they were able to justify the economics of the box (store contribution) given that the stores were almost always empty. I discussed this with a friend from Staples and it turned out that catalog sales (which were not insignificant) from surrounding zip codes were attributed to the nearest store. I don't know where they fulfilled catalog orders from, but I do know the top line went to the stores.In other words, while omnichannel may be a relatively new term, in concept, any retailer that had catalogs and stores had similar issues a very long time ago.But to the question at hand: Yes, I think store contribution (or four-wall contribution, the term mentioned above) is indeed a valuable metric. Online operations are not terribly profitable for any retailer I can think of. Return rates, particularly in apparel and footwear, create chaos and expense across the entire enterprise. So in the end, I think stores are the vehicles that ARE driving retailer profitability. This is ironic, but true.The complexities of omnichannel don't really require new metrics in themselves. They require moving the data around in different ways and, unfortunately, keeping multiple sets of "books."As a clear example, we talk a lot at RSR about insuring that planning systems are seeded with data on where demand is generated, rather than where it is fulfilled. Doing this should reduce the amount of cross-channel fulfillment activities. Not doing it creates an endless cycle of buying the wrong product for the wrong place. And a majority of retailers are not doing it.So first things first. I don't know how you evaluate whether or not to open or re-model a store if you don't look at the amount of money it throws off for the enterprise. The question is, how do we make omnichannel more profitable as well?

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