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: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    I've always thought that Amazon was a bigger threat to Costco than to other grocers and general merchandise stores. When you buy something like spray cleaner online from Amazon, you get Costco-sized containers, i.e. two or more strapped together, rather than single units.There's no doubt that sooner or later Costco is going to have to synchronize its stores and online offerings but, in the meanwhile, it needs to maintain its image as the low-cost provider.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    Will Amazon Prime Wardrobe change how Americans shop for clothes?

    Call me a curmudgeon, but I just see it as a defensive play with some (obviously) great PR thrown in. We know that return rates for apparel are above 30 percent on average. I've heard rumors (no, I have no real source) that Amazon's apparel return rates are at 35 percent. So why deal with all the credit card processing fees twice? Why not just process the cards once, accept the returns and be done with it?I don't see this as being disruptive or long-term profitable. In the end, apparel may be the next brick-and-mortar buy Amazon makes.Or call me a curmudgeon!
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

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

    Our data tells us that cost is always #1 -- the store multiplier effect always dampens in-store investments. Second is the distraction factor. Third is the fact that retailers aren't so willing to train associates in the first place, so why give them more tools that they'll ask questions about?All this MUST change, and I suspect it will, but it's going to be challenging to get there.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    Are consumers ready to use automated purchasing tech on a wide scale?

    Here's the problem ... when companies are changing prices on an item on a regular basis, I don't feel I can trust just pushing a Dash button. I need some kind of confirmation that the price is what I paid last time. Hopefully Alexa and other voice-based systems are capable of answering the question "Is the price the same as I paid last time?" A Dash button is not capable of this and neither is a refrigerator.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Can fitness centers save malls?

    It seems that various malls are finding creative ways to become more relevant again. I think fitness centers might be okay, and hard goods and durable goods are projected to continue their upward sales trajectory for some time.The main flaw with that "25 percent of malls closing" clickbait is that it drew a straight line between trouble with broadlines (typical anchors) and closing malls. There are definitely alternatives to draw traffic to the mall. The mall operators' job is to find different kinds of traffic pulls. One size will not fit all, or we'll be right back where we started from.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2017

    Would Nordstrom be better off private?

    Some of the research briefs I've read by "Street analysts" lately tell me that they are largely ignorant of the real necessities and dynamics in the retail market. When comp sales growth and square footage growth are driving their agenda and someone makes the decision that omnichannel investments are a bad idea, it's a pretty good indicator that, if you can, it's a good idea to go private, bring your money home in wheelbarrows and have an easier time of it.I think Nordstrom was driven to over-expand by the Street and now, no surprise, its comps have declined. Absent the need for public capital, the company would be better served to go private.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    What does it take for retailers to thrive amid shifting consumer preferences?

    I take the word "experience" to also mean "be specific" -- the reason department stores are so challenged right now (well, one of them) is that they are not at all specific. They're general stores for clothes. "Lifestyle pods" would work so much better than "departments" and brands. At least that's what I think.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Has produce-selling Dollar General become a real threat to traditional grocers?

    I am not a big fan of retailers adding food as a traffic driver -- because the margins are so weak and I just don't see it as having done all that much for Target, for example.Having said that, with Aldi and Lidl coming I think dollar stores have to protect their own baskets. I don't see this as an offensive move against Walmart. I see this as a defensive move against the new players coming in.But I guess I'll say one more time -- not all traffic is profitable traffic.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2017

    Are retailers selling their souls and giving away customers to Amazon?

    Interesting question. I keep wondering why retailers are okay with their tech vendors hosting their apps on AWS for the same reason. AWS is the profit engine of Amazon. If it wasn't there, I think shareholders would be more impatient.I think it's a statement of strength on the part of the retailer. It's time to stop running scared.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Are off-pricers immune to apparel’s challenges?

    I think it's a different customer, a different experience and a whole different set of expectations than fast fashion. I believe the availability of merchandise is secondary to the treasure hunt shopping experience. There will always be extra product. That's just the way these things work. Sell-through is never meant to be 100 percent, and if a manufacturer can sell direct to the off-price guys at a slightly lower margin later in the season, that's better than not selling anything at all.I don't see any impact at all.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Is a self-service model Macy’s ticket to success?

    This is almost embarrassing. When you see how efficiently a Nike store can use technology to provide genuine customer service, the notion of self-service in Macy's is yet another prescription for failure.Why would you schlep to Macy's to self-serve when you could do the same, for less money and hassle, at a DSW or Famous Footwear?Bad move.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2017

    Is Dick’s Sporting Goods smart to wait on more retail failures before opening new stores?

    I'm surprised they just didn't do what they needed to do expansion-wise and put clauses in the leases tied to current average rents. In other words, create annual or every-other-year reviews.One thing is for sure -- the retailer is holding the power right now, especially in strip centers. I know one of Dick's finance executives really well. I know he would have thought about doing that. Of course retail is overbuilt. Of course lease prices are going to come down. But everything is a negotiation. I think there's something else at play here.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2017

    Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl?

    God, I found the Aldi shopping experience completely awful. I must have a bad one near me.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2017

    Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl?

    I can't figure out why they're worried about Aldi. I have been unimpressed with that chain. I have not seen a Lidl yet. All I can figure is that they're worried about yet another type of retailer nibbling at the edges of their market basket, much like dollar stores have.It's worth mentioning that the dollar store format isn't quite as popular in the U.K. I'm not sure it even exists. So the grocery market was riper for disruption than the U.S. market is.I just don't get it and look forward to what others have to say.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2017

    Are digital CX initiatives being lost on Baby Boomers?

    Mark Ryski has it exactly right. Just because more Millennials than Baby Boomers are aware of digital technologies doesn't mean they use them. It may be that Millennials have also experimented with them and found them lacking.

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