PROFILE

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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  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    Will online sales redeem struggling brick and mortar retailers?

    The problem isn't the top line. It's the bottom line. Despite early conventional wisdom, store sales just cost less than direct sales. For companies like Macy's, part of it is the amount of inventory tied up in customers' homes that are on their way back, or coming back (return rates at 25 percent). The cost of fulfillment also is higher.So "redeem" is a funny word. It will support top lines but it doesn't solve a whole host of other problems like logistics, brand erosion and the race to the bottom.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2017

    Target gets creative help from Gen Z in new apparel line

    I think it's always important to get input from the actual generation you are designing for. The days of designers dictating what people/women/kids will wear are long behind us. There are no arbiters of taste anymore.Interestingly, we found in a soon-to-be-published survey that retailers don't even have the right talent in place to merchandise to Millennials. Their merchandising organizations are run by Generation X and, apparently, they mostly expect that their end-consumer (not necessarily buyer) is also Generation X.The net is retailers have a two-generation leap to make. That's why fast fashion is doing so well with Millennials -- those chains actually design for them. For everyone else, it's time to change.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2017

    Why does Gen Z like brick-and-mortar stores but not malls?

    There are some flaws in this report, as far as I can see. Are we seeing an upswing in the usage of cash? A parent can easily give his or her kid a debit card, or card with a daily limit.What the report seems to really be saying is that no market is infinite, and we may be starting to see a leveling out of online sales. Or it could be as simple as the fact that kids like to hang out and they're not as time-starved as older folks.How many ways can the same story be said? Department stores are boring. Specialty stores (excluding fast fashion for now) aren't much better. Products are very, very commoditized.It's time for retailers to reinvent the store and maybe try to reinvent the mall. Strip centers are dying, malls are dying, so what does that tell us? It's time to adapt and change. If malls are dying, by the way, why is it I can't even drive through the Aventura Mall area all winter? I think it's just time to keep up with generational and attitudinal shifts.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2017

    Sir Richard Branson at NRF: Are retailers looking outside the box?

    What Sir Richard has done is explain the power of a brand. I think an entrepreneurial spirit is part of what creates the brand, but right now too many retailers simply have very little brand equity to leverage.For example, bankrupt retail brand names like CompUSA and Linens N Things have been scooped up with attempted re-invention. The only one I can think of that's been remotely successful is Nordic Trak!On the flip side, Porsche has slapped its name on a building going up on Miami Beach. We know immediately what comes to mind when we think of a Porsche-branded condo tower. Comfort, luxury, sexiness ... to name a few characteristics.So I think there's a deeper issue that must be addressed first. Retailers must ask themselves what their brands stand for. Hopefully the answer rolls right off the tongue. Then start by licensing the brand in ONE key area to see how much equity there really is. I suspect in our era of commoditized retailing, too many find their answer will be "convenience and low price" and that is simply not a leverageable brand identity.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2017

    Will blending online/offline roles improve the Walmart customer experience?

    I think it's a great idea, and I think Mr. McMillon has it exactly right. I've seen it before -- e-commerce groups and store IT groups solving the same problem with two different solutions. This is inefficient in a lot of ways.At least in my view, there's nothing that "remains to be seen." That the customer expects a consistent experience across selling channels and that the money is being spent developing technologies and simplifying the IT stack are all pretty compelling reasons right there. Execution capabilities "remain to be seen" but that's a very separate issue.So congrats for doing the right thing.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2017

    Penney CEO says stores critical to omnichannel push

    I understand what he's saying. After all, you can't have "omnichannel" without stores. Then it's just digital channels. And what he says about profitability is completely true -- especially in the apparel business. It's hard to make money with return rates of 25 to 30 percent, and that's what happens in that sector. The fitting room is replaced by "let me buy it and return the stuff I don't like."The bigger question is, how does J.C. Penney stand out in the noise? How do its stores become more shoppable? That's the question for the entire industry, especially department stores.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    What do Millennials want in store design?

    Big box stores have the biggest problem here. It's not exactly personalization as described above, but more personal relevance.If I'm looking for a casual black shirt, I shouldn't have to wander around half the store exploring different brands. I should be able to go to the area that most closely matches my lifestyle and look at the black shirts.This is incredibly complicated to achieve for a variety of reasons, but it strikes me as a complete imperative. The rest of the items on the list are table stakes for any generation.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2017

    What would an American Apparel acquisition do for Amazon or Forever 21?

    Amazon needs a buy like this. I don't believe it has the time to build its own private label and American Apparel has a certain amount of brand equity and cachet in today's world. I don't think the brand does as much for Forever 21.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Will store closings and layoffs end Macy’s woes?

    Given the extreme amount of M&A Macy's has executed, it's a miracle all those stores lasted this long. As Bob points out, there are just too many of them. Omnichannel is a tiny piece of a puzzle that says "This chain is too big." Truthfully, Terry Lundgren deserves some kind of award for keeping them going this long!
  • Posted on: 01/03/2017

    Should Costco raise its membership fees?

    At the moment Costco is in a good position to increase fees, but I also think it needs to get its omnichannel act together with the proceeds. That's where the threat from Amazon comes in. A treasure hunt model is fine, as long as the hunt is consistent between online and stores.Costco has a lot of customer and employee good will. That's very important. And its return policies are easy enough regardless of where the product was bought. But the buying process has to get easier.Then, sure! Raise the price. It's still half the cost of Prime, and Costco can be fun.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2016

    How can the retail job market survive the AI revolution?

    I'm not sure I'm quite buying into this one yet. Just like I haven't seen a lot of impact from data mining, I'm not sure we'll see the wholesale replacement of jobs by AI. Assisting workers maybe. Replacing them? Nothing creeps me out more than a robo-call or a robo-answer-bot on a website.
  • Posted on: 12/22/2016

    Are retailers over-promising last-minute BOPIS?

    As long as they're sure, sure, sure that they can fulfill the promise (that the product is in-stock), I think it's fine. It gets people into the store, saves on shipping costs and allows for impulse buys. I think it's great.But retailers across all verticals keep telling us they don't have full visibility into what their inventory is at any moment in time.So I guess it's a good news/bad news scenario. If they are sure they have enough inventory to fulfill their promise on Christmas Eve, then they likely bought too much. If they're not sure, best not to play at all.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2016

    Will fast beauty be the new fast fashion?

    Clothes are one thing -- cosmetics are another. First of all, unless we completely deregulate everything, they require a certain level of testing -- more rigorous than clothes. That is both slow and costly.Second of all, they require that testing for a reason -- people can be allergic to stuff that they put on their face and eyes. And it can vary from color to color.I suppose there will be a market, but the risk of lawsuits from the parents of the teenagers wearing this stuff is enormous.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2016

    Will a higher minimum wage translate to better service levels?

    I think Walmart has already demonstrated that raising the base pay of the in-store work force does indeed improve service. So does treating workers like human beings. And actually spending time training them.Here's the thing: retailers must do something to improve the in-store experience. Otherwise they're going to find their stores are ghost towns. Who needs the grief? So it's time to get on with it -- experimenting and tweaking and re-visioning what the experience is supposed to be.The incoming administration may be opposed to legislating it, but that administration will also not be able to legislate shoppers to enter stores where the help is indifferent or worse.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2016

    Did retailers doom their holidays with deep discounts?

    Well, in my view it starts with better buying and less inventory. If you have just enough of the products shoppers want to buy, you won't be driven wacky trying to insure you get the product out the door.Once in season, it's pretty important for retailers not to panic. When pre-season planning happens, there's an expected gross margin and also a planned promotional cadence. But somewhere around December 10 through December 13, panic sets in and the bigger discounts get offered.I really believe that consumers know there will always be more of what they want and if the local retailer doesn't have it, Amazon will. But that just means retailers aren't doing a great job of buying. Buy smarter, buy better, buy less and shoot for a gross margin dollar target, not percentage.But I have to believe you guys know that already -- so perhaps it's just a matter of discipline to do the right thing.

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