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: 08/26/2016

    Are wearables on the way out?

    I think we have to separate wearable technology in general from the specifics of the Apple Watch and Fitbit-type devices.I'm not sure why anyone thought there would be a huge market for the Apple Watch. It just doesn't do enough. And the Fitbit has its advocates, but the market is not in younger folks, it's in older ones. So, yes, this market may well be rendered interesting mostly to older people.But it's early. We're defining wearables very narrowly. What about a wearable projection screen (for example)? No other screen needed. Or a projected keyboard (save the thumbs!)? The ability to make these types of devices functional is partly based on Moore's Law and partly based on finding better battery life or power sources.I'm not giving up on wearables, but I do reject their current definition.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2016

    Can Best Buy build momentum with new services and IoT?

    I think IoT gives Best Buy a great opportunity to shine. The company has set the table with amped-up customer service in stores and sharp prices online. In-home services will be a great differentiator.I think it's a win.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will Amazon drive-up grocery stores disrupt food retailing?

    I thought that grocery delivery (and curbside pickup) had a definite market ... just a profitability problem. Now, I'm not so sure.I mean for paper towels and laundry detergent, sure ... delivery works great. But there's something that doesn't feel right about having someone else pick out your produce. Plus, those impulse buys actually add some value to customers.So maybe Amazon will try it, but I'm not sure it will be any more successful than Target was with curbside delivery.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Have consumers accepted dynamic pricing?

    I think the answer really does depend on your definition of "dynamic pricing." IF you mean changing prices mid-day, I have very little evidence that it actually happens.If you mean charging different prices to different segments of people, everyone (consumers) hates it and no one knows what to do about it. However, eventually some retailers will start guaranteeing that they DON'T do it (think Publix ... no loyalty pricing) and consumers will get their revenge.It's really a bad idea unless you have the equivalent of a cartel, like the airline industry.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Is Walmart passing its crime buck to local governments?

    Cathy has it exactly right. An article in Bloomberg (I think) in late 2015 estimated that taxpayers foot $153 billion in public assistance bills for them. It's time to force the issue.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2016

    Does Millennials’ credit card wariness spell trouble for retail?

    Well, a picture has been developing of the Millennial, and it speaks to a smaller retail environment:
    • Value over conspicuous consumption;
    • Experiences over things;
    • No interest in building debt (good for them!);
    • A desire for more curated assortments, not a broad array of stuff they don't care about.
    I think this speaks to fewer stores, a shrinking landscape, continued success in fast-fashion and smaller-footprint grocery stores. It doesn't bode well for big box retailers of all shapes and sizes.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Where would J.C. Penney be without Sears?

    I think J.C. Penney is just regaining the business it lost under Ron Johnson. Any additional business it gains from the demise (in slow motion) of Sears is just a plus. I don't think the company has even returned to its 2011 sales levels, so it's fair to say it's just drawing back its old customers, to the detriment of Kohls and probably, to a lesser extent, Macy's.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2016

    Is brick & mortar ready to leverage in-store shopper data?

    This technology has been around for a while and it always seemed like a natural thing for retailers to do.BUT ... the store multiplier makes the task more capital-intensive than retailers are willing to bite into.For what it's worth, I don't agree with the statement that "most retailers manage their business at a category level." While this is true with regard to open-to-buy, in fact, some sectors are far more item-specific than others. The one that comes immediately to mind is shoes -- right down to the color level. There are other verticals where the same is true. To use a grocery phrase, items are not "fungible" in most retail segments.So while I agree that retailers should use insights in stores, I disagree with the reasons given. Sadly, it's mostly all about the Benjamins and, secondarily, it's about retailers' inability to sift through the massive amounts of data that now threaten to bury them.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2016

    Will CVS succeed as it joins the mobile payment fray?

    Ken has it exactly right. Take Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Neither requires an app. All CVS is trying to do is leverage the bad investment they made in MCX.Consumers still don't care. It doesn't solve anything for them.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2016

    Can (should) brands do without department stores?

    Department stores have to change their layouts to become more consumer-friendly, and their current contracts with brands make that very difficult. Right now, a brand is grouped together (by gender). This may be good for the brand, but it's not very good for the department store.To stem defections, I think department stores have to thoroughly rethink how they want to do business and how they want to present product to consumers. This may create conflict with brands, but I think that conflict is inevitable anyway.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Are loss leaders a losing proposition for stores?

    Loss leaders have been around forever, and smart retailers know the stores where shoppers are most likely to cherry pick. In the case of online, they know their names too!They'll always be a useful tool. What hasn't been terribly useful are frenetic promotions tied to holidays or random "Take everything off everything in X" days.Loss leaders are good. Turning the whole store into a loss leader, not so much.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2016

    Would Walmart + be an Amazon killer?

    I think it makes a ton of business sense, but more because Walmart buys a legitimate marketplace than because of the new categories and, even more importantly, it buys the algorithm.I don't think a lot of people understand what the algorithm does ... it calculates optimal distribution points and adjusts shipping charges accordingly. That's a very short description of a very complex thing.So I think it's a good move that poises Walmart for better growth potential than it has solely with
  • Posted on: 08/02/2016

    Is Grocery Outlet on its way to becoming the TJX of grocers?

    I don't think there's a big market here. We already have dollar stores moving into food and Aldi growing across the country for price-sensitive shoppers.Other shoppers tend to be more interested in the "healthy" value of their food along with price. I see better growth potential in organic and locally-curated assortments at a good price. "Irregulars" (as we used to call them in the rag trade) don't seem to translate well to food.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2016

    Walmart’s CMO talks time, money and message

    I'm happy to see more signs that the race to the bottom is coming to an end.Walmart's challenge in proving itself convenient is the sheer size of its stores. If customers can order ahead and just pick up in the parking lot it may well improve its sales, or at least keep up with others. No one can compete on price alone forever, and what used to be convenient (one-stop shopping) is now not so convenient at all. Too big, too much.Still, I think this is a good move on their part. Consider Publix. Half their commercials focus on price, the other half on "Publix ... where shopping is a pleasure." Now, it's not all that, but the imagery sticks.So I voted 50/50.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2016

    Has Nordstrom lost its customer experience edge?

    I think Nordstrom is becoming a victim of its own mass. I think it over-expanded and just has too many doors. The good news is, 20 percent of its sales come from online. The bad news is that store growth is flat. I look at Miami Metro, where Nordstrom has three major stores. It really only needed two. I'm sure this is replicated other places. So it may partly be the customer experience, it may be that some of its customers are aging out, but it's also simply that it just has too many stores.

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