Phil Chang

Retail Influencer, Hubba
As the Retail Industry Expert at Hubba, Phil is responsible for uncovering both emerging trends and insights that may impact businesses engaged in commerce. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Phil helps brands and retailers adapt to the the new realities of retail and the next generation of commerce. Phil is a frequent speaker at industry events in Canada and the US, across multiple verticals, and is a featured writer in trade publications such Retail TouchPoints, Pet Product News, BikeBiz, and more.

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  • Posted on: 02/16/2018

    For independent grocers, it’s innovate or die

    Indie retailers need to focus on curating products and creating a retail experience that makes the consumer trust them. As they see products pop up that fit their lifestyle and walk of life, that instills trust in the consumer that the indie retailer has their interests at heart. Trust becomes the currency for repeat purchases. This also takes you down a different path from big grocery. It won't be a hard place because the indie retailer will wind up with products that big grocers won't have. It's a great way to give your customer what they need and stay away from the race to the bottom on price.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2018

    Sam’s Club takes on Costco and Amazon with a new strategy

    This is probably more about trying to solidify and hold position than trying to challenge Costco or Amazon. In context, Sam's Club has 44 clubs in the U.S. and Costco has 514. They certainly can put pressure on Costco in the areas where they compete, but I think it'll be difficult to mount a full-on competitive challenge when distribution is that mismatched. As for Amazon -- I'm not sure they'll even notice. They offer all the same things; some pretty great Amazon-label brands, most with a free shipping option (membership fee excluded) and their Prime membership is far more compelling. Sam's Club had a role before -- Walmart needs to figure out how to make that story compelling again or there's more trouble in the future.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2018

    Diesel finds success with a real knockoffs pop-up

    It's cheeky and doesn't shy away from the bane of every big-name label. I like it because it's an authentic conversation to have with consumers and creates a point of differentiation between the actual fakes and the authentic product. Hopefully there was a ton of insights for the brand to takeaway from it as well. It's a great conversation starter -- if they carry this forward on social media, the engagement may well be worth it.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2018

    No joke – Walmart asks CPGs for higher priced products

    Walmart is also going to have to keep testing its "why." Why do I say that? because they're stuck between a rock (Amazon) and a hard place (Costco). The dynamics of pricing and profit only re-configure so many ways. Bigger packs and bigger dollar rings take them into Costco territory. In a lot of senses, Walmart worked themselves into this corner by seeking the lowest retail price in the market. I think what would probably make a better pitch to CPG companies is to get them to help Walmart up the value of the consumer's shopping basket so that deliveries are sizeable enough to offset the cost of the little items.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2018

    Will Office Depot’s BizBox become the go-to place for SMBs?

    Tough industry -- selling the product lines that constitute "office products" is a difficult path because many of them are so commodity-based. Having said that, I like the approach. I see a concerted effort to cater to a specific audience, creating value and experience in a physical space and providing the basis for a community to gather and work together. I think they've thought of this already but hosting meetup spaces for entrepreneurs in-store would further their approach here to make what they have a special space that will ultimately generate revenue. I can't wait to see how this plays out!
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Macy’s launches in-store pop-up concept for brands

    I think pop-ups will help with revenue and curation of products. In the new age of retail, right-sizing space is key -- we've talked about Kohl's doing this in a previous RetailWire discussion, so finding brands to entertain and delight customers is the next step. Curation is key here -- they're going to need to pick the right brands to draw traffic and keep it fresh so customers will come to see what's new and what they could potentially buy. This is could be a pivotal moment for Macy's -- gain the trust of consumers and they'll be able to translate these learnings into changing the rest of their business.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2018

    U.K. group has big plans for U.S. after buying Kroger’s c-stores

    Interesting twist. Clearly Kroger is trying to free up cash to "do something." I won't pretend to know what that is, except that it is changing its position from where it is now to something new. All of this feels a bit frenetic -- I thought that teaming up with Alibaba to make online/offline purchases more fluid would have lent itself to convenience stores and a more curated approach to its customers. I had hopes of a large Kroger multi-channel approach that would make every Kroger c-store a destination for pickups and local products. (Whole Foods left that wide open for you, Kroger!) Having said that, it's tough to be the largest grocery chain in the country and watch Amazon and Walmart encroach on their territory without making significant movement. I'm interested to see what comes next.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2018

    Amazon launches “$10 or Less” store

    It makes sense. Amazon is in the commodity game and certainly doing a very good job at it. Going after dollar stores is troublesome because they stand to wick away middle class shoppers looking to save on routine items. Having said that, I'm not forecasting the doom of dollar stores -- they have a significant position with an income class that may not have the ability to pay online, or be home to receive packages. I think that ultimately, $10 or Less plays the same role as the Target discount section at the front of the store -- maybe driving a bigger shopping basket, and helping the consumer feel like they got a little bit more for their money.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2018

    Should retailers ramp up investments in AI for employees?

    The new world of retail requires speed to market. For most retailers, this means executing initiatives in three to six months. I'd be using AI to find ways to cut that process down by half. Trends and micro-trends are going to be key to reinforcing your "why" to the right set of customers, and AI can help you do this. Retail has always been a fast paced business -- it just got faster.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2018

    Would a Kroger/Alibaba partnership make sense?

    The overseas play for Kroger makes some sense to me. We're probably going to talk about a lot of partnerships in the coming days, but the one thing to keep in mind is that today's retail is all about leaders. Retailers need to lead, not follow. The last 20 years have been about following, copying and repeating for success. The new consumer, the new age of retail, demands more from the players. You can't follow and build like partnerships ... copying and imitation isn't flattering and will get you nothing. You need to find your "why" and differentiate. Doing a partnership because everybody else is thinking about one isn't going to help you if your base proposition doesn't resonate.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2018

    Robots are not the answer to store challenges

    The term "robots" is probably what throws things off. I can see automation continuing to make the process of shipping and receiving more efficient, but I certainly can't see human-like robots doing things in-store for significantly cheaper anytime soon. (Maybe stocking, eventually? Or taking inventory?) I think my problem with human-like robots is that commodity-based buying is going online and probably becoming subscription-based. Robots won't be able to do experiential selling, so now we've got robots with no jobs!
  • Posted on: 01/26/2018

    Walmart 3-D image patent lets online shoppers pick their produce

    It's certainly going change the experience. Without seeing the technology in action, I have more questions. How long does it take to transmit pictures to/from the shopper to the consumer and back again? And if I'm buying a lot of produce, is this going to be laborious? As a consumer, am I going to want all these messages on my phone? What happens when I don't answer my phone? How long does a shopper wait? Lots of questions on execution, I know. I don't know if I want to look at all these pictures and answer messages for three or four apples. I think for all of that, I might just go to my local store and get produce.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2018

    Starbucks and Amazon go cashless in Seattle

    Cashless is going to be ubiquitous, but not anytime soon. Mobile pay has been slow to take and, while growing, doesn't look like it's going to overtake cash anytime soon. There are upsides to this -- it allows you to be able to put customers on lists right away and track purchase patterns. I understand the movement towards cashless. Having said that, the number of households in the U.S. that don't have a bank account sits around 7 percent, which as a percentage seems low, but is still 22 million households, not including individuals that aren't counted in "households." That makes for a considerable amount of folks to alienate by going cashless.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2018

    Is Macy’s heading for a rebound?

    A strong balance sheet says nothing except that you've got more runway to fail or succeed. Perhaps this means that Macy's has the luxury of taking its sweet time to figure out who they are. Based on the what we've seen from Macy's there's nothing to suggest that they are closer to knowing who they are. It's true they're doing some things that may make a difference, but a difference for who? The gap is still in understanding who the shopper is and why dining options make a difference to whoever that is. In another discussion this month, we talked about Kohl's doing something similar -- bringing in dining options to balance out stores that they right-sized. So are department stores just adding dining options now? I think Sears also had a restaurant in it -- and a really great balance sheet.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2018

    Is personalization the new loyalty?

    While personalization will help to retain customers and is the current "thing" to do, loyalty isn't earned through a tool. Loyalty programs, don't actually inspire loyalty -- they are a factor in decision making. When retailers make customer-centric decisions, that inspires loyalty. Points programs and personalization are just tools to help the consumer feel at home in your store. My advice to retailers is to make sure that tools stay nimble and useful as tools. Don't let it take over everything you do -- recognize when it stops being useful as a tool and move on!

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