PROFILE

Ron Margulis

Managing Director, RAM Communications
Ronald Margulis is Managing Director of RAM Communications, a public relations firm based in Cranford, NJ. RAM Communications provides media relations counseling, trade marketing and communications support to clients in the retail, transportation, manufacturing and technology industries. Among the services offered are media relations, information sourcing, speech writing, issue research and analysis, editorial and design analysis, newsletter publishing, presentation and video scripting, marketing brochure and training manual production, focus groups and meeting planning.

With more than 1,000 articles published, Margulis is also an accredited journalist. His writings on the food, retail, tobacco, information technology and transportation industries have appeared in Canadian Business, Chicago Tribune, Cigar Magazine, Computerworld, Convenience Store News, Distribution Channels, Executive Technology, FT.com, Food Arts, Forbes, ID, Sales & Marketing, Shipping Digest, Supermarket News, Washington Times and several other newspapers and magazines. As an editor and reporter, he has interviewed more than 50 CEOs of leading global companies and dozens of government officials including four US Cabinet Secretaries, the Governor of the Bank of England and the Treasurer of Australia.

Margulis has won numerous awards for his writing, has written more than one dozen industry reports/white papers and is contributing editor of three professional reference books. He has been quoted in several leading newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Philadelphia Inquirer and Smart Money, on topics ranging from technology to crisis communications, and has been featured on Bloomberg Radio, Talk Canada, Westwood One and National Public Radio. He has spoken at numerous business and academic conferences, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America.

Margulis graduated with honors from George Washington University, earned an MBA in economics from New York University and studied journalism at University of London. The son and grandson of supermarket operators, he also completed a management training internship and meat cutter’s apprenticeship at Wakefern Food Corp. (Shop-Rite Supermarkets).

Margulis is married to Patricia Paul, an artist. They live in New Jersey with their daughter Elena. His recreational activities and hobbies include fencing (President, Westfield Fencing Club), hiking, skiing, reading, cooking and map collecting
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  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    Does Neiman Marcus make sense for Hudson’s Bay?

    I’ve been impressed with what Richard Baker and the folks at NRDC have done with the banners they’ve acquired so far, so I have no reason to believe they won’t be able to revitalize Neiman Marcus. One of the hidden gems in the NRDC/Hudson’s Bay portfolio is the expanding number of digital properties they support, including the Guilt Group. Neiman will fit in very well with the other properties and synergies will occur on the digital side especially.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

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

    Lidl will make a big splash in the U.S. Their stores fill an important niche in Europe and they’ll do the same here. They aren’t Aldi and don’t have that deep-discount image that might inhibit a good chunk of shoppers from even trying it. They aren’t Fresh & Easy, which tried to push an unneeded and unwanted format. What they are is curious. They have taken their time to understand the marketplace and the opportunities available. I ran into Lidl researchers at trade events more than four years ago -- they didn’t identify themselves as such, but it was clear who they were.I’ve visited Lidl stores in Germany, Holland, UK, Switzerland and Ireland. They are all different, trying to appeal to specific market demographics. Even within countries, there are assortment and merchandising nuances in the stores to address regional desires. In this way, they are really like Kroger.At the recent FMI Midwinter conference, I asked the president of one of the leading supermarket operators on the East Coast about Lidl and he said they have been planning to compete head-on with them for more than a year. That’s the attitude needed to meet the challenge Lidl will present in the markets they enter. Lidl isn’t a wallflower -- grocers need to take notice and up their game.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2017

    Has eBay found its retail place online?

    eBay has a nice foothold in the heartland and hasn’t turned off the all-important Millennials, which is a real risk for Amazon. It still is one of the first ecommerce sites visited by many new internet users. The company has an amazing database of members and products, and a multi-faceted business model that customers trust won’t rip them off. I’d like to see them do a bit more advertising and get more creative with customer outreach, but overall they’re on a positive trajectory.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2017

    Are reports on the death of newspapers greatly exaggerated?

    The transition to digital will differ by retail vertical. I’m frankly surprised there are consumer electronics retailers still printing circulars. The only reason must be they can’t find an equivalent number/quality of emails to distribute a digital version. For grocers, drug stores and DIY chains, there are several years of print ahead. A large section of those audiences still expect a circular every week and build their shopping lists accordingly. An interesting question is apparel. This may work itself out as department stores appealing to the masses are required to go more digital to compete with Amazon and the like.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    What do Millennials want in store design?

    Technological engagement is a must. Having free Wi-Fi is mandatory, but beyond that retailers need to make the jump from the smartphone to the store practical and appealing. And they have to do this without getting too dodgy or intrusive. Millennials can smell fake a mile away.A few examples:
    • Use beacons connected to the retailers app to create cross-selling opportunities.
    • Use the data collected so an item that several local shoppers have been researching online can be highlighted in the store.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Will Millennials lead a resurgence in home cooking?

    I sure hope so. The economic and cultural indicators suggest they will. Convenience is only part of the key for grocers. The value-adds like having recipes that provide enough for the evening meal and leftovers for the next day’s lunch are also important, as is storytelling (this recipe comes from someone’s great aunt in Sweden) and learnings (this is how you marinade a skirt steak).Anecdotally, my college-age daughter took a genuine interest in watching me cook over the recent winter break. I take that as a good sign.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2016

    Will online grocery gain traction in 2017?

    For years I have been relating the analogy of the milkman in this space to describe the challenges of last-mile delivery. Most of us born in the '60s or before remember getting milk delivered to our homes once or twice a week. Gradually, however, shoppers began buying their milk and other dairy products from supermarkets and convenience stores, and the milkman was delivering to fewer and fewer homes. At some point, perhaps when only half of a neighborhood was buying from the milkman, it was no longer profitable for the dairy to continue the service.I’m now convinced that it will take a major disruptor, like Amazon agreeing to pay for the outfitting of all U.S. Postal Service trucks with coolers, to reach the economic threshold required to make home delivery on a mass scale financially feasible.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2016

    Which spot gets your vote as the best U.S. Christmas commercial of 2016?

    I would have voted for the Dick’s ad, but they didn’t include my favorite sport -- fencing. I know they don’t sell fencing equipment, believe me, but still ...I had to go with Amazon because of its attempt to diffuse the political, social and cultural climate of 2016.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2016

    How are manufacturers failing retailers?

    Even with all the data collected on shopping behavior, or perhaps because they’re just swimming in the data, there is still a fundamental disconnect between many manufacturer marketers and front-line retail managers. As much as those marketers, who typically sit in offices in New York, Chicago and LA, try to predict what what works to create demand at retail, their viewpoint is jaded by how and where they live. How much can a 35-year-old hipster with a beard and tight pants living in Brooklyn really empathize with a 42-year-old housewife with three kids living in a suburb of St. Louis?As for the most critical complaints, if retailers don’t have the product they can’t sell it. Manufacturers need to do everything possible to ensure in-stock positions for all products supplied at all times, especially those on promotion.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2016

    Brands want more insights from retail POS data

    A true 360-degree view of the buying process simply isn’t available -- it's hard to get in every customer’s head as she or he considers what to purchase when and where. So algorithms based on some major assumptions are developed and available data is put through the analytics engine to deliver knowledge that can be acted on. If the analysis is good, or just plain lucky, the resulting demand creation messaging is effective in steering shoppers to products and services via select channels. If not, well, the markdown rack gets some more inventory.The biggest challenge facing manufacturers is the channelization of the buying process. It’s hard to get a true picture of which marketing and merchandising tactics are working when you don’t have eyes on what’s selling (or not selling) where. Even when companies do have access to t-log data, there is so much noise and delay that the information delivered often isn’t actionable. There are tech vendors who have great solutions for the full view of the customer, but ultimately it’s up to the manufacturers and retailers to implement systems that can quickly share analytics, not just data, so the customer can be appropriately marketed to.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2016

    Is transparency next for grocery private label?

    There were more pizza makers offering gluten-free pies than traditional ones at the Private Label Manufacturers Association Annual Conference last month. There were many more certified organic posters on the exhibit floor than ever before -- just about every other booth it seemed. And even the traditional stalwarts of the store brand industry were featuring non-GMO products.Overall, the more store brands promote their attributes in the same ways as national brands, the more they will be called on by the shopper to be transparent.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2016

    How important is convenience to motivating online holiday shoppers?

    There is still a social element of shopping and for online shoppers that’s limited to sporadic reviews and inadequate shopper helpers. There is a continued strong interest in engaging other people, both shoppers and staff, while shopping. This isn’t a generational thing, as Millennials seem just as apt to want to get out to the stores as Boomers. It’s more about what makes our consumer society move. Price, convenience, service, assortment, engagement and other variables all come into play when someone decides to shop online or at a brick-and-mortar store. The bottom line for retailers is to have an overall offer that captures the continued interest of the targeted customer base.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2016

    Will hundreds of small stores produce big results for Target?

    We see other retailers having success with smaller formats targeting urban areas, notably IKEA and Lowe’s, so Target isn’t trying something new. Also, as e-commerce sites like Amazon start opening brick-and-mortar locations they are likely to focus on these same areas, so this can be seen as a competitive move. The end run seems to be smaller footprints for traditional big boxes going forward and an even smaller footprints for the pickup/shopping facilities of the e-commerce companies.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2016

    Macy’s to RFID tag everything

    Answering the second question first -- RFID is the best tool now available.RFID is an exciting development for retailers and their supplier partners, but the real impact of the technology happens when it’s pushed beyond operations-oriented activities like inventory to customer-facing activities like merchandising and check out. That is what’s happening at Macy's, where the retail clerk will soon be able to ensure they have the right products on the sales floor for the right promotions at the right times. The next step is to have sales clerks armed with mobile units that can tell them what styles/sizes/colors are in stock (or not). Incorporate RFID into the POS system and you’re approaching disruptive technology status.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2016

    Is the craft brand trend healthy for big retailers and manufacturers?

    Points of differentiation in retail continue to be price, assortment and customer service. Craft brands create an assortment point of differentiation. It has been very effective in the beer category and is gaining momentum in many other areas. I even saw several exhibitors at the produce show last weekend in Orlando that were harping their “craft-grown” fresh fruits and vegetables. The trend has legs and retailers need to consider adding lines that bolster their marketing themes, especially for those brands originating nearby.

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