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 editorial support to more than a dozen clients, including CHEP, IFCO, Ecolab, IGA, OmniTRAX, RW3 Technologies, Carttronics, Nat Sherman, VICS and Teradata. 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, Ron is also an accredited journalist. His writings on the food, retail, information technology and transportation industries have appeared in Canadian Business, Chicago Tribune, Convenience Store News, Distribution Channels, FT.com, Food Arts, Forbes, ID, Sales & Marketing, 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. Ron 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.

Ron 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 and National Public Radio . He has spoken at numerous business and academic conferences, and is a member of the Council of Logistics Management, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America. Ron graduated with honors from George Washington University, earned his 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).

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: 07/20/2016

    Will consumers buy subscriptions for Tide from P&G?

    Given this morning’s announcement that P&G rival Unilever is buying Dollar Shave Club, it’s clear the CPG companies are working aggressively to expand their channel reach to the consumer. The two companies will continue to duke it out for share of wallet through an increasing number of channels and I expect traditional retailers like supermarkets, drug stores and mass to do everything in their power to keep the shopper coming back to the store.The more interesting question is, who wins in the battle between the CPG companies and Amazon?
  • Posted on: 07/19/2016

    What does it take to compete in an off-price retail world?

    At what point does the off-price outlet become normal retail and the full-price outlet become premium retail? If about 75 percent of sales are through those off-price outlets, I’d say we’re there. This trend is analogous to the entry of Walmart into grocery 25+ years ago. Taking price away from the competitive landscape, successful supermarket chains moved to featuring assortment and customer service. The successful department and specialty clothing stores will do the same.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2016

    Will personal shoppers lift retail sales?

    I have long thought that Star Trek is a crystal ball for our future and this is particularly true with retail. How do consumers buy things in the show? They talk to a computer screen and in most cases the product, meal or whatever is delivered to a service door adjacent to the screen. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of the system –- if there’s some kind of 3-D printer, tele-transportation element or material fabricator at work. The idea of a person interacting with a computer to order stuff is the salient point. And if there is interaction with the computer for shopping, it stands to reason that there is some kind of AI and predictive analytics being deployed to help the consumer find exactly what they need/want. This is a long way to say that personal shopping, especially data driven digital shopping support, will be an important part of retailing in the future.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2016

    Are self-checkouts dooming impulse purchases?

    About 10 years ago I forecast that by now about half all non-pharma transactions at supermarkets and mass-market would be via self-checkout. My thinking was based on a corollary to banks and the use of tellers vs. ATMs, which after 25+ years represent more than two-thirds of all transactions. Missed that one by a mile. In looking back at the reasons why self-checkout hasn’t gained the same traction as ATMs, the lack of opportunities for impulse buys is the top one. There isn’t as much space available for impulse product merchandising in self-checkout lanes physically and the mindset of the self-checkout customer is in-and-out with the fewest distractions.Not sure what will work to increase impulse purchases at self-checkout, but I’ll tell you what doesn’t – post shopping promotions. The Catalina machines at self-check almost always have several printed coupons sitting there from previous users. It may work in the staffed checkouts, and I have serious questions about this, but it’s simply not a great delivery mechanism for self-checkout.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2016

    How can new product forecasting be improved?

    There has been a gradual but definite move away from seat-of-the-pants forecasting to science-based forecasting over the last 20 years. The timing of this trends correlates almost exactly to the retiring of the old merchandisers who kept stacks of computer read outs that showed transaction log details in the corners of their office and the entrance of managers with the latest analytical skill sets.There are pros and cons to this shift away from the art of forecasting and to the science. On the pro side, there is standardization and easy measurement of success and failure. There’s also considerable automation that enables managers to spend less time on the regular price changes and promotions and concentrate on problems. On the con side, there is a considerable disconnect between merchandisers and shoppers that results in bigger misses.There is no stopping the technology innovations being thrown at forecasting. I just hope vendors come up with algorithms that emulate the art part of forecasting.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2016

    Are store conditions driving consumers online?

    Store conditions have deteriorated over all, but the better store operators are successful because they pay attention to these details. This said, there are several other variables that are sending shoppers away from stores and towards e-commerce, notably price, selection and customer service.

    My grandfather, a ShopRite Supermarket operator and Wakefern member for many years, was fanatical about cleanliness. He was especially focused on the condition of the floor as the shopper entered the store. He wanted it to be cleaned and polished all the time, the idea being that a dirty floor reflects badly on the conditions in the store, on the products being sold and on the owners.

  • Posted on: 05/03/2016

    Can grocers get in on the ‘food truck revolution’?

    Capital expenditure, insurance costs, training, diversion of resources away from core business activities, risk and more have inhibited retailers from investing in food trucks. I suspect there will be more activity going forward, however, as the topic came up in three of the sessions I attended at the NGA show earlier this year. Also, the two or three examples of food trucks at supermarkets that I've experienced, especially one in Phoenix last month that was coupled with farm stand-like produce merchandising, were extremely popular.

  • Posted on: 04/25/2016

    How is omnichannel complicating demand planning?

    As long as the consumer is at all fickle, retailers will not be able to precisely forecast demand. Even if the consumer becomes predictable, which is highly unlikely, the weather isn't and neither are competitors. Omnichannel and e-commerce require a new demand planning model that captures additional data from sources like social media and mobile to truly understand what fulfillment choices shoppers will prefer under any series of conditions. If it's Tuesday, it's raining and I'm scheduled to take the dog to the vet in the afternoon, the model will tell the retailer to deliver the pet food to the vet so the shopper can pick it up at the appointment. That info gets loaded into an algorithm that predicts the next purchase and ones like it so the system gets better over time. It's the "when, where and how to get which product to the shopper, then apply predictive analytics," approach.

  • Posted on: 04/13/2016

    Five things retailers must do to make IoT not about ‘things’

    The end-state here is pretty clear. At some point in the not-too-distant future, many of the devices in the home, at work and in the car will be managed/monitored/organized/coordinated/integrated/etc. by a smartphone or tablet. Retailers helping a customer make the leap from here to there will be rewarded with great share of wallet and better ratings. Retailers that don't have a plan for helping customers integrate their lives will lose market share and credibility.

  • Posted on: 03/22/2016

    What’s wrong with retailers’ content?

    The biggest challenge here is the disconnect between the people generating the content for the retailer (in-house or agency) and the customer. As I recently noted, marketers often seem to live in their own little world, interacting only with other marketers. They've lost, or maybe never had, a feel for what customers really want and how they want to be communicated with.

    It's also worth noting the retailers that have made that connection with their customers, like Starbucks and Amazon, did so through a series of experiments, some of which worked and others not so much. This is still a nascent field so retailers need to throw a lot on the whiteboard to see how customers react.

  • Posted on: 03/22/2016

    Retail and the cashless society

    I've never seen any cash used on Star Trek, so eventually we will have a cashless society. But it will be a while, at least 10 years and probably more than 25. Several other trends will be simultaneously hitting retail and a move to a cash-free store is likely down on the list of priorities for managers. They are focused on things like getting the last mile solved, which if I recall from Star Trek will ultimately be accomplished through teleporting.

  • Posted on: 03/17/2016

    Penney gives managers more time with customers

    First off, Maria Halkias, the writer of the Dallas Morning News article cited, is one of the best retail reporters out there. She's insightful, writes very clearly and cleanly and from a PR person's perspective is a pleasure to work with. Anyone interested in understanding the workings of the retail industry should consistently read her copy.

    Yes, the managers and staff at big box stores spend too little time with customers. For that matter, merchandisers and marketers at big box stores and other retailers spend too little time with customers, preferring to believe they can automatically create demand for the products they source (only Steve Jobs could do that). It's this disconnect that has me more worried than the in-store staff not engaging the customers. Merchandisers and marketers often seem to live in their own little world, interacting only with suppliers and other merchandisers and marketers. They've lost, or maybe never had, a feel for what the customer really wants. If you're selling the wrong products and promoting it with the wrong message, you're bound to fail regardless of the in-store engagement.

  • Posted on: 03/10/2016

    Publix and unusual suspects top customer experience list

    Surprised by a few companies missing on this list, most notably Costco, Raley's, Schnucks and Price Chopper. Also, I guess retailers like Stew Leonard's and Dorothy Lane Markets are too small to be considered for the list, even though they do as good a job with customer engagement (if not better) than most on the list. That goes for IGA stores as well.

  • Posted on: 03/04/2016

    Will a less is more strategy solve Target’s out-of-stock problem?

    People are fickle. That's where all conversations on out-of-stocks start and finish. As much data is collected about consumers and as sophisticated as the algorithms developed to model shopping behavior have become, the sale still comes down to the vacillating nature of human action and interaction.

    That's not to say retailers shouldn't try to understand the root causes of out-of-stocks, but rather they need to create a two-pronged plan to address the resulting situation. First is to work feverishly to improve demand forecasting, particularly for promotions. This comes in the form of better matching supply with demand. After all, what use is a good demand forecast if you can't fulfill it in the store? Next is to have a solid and consistent process for the inevitable out-of-stock situations. This can't be just a rain check that puts the onus of redemption on the customer anymore. There has to be an added incentive — why should the customer pay for the retailer's screw up?

    The assortment angle Target is taking seems to me to be a bit of a cop out. If the retailer is really committed to meeting consumer demands, they will strive to meet consumer demand.

  • Posted on: 02/17/2016

    Are delivery start-ups in trouble?

    I'm going to once again use the milkman analogy for the challenges of last-mile delivery. Many of us born in the '60s or before remember getting milk delivered to our homes once or twice a week. Even my family, owners of a small group of supermarkets, used this service.

    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 40 percent of a neighborhood was buying from the milkman, it was no longer economically feasible for the dairy to continue the service. Now think of this analogy in reverse. Only when a certain percent of people in neighborhoods start routinely buying from a home delivery service will the economics of the model start to become feasible.

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