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: 09/14/2017

    Millennials, not Boomers, say associates are key to shopping experiences

    While reading this story, I couldn’t help but think about Dana Carvey’s impression of an angry old man on SNL’s Weekend Update years ago in which he’d start off each skit with “In my day ... ” Well, in the Baby Boomers' day, service was at a much higher level, or so many of that generation believe. What they see in stores and on the phone today is something completely different. Younger shoppers don’t have that perspective of gas station attendants cleaning their windows, bellhops carrying their bags to the hotel room or the bagboy loading groceries into cars. As a result, they expect a bit less from store associates. This doesn’t mean younger shoppers don’t want to have access to staff when they need them or that older shoppers avoid staff. And it doesn’t mean either group is looking forward to a future of dealing with robots. Rather it means that retailers need to customize the experience for both groups of customers so staff members are properly trained to engage the shoppers where, when and how they want to be engaged. That goes for robots too.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Professor says price gouging is simple supply and demand at work

    To preface my comment, I don’t get to use my graduate education all that often so please bear with me. I have a graduate degree in economics from NYU, one of the bastions of the Austrian School, which Professor Horowitz clearly supports. The Austrian School, as I recall from my advisor who wasn’t a member, doesn’t like using math to measure or validate its central theses because it would poke huge holes in them. More germane to this topic, the Austrian School is libertarian at its roots and wants the market to determine practically everything in society. By extension, as Professor Horowitz suggests, pricing in a crisis should be left to supply and demand. This is callous at best and dangerous at worst. Like other critics of the Austrian School, I believe its ideals are outdated and don’t consider a wide range of variables facing 21st century economics, including the impact of advances in technology and climate change. I guess the real question is what kind of society do we want -- one that helps the neediest in times of peril, or one that charges them 20 times the cost for water?
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    To a very large degree, the success of these kiosks will depend on the pricing strategy CVS deploys. In airports and similar locations every consumer knows they’re getting ripped off buying aspirin and other HBC items at the newsstands. They buy the item because they forgot to pack it and chalk it up to a stupidity cost. If these same customers saw the items in a kiosk at a price point closer to what they’d pay at regular retail, either the newsstand would have to stop selling them or price more competitively. Certainly a win for the weary traveler and maybe a win for CVS.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2017

    Five pain points grocers must address to survive in an Amazon/Whole Foods world

    What, nothing about the staff? The human factor has to be the point of differentiation for traditional grocers. The technology at Amazon and other e-commerce retailers hasn’t gotten to the point where their bots are as good as a human can be for a full range of services (yet!). Until they can empathize with a mother having a bad day with her kids, help a father get all the things on his list without meandering throughout the store and help carry out orders to the car, e-commerce sites are the one playing catch-up.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Is Walmart on an unstoppable run?

    Walmart is positioning itself very well for an almost inevitable economic downturn. The retailer isn’t mimicking Amazon Prime, which may be one of those “luxury expenses” consumers facing challenging financial circumstances give up. Walmart is pushing its low-price reputation to the extreme. And it is building out the fresh offering pretty aggressively in-store, although there is a lot of work to do for the segment on Walmart.com.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Are the four Ps of marketing irrelevant for retailers?

    I don’t care if you have the greatest and most engaged staff, offer the best experiences and interact with the shopper everywhere, price will always be a key factor in retail marketing. Even in times of relative prosperity and especially during economic downturns, price is critical. You think Amazon is stealing market share solely with customer experience, product assortment and convenience?
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    If Costco really wants to grow digital traffic, and it’s very important that it does, the company needs to start engaging its shoppers digitally. I’ve been a Costco member for more than 20 years and I haven’t received more than a dozen emails related to product or services offered (although they were very good about the switch from Amex to Citibank). I’ve checked to make sure I’m not on some “do not contact” list, but a quick survey of acquaintances reveals I’m not alone. I get something from Amazon just about every day. I don’t open most of them, but I do open some that have interesting subject lines. I just don’t see how Costco can keep up with Amazon without a concerted digital engagement effort.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Who owns the in-store experience?

    There is a disconnect that has me more worried than any issue with 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 them with the wrong message, you’re bound to fail regardless of the in-store engagement.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Has produce-selling Dollar General become a real threat to traditional grocers?

    I’d like to see them succeed because they often serve communities that are under-served with fresh foods, but what they’re attempting is extremely difficult. These stores currently get shipments once or twice a week, which will likely lead to out-of-stocks or big shrink numbers. There is a significant cost to servicing the stores every day which Aldi and Lidl (and supermarkets) build into their business model and the deep discounters haven’t.Stick to what you’re good at Dollar General and that doesn’t include perishables.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

    Can Walmart workers deliver better last mile results on their way home from work?

    This sort of flows from my frequently related opinion about the demise and potential return of the milk man (see several past comments).There are many benefits including shopper engagement, upselling potential and employee appreciation. Plus there’s no worry about the FAA regulating your drones.Timing will be the biggest issue -- Walmart has some pretty unusual schedules for its associates, most aren’t leaving work at the same time each day. I suppose they can coordinate the outbound deliveries with the time and attendance system to address this. Payment for delivery and benefits/insurance could also be an issue. And don’t forget safety and loss prevention.Also, one wonders if the employees will be picking up returns on their way to work.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Will independent grocers turn it around in 2017?

    All of grocery retailing is more difficult now than in the past. In fact, all retailing is more difficult now than in the past. More competitors, smarter customers, consolidating suppliers and much more all result in a constantly harsher operating environment. It makes me appreciate the fact that I was able to pursue interests other than my family’s supermarket business.As for the keys to success for the independent grocer in 2017 and beyond, I’ll cite the mantra of my grandfather, a ShopRite Supermarket operator for years: "My job as a retailer is to make it as easy as possible for my customers to buy from me and as hard as possible to buy from anyone else.” More specifically, large chains are trying to implement technology that emulates what single store operators have been doing for a century -- knowing the shopper. The independent grocer doesn’t need to make this investment in technology, they need to make the investment in time. Time for managers to get out on the floor and interact with the shopper and time to train front-line personnel to do the same. Time to search for products and develop promotions that will engage the shopper and time to understand their needs and aspirations. Then my grandfather’s mantra will come to fruition.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    Will Hy-Vee’s grocerant strategy set it apart from rivals?

    It will be very interesting to see how restaurants, even quick-serve ones, respond to this wholly appropriate expansion by supermarket operators. Sure most restaurants have to-go or delivery menus. And there are a few chains that supplement their to-go offerings with a limited, often novelty, selection of grocery items (think Cracker Barrel). But you rarely see even a c-store style assortment of grocery items at a restaurant. In fact, I’ve only seen a few examples of restaurants with extended retail product merchandising and those I have experienced are mostly in remote locations without other food competition and feature a hodgepodge assortment more reflective of the community served.It’s easy to imagine mid-range restaurants like Applebee's and TGIF adding a small area of merchandised convenience items including milk, eggs, soda and coffee near the exit. I can also see the quick-serve folks doubling their assortment to include larger pack-size items of desserts, dairy and beverages. One thing is certain, they’re not going to lie down and accept the loss of wallet share to supermarkets when they can fight back. We’ve seen this in the supermarket -- drug store battles during the last 25+ years -- and now we’re likely to see a similar bout between supermarkets and restaurants.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2017

    Will mobile wallets replace plastic loyalty cards?

    I was just commenting to someone last week that I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more broadly already. I give plastic loyalty cards less than five years.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2017

    Can Walmart dash past Amazon with its own product replenishment system?

    This is another step closer to our Star Trek future where we talk to a computer and automatically have just about whatever we want -- a prepared meal, a bicycle seat, etc. -- appear in a portal nearby. So yes, I see a big opportunity with IoT in the home replenishment cycle. I see an even bigger and more immediate opportunity with IoT in the manufacturing, store and office replenishment cycles. All those consumable items in the workplace are ripe for a Dash-like button which could be very good or very bad for companies like Staples and Grainger, depending how they play it. It will certainly be interesting to watch.In the meantime, I’m waiting for Amazon or Walmart to announce that their efforts at teleportation are seeing positive results.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2017

    Are malls better off without department stores?

    I'm surprised there isn’t anything healthcare-related in the list of potential mall tenants. I know fitness centers are going into malls as anchors or sub-anchors all around the New York metropolitan area and beyond. And while there are certain zoning issues related to clinics, rehab centers, nursing homes and the like in many areas, these laws are bound to change in time.

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