PROFILE

Roy White

Editor-at-large, RetailWire

Roy White has covered the mass market retailing scene for several decades, initially as the editor of Drug Store News and then with Perspectives Group, Inc. He was also vice president of education for the Global Market Development Center for nine years.

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  • Posted on: 11/22/2017

    Amazon launches exclusive with Calvin Klein

    Amazon has been reaching out in all directions, both retailer and supplier, in the past year -- the acquisition of Whole Foods and the partnerships with Kohl’s and Sears, for example -- to create a more powerful selling entity. This is another step in that direction; it will make Amazon a more dangerous competitor with a high-visibility exclusivity. For Calvin Klein, it’s a good move that recognizes that the balance of competitive power between brick-and-mortar merchants and online retailing is altering.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2017

    Amazon Go still plans to transform convenience in retail stores

    Unlike many traditional retailers, Amazon is working innovatively with technology to create a new retail paradigm. That there should be glitches and delays should not be surprising. Like much of what Amazon does, the payoff here is in the future. Look at this in the same way you can look at the innovators of the 20th century, Clarence Saunders with Piggly Wiggly and Michael Cullen with the first full-fledged supermarket.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2017

    Yes, retailers can also reward non-transactional behaviors

    A process for interacting with shoppers on several different levels is more important than ever given the changing dynamic of retail and continued consolidation of the retail marketplace into larger and larger retail chains. Retailing can be impersonal and associates are not always driven to help customers above and beyond the minimum required. In at least some way, a process for getting closer to the shopper in non-transactional ways is like the strength that an independent or local retailer traditionally has had over a chain store operation -- the independent can interact with the shoppers in a myriad of ways and lock them into the store.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2017

    As Amazon looms, CVS rolls out next-day Rx deliveries nationwide

    Free delivery is really nothing new; it just became disused due to cost. Now, however, with Amazon looming on the horizon of the retail prescription drug market, this move makes tremendous sense. CVS, like all drug stores, already has proactive programs that reach out to patients relative to prescriptions. Overall, it’s as if CVS has come alive in recent weeks. The negotiations with Aetna are continuing and may be finalized and announced in December. The expansion of the Instacart relationship is also a plus, even though the front-end of CVS’s stores is a really minor portion of the overall corporate business. 2018 looks like it will see a significant transformation of the retail drug store market with Amazon and Aetna becoming involved.
  • Posted on: 11/03/2017

    Was Amazon scamming or searching for its HQ2 location?

    I assume that Amazon prompted this bidding war to gain tax concessions and development funding, pure and simple. Any city that engages in the bidding war and wins has really just denied itself tax revenue and spent development money on top of that. The only questions are, how much employment will Amazon provide the host city and will the workers and executives be locally recruited or brought in from the outside? Caveat emptor should be the guiding principle.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2017

    What would acquiring Aetna mean for CVS retail?

    It is interesting to note that as this merger unfolds, the early history of CVS is that it was founded by a shoe company and the first stores were HBC only without Rx. Over the course of time, it has become not only one of two major drug chains, but also one of the, if not the, largest purveyors of prescriptions in this country. Perhaps more importantly, in reality, it has made itself over the past decade or so into a multi-faceted healthcare entity.The PBM part of the business is now larger than the drug chain; it includes pharmacy benefits plan management, formularies, plan design, consulting and much more. The PBM portion of the business contributes 68 percent of sales. And of the store portion, three quarters is contributed by the pharmacy department. CVS is a healthcare colossus and Aetna will make it more so. The move to acquire Aetna, and over $60 billion in revenues (in comparison, CVS’s annual sales will likely be over $180 billion this year, so it is three times larger than Aetna in volume), is surprising in its audacity but not really unexpected since it fits perfectly with the healthcare services direction in which CVS has been growing in recent years. This merger will likely change everything in the prescription market and also, by the way, put a new face on the Walgreens/CVS rivalry as well as on the potential rivalry between traditional drug chains and Amazon.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2017

    Retailers need to do a better job delivering groceries

    No one should be saying that the store is dead, and this is the prime example of an advantage that a physical store has over online shopping. However, the relationship of brick-and-mortar to digital selling as it unfolds over the next few years is going to mean huge changes in how the store looks and is designed, how it functions and what it provides the shopper. How consumers regard the relative performance of physical stores and online selling in providing freshness and quality in frozen and refrigerated foods is a huge point of difference. In the future, will technology overcome the issues now voiced about the freshness of delivered food products? Very likely. But at the same time, will brick-and-mortar stores reshape their offerings and go-to-market strategy to benefit from the competitive advantage they currently have in attitudes? The answer to that question is up for grabs.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2017

    Nike turns its back on ‘undifferentiated, mediocre’ retailers

    This looks to me like a risky move. Could it be a legal minefield that opens Nike up to lawsuits from retailers to which they won’t ship? One hopes that the standards are well defined and ironclad; otherwise one wonders if it may mean huge problems for the footwear company.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2017

    Should Kroger sell its c-stores?

    Kroger’s earnings continue down even though they are achieving corporate sales increases. The convenience stores are a marginal group for Kroger; the supermarkets and what they term multi-department stores are the core of the business. The convenience stores, along with service sales, in-store clinics, online vitamins, jewelry stores, etc. account for around 4-5% of total sales. If selling off the convenience stores will allow them to focus management and resources on the core business, then this is a good idea even though it’s an admission that the chain is struggling.You can also note that Kroger operates an online jewelry business and some jewelry stores, which do not fit in with the core business and probably should be sold off also.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    A mall carves out pop-up space for online brands

    This is one of those really good ideas that tell us a couple of things. One, mall developers are moving with the trends as the popularity of pop-ups grows, and, two, pop-ups have now come of age. They are now an accepted form of retailing, not a fringe format, not an experimental idea any more. Pop-ups have arrived. And since this program address online-only sellers, it also tells us that the relationship of digital selling and physical stores is ever getting closer and more complicated.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    Will lessons learned at Amazon Books translate to Whole Foods?

    In a sense, Whole Foods for Amazon is more than an important business acquisition with sales and profits; it can also be looked at as a living laboratory to see what digital retailing strategies and technologies might transform brick-and-mortar retailing into something different. Prime is a prime example. Perhaps it’s how a loyalty program should work for a supermarket. While dynamic pricing seems implausible in a physical store setting, that’s exactly it: Amazon has the intellectual resources to change the very core of the way retailing operates today, and maybe dynamic pricing is one way that will happen.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Has Amazon really saved Whole Foods from its ‘Whole Paycheck’ trap?

    We don’t know yet what Amazon is going to do with Whole Foods, and the pricing moves (and media reporting) to a degree mask the long-term potential of this acquisition. Over the next couple of years, we will see if Amazon just lets this chain sit (an unlikely outcome) or if it will transform it into a different kind of retailers that integrates digital and brick-and-mortar selling and in the process change the way a physical store interacts with shoppers.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Can retailers be healthcare disruptors?

    I see it as less a competitive battle between established medicine and retail and more as the continuation of opening new opportunities to provide accessible care to patients, be the providers retailers or hospitals/clinics/medical groups.Retail has been in the lead; there are now over 1,120 minute clinics in CVS stores and somewhere around 400 to 500 in Walgreens outlets. Supermarkets too are participating (Kroger, for example, operates well over 200 Little Clinics), and they certainly do have the resources to provide clinics, prescriptions and nutrition management. Urgent care facilities and operations like Great Expressions open up even more accessibility, they provide different services from retail-based healthcare offerings. I believe that there is plenty of room to grow for everybody.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2017

    Are retailers getting comfy with click & collect?

    Online versus digital selling are two completely different worlds, so it’s no surprise early efforts have problems built in. The long-term question is how the two businesses can be integrated and become mutually supporting. One of the biggest questions here is what metrics can be used to tell us how digital operations are performing or will perform, compared to what all brick-and-mortar merchants have used for decades. What is digital success and how and with what markers can it be predicted? A new mindset is required, and the likes of Amazon and other online sellers have an advantage here. They have grown up thinking digitally, while brick-and-mortar merchants must shed prior ways of thinking and learn new. Indeed it begins with what factors shape predictions of performance, an issue for the panelist apparently.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Retailers: Beware the Equifax breach

    As one of the 143 million people whose data has been stolen, I would pass on that I would hope that no retailer reacts as Equifax has done: five-week delay in announcing the breach; three executives selling off stock with the claim that they didn’t know of the breach even though one was the CFO; no proactive announcement; not much information available; continued use of vulnerable programming; few public announcements and a restitution which requires sensitive data.Retailers engage with customers in a very close way -- unlike a financial security service like Equifax -- and if they were to follow the Equifax reaction model they would lose most of them. The scale of this breach and the fact that if follows a string of breaches over the past several years tells us that this situation is likely to happen to a great many retailers. Careful preparation of handling a breach -- in particular how customers are treated -- is now an essential part of the operational planning for all retailers.

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