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: 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.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Did this startup make a big mistake calling itself Bodega?

    Bodega was a very unfortunate choice of words. Not only did bodega supporters – and their union, Bodega Association of the United States -- unleash a firestorm of abuse on the entrepreneurs, bodegas, as retail stores, do not have a particularly favorable reputation. Quite frequently they are small unsanitary outlets carrying a limited selection of products -- in many cases out-of-date -- and no fresh food. Another name would have been a better idea for what is essentially a vending machine operation.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

    The discussion article raises a key question relative to the future of the brick-and-mortar store: how to harness digital sales to build in-store transactions. Is it extensive training of store associates staffing the pick-up point? New configurations of the store that encourage pick-up customers to shop the store?By way of history, drive-thru windows at fast-food outlets do not seem hurt, but it’s two separate businesses. Indeed, the drive-thru has taken on a life of its own, seemingly separate from food for consumption inside the outlet. Drive-thru pharmacies have evolved similarly; the patient doesn’t have a real opportunity for interaction with pharmacy staff, but does enjoy convenience. On the other hand, a GMDC study of several years ago indicated that there is a very real benefit to store sales of customers walking to the back of the unit to reach the pharmacy. That is sacrificed with drive-thru.It would seem important to integrate brick-and-mortar stores with digital selling, but there are no really good models in place to follow that will make this happen.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Nordstrom tries a no-merchandise store

    That Nordstrom is executing this experiment is a highly positive development for brick-and-mortar retailing. Retail stores, especially department stores and grocery stores, need to change. New designs and configurations are necessary, because, after the difficulties of the past couple of years, the stores of the past and present are not performing. This store concept addresses a number of issues, the most pertinent being the online selling aspect. This store may or may not work or be profitable, but it is a refreshing move in the right direction and may lead to something innovative that will work.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    This move would appear to be an aberration; it looks like it’s outside of the drug chain’s health mantra and it may not really be in its long-term interest. CVS might do better devoting time, energy and resources to follow up on its very strong and successful health-provider brand that it has built over the past couple of decades. The chain runs nearly 10,000 pharmacy-oriented drug stores (many with MinuteClinics and now some with optical centers -- an excellent idea that fits right into their brand image). It does over $100 billion a year in its pharmacy benefit management and pharmacy services businesses that encompass Part D services, mail order pharmacy, pharmacy network management, specialty pharmacy, prescription management systems, long-term care and more. The corporate name has been changed to CVS Health. Vending machines in airports, albeit with OTC medicines, would seem to detract from this professional health-oriented juggernaut.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2017

    Do grocers need to reset the center store?

    The center store issue has been with us for some considerable time, and no acceptable solution has surfaced. Research study after research study has documented the sluggish performance of center store compared to the perimeter. It’s true center store isn’t completely dead: It generates a very substantial amount of dollars, but it isn’t contributing a lot of growth to supermarket revenues. And it hasn’t changed from the standard inline gondola configuration in seemingly forever.Indeed, the supermarket has been built around this layout paradigm for seven decades. Even great stores like Wegmans, whose entrances and perimeters are truly beautiful, eventually put the customer through an inline gondola shopping experience. It will likely take a massive crisis to change center store, to introduce new product offerings, new departments and innovative shopper paths. That crisis may well be upon us with effects of well over a year of price deflation still with us, an extraordinary number of channels participating in food retailing and the looming threat of online grocery selling, among other things. These pressures will be what forces huge changes in center store.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Funko creates a brick-and-mortar home for Pop figures

    This looks like another iteration of the pop-up store (except that it appears to be permanent) that builds interest in a product and a brand, and helps create support among influencers. It’s a good idea and well within a trend that's been underway for a decade and a half. They have obviously seriously engaged the core audience, the Pop collectors, and this has led to publicity and visibility. More interested customers will follow. Funko should open a few more in places like LA, Chicago and NYC.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2017

    Are Whole Foods’ price cuts game-changing for food retailing?

    I believe Amazon is just announcing -- knowing full well it will get media coverage -- that it now owns Whole Foods and the chain, and probably all of grocery retailing, may be in for some changes. The culture of Amazon encourages experimentation and management can and does experiment. Amazon can do this because, unlike many corporations (Whole Foods formerly included), it does not appear to be fettered by a quarter-to-quarter regime requiring steady and substantial increases in earnings and stock price. This is probably helped by Bezos’ ownership of a quarter of the float. Despite Amazon’s spotty long-term earnings record, its stock price is around $900 plus, P/E ratio 235 to 240. Now with the acquisition, Whole Foods is no longer fettered by the necessity of trying to generate big profit gains. Amazon can and will use this chain as a living laboratory to see how brick-and-mortar and digital selling can be integrated in the grocery industry. The price reductions are showmanship. The real changes will be occurring going forward, and they may well be revolutionary.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Is Walmart on an unstoppable run?

    "Unstoppable” might be an excessive word, although Walmart has definitely done well in the second quarter. However, corporately, operating earnings were down, gross margins narrowed, expenses ballooned as a percentage of sales and the net-to-sales ratio decreased. Walmart U.S. did well with improvements in comp store sales, traffic and tickets, and this division’s operating earnings rose a good 2.2 percent. Even so, that gain did not match the 3.3 percent increment in sales, a development which indicates rising costs. Moreover, the performance of Walmart International and Sam’s Club were not nearly as strong as Walmart U.S., with declines in several different key operating stats.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Did retailers shine or go dark on the rare solar eclipse sales opportunity?

    All the stores are empty. Head offices made decisions to merchandise the glasses, but by and large store employees haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. This should become a classic case study about not educating store associates about a huge opportunity.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Will Aldi upset the grocery home delivery cart?

    Aldi is doing what others have done -- working with Instacart to get into digital selling. They join the likes of Wegmans, Costco, Publix and a myriad of other grocery chains in using the Instacart service. So in a sense Aldi, which bases its go-to-market strategy on being different from everyone else (for now, anyway), appears to be making an initial, and necessary, step into the digital world.The importance of this development lies more in the future. Aldi is ramping up a massive expansion program with the aim of being the third largest chain, and that makes their entry into digital selling important in and of itself. However, I think the digital programs they put into place after they assess the results with Instacart will more likely be the game changer than what they are doing now.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2017

    Is a positive quarter a sign of results to come for Nordstrom?

    This report is certainly good news for Nordstrom and marks a break in the trend. In particular the development of online is a huge positive. The chain achieved a 21 percent increase in online (including both of full-line and off-line sites) and, moreover, online has now expanded to 27 percent of corporate volume. Nordstrom appears to be well on its way to changing how it goes to market in a more futuristic way. Also important is the success of the annual sale.However there are some caveats. First, Nordstrom is still in the full-line department store business and half of corporate sales in the quarter flow from the full-line units. This is not an easy channel to work in and does not have the future that, say, online selling might have. For example, I would point out that sales for the full-line units declined 4.4 percent year-over-year for the quarter. Also, corporate earnings were down slightly for the quarter, gross margins narrowed and SGA was quite higher as a percentage of sales. These are trends which indicate Nordstrom is by no means out of the woods.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is an urban revival a sign of hope for indie grocers?

    There’s an old saw that the toughest competition to beat is an independent who can establish a connection with shoppers like no other. That said, the retail grocery business has become extremely competitive. It’s multichannel -- and online isn’t making it easier. Indeed everybody seems to be selling groceries, and they are mainly corporate chains with efficient distribution and merchandising organizations and clear cut strategies. Dollar stores, drug stores, Aldi and small footprint units of major supermarket chains are all invading the urban neighborhoods cited in the article. While such organizations as IGA do a great job offering independents the means to compete, it would seem that independent grocers have a very difficult struggle ahead of them. That class of retailer may well be going the way of the independent pharmacy, which has pretty much been submerged by chain retailing.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Are the four Ps of marketing irrelevant for retailers?

    Location, location, location no longer appears to have the power it once had in comparison to online, and that was extremely important to the success of any brick-and-mortar store. Online matches product, promotion and price, so it would appear the brick-and-mortar mass retailing store is going to have to morph into something completely different than what it is right now. It’s hard to say what technologies will alter how brick-and-mortar engages shoppers, or how much of a hybrid of online and physical store retail outlets will have to become. But the three Ps are no longer going to be the guideposts. Let’s see what happens with Whole Foods.

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