PROFILE

Ananda Chakravarty

Retail Thought Leader
Ananda is a retail thought leader. Ananda was a senior analyst at Forrester advising c-level leaders on digital store, digital store technologies, retail enablement, digital in-store analytics and Digital Grocery. Prior to Forrester, Ananda served as Director of Enterprise Digital Strategy at The Hartford and executive and product roles at Staples, Talbots and Monster.com.

Ananda holds an MBA from Northeastern University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University.
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  • Posted on: 08/15/2018

    Lampert’s Kenmore offer seems like more shuffling of chairs on Titanic’s deck

    Not being able to read Eddie's mind nor really knowing where he really fits on magnanimity, you have to remember he's runs a hedge fund, which means it's all about money. Turnaround, burnaround, the whole effort for Eddie is a not just a soft landing for himself. He's cushioning himself in case SHLD does collapse, but still pushing money into the brand. Owning the Kenmore brand is brilliant -- he knows it has value and may sell it/license it to others in the future (Bob and Paula gave great opinions here). Despite public sentiment, the amount he's putting into Sears is more than twice that of it's market cap, so he still believes there's value. The company still has over $7B in assets, and as of Feb. drew almost $17B in revenue. There is still an incentive on his part to keep Sears afloat, although bit by bit he's effectively taking the company private -- he owns the real estate, and now the IP -- at which time he will have other options to play around with. I still feel we'll see Sears around for a bit -- even if it does go into bankruptcy, I suspect it would be Chapter 11, with a much smaller version of Sears with prospects for recovery, not liquidation.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2018

    Can H&M finally become a serious online competitor?

    I believe Ricardo was spot on -- they have to have their store in order for people to shop there online or off. Since they’ve been behind the eight ball, they will have to move faster and further across both physical and digital commerce just to catch up. Tech, like online returns at stores, should be their tech priority, after they’ve gotten their house in order.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2018

    Aldi shoppers are getting curbside pickup, but do they want it?


    Aldi, known for its no-nonsense grocery, offering curbside pickup is an interesting move, but very logical when considering they've just launched grocery delivery services for ALL stores. Curbside pickup is becoming immensely popular with initiatives like Kroger's Clicklist, Walmart Pickup, or Target's Drive Up that have launched across a 1000+ locations. Grocers like Publix, Meijer, HEB, et. al. are also testing for impact. Companies like Curbside and Instacart are helping to fill the gap for CVS or Wegmans to offer curbside pickup when in-house solutions remain challenging. Whether Aldi likes it or not, customers are being introduced to the service and adoption has been positive. Curbside pickup introduces a level of convenience which will continue to improve as stores become more efficient at executing. An example user's account shows Kroger's Clicklist still takes a phone call and 5 minute wait time at a parking lot before their pickup. So the "drive-thru" concept is not quite there yet. However, this example also shows that the Clicklist user identifies with "lower" grocery bills when using Clicklist, suggesting that it would enhance Aldi's low-cost image. It's only one data point, but directional. For Aldi, the question is not about maintaining a low-price brand image, but risks of reducing margins from loss of impulse buying spend.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    Rite Aid and Albertsons call off merger – what’s next?

    The Albertsons/Rite Aid deal was driven by market presence. Sometimes folks forget that localization of stores drives brand and brings a value to the market -- especially grocery -- even without other standouts. The fact that a store is down the street will prompt my purchasing there. The importance of location hasn't diminished for grocery. Excepting Walmart or Target, most grocery chains are regionally localized. From a 2014 map -- it's a bit dated but not significantly changed, a majority of Albertsons presence is on the West Coast. Strengthening their drug store capabilities in the west and entering the eastern U.S. markets was certainly part of their goals. The Walgreens/Rite Aid deal thinned out Rite Aid's presence in the southern U.S. (and a bit in New York State), but overall the drug retailer still remains strong in the Northeast and West Coast. For Rite Aid rejecting the deal was the smart action to take, as it already had a strong California and West Coast presence. The impressions of vulnerability for Rite Aid are unfounded -- they've decided to focus more on higher-income locations and are also flush with added cash from the WBA sale to grow their business across the thousands of remaining stores. On the other hand, Albertsons should be looking for other partners to expand their markets. I wouldn't be surprised if they attempted to bring Rite Aid back to the table.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Walmart looks to automate grocery pick-up

    No. Doesn't solve the problem of in-store grocery pickup. In part, because grocery pickup is more than simply picking and packing. Problems in product availability and supply chain need to be tackled first. Handling refrigerated product and fresh foods will further hamper this picker. Lastly, the costs to install, maintain and manage such an automated system may make it uneconomical even at scale -- which is what Walmart is partially trying to find out with this test. Paula makes a great point about specialists and logically as robots take over human jobs, people will move to higher level focus -- such as selling and service instead of picking and packing. As for my interpretation of the second question, for increasing customer adoption of pickup, maybe; for online delivery, no. Automation doesn't add value for perimeter products (higher profit margins, branding, sales value) and the online grocery delivery market remains tiny with linear growth. The large grocers will (in)validate store automation with testing and rollout -- but too early to tell. It's mostly defensive, marketing, and novelty at this point.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2018

    Will in-home 3D scanner drive online clothing sales?

    Since we've gotten most of the great comments already out of the way, I'll just add 2 cents worth. My bet is that it's cool tech -- even if it's low cost, but too early for apparel (maybe something else though). Why? First, no standards, which are a requirement (even implicit) to enable anything mainstream. Companies like TrueFit and Rakuten's FIt.me have been trying to form a way to deliver standards in sizing for quite some time -- across brands. Second, uneconomical to shift manufacturing from assembly line to custom tailored. There's a reason they have small, medium, and large -- so they don't have a medium extra small with larger arm lengths by two inches and smaller necklines by one inch. No matter how well the tools measure the body, the tech has to match it with apparel that fits.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Is Target making the right move in dumping C9 Champion?

    Although private label sounds like it's the trend, I'm sure Target is seeking profits first. The dumping of the brand now can only mean one thing -- make room for something else that Target perceives to be more profitable. This can take many forms, including potential partnerships with more lucrative athleisure brands. Simply put, the current Champion brand is not growing at the same rate as the athleisure market (which was slightly above flat in 2017 but seems to be picking up). Many strong competitors continue to dominate athleisure. Directionally, a school based study done last year at Oregon State puts Champion dead last against Nike, Adidas, Athleta, etc. when asked which brand respondents would prefer if money were no object. No cons in Target's move -- HanesBrands has to improve their Champion brand value to stay in Target stores.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Can Tesco beat Aldi and Lidl at their own game?

    By changing the brand to something new, Tesco is able to start from scratch in the market - with limited impact to it's Tesco brand. Smart way to experiment with discount grocery. I'm sure with so many years in business, Tesco knows the customer demographics quite well already - they're looking to grow their market. Right move -- hard to tell, but with the constant market changes, move they must. US chains have different customer behaviors that lead to very different actions. Instead of US chains shifting, it's been Aldi and Lidl that have worked to conform to the US customer patterns. That doesn't mean US chains haven't done anything, but the actions are not similar, and more defensive posturing so that Aldi and Lidl aren't able to encroach on their markets.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Can store associates do anything about rude customers?

    The basic consensus advice on this thread is training, but more valuable will be increasing the value of the associate to the shopper. Shopper behavior has worsened towards store associates — not in terms of manners, but in terms of engagement. Shoppers spend more time with self-service than in the past, and expectations for the store associate has diminished to the point where the perception of associate value doesn't go beyond directions to the restroom or finding a product aisle. Rude customers are rare because customers who are connecting and engaging associates are rare. With less frequency of engagement, the associate is not treated as a valuable resource. The real change that needs to be made is more frequent shopper experiences where associates add value. Rudeness will overlap this, but if customers respect associates for what they know and can do for them, it will change any rudeness dynamic. Would the average person be rude to a fireman, doctor, boss or minister? The respect levels are ingrained, and may even be proportional to the potential value-add they can provide.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Study: Online retailers losing billions in sales to out-of-stocks

    The study is interesting that it addresses non-food retail, critical to most groceries due to sales of at least 2-3 aisles of products such as baby food, detergent or toothpaste. I'd love to see the out-of-stock comparison between food and non-food -- but the study was sponsored by P&G. Out-of-stocks are problematic, online or off. The study touches on online consequences of out-of-stocks such as lost sales and substitution effects. Many on this thread have already captured the basics, but I only saw one note about demand planning. Out-of-stocks happen when supply doesn't meet demand at the point of purchase. Nikki Baird nicely captured the actual and perceived out-of-stock (OOS) concept and herein lies the rub for the difference between online and offline OOS. In the online world, availability is what you display on the web page where delivery dates can be shifted to accommodate a fast-track back order. In the store the out-of-stock is real for the customer because expectations are immediate.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2018

    Kroger’s 90-day terms have CPG suppliers seeing red

    King Soopers (a Kroger subsidiary) might have capitulated, but Kroger commands almost 2800 stores and about 7ish% of the entire grocery market and in certain markets like Cincinnati -- almost 50% of the local market. Even a single CPG the size of P&G wouldn't stop customers from buying alternative toothpaste, and the CPG would certainly lose considerable sales in Kroger's stronger markets. CPGs would also relinquish brand value to its competitors beyond just product revenue. It would be a lose-lose all around. The smart money would be pushing for better terms than their competitors instead. The frequency of grocery buying makes it that much harder to boycott a grocery retailer of that size. In the '80s P&G was stronger, Kroger had just purchased Dillon Companies that owned King Soopers, and there was an actual cost incurred that P&G had to deal with when it came to manufacturer coupons. In the end, it's just a $ amount -- interest on the float will be bundled into the product price, eventually raising the overall cost to the end customer.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2018

    Is robotic micro-fulfillment the path to streamlined grocery pickup?

    The concept is interesting, but tiny margins of 1.62 percent on average across regional grocers in the U.S. will make robotic micro-fulfillment challenging. The solution will not be standalone as suggested in the video, but as an add-on to physical supermarkets. Perimeter products will still be excluded. Demand prediction will become vital to the solution to maintain profitability. Converting customer buying habits will be an interesting journey. I doubt there would be significant adoption by small grocers -- except as a trial or innovation until there is a real customer buying habit change. Large supermarkets will be looking for cost conversion across the entire supply chain, not just within a single market, hence the Ocado solution becomes more appealing. The promising outlook is as an add-on service for existing supermarket chains that are unable or unwilling to build their own click and collect services. The automation will compete against the Instacarts and delivery services of the world.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2018

    Will Kroger’s new app make customers healthier than those who shop at rivals?

    Whether the app is adopted or not, it has brand value -- I think someone on this thread mentioned "heart share" and another mentioned the population that keeps companies like Weight Watchers in business. Kroger's move reinforces the brand as one that cares about its customers and that by itself will have positive outcomes. What would really be interesting would be if the app becomes proactive and prescriptive, warning customers about what they're purchasing -- for instance, when they pick up a product with peanuts in it when the customer has a peanut allergy, or lactose product when they're lactose intolerant -- that's when it becomes more than a nice-to-have.
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