Ben Ball

Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

Ben is Senior Vice President for Dechert-Hampe where he specializes in Customer Development – implementing go-to-market strategies and tactics that build a stronger customer franchise and superior financial performance. As the lead on customer development for DHC, he works with companies such as Bayer Consumer Care, Con Agra, Hewlett-Packard Company, Sara Lee Food & Beverage, Time Warner, Pillsbury and the Mars, Inc. companies.

Ben is a frequently published author in the business press on the subjects of the Evolution of Retailing, Vendor/Distributor Relationships, Customer Relationship Management, Category Management and Trade Marketing. He has chaired numerous conferences on these subjects and is a featured speaker at major industry associations.

Prior to joining Dechert-Hampe in 1992, Ben was Marketing Vice President at PepsiCo Foods International. Other experience includes Marketing Vice President and Director of Field Marketing at Frito-Lay, Inc., group brand manager of new products at Mars, Incorporated, Snack-master Division, and Product Manager at General Mills, Inc.

He holds a Masters Degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business and a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dechert-Hampe & Company, a Sales and Marketing consulting firm, has offices located in Trumbull, Connecticut; Northbrook, Illinois; and Mission Viejo, California.

At Dechert-Hampe we like to say we are “Consumer Driven – Customer Focused”. We provide a range of services to clients, all focused on optimizing the customer interface with a consumer perspective in mind. These services include traditional Sales and Marketing consulting as well as a range of supporting services such as Organization Education and Development, Customer-facing Operations services and Communications.

Dechert-Hampe has been involved with Customer Development initiatives since the early ‘80’s, and for the past ten years Ben has concentrated on developing DHC’s capabilities in Marketing, Category Management, Trade Funds Management and Customer Relationship Management. DHC engagements in these areas encompass Grocery, General Merchandise, HBC, Dairy and Frozen Food clients in both the United States and Canada. These engagements have also touched a breadth of retail channels including Food, Drug, Mass Merchandisers, Office Supply, Consumer Electronics, Wholesale Clubs, Superstores, Specialty Outlets and the Military.

  • Posted on: 06/11/2019

    Nestle, Kellogg’s and others dump their DSD routes

    DSD or its equivalent is critical for products that depend on preserving freshness and fragility to deliver a quality consumer experience. A corporate career spent in the snack food industry taught that lesson well. But being a slow learner, I also participated in two very well funded experiments at challenging that premise. Only one was partially successful -- and that was because the product really wasn't all that fragile. Modern packaging materials and methods can somewhat overcome the freshness issues but the expense typically equals or exceeds the cost of DSD when you account for the 5-10 points of incremental retailer margin required for warehouse delivery. The closest any brand has come to solving both issues through packaging is Pringles, and the unique manufacturing and packaging equipment extract their own toll in that process. The final intangible is shelf maintenance and product presentation. Even with today's tighter controls on planograms and inventory, you simply cannot consistently match the attention to shelf a DSD system provides in a store-stocking environment. A store employee has many shelves to attend to -- the Frito Lay driver has one mission in life and they do it very, very well.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Macy’s balances plusses and minuses of free shipping to loyal customers

    Conventional retailers might be looking at this question from the wrong angle. They are putting up barriers to limit free shipping and minimize shipping costs. But what they may really be minimizing is sales. Amazon Prime puts the cost of shipping out of sight and out of mind for a year in one fell swoop. Consumers never let the cost of shipping impede their urge to click the "Buy Now" button again. Prime is focused on maximizing sales. Whether Amazon can do the logistical gymnastics to break even or better is their problem -- not the consumer's.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2019

    How can retailers help employees improve? (Hint: Not by criticizing them)

    A privately held, global CPG company I once worked for is well-known for the principles that guide its business strategy -- some formal and some less so. One of the "informal" operating principles that I heard often was "we do only what we do best -- we hire the best to do the other things we need for us." While not one of the formal principles, I always thought this one had very high impact on the business. People are the same. We have things we do well and that is what we should be used for to optimize our impact. Mitigating weaknesses needs to be a priority when the weakness impedes the ability of the individual to effectively employ their strengths. A common example is interpersonal issues. Beyond that, do what you do best and "hire" the rest.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    Amazon to set small suppliers adrift

    An internet-era lesson in the fundamental drivers of business. The virtual shelf provided a huge cost reduction to offering broader assortment of "long tail" products. Amazon perfected it and has wrung more efficiency out of it than any other e-tailer. Yet the reality of increased costs outweighing the sales benefit of the longest portion of the long tail still catches up to Amazon eventually. Now the question is who will emerge as the new champion of the smallest sellers? Etsy? Pinterest? Facebook?
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Study says Whole Foods is the priciest grocer of them all

    "Price cuts" does not equal "cheaper." If I'm a Whole Foods shopper, I appreciate the 1 percent. If I'm not, and I'm not willing to pay premium prices, I'm not switching anyway.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2019

    Lands’ End is looking to get out of Sears like a bat out of hell

    Lands' End has "stayed in its lane" from a fashion sense -- which is not to be construed as "did not change styles" but rather as stayed in step with its core shopper. Fortunately for Lands' End their shopper and the online/mobile shopper have converged in the form of a pre-Millennial demographic. You know, the ones that have money to spend and will spend it to look sharp.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Trump is deaf to retailers on tariffs

    Tariffs generally defend primary producers and raw materials from cheaper foreign alternatives. The cost difference is typically labor. The beneficiaries of those lower priced primary products are generally manufacturers and retailers -- they sell the resulting cheaper end products. Someone's ox always gets gored. In this case, it is no surprise that the Retail Industry Leaders Association opposes the tariffs and predicts apocalypse. But that seldom happens in practice. Not to get too wonky -- but a leading options analyst posted his simulations of the options markets implied predictions of the U.S. economy (expressed as the predicted end-of-year prices for broad market indexes like QQQ) on Seeking Alpha yesterday. He compared the predictions of the markets from Monday (pre-tariff announcements) to Tuesday (post). The outcomes were imperceptibly different at year end. In other words, the financial markets think the net impact will be zero. I agree.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Will Schick parent’s acquisition of Harry’s create a ‘next-generation consumer products platform’?

    Spot on Ryan. I'm going to attribute this to Jack Welch (and I think I'm right). When asked about GE's acquisition success he said (paraphrase) "successful acquisitions are 10% strategy and 90% culture" or words to that affect. Seems right to me.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Will Schick parent’s acquisition of Harry’s create a ‘next-generation consumer products platform’?

    Any move that expands omnichannel capabilities is generally a good one these days. And staying in your own consumer need lane (shaving/grooming) typically enhances any merger's chances of success. But for some reason this one just doesn't feel right. I'm having trouble seeing an overlap of Harry's and Schick/Edge consumers. Perhaps the leverage is in extending Harry's growing position in brick-and-mortar -- but I don't see taking the Edgewell brands into the online space via Harry's universe as much of an opportunity. Maybe I've just been wearing the beard too long to get it.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2019

    Are ‘live, work, shop, play’ environments a big part of retail’s future?

    There is no doubt these mixed use developments have great appeal. The issue for retail in these communities is quantity of foot traffic. Unless the retail area attracts outside traffic (and provides easy auto access and adequate parking -- all counter-intuitive to the original premise) the retailers are forced to live on resident traffic alone. Even if the numbers are there to start with, consumers eventually tire of the same choices every day and stray to other shopping/dining locations. It's only personal observation, but retail turnover in these situations seems high.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2019

    Will Americans eat a direct-to-consumer cereal brand for breakfast?

    Kudos to Mr. Lewis for trying something different. But I don't see the level of product differentiation justifying a hefty price tag for seven servings of cereal. And cereal in the online environment is hardly a new thing. This looks like a very heavy lift.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    Is PetSmart barking up the right tree with its IPO?

    Monetizing successful .com's prior to profitability has been a winning strategy so far. Who doesn't want to turn debt into capital with a ring of the opening bell? The strategic question turns on whether the parent intends to continue operating the business or simply monetize the investment. If they want to continue operating, they have to maintain majority control. PetSmart is doing that. It still won't be a stroll in the rose garden -- but PetSmart already understands the pressures public companies face. Good move.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2019

    Where’s the (alt) beef?

    It is extremely difficult to build a successful business -- particularly a food business -- based on the absence of a negative. It took about 30 years for "reduced calorie" to finally overcome its association with "bad taste." A more recent example, gluten free, was purported in consumer research to appeal to up to 12% of the population -- even though less than 1% actually suffer from celiac issues. The boom/bust cycle of gluten free quickly reflected the reality. It's a nice attribute, but not a substantive reason for creating a new mainstream brand. Non-dairy has grown based on attributes beyond lactose-free. One example, shelf stability changed the market for coffee creamer and flavoring. Plant-based protein products would do well to take a lesson. Market great tasting new protein products -- not "meatless meat."
  • Posted on: 04/29/2019

    Why can’t Amazon convert Prime shoppers into Whole Foods shoppers?

    The needs aren't necessarily misaligned, it's just that the grocery shopping needs of Prime members are being adequately met by other competitors. This one made me go get another cup of coffee this morning. Our household is a prime example (pun intended) of this conundrum. We have been heavy Amazon Prime users since the inception of the service. And we value high quality food. Why the heck aren't we shopping at Whole Foods more now? Or using the free delivery service? After discussion with the primary shopper of the house, our conclusion is that we don't go to Whole Foods simply because the local grocery options in our new locale, which include Publix and several new Kroger stores, more than adequately meet our needs for high quality meats, produce and especially seafood. And they are much more conveniently located than our Whole Foods options. The potential savings of Whole Foods just isn't worth the logistical effort. No research or surveys to offer -- but I suspect this ranks in the top three reasons more Prime members aren't increasing Whole Foods visits.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2019

    Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab store runs on AI

    There are many intriguing elements to the IRL store including the visibility of the technology (which I predict will be a short-lived novelty in the evolution of AI in retail). But to the question posed, AI's potential to monitor OOS, checkout lines, etc. is not in question -- retailers ability to manage humans to correct those situations is. As usual, a story. I was working at Frito Lay when the first handheld computer for route salespeople was rolled out. It was supposed to generate enough extra time in the day for the average route to add about two stops -- more than enough to pay for the capital investment. Instead the "start-stop" times recorded by the computers showed that the technology saved enough time in the day for the average route person to return to the DC 30 minutes sooner than before -- which is what they did. Home in time for Oprah -- yea!

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