PROFILE

Gary Sankary

Retail Industry Strategy, Esri

I am a 45 year veteran of the retail industry. My career started in the back room of my father’s shoe store. His advice to me when I went to college, “Don’t go into retail”.

After 27 years in executive leadership at Target, I now work for Esri. Here, I get to survey the retail industry holistically. I evangelize location intelligence and help retailers unlock the local insights the need to better engage customers, preform local market analysis and make key decision about store and facility optimization.

Everything in retail happens in a specific place for a reason. Location intelligence can help you understand that reason.

To learn more, visit: esri.com

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  • Posted on: 02/24/2021

    Can making deliveries once a week make e-commerce sustainable and more profitable?

    This is interesting. My own garage has an area that has become a "staging area" for boxes to be cut down and put into recycling. That said I'm not sure I would take advantage of this, it feels like it adds friction to the process. Usually I prioritize speed of delivery over anything else. I think that's one reason subscription services are slow to be adopted. I'm also going to be interested to see how many retailers sign up for another fee to deliver products.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2021

    Best Buy is handing out bonuses, paid time off for vaccines and pink slips. Huh?

    Sticking strictly to the morale question - of course frontline employee morale has a significant effect on retail performance, especially in businesses that require high-touch interactions with customers. There are strong correlations in our industry between strong store teams and financial performance. It's not only sales performance, it also impacts operations, turnover, and even shrinkage.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2021

    Should suppliers help fund retailers’ omnichannel investments?

    This is a good example of a negotiation tactic playing out in a public forum. Putting specific charges to a line item on a PO calls out the costs associated with providing these services, services consumers clearly want. But at the end of the day this isn't any different that charging vendors a shrink allowance or new store stocking fees. All things I've seen done my career. I do think it's a bit disingenuous to suggest that they're charging these fees to avoid raising prices for their customers. The price increases will come from the vendor in the near future and at some point will be passed along to the consumer.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2021

    Will 7-Eleven’s beer and wine on tap be a c-store game changer?

    This will certainly be an interesting experiment to watch. In most states (not mine sadly) 7-Eleven already sells alcohol. The store I go to when I'm visiting family in Reno has a fixture behind the counter stocked with minis of every type. If one is inclined it's easy to buy a hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps and mix a drink for yourself as soon as you step out of the store. Also easy to buy a 40oz can of beer and drop it in a bag, pop the top and walk out. So I'm not sure this is that much of a step beyond that. My question is if the juice is worth the squeeze to manage a mini-bar in the store. If kids sneak a refill on a soft drink, not a big deal. If kids figure out they can fill a cup of beer and "gulp" it down in the store without getting noticed by the cashier - that's a huge deal from a regulatory perspective. One that could cost real money in terms of fines or worse. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the U.S. I don't see this going mainstream, too many local jurisdictions have very complicated rules about alcohol.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Is suburban retail (malls, too) primed for a comeback?

    Bob, this is in the back of my mind as well. For now, it works for younger families. But I suspect a few years of eating at the same chain restaurant and shopping in the same Big Box will get old. They'll miss the connection with peers and neighborhoods. And as an older adult I am all in for selling the big house and moving to higher density living if it means I don't have shovel snow and can have a few dining and shopping options in walking distance.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Is suburban retail (malls, too) primed for a comeback?

    I don't agree at all. The death of the mall has more to do with well documented struggles of the traditional anchors and changing shopping patterns. Centers that have entertainment options as part of their value proposition and are destinations are doing fine for the moment. As for the traditional "come and park a mile away and walk through shops and a food court and maybe see a movie" malls -- that's a stale model that will not survive.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    The benefit is that most people read texts today, especially when near real time communication is at issue. This is an example of retailers reacting to the market. The fact that 70 percent weren't doing this before the pandemic highlights another problem in retail around technology adoption, which is a different topic. Retailers will want to keep in mind that messages need to be value added and contextual or they will find themselves blocked or subject to opt out. This is how we're communicating with each other, it makes sense that the companies we do business with would do the same thing.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Should retailers just say ‘no’ to Instacart?

    I believe that Instacart is a legitimate strategy for retailers who are trying to stand up home delivery fulfillment capabilities quickly. It gives them an opportunity to gauge actual demand for delivery services in their stores, and it offers them a chance to learn some best practices in providing those services. And initially at least, at far less investment that trying to start from scratch. My opinion is that the primary detriment to retailers using these services is the dilution of their brand. Customers will associate the last mile provider, no matter who it is, with their shopping experience, not the retailer. And given how easy it is for customers to shop around on these platforms, the retailer gets demoted to just another source for products, one that’s easily swapped out with no connection to their brand. When you look at costs and the issue with branding, I would strongly recommend that retailers who use third-party shopping and delivery services do so as a bridge to get them to a better model. To start, they can make an educated decision about the viability of providing these services, that’s not a bad thing at all. And if the decision is to go forward, they can begin to build out their own, branded services for their customers.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Digital gains are changing how Best Buy puts its associates to work

    Ananda, I agree with you. Digital doesn't mean less, it means different. Change is here to stay, resilience is the success measurement of importance now. My caveat is when they use the word "flexible" to mean fewer hours for employees to get them below the benefits threshold, and fewer structure hours making employees more on call than shift work. Which is cheaper for the company, but difficult for team members to manage.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Will Nordstrom celebrate or regret its decision to give brands a lot more control?

    This isn't a new strategy in the department store channel by any means. All those branded makeup counters and beauty departments across the segment? In apparel Macy's and Marshall Fields had vendor managed departments in going back to at least the '80s. I fondly remember the Polo shop at my store. Nordstrom seems to have had a little different approach over the years based on the Nordstrom's brand strength and their private label products. Strategically this can be a win for the department store and the vendor - the vendor gets control over what specific items and looks are going to be featured. This helps with their marketing and provides consistency for their brand. The retailer gets the benefits of support in the store, labor, materials etc. and, where the brands align and are complimentary, it can improve their customers' perception and shopping experience. I think this will be a nice win for Nordstrom.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Walmart discovers a unique craft beer on Instagram. Will this become a thing?

    I don't think this has anything to do with the pandemic, this is a retailer trying to get a scoop on their competition by mining data about what consumers are thinking and talking about. These days consumers, are making their conversations and thoughts public and putting all this data out there for savvy companies like Walmart to find, interpret and inform their merchandising teams. Well done. Walmart.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Digital gains are changing how Best Buy puts its associates to work

    On the surface I agree 100 percent that we will see some changes in store roles. Keeping in mind that the vast majority of business in retail, throughout the pandemic and into the near future, still happens in a store. I anticipate that there will continue to be a strong need for basic blocking and tackling - unpacking trucks, stocking shelves and serving customers. Now there's new emphasis on supporting digital sales and new fulfillment capabilities. Great. I applaud Best Buy for really turning around business before the pandemic, and their outstanding success during it. Their success should be providing more opportunities for the employees who supported their success, and maybe this is going to be the case. But reading between the lines: "Our workforce will need to evolve to meet the evolving needs of customers while providing more flexible opportunities for our people," and "to drive efficiencies in labor planning and cost" starts to make me wonder if, despite their success and record profits, they're falling back to a pattern of eliminating benefited positions and cutting labor costs only to boost their financial results. I hope that's not the case, time will tell.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2021

    Will Men’s Wearhouse’s new digitally-equipped next-gen stores be a must shop?

    The bigger question is, will Men's Wearhouse make the changes to their assortments that younger customers demand? All the great technology in the world cannot help move a product that is out of fashion. The formalwear and business attire segment was in trouble before the pandemic -- barring a major change in men's fashion trends, I don't see it recovering much after this is over.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2021

    Will Men’s Wearhouse’s new digitally-equipped next-gen stores be a must shop?

    I would suggest that suiting is a capability that might not be so important anymore. It was dying before the pandemic. That said you're 100 percent accurate on your assessment in my opinion.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2021

    Should Aldi’s growing store count and digital progress keep rivals up at night?

    Am I surprised that a company that is hyper-focused on their value proposition and efficient operations is doing very well? Not even a little bit. Will they become a problem for Big Box grocers? I would answer with a firm “sort of.” Aldi’s limited assortments will keep them from putting their bigger competitors out of business. However they are going to take marketshare in a lot of categories. They emphasize healthy foods, non-GMO, organics, artificial ingredient-free products and offer them at really shockingly low prices. This is going to earn them share from high end and budget grocers alike. Their ability to penetrate a market quickly with lots of stores helps as well. On the other hand, during the pandemic we’ve seen trip consolidation, and Aldi probably doesn’t do as well in that environment. I’m willing to pay a bit more at a bigger store if it means I can get more of my list completed. It’s a small negative. Aldi is carving out a niche in grocery from big box, dollar stores and convenience stores alike by being really, really good at what they do.

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