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.

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  • Posted on: 10/19/2021

    Did Amazon execs mislead Congress about how it uses third-party sellers’ data?

    I really don't see much impact, at least in the short term. Until a viable alternative market place is available, third-party sellers will just absorb this news as a cost of doing business with Amazon.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2021

    Get ready for the ‘IOU Christmas’

    Transparency is critical right now. Proactive communication with your customers will go a long way toward assuaging their frustrations when they can’t find what they’re looking for.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Is Amazon 4-Star a winner?

    We do seem to be jumping the gun on "success." Amazon's reputation precedes it, I suspect. That said, I'm not sure that it's warranted, looking at Whole Foods. We really haven't seen Whole Foods starting to gobble up market share after the Amazon purchase.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    How should retailers communicate supply chain snafus?

    There's a fine line here between informing customers and offering excuses. I think a good approach is prioritizing information about specific items, especially high demand items, and supporting customers with rain checks or extra touches like home delivery when an outage occurs and items arrive later.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    Lunds & Byerlys gives associates Thanksgiving and Black Friday off

    I'm a bit stunned by this actually. I live in the Twin Cities and Lunds & Byerlys is an institution here. They're also a grocer, which makes them a fairly essential resource for things we need. While I genuinely applaud their support for their team, I'm not sure this is exactly how I would express those sentiments. Closing Thanksgiving, I'm 100 percent in favor of that. Closing the day after? Black Friday isn't really a grocery event per se. Customers do want to get to their groceries the day after Thanksgiving -- you're always out of something. This is going to put off a lot of their customers I suspect. I would suggest choosing another day, or adding a floating holiday to their calendars so they can pick a day that works better for them. It will be interesting to watch how their competition reacts and how their customers react.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Gap expands tech investments with deal for AI retail analytics startup

    One of the big issues COVID-19 exposed for retail was the gap in the application of analytics and data to make decisions and inform decisions across retail. Companies like Target and Best Buy were able to quickly pivot to shifts in consumer demand for capabilities like curbside and home delivery because of the investments they had made in advanced analytics. Those retailers who ignored these trends and didn't make investments in technology and innovation struggled and now find themselves playing catch-up. Going forward I believe the key areas of continued investment will be in customer analytics, supply chain management and demand forecasting. All of these areas require speed and the ability to consume and find actionable insights in mountains of real time data. That requires real investments, winning companies are and will continue to spend in these areas.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Is sportswear positioned to go on a long term winning streak?

    Sportswear has been on a winning streak for a while. COVID-19 accreted that trend as people started dressing more casual every day. Even with a return to the office, I don't think we'll see drop off in strong sales in this category, there is so much going for it. Newer high tech fabrics, new silhouettes that blur the line between "sports" and "leisure," plus all of the reasons listed above. This is where the apparel market is really growing, and I expect it to continue to do so in the future.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2021

    Target is giving associates even more reasons to stay

    Target is killing it. And I hope, as they do, they raise the stakes at all of their competitors. They're blowing holes in the idea that retailers can't find or keep team members. The more honest way to say what is happening is that retailers can't find or keep team members at pay and benefits at the rates they want to pay. Target is telling their teams "you are valued" and it's paying rewards for them.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2021

    Mobile retail aspires to attain food truck-like popularity

    The appeal of a food truck is the culinary treasure hunt. It's fun to find a new great truck. Plus, there's a convenience factor of being able to find a few food offerings at a venue like a brewery or a concert. This concept, while innovative, really doesn't check any of those boxes in my opinion. Trucks and kiosks work well for impulse buys or convenient access to small items in an airport or hotel. For furniture or big ticket items? According to the article I have to make an appointment, meet the truck at the appointed time and place, make a decision about a big ticket item on the spot I suspect -- I'm not sure this will go much further than early adopters and people who really don't like going out to stores.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2021

    Has Walmart put a bullseye on Cat & Jack with its new Free Assembly Kids line?

    Cat & Jack are successful because Target is able to cash in on decades of building credibly as an affordable fashion brand, across all their categories. Walmart has a pretty steep uphill climb to build this same credibility for their brands. I love the idea, but to really "target" Cat & Jack, Walmart will have to take a more holistic approach to their brand, starting with in-store presentation and customer experience.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2021

    Amazon asks, why wait for Black Friday when you can get Christmas deals today?

    Consumers will certainly benefit this holiday as competition for wallet share heats up. I am curious to see what happens around Black Friday and into December after all the BUY EARLY sales are done. Retailers have a notoriously short memories. What's going to drive traffic later in the season when they're up against LY? What panic pricing will we see late in the season?
  • Posted on: 10/04/2021

    Will JCPenney’s ‘new, inclusive beauty experience’ relaunch be a hit?

    Another miss for J.C. Penney. Losing Sephora will just add to the perception that the brand is not relevant. Another reason to visit J.C. Penney is gone.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2021

    Will Target’s customers treat October 10 like Black Friday?

    Target knows their customers, and they are masters of private label. That translates to brand affinity and strong loyalty. During the pandemic they've only gotten better. Heading into the holiday I do think they're going to continue to be successful. I'm not bullish on an October 10 event, I don't' think enough consumers are thinking far enough ahead to associate this event with the holidays, but we'll see. In-stocks has been the key issue for Target, but they know that. For key items and holiday drivers I'm confident in their inventory planning. One thing to watch will be how well they can scale their curbside and delivery service to what is sure to be huge demand.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2021

    COVID-19 has put grocers and CPG brands through some changes

    Retailers have a reputation for being slow to adopt new technology. The pandemic has finally pushed the industry to widely adopt the omnichannel strategies that they've been talking about for years. This isn't "new" by any means, it's implementing strategies that have been available for a long time. What is new, and good, is that companies are really getting serious about customer engagement and delivering consistent experiences across channels. That's what will "win" in retail.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2021

    Best Buy says ‘relax, we’ve got you’

    I love the ads. I love the idea that Best Buy is the place to go for advice about technology, and apparently cooking tips. I think they've come a long way from the early days of the Geek Squad when the company was trying to monetize even simple support interactions. I sincerely hope this works for them. At the same time, there is an acute labor shortage in retail. Providing the level of support that Best Buy is touting requires well-trained and highly dedicated team members to deliver consistently. That's going to be a difficult hurdle to jump I expect. I do hope they are able to get there, the company deserves a lot of credit.

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