Joe Skorupa

Influencer, Consultant and Strategic Advisor

After spending 20 years at RIS News, Joe currently does consulting work for a number of leading retail technology and advisory companies. Prior to joining RIS, Joe spent 10 years at Popular Mechanics during the birth of the worldwide web and moved to San Francisco during the height of the dot-com boom to earn his stripes on the frontlines of early-stage e-commerce and online technologies.

Joe is the Editor-at-Large and featured blogger for RIS News (, which was named the best B2B retail website by Folio Magazine in 2018 and 2019. Joe’s blog, Retail Insight was named the best B2B retail blog by Folio Magazine in 2019.

  • Posted on: 06/16/2021

    Boxed is taking bulk e-commerce public

    The Boxed story continues its amazing record of success. Keys are a tech-first approach, subscription model, focus on customer satisfaction, focus on company culture, working hard to create an engaged workforce, expanding at a controlled rate, and a visionary founder. This is a retail company easy to root for.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    How can retailers best navigate supply chain turbulence?

    This is another example of the retail supply chain being more like a steel point-to-point cable instead of a flexible chain. Suppliers have done a great job selling retailers on the idea that creating deep exclusive partnerships (usually located continents away) is better than creating a network of suppliers that includes multiple alternatives. Exclusive partners won't help if they can't produce or deliver. Retailers need a fully digital supply chain ecosystem that can optimize manufacturers, suppliers and distributors (shipping, too) as situations change. The retail supply chain has other problems to discuss another day, but the current situation is extreme and is likely to last throughout the year.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    Amazon scales its Just Walk Out tech for a full-size grocery store

    The costs for Just Walk Out technology will come down and then Whole Foods and other grocers will make it widely available. It's just a matter of time and there will be no small amount of difficulty. The key is that customers love it and what customers want retailers supply. Retailers will learn to love the labor savings, data gathering, and real-time operations control. It's another of the many signs we are seeing of the age of autonomous technology in retail kicking into high gear.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2021

    Walmart gives associates free phones and a mobile work app

    This is all about employee empowerment and will be a big win both for Walmart and its employees. 2021 will be remembered as the year of a tipping point -- when retail employees became valued team members as opposed to a disposable (60 percent average turnover rate) minimum wage workforce. Some people missed this point in last week's discussion about the Best Buy employee empowerment plan due to how the discussion questions neglected to mention the larger goals. No one can miss this point about Walmart's employee empowerment plan. It is massive.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2021

    Best Buy puts multi-taskers to work

    Bob and Ryan, I don't think the framing of this discussion fully represents what Best Buy is actually doing. Delivery is just a small part. The bigger part is providing education and training so that employees can become certified to perform tasks outside their primary job function and earn a different hourly wage depending on the task performed. Retention is the main goal, not delivery.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2021

    Best Buy puts multi-taskers to work

    A perfect storm of rising wages, a tight labor market, and competition from the gig economy has triggered a tectonic shift in retail, and Best Buy's plan is just one example. Retailers have begun to rethink the role of the workforce as being more than a disposable resource with a 60 percent turnover rate. New goals include improving retention, productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction. This is the future of work in retail.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2021

    Whole Foods goes all-in on centralized buying

    I think Amazon's point with Whole Foods is to make stores more digital or omni-commerce. Local products do not have to be exclusively in the store. They can be ordered and delivered to homes, which is the biggest trend in grocery over the last 15 months. There are a large number of local farms and suppliers signing up with new platforms that deliver to homes. Amazon/Whole Foods is joining this trend by digitizing its stores to include more local options and not necessarily stifling them by adding traditional centralizing. Amazon doesn't do anything in a traditional way.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2021

    Is Amazon the safest place to work in retail?

    Smart move by Amazon on many levels. Investing in workers is one of the major unheralded trends in retail today and represents a sea change for the industry. It involves more than safety and increasing wages. Research data shows the top category for retail tech investment today is in workforce management and engagement tools. My recent blog examined this major shift.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2021

    Simon says J.C. Penney is ready to become a 21st century retailer

    Penney has missed every major trend in the past 10 years or longer. Penney has always taken one step forward and two steps back (10 steps back during the Ron Johnson era). So it will hang on and live a Zombie existence like Sears, undead and delivering some modicum of financial benefit to a few stakeholders, but having no real impact on shoppers or the retail industry as a whole.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2021

    Are two PacSun CEOs better than one?

    These co-leaders represent two different and complementary dimensions. Mike Relich has forgotten more than most retail execs have ever known and he is an expert tech enabler. Alfred Chang, who I don't know, sounds like an expert merchant with deep knowledge of the company culture. Seems like a win-win to me.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Why did Amazon open a hair salon?

    Amazon isn't likely to open a national chain of hair/beauty salons, but it is likely to use Amazon tools -- technology, data, supply chain, fulfillment, low pricing, infrastructure -- to support the salon and professional beauty space, which is underserved and, as proven during the pandemic, as close as it gets to being indispensable to many people.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2021

    Toms finds one-for-one charitable model doesn’t add up for its business

    Toms dumped planeloads of shoes into some of the poorest countries in the world and killed local shoe businesses and shoemakers. This is a good marketing policy? Just because it happens out of sight to most people doesn't make it right. Charitable donating has to be thought through all the way to the end. The plan doesn't end at the giving. It is the receiving that counts. Toms new policy holds out real hope for those in need.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2021

    Toms finds one-for-one charitable model doesn’t add up for its business

    Personally, I never liked the one-for-one gimmick. Having traveled to places with groups that have much more flexible giving models I was always upset to hear how planes flying into countries with loads of Toms shoes put every shoe business and shoemaker in the area out of business. So I applaud this move and hope they have learned lessons over the years that will enable their charitable giving to produce the positive results they intend.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Amazon’s CEO Bezos comes out in support of national infrastructure bill

    Not surprised at all that Jeff Bezos thinks infrastructure is important. The first speech I saw him make back in the early 2000s was mostly about building a strong nationwide network of DCs and logistics networks. This was at a time when the rest of the industry was buzzing about jumping into e-commerce, which mostly meant fine-tuning websites and mastering online marketing/merchandising. Bezos was many years ahead of the curve by plotting a multi-year investment in supply chain infrastructure, which has helped make Amazon the dominant force it is today. Infrastructure investments in roads, trains and broadband, among many others, will help improve the business-of-business in retail.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Amazon’s CEO Bezos comes out in support of national infrastructure bill

    Nor higher education.

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