John Karolefski

Editor-in-Chief, CPGmatters

John Karolefski is the publisher and editor-in-chief of, a twice-monthly ezine that focuses on building brands through retail. He is also the executive director of the Shopper Technology Institute (STI), the only trade organization for providers of technologies and solutions that engage shoppers and analyze their behavior. STI produces and hosts the annual LEAD Marketing Conference which focuses on Loyalty, Engagement, Analytics and Digital applications.

Karolefski, the former senior editor of Supermarket News, is the co-author of three books: “Consumer-Centric Category Management,” “All About Sampling and Demonstrations,” and “TARGET 2000: The Rising Ride of TechnoMarketing.”

  • Posted on: 01/18/2019

    NRF: Would digital experiences be even better with a human touch?

    Maintaining the human touch as technology invades the store is key. Co-creation makes a lot of sense, but it won't be deployed by every retailer. It is something for the big boys (and girls) with the resources to executive properly.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2019

    NRF: Is the time right for retailers and brands to take political stands?

    I can accept brands taking stand on social issues. Levi Strauss's Chip Bergh spoke about his company's “long history of not being afraid to take stands on social issues.” But political issues should be avoided. In the photo atop this RetwilWire story, Bergh is seen shaking hands with Snoop Dogg at the NRF Foundation Gala 2019. As many people know -- but perhaps not Bergh -- Mr. Dogg shot a clown dressed as President Trump in a music video. No matter what your political leanings, such a video is plain wrong. I would not be surprised if Mr. Dogg was visited by the Secret Service or FBI.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2019

    NRF: Will grocers be ready for 2030’s smart future?

    A smart grocery story will depend on shoppers using a smartphone while shopping. I have read many surveys saying that a growing number of consumers use their smartphones in the store -- checking a shopping list, scanning SmartLabels in packages, getting pinged by beacons, looking up nutritional info, etc. In my experience, that is fake news. I am in stores all the time around the country. I never see anybody using a smartphone while shopping. Never. I have even asked several food execs if they see anyone using a smartphone. They sheepishly say, no, and ask me not to report their names. Not to say it will never happen. I believe it is generational. Maybe by 2030 the smartphone will used routinely in grocery stores. Then again, maybe not.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2019

    NRF: Roving robots report for work at all Giant Foods’ stores

    Robots in some supermarkets are a novelty and cool nowadays, but it will be instructive to see if they will roll out to more stores and become a permanent addition to a store's staff. I see many negatives and issues with robots. I laugh when I read that robots will at first be used to detect spills and breakages. Are so many supermarkets around the country awash with broken glass and sauces on the floor of supermarket aisles that a robot army is called for? Robots to detect out-of-stocks and mis-priced products sounds like a good idea. They will replace workers who have done this before, but, hey, these workers will be given other more important tasks in the store. So the grocer -- already operating with thin margins and facing considerable retail competition -- is adding perhaps considerable costs and nobody will be laid off? Huh? Then there are issues like robot maintenance, vandalism from pranksters, aisle congestion, intimidation of the elderly, etc. Technology is great when it makes sense. But I say invest in people. Grocers who want to reduce out-of-stocks, clean up occasional breakages and spills, and whatever should hire more people. Heinen's, the successful regional grocer in northeast Ohio, is celebrating its 90th anniversary. That's where I shop in the Cleveland suburbs. No robots, no self-checkout terminals, and no long lines at checkout because there are always plenty of cashiers. The staff is friendly and helpful when needed. Great customer service with a well-trained and abundant staff always wins.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2019

    NRF: Consumers prefer self-service, but associates still have a role to play

    There are surveys, and then there are other surveys. The results depend on how the question is worded and who is being polled. I do not believe the results of this survey. A well-informed and friendly sales associate who is not pushy is the preference of almost every shopper. Here's another survey: People do not want to speak with robots while shopping in-store or online, according to a new study conducted by Oracle NetSuite. IMHO, this is not a surprise to clear-thinking folks who have not been swept up by today's techo-mania.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2019

    NRF: Is video analytics the solution to ending long checkout lines?

    Let's keep this simple. The solution to long checkout lines is not a predictive video analytics solution, and it is not cashierless checkout. The solution is opening up more checkout lanes and hiring more cashiers.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    What’s holding back in-store mobile engagement?

    I have seen many surveys saying that a high percentage of shoppers are engaging with their smartphones while grocery shopping. I look for these people all the time in stores around the country -- and never see them. I see many shoppers referring to a slip of paper with a grocery list on it. I suspect that the urge to get in and get out of the store quickly works against shoppers checking their smartphones for coupons and other promotional offers in store. If there will be a change, it will be generational.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2019

    E-commerce forces CPG brands to think differently

    This is another smart step into D2C by a savvy consumer products leader, which launched its Tide Wash Club for pods in 2016. Subscriptions for products that need to be replenished on a regular basis make a lot of sense, especially for heavy items like bags of dog food, cat sand, and laundry detergent. I expect more D2C by other CPG companies. KIND Healthy Snacks sells its fruit and nut bars D2C through the KIND Snack Club. Snack bars need to be replenished regularly, right?
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Will smart shelves work for Hannaford and its customers?

    The Hannaford store reminds me of the Store of the Future that I toured in 2016 at the international Expo Milano in Italy. The grocery chain involved was Coop Italia, which later installed the technology in a real store in a Milan suburb. For example, augmented reality screens above the produce fixtures analyze the fruits and vegetables that shoppers pick up. On the screens, shoppers can read information about nutrition, origin, and possible alternatives. Shoppers are engaged and the store is reportedly doing well.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    Kroger’s private label hits get their own store-within-a-store

    A store-within-a-store will not work for every grocer's private label. The store brand line must include premium offerings that would be showcased in the separate section. There would have to be many SKUs to justify the space. Run-of-the-mill private labels would not work there.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2018

    Should Santa be modernized?

    The iconic images of Santa Claus have thrilled children for ages. Sometimes it's best to leave things alone. These newfangled versions of Santa might amuse those too old and busy to remember the joys of their own childhood, but such images surely would confuse today's youngsters. As a traditionalist, I believe Christmas marketing should stress wholesome values and seasonal images. We have the rest of the year to be cool and hip.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Will 7-Eleven’s cashier-less store take hold?

    Cashier-less convenience stores may be in the future because of small baskets. But facial technology won't be the answer. The model with the most success will be checking in with an app on a smartphone and checking out with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or similar mobile payment methods.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2018

    Are retailers getting over their SKU management hurdles?

    One key to proper product assortment is knowing who your customers are. Are more Hispanics shopping the store because more are living in the neighborhood? If so, the assortments need to change to cater to these new local customers. Shopper demographics always change, and grocers need to monitor these changes so they can give customers what they want to buy.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2018

    Has Amazon figured out how to scale its Go cashier-free tech to bigger stores?

    It will be TOO expensive. Period. But if Amazon can somehow figure it out for Whole Foods, competing grocers -- who may not have the resources -- would be in trouble.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    Is Hasbro trolling Millennials with its new Monopoly game sold by Walmart?

    Millennials are offended too easily. I know quite a few, and am the father of one. Lighten up, guys and gals.

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