Ken Morris

Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors

Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.

  • Posted on: 07/28/2021

    Has RFID at retail finally passed the long-awaited tipping point?

    The time for RFID is clearly right now. We just published a comprehensive white paper entitled "RFID-Powered Solutions: More Attainable Than Ever." Many of the use cases we detail there support omnichannel and the pursuit of a better customer experience. There's also info on deploying RFID technology for loss prevention and returns. The tipping point happened when labor costs rose and tag prices dropped to the point where the ROI became attractive. So, what's holding retailers back from going all in on RFID? As the old direct mail pieces used to say: "Frankly, I'm puzzled." Every retailer, even mid-sized ones, should be looking into leveraging RFID.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2021

    Will the Delta variant keep shoppers and unvaccinated workers at home?

    I believe that the Delta variant will have a serious impact on the recovery. This is serious and deadly for the unvaccinated. Those of us who thankfully believe in science and who took the polio and smallpox vaccines prior to the Covid one will potentially get ill and that alone may keep the majority of the country at home. The rest will shop till they drop.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Should retailers continue the chatbot deception?

    Let me be perfectly clear. There is no personal connection here and it is very frustrating to your customer. Retailers should always answer with a REAL PERSON. Chatbots save retailers money but alienate customers. My personal least favorite sound is the fake key clicking noise that they use to simulate keystrokes. Most retailers have stores that cross multiple time zones that can spread the workload as they are not always dealing with peak floor times. This can translate to superior customer service and extra pay for associates.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2021

    How will COVID-19 shape future consumers?

    Just as the Great Depression impacted our grandparents and parents, so too will this pandemic have a similar long-term effect. Gen "C" (which we all hope will be a very short generation) will be forever impacted in some way by this plague. Retailers should always be ahead of the curve on shopper psychology, and COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on all ages. Since the ultimate goal of any retailer should be to understand each shopper as an individual, there's no harm in hyperfocusing on this group for the future. What is the store of the future based around customer convenience? Just Walk Out technology, drop-and-go returns, BOPIS and BOPAC, and MFCs (Micro-Fulfillment Centers) are all the new normal as this plays out. We're also expecting more retailers to hire data scientists who can use AI and data analytics to cut to the chase on the immediate retail-related impact of COVID-19 on kids and adults as well.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2021

    Madewell is set on becoming a leader in the circular economy

    In today's world sustainability should be integrated into every retailer's brand. This ongoing engagement with ThredUP works well for retailers on several levels. It increases touches and probably encourages more frequent wardrobe changes, because now they can be rationalized by the shopper. And here's one more use case for RFID: to ensure that the clothes going and coming from ThredUP are authentic and to track their lifecycles. We have been working with Goodwill who is the ultimate thrifting retailer. That experience has cemented our belief in the circular economy. It is a growing trend that will only increase over time as sustainability, eco-consciousness and value continue to resonate in our new post-COVID-19 world.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2021

    Can facial recognition outlast its bad press?

    The question is this: Would a retailer be willing to put a facial recognition reader at its front door with a big "We know who you are!" sign next to it? Probably not. So far, every time a retailer is "caught" using the technology, they gain a PR problem and then remove the system. When every retailer's goal is to know every customer's wants, needs, intentions, and purchase history as much as possible, facial recognition seems to cross a privacy line for most shoppers. We recommend putting any potential investment in this type of initiative into other ways to achieve those goals: better customer service and engagement, improved inventory management, and more tightly integrated sales and delivery channels. The use of video technology for loss prevention is a given. Thieves need to be prosecuted and capturing the image of someone who is stealing either triggered by RFID, EAS or video dwell times is and will be leveraged and for good reason.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2021

    Walmart exec says robots will seriously speed up DC-to-store supply chain ops

    Like it or not, robotics will increase the advantage gap dramatically for Walmart and the other major players. Humans are no match for the spatial planning for loading trucks that they're using here. The real game changer that I see here is micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs). John Lert left Symbotic Systems, the Walmart vendor mentioned above, to start Alert Innovation also used by Walmart for MFCs. John is the real deal, an MIT bred genius who will revolutionize the store with robotic pick, pack, and pickup or delivery.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2021

    Bed Bath & Beyond adds off-hour pickups and speedier fulfillment to its ‘omni-always’ suite

    The digital-first, omni-always approach will become a baseline for retail survival, and the pre-opening concept is brilliant (at least for early risers). Let's see if they tack on a late-night option, too (poor store staff). Hope they've considered the security implications of "opening" before being fully staffed. If Bed Bath & Beyond adds micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) to its distribution network, they might consider offering pickups from those centers, too. Very dependent on MFC location, though, and Bed Bath & Beyond wouldn't want the shoppers to forget where the store is! The more Bed Bath & Beyond can reduce third-party deliveries, the better. Shopper pickup is essentially free delivery from Bed Bath & Beyond's perspective. Fewer points of failure and delay, too. From a merchandising perspective, we should see some inventiveness in coaxing these early-morning shoppers into the stores for some impulse buying during regular store hours. I'm not sure we will ever get back to normal -- we have changed how and where we buy. Most of our customers are shipping almost everything from stores and not DCs.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    When will predictive models become more predictable?

    Today, real-time data is a foreign concept to analytics companies. They work on yesterday's -- or even last week's -- data. We need to understand what is happening now in order to capture the KPIs that influence our customers. Predictive models only work if the inputs paint an accurate, real-time picture of activity. Retailers can have all the tools needed to build this ideal "nervous system" if they're willing to commit. What are the tools? Shopper-driven mobile checkout, RFID throughout the supply chain, sensors to monitor security and receiving activities, and a way to centralize all these IoT inputs in real time. Only then will data analytics and machine learning deliver the goods: accurate predictive models. Also, items like supply chain disruptions and global pandemics need to be considered in scope for analytics. Mostly, we need to learn from our recent experience and weave it into our go-forward strategy.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2021

    Will ‘Scan & Ship’ give Sam’s a leg up on club competition?

    What I like best about this story is the concept of "Innovation Jams." Sometimes the best ideas are those that bubble up from the shop floor, and these sprints give voice to associates who are closest to the customer journey. We frequently leverage similar techniques in our consulting practice, but just as often we get pushback. We need to give voice to the customer and associates to create meaningful innovation. Scan & Ship will make it almost too easy for shoppers to teleport bulky items to their homes. This removes the hassle of placing the order with an associate in the store, possibly adding another wait in line. It also eliminates the interruption of a shopper's routine or flow of shopping. They can fill up their cart and proceed to checkout without missing a beat. Essentially, this moves furniture and all other large items into the impulse-buy category. Also, Sam's Club's proven ability to go from pilot to rollout will let us see the impact of Scan & Ship without much delay.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2021

    Are independent grocers thriving?

    Independent grocers are thriving because shoppers missed physical interaction during the past year. While BOPIS and BOPAC are convenient, the experience is different. Meanwhile, many shoppers have become adept at ordering certain items online and shopping locally for produce, for example, at a nearby independent grocer. That's also why major grocers are scrambling to add smaller-footprint "local" store concepts to their mix. By the way, our Economic Development Practice helps local retailers compete by connecting them with better technology and business processes. We’re part of the Main Street America program that supports revitalization efforts for neglected downtowns.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2021

    New concept promises to deliver the Bloomie’s experience but in a smaller box

    Bloomie's has always had the air of exclusivity and these smaller intimate settings will only increase their brand awareness. Bloomie's will need to staff these stores with the right stylists and pay them appropriately. The key to success here is using people, process and technology to create a unique customer journey that stands out in the customer's mind. Bloomingdale's needs to follow the money and open these stores in the zip codes that will support this exclusivity at a lease rate that fits the model but that is a given.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2021

    Has Lego built an unforgettable retail experience for kids and adults?

    Experiential retail is where all retail should go. Highlight the difference between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar by making the store a stage (see our website for a white paper on the subject). Retail is theater and what better way to showcase it than with an experience that lasts long after Amazon has delivered your package.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2021

    Is self-checkout tech the answer for DSW and other retailers facing associate shortages?

    Self-checkout will be an essential response to the labor shift. Tech has a whole bag of tricks for this, including leveraging RFID. The goal is to turn shoppers into cashiers. Tag all possible items with RFID and enable customers to pass through an RFID reader station and walk out. Another option (or in conjunction with RFID) is to turn shoppers' phones into self-checkout devices. This approach is riskier than RFID for LP purposes, because it's just using the honor code. Still, it can offer shoppers price lookup and potentially item location in the aisles — both labor-saving features in their own right. With RFID, retailers can move to authenticated returns via serialized inventory. It also enables real-time inventory management for BOPIS and BOPAC. There are labor-saving implications for all of this. We are at an inflection point with the increased cost and decreased availability of labor meeting the decrease in the technology price of RFID. That's why RFID use cases that have not been leveraged are now front and center. Faster self-checkout and traditional checkout, better LP, faster returns, simpler markdowns, self-service fitting rooms, etc. The time is now. (Full disclosure, we're doing a comprehensive white paper on RFID in retail as we speak.)
  • Posted on: 06/30/2021

    Did Amazon or a rival, say Target, gain the most from Prime Day?

    If Target’s visits were up 32.3 percent over last year and Walmart saw store visits increase 21.7 percent, you have to believe that Amazon is now looking even more closely at its brick-and-mortar strategy. it's another reminder that Target is getting everything right in its omnichannel approach. Again, it looks like Amazon has built up Prime Day only to see it benefiting its main competition. It stands to reason that, just like in brick-and-mortar retail, adjacency increases sales for the competition. That's why you see the auto mile, furniture row, etc., adjacency works online as well.

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