Ken Morris

Principal, Boston Retail Partners

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: 09/21/2018

    Nike expects sales to take off with launch on

    Selling Nike products on these marketplaces does nothing to tarnish the Nike brand, as Nike products are widely available today on Amazon and through other retailers and distributors. The move for Nike to sell directly on these platforms is probably inevitable. If Nike is concerned about protecting its retail channels by not cannibalizing their sales, they could limit the products they sell directly on the marketplaces to product models that are exclusive to Nike branded store or Nike’s online.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    What would 3,000 AmazonGo stores do to the U.S. retail landscape?

    The biggest challenge with expanding AmazonGo to 3,000 stores is the ROI of the cashier-less technology model. Based on the current technology investment required for each AmazonGo store, it is improbable to believe that they can be profitable. In addition to the technology, the stores still have some employees to staff shelves, so they aren’t eliminating all employee costs. There needs to be more technology advancements that are more cost effective for companies to scale beyond cashier-less test stores. Today, they are still a novelty and a driver of massive publicity.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2018

    Are Aldi’s customers who you think they are?

    I am not at all surprised, as they say in Boston, "everyone loves a baahhgin." Aldi’s product mix and price strategy is a perfect fit for Millennials with busy lifestyles. They make shopping simple and fast by offering only a limited number of options for each product category, which reduces they time to compare products. The products are selected based on quality and broad appeal and because they purchase massive quantities of limited products they drive down their costs from manufacturers, which lowers the prices for consumers. It is a great business model, especially for a category with traditionally low margins which they cleverly offset with their extensive private label assortment. Initially, Aldi was primarily a store for lower income demographics, but they have expanded their product offering to include more fresh foods, organics and easy-to-prepare dishes, which appeals to mid to higher income consumers. They still have the reputation of quick, easy and low priced shopping, which appeals to busy shoppers in all income ranges. These busy shoppers are the same people that value delivery and store pickup.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2018

    Will competition force all grocers to offer free store pickup?

    All retailers, grocers included, will need to match the competition and not charge for BOPIS. Non-grocers have set the standard and consumers now expect this to be a free service. As more grocers like Target, Walmart and Whole Foods offer grocery pickup for free, it is quickly becoming table stakes. In yesterday's Walmart blog on RetailWire I mentioned that their drive up kiosk was a game changer and after my overnight reflection on the subject I still feel the same. The bigger challenge is pricing grocery delivery appropriately to protect your margins and your customers. As competition heats up for grocery delivery, grocers will offer special deals on delivery and it will become a financial dilemma for grocers.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2018

    Walmart expands test of giant automated grocery kiosk

    For shoppers that want the convenience of picking up orders without going into the store, this is a good option. The grocery kiosks are a complement to in-store pick-up and delivery options. Walmart is focused on giving customers many ways to buy, receive and return goods. Consumers love options and they are getting many options at Walmart. Walmart continues to innovate and drive new customer expectations. With 90 percent of the U.S. population within 10 miles of a Walmart, this is a game changing idea and may just change the way America shops. Even well-to-do customers will buy their basic items this way without having to enter the store. This is also a great use case for automation. While there is a human element in bringing the groceries to the kiosk, the fulfillment and interaction with the customer is completely automated.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2018

    Macy’s plans for a very digital Christmas with seasonal hires

    Hiring additional staff for the holidays is a smart move for Macy's, as this is a great opportunity to "Wow" customers with great service. The holidays have notoriously been a time of poor customer service at many brands and if you can stand out by providing an outstanding experience, you will generate a lot of good will with customers. And with the continued increase in BOPIS, it puts a lot of stress on store associates' time. More staff will help with BOPIS execution as well. There is no doubt that finding the right people to fill the positions will be difficult. It will probably require higher pay and promises of longer term employment past the holidays.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2018

    Walmart’s relaunches site, offers three-hour delivery in NYC has an uphill battle to become relevant. Awareness is the biggest challenge, as I don't know anyone who thinks of shopping on Competing against Amazon is Walmart (yes, this is competition) and this is a monumental challenge. It will take a significant investment in advertising and promotions to make successful. It is hard to imagine that will be a top player and it will become a lot more difficult if Alibaba gains more traction in the U.S.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2018

    Gap CEO says retailers not turning in-store data into action

    Retailers are “talking” about customer identification and personalization, but few are doing it well today. If retailers have properly integrated their data across all channels in real-time, in-store data is available and integrated with all other channels. The other key requirement is customer identification in the store. One of the best ways to encourage customer identification is through a reward-rich loyalty program that is integrated with a mobile app and mobile payments. Retailers that identify customers when they enter the store and equip their associates with the proper mobile tools can personalize the shopping experience based on customer context. Customer context is the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions the make the shopping experience relevant. It enables retailers to personalize the shopping experience based on customer preferences, purchase history, their closet, their most recent online browsing history, time of day, weather and their physical location – all based on real-time information and personalized to create a bond with these valuable customers. This customer data is critical beyond just the in-store experience. It ripples through the entire supply chain. Inventory optimization requires customer and inventory context. Demand should be determined by the products a particular customer chooses based upon what product selection surrounds the purchased item. This concept really changes how we buy online and ship from store, buy online and pick up in-store, how we plan merchandise, how we allocate it and replenish it. We need to leverage new math, real-time customer and inventory information to create actionable, next generation retail solutions.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2018

    7-Eleven gives football fandom an AR boost

    Entertaining and engaging customers with an AR app tied to football is a smart strategy to increase awareness and loyalty for 7-Eleven, especially for the younger generations. It is challenging for convenience stores to create brand loyalty, as many purchases are truly “convenience” based – whatever store is closest or along your path. With a fun app where consumers can win prizes or discounts, 7-Eleven has the opportunity to build a loyal fan base that will seek out their stores when making convenience purchases – especially when they have a reward to redeem. Success of the campaign can be measured by store sales performance and by the increase in sales for products promoted in the app.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2018

    Grab and go and yadda-yadda

    Grocers have rushed to join the bandwagon of the hot trend of meal kits and many are still working out the finer details. There are a lot of moving parts that need to be perfected to do meal kits well and to price the correctly. Forecasting demand is one of the big challenges, especially as you introduce new kits. The labor to assemble meal kits is another challenge and to me is the key ingredient here. Retailer have been reducing headcount at stores for years and this trend creates a labor intensive conundrum. How do I maintain margins while increasing labor to service kit demand (as labor costs are skyrocketing via minimum wage legislation)? Food safety is another challenge. For meal kits that include meats and fresh produce, retailers need to continue to monitor temperatures and freshness to ensure products are safe. While there are challenges, retailers will figure it out, as it is what many busy consumers want!
  • Posted on: 09/07/2018

    Saks Off 5th launches off-price private labels

    There are probably a couple factors driving Saks Off 5th to launch private label brands for its off-price stores. Private label brands that are geared towards younger demographics will help expand the target audience of shoppers that shop at the Saks Off 5th stores. Another factor is price competition. Rather than selling commodity brands (items that are available at other chains) that are not selling at its Saks 5th Avenue stores or are out of season, private label brands are not subject to price comparison. Private label brands, if well received by customers, can also drive store traffic if the brands are not available anywhere else. Private label allows them to create a brand that can't be disintermediated. All retailers need to create a brand that can't be eroded by Amazon. This is a wise move by Saks.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2018

    Nike campaign tests ‘all publicity is good publicity’ adage

    Any press is good press. Nike is picking a side and I don’t think that’s going to negatively affect them over the long run. Despite the backlash, the ad will only do good things for Nike, given the company’s younger demographics. About 60 percent of their business is outside the United States. It’s a calculated risk. Nike probably got approval on this decision from their board of directors. For every 25 people who aren’t going to buy Nike product another 50 are going to buy their products. A lot of the people that say they will boycott Nike, won’t. There will be a lot tweets between now and the time they buy their next sports item. By that time, they will likely forget their stance and buy Nike products, just like they have in the past. Nike is probably the best marketing company in the business. This campaign has already blown up and will only increase their influence and brand loyalty with their key demographic.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2018

    Can Bon Ton Stores return from the dead?

    The department store segment is very challenging as it is predominately commodity products (items sold at many retail brands) that make it difficult to differentiate beyond price. Bon Ton did have some private label brands and as part of their return, they may expand their private label brands to help protect it from price competition and potentially open up a wholesale channel to complement the eCommerce play. Bon Ton should also consider consolidating its brands into one brand like Macy’s strategy when they acquired new brands. With one brand, they can maximize their marketing spend. It will be interesting to see how many stores they reopen. They may opt for an online focused presence like Coldwater Creek did when they restarted their brand after bankruptcy.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2018

    L’Occitane aims for a more immersive, more disruptive flagship

    Consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, love the theater of shopping just as their parents and grandparents did. These consumers grew up with technology and digital experiences and infusing immersive digital experiences into stores is a great way to inspire these consumers to visit your stores. L'Occitane is also elevating the experiences with high class interactive themes that will elevate consumers' perception of the brand. Once customers are identified, L’Occitane is personalizing the experience based on customer context -- another great retail practice. Understanding what products I buy, who I may buy for and price points I prefer plays well with both Millennials and Gen Z. L'Occitane needs to roll with this concept.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2018

    What questions should guide a digital transformation?

    The list of questions to help companies prepare for a digital transformation are good, but they only address the issue from an organizational perspective. What about the customer perspective? What about the employee perspective? Companies need to understand what customers expect and value from a digital perspective. They also need to consider what digital tools will help improve employee productivity and customer service. The answers to these questions should drive the objectives for digital transformation and be the driving force to accelerate their digital transformation.

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