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: 07/22/2019

    Walmart shakes things up, further integrating online and physical store teams

    One of the biggest challenges we have identified for retailers is the disparate systems and organizations that they usually operate. How can you offer the seamless shopping experience that customers expect with the organization, processes and technology at odds, running in silos, with yesterday's inventory information? Walmart has taken a huge step by combining supply chain and finance to be able to operate and fulfill easily across channels. Keeping its merchandising separate doesn’t seem to make sense but there may be a need to keep that area separate for the time being as they move towards a seamless integration across other areas. I believe the biggest issue is the technology silos that don't have real-time inventory information. That is the biggest challenge faced by every brick and mortar retailer competing with Amazon. Amazon is real time and the others are batch, synchronized only at end of day, because of the decentralized point of sales paradigm.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2019

    Amazon and rivals report record Prime Day results

    Absolutely — customers are drawn to sales and Prime Day has become one of the biggest with more retailers taking advantage of the momentum from the Amazon-driven day. While there were many online competitors utilizing the promotional push from Amazon to highlight their own deals, it seems that many brick-and-mortar retailers still have opportunities to get in on the action. These retailers should look at this year’s promotions to drive their own promotions next year.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Alexa – Are Americans ready to shop by voice?

    As digital assistants continue to become more mainstream and consumers become accustomed to new behaviors, researching and shopping by voice command will replace the “big browser experience” as the main form of search. With more than 32% of U.S. consumers now owning a smart speaker (according to research by Adobe Analytics), and growing quickly, it is easy to see the possibilities. As consumers become more comfortable with digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, conversational commerce will evolve to become an expected mode of communication and commerce for consumers. I believe what is hampering more widespread adoption is the "big brother" fear that someone is listening to whatever is being said in range of the speaker. Privacy is a big concern here and needs to be addressed before more widespread adoption, implicit in its capabilities, will be realized.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2019

    CEO says Walmart’s stores are the answer to Amazon – at least for groceries

    Walmart has the advantage over Amazon of numerous physical locations across the country (90% of the population lives within a 10 mile radius of a Walmart store) and needs to find additional ways to enhance its current customers’ online and in-store experiences by leveraging stores as distribution centers to encourage brand loyalty. Grocery is a great place to focus as it caters to the core customer and leverages the customer relationship. But, to succeed, Walmart needs to continue to improve and enhance its grocery quality and assortment to ensure customers return. Walmart should continue to focus on its online and in-store grocery business as that is a core strength for the company and leverages its current customer base.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    Can the Publix customer service experience be brought online?

    I believe as others today have mentioned that Publix employees need to deliver the last mile. The experience at Publix today is enhanced by associates interaction with customers. Today they help people to their cars with their order every time, they do things like offer free cookies and balloons to children. Instacart employees will not be offering those brand enhancing experience. I do feel that they need to create a loyalty program as they will be playing catch up, but not for long. Their winning combination will extend to the online shopper very quickly.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    Crate and Barrel takes the feed them and they will come approach

    This is a brilliant idea. Having an in-store restaurant offers the ability to add to the theatre of retail. It offers an entertainment option encouraging customers to spend more time and have a higher commitment to the brand. At The Table at Crate they offer a menu that should appeal to their base customer and will likely drive additional business.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    Mom-and-pop grocer gives SNAP recipients an organic foods discount

    This is a great idea to encourage healthy eating and should be emulated within other programs in the U.S. Unfortunately, in our world of “supersizing” everything, the focus on healthy food choices has not always been top-of-mind. But encouraging healthy, organic, local food choices is not only good for the consumer, but also the producer and retailer. Look at the growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the last decade, along with the growth in organic food sales – up nearly 6% in 2018 according to the Organic Trade Association – with organic fruits and vegetables now accounting for nearly 15% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales, this is a smart business choice and the ethical thing to do.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Is Primark ready to bust out in the USA?

    While fast-fashion may continue to have a place in retail, there appears to be a shift towards more sustainable items. Companies such as Everlane and Allbirds are making sustainability a core component of their overall strategy and consumers are responding. The challenge that Primark and other fast-fashion retailers face is to continue to make themselves relevant as other brands emphasize quality, ethical sourcing and environment friendliness. To succeed, fast-fashion brands will need to look at other options such as scaling back assortments to focus on fewer items with better quality or different marketing strategies to encourage customers to mix-and-match high-end items with cheaper, more disposable pieces to create a look. Another tactic is to take a page from the Birmingham location and create a theatrical aspect to the stores and create a destination experience for the consumer. Primark has certainly been very successful to date and their slow expansion into can't-miss markets is a prudent approach.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Is Walmart at an online crossroads?

    While e-commerce should remain a focus, the fact is that Walmart is generally playing “catch-up” with Amazon by reacting to their moves in the marketplace. Walmart should continue to focus on its online and in-store grocery business as that is a core strength for the company and leverages its current strong customer base. Walmart has the advantage of numerous physical locations across the country (90% of the population lives within a 10 mile radius of a Walmart store) and should be looking for ways to enhance its current customers’ online and in-store experiences by leveraging stores as distribution centers to encourage brand loyalty.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    NRF study says customers dig retail tech

    Consumers are becoming more tech-savvy and as they discover areas where technology helps them, they become more accepting of it. It doesn't hurt that a new tech savvy consumer is now a full blown shopper. The BRP Consumer Study we did in December indicated that more than half of the consumers surveyed feel that new shopping tools and technology are an important factor in choosing a store. Many consumers, especially younger generations who have grown up with the Internet and mobile phones, expect technology to be a part of the shopping environment. Technology allows them to direct their own experience faster and more effectively. Unfortunately the technology is still not ubiquitous as I learned yesterday shopping for a baby's carseat that I needed immediately. None of the major retailers had a store inventory capability on their website and my in-store and call-in experience was a disaster across five major retailers. Opportunity is there for those with just a smidgen of foresight.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2019

    Fashion seekers hunt for treasure in Costco’s warehouses

    Costco’s ability to move merchandise can’t be easily dismissed. While apparel and footwear aren’t the usual segments that drive shopping trips to Costco, the ability to get the merchandise in front of so many customers is definitely valuable. As Costco elevates the brands it offers customers, it will drive customers to think of Costco as a valuable resource for name brands. The big challenge is that customers can’t come in and search for specific items, it is more of a reactionary way of shopping as you never know what you may find available that day.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2019

    Will a new BOPIS option boost Amazon’s results?

    Amazon is continuing to expand its presence by offering consumers another delivery option while potentially lowering their cost of delivery. While lockers are a great idea, there are some consumers who prefer dealing with a human being to ensure they receive the service they require and this offers them a “live” option. For retailers such as Rite Aid this is a “no brainer” way to get more traffic into their stores and convert the traffic they already get. Consumers want options and convenience and this offers them both.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2019

    What real value are influencers bringing to retailers and brands?

    Younger generations generally research and search out reviews from their friends and social circles before they ever visit a store. In our recent consumer survey found 21% of shoppers aged 37 and under research products and reviews on social media. Smart analytics tools can be leveraged to enable retailers to take into account these personal connections as they plan and merchandise their assortments. Bloggers and YouTubers have become the younger generation’s movie stars and consumers want to emulate them so using them as influencers is a strong way to get visibility to their brand. Using social media and video in this way just adds to the theater of retail as brands look at different ways to bring excitement and entertainment to the off-to-college process. Meijer’s annual “Meijer Mania” where they open the stores to college freshmen for a fun evening of music and activities that also encourages the purchase of dorm and classroom items. IKEA invites students, family members and friends to participate in “College Life Your Way.” This event is meant to inspire students and parents preparing for college living to furnish their dorms and apartments with low-cost quality items. Both these brands get the value of Gen Z.
  • Posted on: 06/25/2019

    Are airports now the sweet spot for luxury retail?

    Luxury retailers have focused on airports as a growth opportunity and major airports have expanded their marketplaces with collections of luxury stores. As consumers visit these airports with luxury marketplaces, they remember these stores and may plan to shop the stores on their next trip through the airport. Airports have experienced increased retail revenues and some of this has been driven by longer consumer dwell times in airports. After 9/11, increased airport security has caused travelers to get to the airport with more time to spare to account for longer security lines. This has resulted in more captive shopping time in airports, and hence more retail sales. The brands that are most successful, beyond restaurants, are those that offer convenience products, things that travelers may have forgotten and gift items.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2019

    REI scraps mail order catalog to publish a magazine

    With e-commerce sites that are more comprehensive and updated with the latest promotions, mail order catalogs appear to be a dying breed. The same thing has been said about the store but news of its demise is in fact premature. In fact some private equity folks we have worked with are making investments in the catalog space. While there isn’t a direct measurement of the impact of print magazines on store and online revenues, REI’s Uncommon Path magazine is more about image and brand perception than sales. I would look at this as something akin to what RH Gallery is doing with their showroom and high-end catalog offering. As a co-op, REI puts purpose before profits. The magazine offers a better forum than a catalog to communicate stories that support REI’s mission to encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and its ongoing efforts toward environmental sustainability.

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