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: 07/19/2018

    Petco pilots experiential store concept for fur babies

    The key to success for PetCoach is loyalty. Shoppers are creatures of habit, as they have routine shopping patterns for reoccurring purchases. The first hurdle is to get consumers to try the new store concept and then to earn their loyalty. The membership approach has proven to be successful for many retailers and offering “valuable” perks will help drive membership and loyalty. Looking forward to your store of the future is a smart strategy -- much better than following the leader or simply trying to catch up with consumer expectations. Testing new concepts, measuring results and refining operations is essential to stay ahead of the curve. Innovation is a retail imperative.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2018

    Target’s inside app continually crowdsources design ideas

    There is no substitute for consumer testing and feedback for designing products, marketing campaigns and customer-facing software. With the advent of advanced technology and mobile apps, crowdsourcing is displacing focus groups as a more cost effective and agile approach for customer feedback. The Studio Connect crowdsourcing test group is a great way for an elite group of customers to feel important by influencing Target’s product and marketing decisions – oh, and BTW, they get extra discounts and perks too! Target benefits from a more agile product and marketing testing environment that is relatively inexpensive and increases engagement with a loyal base of customers. Zara used a key fashion forward store concept to turn around hot trends quickly by bubbling this info via store associates but the crowdsourcing technique used by Target seems a better way to not only get fast feedback but increase customer satisfaction ... Bravo Targé!
  • Posted on: 07/17/2018

    Direct-to-consumer brands key to Nordstrom’s assortment

    Nordstrom is not a “rest on its laurels” organization as they are experimenting with many new store concepts, merchandise assortments and customer-facing technology. Offering direct-to-consumer brands that are not readily available at competitors’ stores is a smart strategy to maintain an image of exclusivity. Offering exclusive products and refreshing the brands regularly also helps keep customer interested in Nordstrom and drive more traffic, and ultimately, more sales. Working with direct-to-consumer brands to limit the product availability will help maintain exclusivity of the products and maintain premium prices, which protects Nordstrom’s margins. Nordstrom need to be careful to curate the brands they offer and keep this an exclusive club. Anything they do to add theater to there customer experience is a good thing. The treasure hunt mentality, so successful in off-price, can be leveraged at full price with the proper curation.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2018

    Target offers discounts as teachers prep for back-to-school

    Target’s discounts for teachers is both a good will and a sales opportunity. Supporting teachers is a great opportunity for retailers to win the hearts, the minds and the purses/wallets of America. Teachers are clearly underpaid and under-appreciated and retailers have an opportunity to cement long term relationships with the teachers but better still with the students to create a lifetime value that far exceeds the temporary margin hit they may take on back to school promotions. With several other retailers offering teacher discounts, it is important for Target and other classroom supplies retailers to follow suit, as teacher will shop at the brands that offer the best deals to stretch their dollars. The teacher’s discount will also help drive incremental sales for Target, as teachers combine their personal shopping list with their school shopping list while they are in the store. Back-to-school is a mini holiday season, a dry run if you will, for the upcoming major holiday season.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2018

    Ellison shaking things up at Lowe’s

    Ellison’s 12 years of experience at Home Depot is certainly helpful, as he understands home improvement customers and he was instrumental in Home Depot’s turnaround. Lowe’s has experimented with a few tech innovations to improve the customer experience, LoweBot (robotic salesfloor assistant) and Holoroom (virtual/augmented reality-based home product visualization); however, these tools are not likely to dramatically improve the shopping experience. Lowe’s will probably benefit more from other initiatives that truly improve the shopping experience by removing friction and improving the quality of service, such as: making BOPIS and BORIS (Buy Online Return In-Store) more efficient with streamlined processes and maybe lockers (like Home Depot), helping shoppers find products (store locator apps), and most of all, improving the availability of store associates to assist with questions and directions to the right products. Service is a big differentiator in this space and Lowes can win by a singular focus on service. It doesn't have to be just people but technology in the form of customer facing apps and real-time inventory availability, not just day old inventory like everyone else, will allow them to win and win big.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2018

    Survey: Customer experience tech rivals personal attention from staff

    Consumers are not very tolerant of inefficient processes or anything that creates friction in their shopping experience. That said, I do think they will cut some slack for small business operators, as they understand that they don’t have the same level of financial resources or IT staff as large chains. For independent and small regional chain retailers it is helpful to choose technology from a vendor that provides a one-stop shop for hardware, software and support. Also, leveraging cloud-based applications for almost everything is a smart approach. IT is not a core competency for retailers — but it is a necessity. A cloud approach enables retailers to significantly reduce infrastructure, improve security and increase operational effectiveness. Given the move to the cloud and a growing preference by retailers for utility-based, as-a-service solutions, we see the next step in this evolution as “IT-as-a-Service.” This is a real opportunity for retailers with a one-stop-service for all their IT needs — hardware, infrastructure, applications, implementation and maintenance services. At the store level, moving to the cloud creates a lean environment with low/no maintenance costs, centralized security and a true real-time environment that changes everything.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2018

    Nordstrom opening more Local stores without inventory

    Nordstrom Local is a new twist on the trend of smaller store footprints and limited-to-no inventory. RH Gallery stores have been a success with a showroom approach with no inventory on-hand to purchase. Many consumers are beginning to think of stores as showrooms and use them to try on or test products in person and then order online from the comfort of their home or anywhere from their mobile device. This showrooming concept which requires minimal space lends itself well to affluent urban locations where real estate is expensive. More stores with smaller footprints help achieve higher sales per square foot. As Nordstrom continues to finesse the Local concept, look for more locations popping up in other major cities. Another opportunity for Nordstrom is to offer custom-tailored clothing options for consumers. Consumers could visit the Local store to get measured and within a couple weeks they would receive their custom apparel. This is a trend that will continue.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2018

    Is real-time order tracking becoming table stakes for e-tailers?

    Real-time order tracking will soon be a customer expectation as once consumers experience it, they will always want it. Many consumers are obsessed with knowing the shipping status of merchandise ordered online and often check the status online several times until the order arrives. This is even more prevalent for high-value items or merchandise that customers desperately need on a specific day or time. From the moment of checkout until the order is at their doorstep, or available for in-store pickup, customers are anxiously waiting for updates about their order. Given that customers expect frequent delivery updates, providing notifications at the five major stages in the delivery process will keep your customer engaged and informed: 1.) order confirmation, 2.) item dispatched, 3.) in transit, 4.) out for delivery and 5.) Successfully delivered or waiting for customer pickup. Making real-time order tracking available to consumers to check at their convenience will improve customer satisfaction, especially if the product is actually delivered on time. This is just another example of how real-time retail will change everything. Understanding store inventory in real-time will save the sale (by selling to the last item and eliminating safety stock) and make BOPIS and online home delivery part of real-time order visibility.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2018

    Abercrombie & Fitch goes to college with a new store concept

    Abercrombie & Fitch’s small-format stores near college campuses are a smart strategy from a location and testing perspective. In a way, it is similar to consumer goods companies testing new products in test markets to gauge interest. Identifying new trends and top selling products in the Learning Lab store concepts will be valuable insights to extend to Abercrombie & Fitch’s other store concepts. Retailers are trying new retail formats to adapt to evolving customer expectations and shopping preferences. Abercrombie & Fitch will probably not choose one format over the other. Instead, they will offer a mix of store formats based on regional markets and customer demographics.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2018

    Amazon to start new Christmas tradition with its own toy catalog

    While digital shopping is becoming the norm, for many people creating Christmas wish lists has historically been done by perusing a catalog and folding corners or circling items they like. The merging of the physical and digital worlds are complementary. Amazon already has an extensive mailing list of Prime members and they can identify which customers have children based on what they have purchased. Regarding pricing, the catalog shouldn’t impact online prices, as long as the online prices never exceed the catalog prices. The catalog prices should be the ceiling and Amazon can offer special online promotional pricing for extra savings. It will be interesting to see if Amazon expands the catalog concept to other product categories.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2018

    Amazon announces Prime Day-and-a-half

    Amazon never ceases to amaze customers and frustrate retailers. With the added perks and extended hours of Amazon's Prime Day 2018, there is no doubt it will far exceed the $1 billion in sales from last year. During Prime Day, retailers will have a difficult time competing with Amazon. The best bet is to offer special deals right before Prime Day to inspire consumers to make their purchases from your brand before they shop on Prime Day. Good luck retailers!
  • Posted on: 07/02/2018

    Walmart adds 3D virtual shopping tour for online home shopping

    3-D virtual shopping tours and AR/VR are perfect solutions to help consumers make more confident purchases for any home goods. Walmart's 3-D virtual shopping tour is a great way to make shopping fun and suggest complementary products that consumers may not have thought about. Consumers can't bring their homes to the store, but if they can virtually bring the products to their homes they can see how they fit in their home decor. Beyond furniture, any home products are a good fit for these technologies. Shopping is changing very fast!
  • Posted on: 06/29/2018

    Will Amazon’s PillPack acquisition disrupt the retail pharmacy business?

    Yes, this move by Amazon will definitely disrupt the retail prescription drug market. It has already negatively impacted the stock prices of companies that will be affected by this impending acquisition. While many consumers still prefer to pick up their prescriptions at the local pharmacy, making it an easy part of their Amazon shopping experience may entice more shoppers to convert to online pill replenishment – especially if Amazon includes added benefits for its Prime members. This is yet another example of Amazon disrupting traditional retail. Maybe they will begin to add pharmacies to their Whole Foods footprint to create a hybrid natural/traditional drug store, an idea first executed by Anthony Hartnett the founder of Bread & Circus Whole Foods Supermarket in the Boston area (acquired by Whole Foods) with his Cambridge-based Hartnett's chain. Pharmacy is one of the many retail segments that has been on Amazon’s radar. What is the next segment that Amazon will disrupt? Gas stations/convenience stores, restaurants, travel, hardware or another segment? Retailers in all of these categories should be prepared!
  • Posted on: 06/27/2018

    QuickChek takes fresh approach to convenience business

    The difference between good and great depends on the consumer but generally speaking for “convenience” stores, customers expect quality products at reasonable prices that are convenient to find and purchase. Making the shopping process fast and frictionless is imperative. Many convenience stores have moved into fresh and prepared foods to compete with fast food chains. Making fuel and food a one-stop shop makes sense. The challenge is to make the food better than fast food chains and streamline the checkout process. QuickCheck appear to be on the right path by offering products and services that appeal to the needs of time-starved consumers.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2018

    Analyst: Prime perk could eventually double customers at Whole Foods

    Since only 20% of Amazon Prime members are Whole Foods shoppers, the extra discount may inspire these consumers to try Whole Foods. The 10% discount on all purchases seems significant enough to help offset the perception of high prices at Whole Foods and if consumers can double dip on discounts by getting another 5% off if they pay with an Amazon Rewards Visa card, that is even more enticing. It will be interesting to see if the added discounts are enough to get consumers to become frequent shoppers at Whole Foods or if they feel the discount isn’t enough to make the prices on par with their current primary grocery store. Maybe the Whole Foods customer is less price sensitive than the typical Prime member, we shall see. Changing customer’s perception of Whole Food’s “whole paycheck” reputation is a difficult challenge. It doesn’t seem realistic that the Prime perk will double customers at Whole foods, but it will definitely attract many new customers. But never underestimate Amazon!

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