PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 01/19/2022

    Are retailers’ returns concerns coming to a holiday head?

    I'm for making returns frictionless. RFID would allow legitimate returns to be literally drop-and-go. The serialization of product tells the retailer who bought the product, when and where, while the RFID reader will pick up the RFID tag without scanning. Given that 97 percent of shoppers make a determination on where to shop based on the return process, this is a great customer loyalty and journey investment. To improve item accuracy when filling initial orders and doing exchanges, retailers might want to improve staff training and review the conditions where the packing is happening.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2022

    Are retailers getting closer to nailing last-mile delivery?

    I believe the lack of real-time inventory data is the biggest hurdle for retailers. Visibility is essential. Most are strapped with a legacy systems infrastructure that does not update in real time. Point of sale systems that upload inventory movement nightly and e-commerce platforms that do the same at end of day to yet another legacy system of record. You can't guarantee delivery if you are out of stock. Retailers need to move quickly to an architecture that harmonizes inventory if they want to compete with Amazon, who is real time all the time. Of course, the last-mile factors that retailers can't control are weather, traffic, and driver availability. I think we're going to see robots delivering just about everything at some point. But they, too, will have to have merchandise to deliver.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2022

    Can the metaverse solve retail’s returns challenges?

    As much as The Company Formerly Known as Facebook would like this to be today's reality, we're (thankfully) a long way from general acceptance of VR goggle usage. Meanwhile, wardrobing and bracketing will be the go-to methods for trying things on. I love these two terms, but I'm not sure one solution fits all. I have tried a service called Son of a Tailor and they worked great from only a very short questionnaire, and I will use them forever. I believe a combo will work best, but bracketing is the cost of doing business and won't go away. There is, of course, affordable technology that can already drastically reduce returns and return fraud. It's called RFID. With its serialization capability, RFID acts much like a VIN number to validate and returns readers to create a frictionless process. You can change behavior by creating frictionless processes.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2022

    Has ‘just-in-case’ replaced ‘just-in-time’ inventory management?

    Just-in-time just doesn't work when you introduce the concept of hoarding into the mix. If there is a seismic shift in demand such as hoarding, JIT breaks down. It takes too long to bring a new factory online, and the ripple effect caused by increased production creates a world where components and bill of materials to make a product become unavailable and the nightmare begins. Throw something like COVID-19 into the mix and you have the perfect storm that forces you into just-in-case mode. The faster retailers can somehow communicate demand shifts to the factories, the more likely it is they would be able to adapt production. Meanwhile, production in factories will need to become more modular and flexible to react to these changes.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    What tech must restaurants put on their menu of services?

    Customers are so-so with the QR codes but pay-at-table is a winner. Restaurant technology is ahead of traditional retail. They long ago embraced cloud based solutions for POS like Toast that have traditionally been aimed at the independent operators and not large chains. The capability of a cloud based POS tool allows these restaurants to control the menu, their food costs and make incremental changes centrally and implement chain wide in seconds. This cloud based infrastructure also allows them the flexibility to take payments online for in-store pickup and route orders directly to the kitchen and bypass the POS lowering their shrink from theft and improving customer service.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    We are in the middle of an incredible spike in COVID-19 cases, so BOPIS and BOPAC are not dead. If you compare it to delivery, it has lost volume, but we are not safe yet -- to reuse a quote from an old movie (Marathon Man). I would not realign until we know it's over and the variants stop. Of course shoppers would prefer to go inside the grocery store and pick the best produce they can find. But if they don't go into the store to do that, then home delivery would probably be the preferred option, as long everything is delivered fresh.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Are AI-powered customer service agents already human enough?

    No.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2022

    Supply chain woes just cost Bed Bath & Beyond $100M in sales

    I'm not sure we can glean their plan from the piece above, but certainly the subscription model for Bed Bath & Beyond sounds like a winner. There are literally 100 reasons for supply chain disruption and a quick fix if you are relying on offshore suppliers is a long shot. To be fair, BB&B probably has a much larger number of SKUs sitting on container ships compared to many other retailers, simply because of their assortment. Shifting to a real-time inventory visibility model across the supply chain, and a shift to near or on-shore alternative suppliers are not easy tasks to accomplish. It will be some time before this disruption is under control and I would plan accordingly.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2022

    Is retail ready for the phygital future?

    Virtual reality in a retail store? This has got to be the next Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly movie, or at least a scene. I can't understand why so many people think life is so uninteresting that they choose to put robot goggles on and flail about. It clearly will be for some folks, though: gamers and technophiles. But those with disposable income will be very slow to adopt until we figure out a different user interface than exists today. The current Oculus models will end up with slip-and-fall lawsuits as well as motion sickness. The gamification part might be fun, though. I'd love to get points for dwell time in the ice cream aisle.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2022

    Walmart says it’s ready to deliver groceries inside 30 million American homes

    Giving people access to your home is the ultimate in building a bond with the brand, and I believe this is a brilliant move by Walmart. One key thing they've done is address the privacy concerns up front, and in every aspect. No third third-party couriers, for example, and body cams. This means every single access is on record and the couriers are accountable. Having stores within 10 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population doesn't hurt. But without using their MFCs, or as they call them, CFCs, I don't see how they could cover the volume they must expect with this delivery option. Basically, Walmart is doing everything right with their InHome project. They've piloted it in a smart way, so now the rollout, I predict, will go very, very well.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Omicron threatens to mess retail up

    Retailers need to enforce mask mandates for the next three months. Omicron seems to be a milder version and is coming at the right time. I believe this is our best chance to gather herd immunity. Experts say this will peak in the next 60 to 90 days. We need to either get everyone vaccinated or get herd immunity before the next variant, which could be more lethal, it appears. The simple truth is that we could have nipped COVID-19 in the bud by locking down completely for three weeks. But that was two years ago, so the best we can do now is mask up, boost up, and shop safely.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2021

    Can a factory-to-consumer experience be a quality one?

    Disintermediation is a fact of life and has already begun. I see this model as the next thing beyond Amazon, the king or queen of disintermediation. Cutting out the middlemen is only a reality though if the customer can wait for the product. Retail's survival is based on quick access to the product via real-time inventory and superior logistics. Factory to consumer will improve over time and be a force to reckon with -- Nike is already leveraging this model.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2021

    Would grocers benefit from ghost kitchens?

    I believe ghost kitchens are a natural progression for grocers. Most grocers have a commissary that already produces prepared foods. This is just a variation on an existing theme. It's a hub and spoke setup where the commissary is the hub and the customer the spoke. The process changes but the people and most of the technology can be repurposed. Grocers need every square foot they can get for their stores. Since the trend is to automate deliveries and BOPIS, I can also see drive-thrus for ready-to-eat meals from ghost kitchens, where they're not constrained by shared parking lots and loading docks in the back.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2021

    The winner of the 2021 RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge is …

    SuperValu in Ireland and its "Reindeer Repair" spot gets the win for me. Who knew SuperValu's carrots could repair legs and make reindeer fly? Christmas is all about the kids and, frankly, how can you resist a reindeer? The wonder wins vs. the giving. There is nothing like seeing it in their eyes on Christmas morning.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2021

    Will in-car ordering reinvent the drive-thru?

    Ordering is not the problem and this solution is a driver distraction. What we have is a process problem. It takes harmony of people, process and technology to solve this problem and it is not the ordering component but the process fulfillment component causing the issue. Solving the queuing problem by a combination of GPS and license plate recognition is much safer and more productive customer engagement. The arrival times need to match up exactly with the order delivery times — without having to get in the same line with everyone else. The only solution is two separate delivery points. Whether that's curbside spots, a dedicated line (still might see bottlenecks), or drones, it has to be synced up with the order delivery or the bottlenecks will persist.

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