PROFILE

Ken Morris

Retail industry thought leader

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: 11/15/2019

    Is the environment Amazon’s Achilles heel or opportunity?

    Convenience seems to top everything. I am excited by the study results from MIT and believe once people understand the societal impact of their shipping and shopping decisions they will change their behavior. The waste in shipping is simply unsustainable. Plastic bubble wrap when newspaper would suffice, it's just crazy. Yesterday I received three separate shipments with three items each. A traditional retailer CONSOLIDATES the shipments, why can't Amazon take a cue from old school retail and order many but ship once?
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Is ‘OK Boomer’ a merchandising opportunity?

    "OK Boomer" is a term meant to put older people down but, much like the phrase "she persists," it can be used instead to the Boomers' advantage. When it is embraced the moniker can symbolize the unique characteristics of this (my) special group. Retailers can capitalize on the "OK Boomer" niche, those born between 1946 and 1964, who grew up with the Vietnam and the Korean wars, the assassinations of the Kennedys, free love, birth control, the Beatles and many other cultural events. The styles that were popular during these cultural events and the events themselves are still relevant and can be adapted and targeted to the "OK Boomer" crowd. People love to be part of a group!
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Retail apocalypse? How about a disruptor meltdown?

    I have always thought that a true brand needs to have a brick and mortar presence. Commodity items are one thing online, but specialty retail and furniture need the multi-sense experience. Return rates are still astronomical at 30% plus and with free delivery as the base line expectation, this is a tough business model to sustain. There will be a shakeout because at some point you need to make money from somewhere. Maybe it's advertising or membership and not the product.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    I believe the two most important trends that will affect retailing in 2020 and beyond are those listed above as support networks and eco-warriors. IoT (support networks) holds great promise for retailers today. However there are many devices talking but few listening to the IoT broadcast. Separate islands of IoT proliferate and IT needs to acquire a layer or platform to be the ears and eyes and leverage task management to turn raw data into action. There is a huge labor savings to be had here by automating functions, activities, tasks and steps through leveraging IoT data. Social responsibility (eco-warriors above) is an opportunity for retailers to map their offerings to their customers' emerging awareness. By leveraging technologies such as blockchain to capture the origin and journey of their products from farm to table or store, retailers will win customer loyalty and market share.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

    I believe Trader Joe's understands the "theater" of shopping. If you engage the kids you secure the parents' loyalty. I love their idea of hide and seek and also love Whole Foods cooking classes that teach children healthy choice dining and snack habits. Lowe's offers woodworking classes for children with free kits for things like birdhouses. It doesn't just stop with young children as Meijer, the Michigan based superstore retailer, understands with their Back to College Meijer Mania event where they offer students bus transportation from campuses to their local Meijer store for a night of back-to-school shopping and celebrations, including a DJ, photo booth and interactive games and contests. These retailers understand the lifetime value of engaging their customers at an early age so they will win a customer for life. These are all creative ways to entice people to shop in-store instead of online.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Ralph Lauren offers consumers a DIY counterfeit-checking tool

    I believe all three are key technologies for the future of retail. Blockchain has an enormous ability to change the game for authentication and sustainability. Being able to track product back to its source either in the ground or factory will be key to verifying what you are eating, drinking or wearing. Consumers are becoming more aware of their responsibility to the planet and to their fellow man/woman. These technologies will enable consumers to verify not just product authenticity but the social impact of its source and the supply chain journey it took.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    J.C. Penney needs to try something different to excite their customer base and I believe the "lab" concept is required to pull this reinvention off. Retail is theater and you can't just guess at what the customer wants -- you need to test the concept in a lab. Whenever you make technology changes you test them in a lab first. There is no difference here other than that the mistake you make by rolling out a poor store concept has lasting implications in the erosion of your customer base. You can't just back off a store concept change the way you can a software change. Maybe J.C. Penney should look to successful department store operators outside the U.S. like Harrods, KaDeWe, Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette or Le Bon Marché for marketing talent that understands theater.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    I believe that malls need to entertain their guests and food is a big draw. Food court fare is not going to draw people with significant disposable income so it’s important to offer a range of entertainment options such as fast casual and fine dining. Another idea is to look for non-traditional anchor concepts like the Wegmans in the Natick, Massachusetts mall. A multi-story gem that replaced a Sears location. Shopping is theater and even the best estimate has 70 percent of shopping still happening in a store so retailers need to be more creative with their entertainment approach.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2019

    Will Old Navy succeed with a one-price regardless of size concept?

    Americans are getting "wider" because of age, diet and inactivity. No one wants to be penalized for this fact by retailers charging more for plus sized clothing. Charging more for plus sized clothing verges on "fat-shaming." The demographics of Old Navy and retailers in this space are more likely to attract a population of bigger sizes. Chanel and Escada, for example, do not even offer sizes larger than size twelve. Small sizes are showcased in exclusive boutiques and bigger sizes are only available to special order. There are retailers who cater to large women and men but they are rarely upscale brands. Thus, it seams that a "one price fits all" policy is essential in treating all customers equally.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2019

    McDonald’s drive-thru AI knows what you want before you order

    McDonald's has always had a form of predictive modeling in place from its inception for walk-in business. A manager has always dictated how many of each menu item needs to be ready in the bins at all times as food is typically not made to order unless it is a special order (no onion, or mustard, etc.). This is a further technological refinement of that approach for drive-thru. I don't believe suggestive selling in the drive-thru makes sense. Drive-thru wait times are on average four minutes and 25 seconds according to a study done by QSR Magazine in 2019. McDonald's needs to look for ways to decrease queue time not increase it by suggestive selling in the line. A better idea would be to push online ordering, leverage both plate recognition and phone recognition technology to decrease wait times by staging online orders and have expedited drive-thru. Maybe even offer a discount for mobile orders and share the labor savings with the customer.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2019

    Will free deliveries for Prime members make Amazon the driving force in online grocery?

    Offering free grocery delivery to Prime members is all about lifetime value. Get members into the fold and you increase market share. Once a shopper is pleased with the service social media will advertise it on its own. Increasing market share versus increasing profitability is the motivation behind this new promotion. It is irrelevant that the bottom line or the stock price drops, the important factor is becoming number one in the marketplace. Amazon's avenue to success lies in their scale. Membership fees and advertising are their foundation for profit, not the sale of cereal.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2019

    Will six fewer holiday shopping days matter to retail performance?

    The excitement of Christmas shopping is diluted when retailers begin promotions too early. A sale is only effective when there is some urgency to buy. For instance, a back-to-school sale on backpacks in June is not going to be enough to incentivize the buyer to purchase early. As we talked about in a previous blog, one of the key factors to successful selling in a brick and mortar store is the entertainment element. If a store creates a pleasant and exciting experience, customers will come but not too early. Online shopping is a fact of life and one-day shipping is the norm so to compete, stores must be creative in their presentations and customer service must be excellent. Six fewer days in the shopping season does not mean you should start promotions early. It means you need to focus on creativity and service within the six weeks preceding the holiday.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    What will drive food trends for 2020?

    For older adults, Baby Boomers for example, the movement to gluten free and low carbohydrate foods seem to be trending. This would include healthy sugar alternatives such as monk fruit and agave sweeteners and low carbohydrate wheat flour alternatives such as almond or coconut flour. Companies such as Bob's Red Mill have been offering these products for years and are now on an upward trend. For younger consumers the choices for child-friendly foods are in demand. Companies such as Serenity Kids have proven to be highly successful. The new meatless burger trend is going mainstream but may be challenged by those who are concerned with genetically modified products. There is a widening gap between the competing demands of price versus quality versus availability. There is no easy solution here.
  • Posted on: 10/25/2019

    What does artificial intelligence mean for loyalty marketing?

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) can and will be key to delivering personalized customer journeys. The challenge as mentioned above is scaling it effectively across channels. It is almost impossible to achieve cross-channel personalization without eliminating the separate silos of automation that exist in almost every retail organization. Amazon does it well in one channel (web) because it is centralized, cloud based and services a single channel. The store must move to the cloud to allow scaling AI across the in-store and web channels that drive today's omnichannel loyalty marketing.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2019

    Walmart creeps on Christmas with promo deals before Halloween

    Walmart's brand and image cannot be remedied by technical solutions or strategic sales. The brand is synonymous with inferior products, unattractive stores and underpaid associates. Starting Christmas promotions early only strengthens their image as a company where profit is the only criteria for success. Compare them to a retailer such as L.L.Bean or Costco who sell quality products, pay their employees a livable wage and treat their customers with respect. In the long run, which model builds customer loyalty?

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