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: 11/16/2018

    Apple-inspired Glossier opens ‘adult Disneyland’ flagship store

    Glossier makes shopping fun! Cosmetics purchases are based on how the products make the consumer feel. Many consumers love the theater of shopping and Glossier brings that element to its online stores and now is infusing theater into their physical stores. The fun, immersive experience of shopping in Glossier stores will attract droves of customers and the environment will inspire more purchases. The theatrical experience they have in the store will turn customers into brand enthusiasts.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2018

    Is last minute absenteeism playing havoc with retail store performance?

    Staffing is an ongoing challenge for retailers and last-minute notifications of unplanned employee absence make it very difficult for store managers to correct the situation. Retailers need real-time visibility across all locations to identify issues immediately and monitor the responses. Fortunately there are some very innovative tools that are very effective at monitoring and resolving issues in real-time. For example, the Reflexis StorePulse real-time solution enables retailers to sense key events and trends happening inside and outside stores and intelligently redirects store managers or even the technology to resolve the issue. The real-time information can also be monitored by corporate teams that may be able to help identify available staff from nearby stores that can fill in for absent employees. The key is to identify issues and respond in real-time. We have a technical opportunity here to lower payroll costs and improve customer experience. Store managers need to collaborate with store operations and IT to leverage technology solutions to solve the problem.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2018

    Visually rich social content produces ‘shoppable’ experiences for retailers

    For visual products, Instagram has quickly become the go-to source for consumers looking for design ideas. This has propelled the social commerce opportunities for Instagram and retailers have jumped on the bandwagon. While Instagram is the hottest social media platform for visual images and products, other platforms may be better suited for more complex or technical products. For consumers looking for more details and research, Facebook still has an advantage for certain products. This model challenges retailers to publish or die. What better way to leverage their marketing spend.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2018

    Will right-sized stores drive bigger returns for Macy’s?

    This seems like a smart move for Macy’s. They are testing a lot of new strategies, and the move to right-sized spaces makes total financial sense. Beyond re-sizing existing locations, it will also enable Macy’s to open stores in smaller markets or neighborhoods with higher real estate prices. Adjusting product assortment to the best selling items should make it easy to fit in a smaller footprint, and we will likely see more retailers adopting similar approaches.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2018

    Is it time for U.S. retailers to embrace Singles Day?

    Alibaba has high aspirations of expanding its business in the U.S. and I suspect that they will extend Singles Day to the U.S. as part of this strategy. Today, most Americans are not familiar with Singles Day, so it will need to be supported with a strong marketing campaign. However, we all love deals and, if Alibaba can expand its availability of products in the U.S. to be competitive with Amazon, they could make it a success. While it may never reach the level of success it has in China or exceed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it can be relevant. Like Amazon, we shouldn’t underestimate Alibaba. Maybe they should call it Festivus for the rest of us...
  • Posted on: 11/09/2018

    Retailers need to focus on customer lifetime value for long-term success

    It’s not a secret that returning customers are better for your business than new customers. Studies have shown that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new customer. One of the biggest issues or obstacles to shifting to a CLV model is that many retailers are focused on measuring total sales and same-store sales, as this is what Wall Street focuses on to measure company performance. What they should really be focused on is RFM (recency of a purchase, frequency of the purchase and the monetary value of the purchase). For many years this has been the mantra for successful omnichannel retailers, but it appears that the new economy has a different metric ... maybe we need to go back to the future. According to BRP’s research, most retailers have KPIs for sales, average order value, comparative sales and conversion rates; however, fewer than 50 percent of retailers have KPIs for the following metrics that measure customer loyalty: customer satisfaction (net promoter score), customer retention and post-purchase customer survey results. Understanding the value of loyal customers and repeat purchases, retailers need to pay more attention to the lifetime customer value. The top two high value deciles (the 20 percent) are not static -- people move in and out based on good and bad customer moments. Obsessively tracking and correcting these bad customer moments are the key to retail success!
  • Posted on: 11/08/2018

    Will Walmart’s bring your own device policy work for it and its associates?

    Smartphones have become so pervasive that almost everyone has one, even those with very low incomes. Some associates may be happy to use their own devices, as it will help offset the cost of their monthly mobile phone service. Familiarity with their own device is another advantage of using their own phone. While some associates may be concerned with privacy, I suspect the benefit of getting a discount on their phone bills will outweigh this concern. Another smart move by Walmart!
  • Posted on: 11/07/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    From a new shopper awareness and spending perspective, the Kohl’s ad is more direct and will likely be more effective. There is a fun and whimsical feeling in the beginning of the ad and finishes with the reward of Kohl’s cash for the more you spend. It sends a clear message that “my family will be happy and I will be rewarded.” The Macy’s ad, that is more than two minutes long, is more suited for Facebook and websites. While it is very touching and emotional, I may watch it several times and not remember it was from Macy’s or change my shopping preference to visit a Macy’s store or online.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2018

    Will L.L.Bean find success in Canada where others have failed?

    Partnering with a partner like Jaytex Group, enables L.L.Bean to accelerate their expansion into Canada, getting their products exposed to more people by leveraging existing sporting goods and outdoor clothing retailers. L.L.Bean has some brand recognition and loyal customers in Canada, but is hasn’t been easily accessible. The migration to Freeport is a summer excursion for many Canadians. The products truly resonate with the people, the climate and the joie de vivre of the Canadian customer. With more in-store availability at existing retailers, future L.L.Bean stores and a Canadian website, L.L.Bean should be successful in Canada. Now more Canadians can enjoy the Bean Boot!
  • Posted on: 11/05/2018

    Did Amazon just crush Target and Walmart’s free holiday shipping moves?

    The Big Three (Amazon, Walmart and Target) are all making bold moves to lure shoppers and they are influencing customers’ expectations that will persist past the holiday season. Once consumers get a taste of free shipping on more items, their expectations will continue to rise. While all three are offering great shipping deals, Amazon will continue to be the clear winner. Why? Because more than 50 percent of consumers start their online shopping search on Amazon and it is more convenient to buy it there than switch to another website to make their purchase.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2018

    Is there a failure to communicate between retail HQs and stores?

    Store compliance with corporate initiatives is always a challenge. With all the daily activities of managing a store, it is often difficult to complete activities assigned by corporate, either because they don’t have the time or don’t fully understand how to complete the tasks. In some cases the task might not even make sense for the context of the individual store. As others have mentioned, there are great technologies, like Reflexis, that help companies disseminate, monitor and respond to tasks to better manage the compliance of corporate initiatives. It is important for the systems be monitored in real-time to enable store managers, district managers and corporate teams to sense and respond quickly. It doesn't help to respond to yesterdays problems today yet almost all retailers do just that. They identify problems of shortage, shrink, theft, margin after it has happened via yesterdays TLOG ... a day late and usually more than a dollar short.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2018

    Survey: Time is the biggest barrier to personalizing marketing messages

    The time it takes to create promotions is a big barrier to personalizing ads. If it takes 14-22 hours to create a single piece of ad content and 12 days to get it to market, it is not feasible to create numerous versions of ads to personalize content. Creative departments and agencies need to find more agile ways to create content to effectively personalize advertising messages. If AI can be applied to developing creative content, which may or may not be possible, advertising content could be much more nimble and personalized ad content could become a reality. Perfect here is the enemy of the good. In today's real-time retail environment you have to personalize immediately (the good) ... we need Amazon speed here, not yesterday's Mad Men (perfect) approach.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2018

    What if artificial intelligence is biased?

    AI is not biased, it is the data that is biased and the humans that created the data. If human decisions have been biased in decisions that impact data, then the output from AI will perpetuate that bias. Garbage in, garbage out. That old phrase is as appropriate today as it ever was. Systemic bias needs to be scrubbed out of the data so neural networks will apply the proper framework of algorithms to make AI unbiased. Retailers need to be aware of the potential mistakes that AI can make based on historical data and biases and monitor the results of AI to help catch faulty logic. Humans are not perfect and neither is AI.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2018

    Did Amazon wrap up Christmas in July?

    It is true that the holiday shopping “season” is starting sooner every year. It is hard to believe that people think about Christmas in July but, when retailers are promoting that mentality, it works for some consumers, especially if they feel that the bargain is the best they will every find. The good thing for retailers is that when consumers start buying for the holidays in the summer months, their total spending for the holidays may increase, as they will still buy a lot in November and December after they have saved more money. The reality is that consumers have short memories and five or six months is a lifetime. They will spend this holiday season.
  • Posted on: 10/25/2018

    Will organic food sales soar on the latest cancer research?

    The new study on the impact of eating organics on lowering your chances of getting cancer may provide a short-term increase in organic food sales. However, consumers' attention span is short and they will quickly lose focus on this study and organics and resort back to other habits -- buying the lowest cost options. One thing that may help sustain organic sales is the continued increase in locally sourced organics (farmers market/locavore trend) and the increased focus on organics in traditional grocery stores. The cost is lower to produce organics (without the cost of pesticides) but the yield is also lower. As production of organics increases to support traditional supermarkets, the prices will come down. Some consumers question the legitimacy of “organic” products as “roughly 40 percent of all organic food sold in America tests positive for prohibited pesticides,” according to two USDA studies. One issue with the study is that it doesn’t consider that people that eat organic foods at a higher rate may share some other attributes that distinguish them from the people that don’t buy and eat organic foods. For instance, I assume the frequent organic consumers are likely more wealthy, healthy and lean than other demographics, which may be contributing factors to the lower cancer rates but I don't know if these factors were considered.

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