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: 10/18/2021

    Walgreens does its own pivot toward healthcare

    This is a smart move by Walgreens. Going vertical with healthcare will help Walgreens compete with CVS and differentiate from online. Also, converting prescriptions is big money if they can steal market share from CVS. Health is America's top concern right now with what we have gone through over the last 18 months with the pandemic, and we are not out of the woods yet. They can become the primary source for Americans for vaccines, for drugs and home care visits. Sort of like Best Buy's Geek Squad but for your health. One challenge will be space. It looks like they're trying to add a separate front door, but that may only be possible in limited locations. They must have done the math and seen that trading retail square footage for primary and post-care space delivers significant ROI.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2021

    Will visual search bring eyeballs to Google Shopping?

    I'm not sure if you can refer to anything that increases Google's share of the search market as a "game changer." This is more of a game changer for retailers and influencers. It connects seeing, wanting, and buying in a direct line. Google has the eyeballs to be a serious threat to Amazon. Many people think visually and this technique is a big strength. The weakness and threat is that it is easily copied by Amazon but the opportunity to provide an open platform and steal market share from Amazon makes this a winner.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2021

    Stores? Kroger don’t need no stinking stores

    Kroger obtained the rights to the Ocado system in the U.S. I tried to get Ocado involved in an MFC selection earlier this year but they could not play. The future of online grocery has been secured by the COVID-19 pandemic with consumers' online adoption curve being altered by three to five years. Dark stores and hybrid hub-and-spoke MFCs can pick and pack at 10+ times the rate of human pickers. That rate will only increase as the technology improves the pick times, the price of store associates increases and the availability of associates willing to work plummets. Kroger is prescient in their decision to lock up Ocado and roll out this technology.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    How should retailers communicate supply chain snafus?

    The delays are inevitable given the supply chain disruptions we have experienced over the last 20 months either from COVID-19 behavior, canal pandemonium, or natural disasters. You can't explain supply chain delays if you're the last to know. That's why we need to create a glass pipeline to share with the consumer. Retailers simply must use every technology available to them to gain real-time visibility for products. As usual, the retail visibility hammer sees RFID chips as the nails. Embed chips or labels as far back in the supply chain as possible, then track through purchase and beyond. This actually offers a huge opportunity for retailers to engage with customers. Shoppers could and would, for example, lock in purchases now for the holidays if they were assured they would get the order by mid-December.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2021

    Should retailers be looking to leverage free return shipping?

    I think free shipping has become table stakes for many retailers. The price of the product should determine whether or not shipping is free. If I'm buying something for let's say $100, I don't want to have to pay $10 ship back something that is damaged, doesn't fit right, etc. This would create a permanent branding error that may last a lifetime. Loyalty equals free shipping at a certain price-point. Of course the free-shipping option works best for loyalty and engagement if the customer has to go to a store to drop the item off, not to a UPS store. The free returns game will continue to generate more and more options for retailers and customers. It will be interesting to see how retailers can work fraudulent returns into the mix. In other words, can they use the revised return policies to their advantage to cut down on "fake" returns? Authenticating returns with RFID’s serialized inventory capability would make this work.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Gap expands tech investments with deal for AI retail analytics startup

    Gap's acquisition of CB4 means that it's serious about in-stock excellence and findability in the store. All retailers know these are key drivers of sell-through and profitability. If Gap is also using RFID tagging in conjunction with CB4's analytics and prediction engine, their store managers will look like total geniuses. They'll know where to place merchandise better, and even which individual stock units have been in which locations and for how long. Migration to the cloud is key to enabling these types of advances, made even more powerful with the addition of IoT. This acquisition is another great example of retailers buying strategic advantage, taking it off the market, and denying their peer group the opportunity to compete. This is a brilliant move, leveraging the playbook established by Nike's acquisition of Celect and Kroger's deal in the U.S. with Ocado. These technologies are game changers.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2021

    Is Home Depot’s deal with Walmart a sign of bigger things to come?

    This is a smart move to help control a disrupted supply chain. Given that Walmart and The Home Depot are two of the top three importers from China, it makes sense to control the product from its source all the way to the consumer. The last mile is the universal problem, so why try to go it alone? It's a win-win for Walmart, as it adds another revenue source which should also allow it to increase its delivery infrastructure.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2021

    Is consumer-direct less profitable for brands than selling wholesale?

    Initially it may not be profitable until the infrastructure is in place and the subscription model takes hold. Until then, retailers will need to focus on controlling delivery logistics to reduce costs. Only a few will be able to attain the economies of scale that the wholesale world thrives on, though. I do envision a future where the subscription model, coupled with the Internet of Things (IOT), drives profitability and becomes the prevalent model for commodities. IOT, leveraging RFID, holds the prospect of changing retail as we know it. As for marketing with DTC, costs can and should be shifted toward direct communication with customers and away from general branding via digital. This is the real value of DTC, building engagement and trust that will actually promote a subscription model.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2021

    Amazon asks, why wait for Black Friday when you can get Christmas deals today?

    First of all, kudos to Amazon for hiring the copywriter who came up with that sneaky phrase: “Black Friday-worthy deals.” Fooled me. Retailers are more motivated than ever to offer tempting deals earlier than ever, partly because they can no longer rely on their just-in-time supply chain. I'm actually surprised that retailers aren't getting some sort of subtle messaging out there that shoppers might not find the same items available in December. To stay out in front this holiday season, you must tame the supply chain beast. Shop early and often as product supplies are at a premium. Retailers need to insure their inventory is accurate and as real-time as is possible. You don't want to be the retailer with the empty bag this holiday season.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2021

    Can ‘gain language’ persuade more consumers to go green?

    Positive reenforcement works. I react much better to the hotel towel and linen changing limits to conserve water than I do with fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). FUD does not get the desired result and in some cases it gets the opposite reaction.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2021

    Last-mile costs keep piling up

    We need to pay people a living wage. What we are seeing is the result of supply and demand. Drivers, warehouse workers, and store associates are leaving for literally greener fields, so the delivery infrastructure is feeling the crunch of workers fleeing for higher-paying options. Only the giants like Amazon and Walmart have any sort of leverage regarding shipping costs. The USPS just announced its latest feature combo: slower snail mail and more expensive last-mile delivery. This is a long-term problem. Delivery costs are not likely to go down, and drones only offer an alternative for lighter items. Retailers would be smart to refocus their ROI equation on inventory accuracy via RFID technology and greater control closer to the consumer via MFCs. At least they'll be able to pack and ship from the most advantageous locations and know what they actually have in stock, and where.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2021

    Best Buy says ‘relax, we’ve got you’

    I absolutely loved the movie Sound of Metal and was secretly hoping the director would go on to make Best Buy commercials. Seriously though, focusing on the customer journey is always the key to success, and Best Buy is spot on with this branding play. Hiring superior storytelling is also a brilliant move, and their technology isn't bad either. I’m not sure how real-time their inventory is, but my recent BOPIS purchase went off without a hitch, and it really was in stock. I think the trick to making this message work will be to have the expected coverage and service levels in the stores. And let's not forget the virtual stores Best Buy will be running this holiday season, where blue-shirted staff will be helping customers out in real time. This should all tie together for the customer.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2021

    Whole Foods goes from free to $10 grocery delivery fee for Amazon Prime members

    Will this make my moon trip cost me less? I believe that Amazon believes the demographic that shops Whole Paycheck will not blink at the cost, but Instacart will be the winner here. With robotic pick, pack and ship, it gets cheaper—not more expensive—to process orders. I think the switch to charging for delivery will backfire. Consumers have too many options, and competitors will be taking full advantage of Whole Foods' misstep here.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2021

    How bad will product shortages get this time?

    There is a wave effect and the tsunami of the pandemic has ripple effects up and down the supply chain. Given the new variants the aftershocks are still occurring causing new waves of lumpy demand and the associated delays. Supply chain disruptions are continuing and hitting retailers from every angle possible. Those retailers who have significant supply chain challenges are really going to have to think on their feet this season. Unfortunately, we will probably be seeing an upswing in the pandemic right when retailers are expecting their biggest sales weeks of the year. When retailers have all their numbers in early next year, it will be interesting to compare those who were able to better control inventory accuracy and visibility by using RFID vs. those who haven't implemented it yet.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2021

    Is livestream grocery shopping on the way in the U.S.?

    It may not be an investment the grocer themselves need to fund but it is a great way for grocers to get cooperative promotion dollars from their suppliers. This idea will require bandwidth, but with 5G coming we need to fill the pipeline with content. This just adds live theater to the store/stage. Influencers have found their way to the grocery aisles and are now going to be picking up a bag of chips and telling you to buy them. And you will, and from the comfort of your own couch. Basically Homer Simpson's vision for the ideal future is becoming a reality. Expect a lot of photo-bombing from Instacart shoppers and/or viral videos of fights between livestreaming shoppers and Instagram pickers going for the same item. Can't wait.

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