PROFILE

Mark Ryski

Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Mark Ryski is the author of two books on retail analytics, Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric and When Retail Customers Count – books that are widely considered the definitive reference guides for the retail industry. He is also the Founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation – the leading authority on retail traffic and conversion analysis. Founded in 1994, today Mark and his dedicated team work with retailers across virtually all categories and sizes from independents to large chains.
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  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    The intention of self-checkout was always a good idea, but the technology didn’t work well and ultimately caused more shopper frustration than convenience. Self-checkout technology has been advancing and given the epic checkout lines Costco stores can have, the move to re-deploy an effective self-check system makes good sense.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2019

    Can GameStop reboot itself?

    The comparisons between GameStop and Blockbuster are understandable. The disruption GameStop is facing is coming from multiple fronts – changing consumer behavior and from major game publishers selling games direct to consumers online. Google's recent launch of its online gaming service adds to the difficulties. Combine these market dynamics with organizational disruption, including a revolving door in the CEO’s office, and it’s not hard to see where this company is headed. Not good. That all said, I think there is still hope for GameStop – albeit faint hope. The gaming market is strong and growing and professional gaming is creating new opportunities.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    What does FedEx’s break with Amazon mean?

    Agreed!
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    What does FedEx’s break with Amazon mean?

    Lee, I agree with your premise but according to Planespotters.net, as of May 2019 the Amazon aircraft fleet is 32 with 4 planes on order while FedEx has 445 with 9 on order.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    What does FedEx’s break with Amazon mean?

    This is a curious development – I believe there’s a lot more to this story that we don’t fully understand. Co-opetition is part of doing business today, and since Amazon represented less than 1.3% of FedEx's business, why the big strategic move to not renew? I doubt that FedEx’s decision will have any meaningful or long-term impact on Amazon’s business since the other delivery companies will most certainly be delighted to pick-up the extra business. The whole thing is just very curious.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Who still thinks one-size-fits-all mannequins make sense?

    Historically, retailers and brands have been in the business of selling aspirations – not what we look like, but what we want to look like. Advertising messages and mannequins reflected this. However, the body positive movement is starting to change that and we’re seeing it everywhere including in mannequins. I think it’s a healthy and positive step for brands/retailers to acknowledge and reflect the reality of human form. I believe the body positive movement will continue to build over the coming years and that’s a good thing.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    How long before Amazon launches its fleet of drones?

    Notwithstanding the FAA approval, I still believe drone delivery at scale is many years away. I think it’s absolutely sensible for companies like Alphabet and Amazon to be experimenting with drone delivery and the time/effort they're investing now will pay off in the future, however, it’s still uncertain when that future will be. FAA approval is an important step, but given how weak government oversight actually is – regardless of whether it’s the EPA, FDA or the FAA – I still see many challenges with drone delivery. It will come, but not for many years to come.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Will associates rocking new vests help improve Walmart’s image and results?

    Walmart is doing a lot to support and develop their workforce and with 2.2 million associates, this is no small task. Ultimately the workforce challenges in retailing are well understood: attracting and retaining great, engaged employees. When you add up all the initiatives that Walmart is implementing to support/develop their employees, you can’t help but conclude that this will give them an edge competitively. Even initiatives like new, updated uniforms make a difference.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Ace Hardware and True Value satisfy customers, Home Depot not so much

    Finding staff who can provide answers is key in the DIY home improvement market. It’s not surprising that ACE and True Value have performed better than the big box competitors for two reasons: 1.) dealer owned and operated stores and 2.) smaller footprint stores make it easier to serve customers. Doing online research before a store visit is typical of many if not most purchases today, so there’s nothing new there. However it does speak to how important getting the online/offline service right is.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Are Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Tops wise to drop in-store childcare?

    The concept seems easy and obvious, but executing it consistently well is a challenge. The decline in parents using childcare spaces may also be a function of the quality of service retailers are providing – few parents will want to leave their child in a dirty or run-down childcare area. Well run, appointed and staffed childcare spaces like IKEA’s do get used by shoppers. Any retailer that commits to providing a childcare space also needs to commit to providing a quality experience.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Walmart’s checkout pilot puts shoppers in the fast lane

    Slow checkout is a conversion killer, and Walmart is right to focus on minimizing this. The new approach by Walmart could have a positive impact. Part of the problem with scan-and-go is that it doesn’t always work, which creates a whole new level of frustration for shoppers. The "Fast Lane" branding and additional staff support to ensure trouble-free transactions is smart. At this stage it’s hard to say how this new initiative will impact self-scan and regular checkouts, but I suspect that they will all co-exist until the right combinations are identified.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2019

    Walmart to expand its talent pipeline with a debt-free college plan for high schoolers

    This is another example of the many ways Walmart leads. Notwithstanding the challenges of scheduling high schoolers, I think this is a brilliant initiative by Walmart to grow their own workforce – and provide teenagers with opportunities to further their education. Teenagers are more than capable of doing many of the front-line jobs in retailing, and the Live Better U program will certainly encourage students (probably with a nudge from Mom or Dad) to work at Walmart.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    While experience can be helpful, I think a great attitude, self-motivation and willingness to learn are more important attributes. Since every retailer is unique, many of the hard skills are not easily transferable and so new employees will need to learn entirely new systems and processes -- prior experience may only be nominally helpful.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2019

    Abercrombie & Fitch CEO says ‘stores matter’ – particularly the smaller ones

    Abercrombie & Fitch management are taking proactive and meaningful steps to improve the store experience and ultimately business results. The new move to smaller, more omni-friendly stores seems consistent with what consumers want. However I’m not sure closing flagships is necessarily the right move – these stores are more than merely places to buy A&F products, they are also a showcase for the brand. Beyond working on improving store experience and updating stores, the biggest challenge A&F faces is the same one all apparel retailers face – maintaining relevancy with consumers.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Can department stores shake themselves out of the doldrums?

    There are no easy answers when it comes to department store performance. Strong economic conditions that helped department stores deliver good results over the last year have been replaced by tariff concerns and economic headwinds. To a great extent, the initiatives that department store operators are undertaking seem to be incremental window-dressing, whereas retailers like Walmart and Target are investing in making the shopping experience better – and especially connecting online/offline. It's paying off. Driving more traffic into department stores, like Kohl’s decision to accept Amazon returns at all locations, is a good start, but traffic alone isn’t the answer. Department stores need to focus on converting the traffic into buyers.

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