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.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2019

    Are secondhand sales the right branding move for Neiman Marcus?

    Notwithstanding the impressive growth in the secondhand category, luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus need to be very careful in how they participate. Despite the argument that there’s little overlap between full-price customers and secondhand customers, I think the cannibalization risk and brand risk is larger than Neiman Marcus management thinks. That all said, Neiman Marcus is struggling and experimentation in the secondhand luxury market is an interesting move.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2019

    Why is Petco doubling down on same-day delivery with Shipt and Instacart?

    Same-day delivery has already become an expectation for consumers and in virtually every category – pet products is another natural category. By partnering with both Shipt and Instacart, Petco is hedging its bet and maximizing same-day delivery coverage for its customers.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Sears Holdings sues Eddie Lampert for illegally stripping retailer of its assets

    It’s impossible to know exactly what Lampert’s true intentions were regarding Sears. However, his actions certainly suggest he was methodically dismantling Sears. What’s utterly strange about the whole Sears saga, is how long it’s taken. If Lampert was merely out to pillage Sears why did he draw it out so long and painfully? Selling off Craftsman and other crown jewels, all the while saying that he was trying to turn Sears around? It may also be that Lampert had good intentions to start, but then they changed over time. Who knows. In any event, it’s not surprising to see the lawsuits come – I’m just surprised it took this long.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Why is Five Below a step above?

    It’s not easy to find a new niche in retailing, but that’s exactly what Five Below has done – and they have the retail chops to execute the concept brilliantly. The treasure hunt concept has proven to be durable and compelling, and so perhaps it’s not surprising that having one for younger consumers would be successful also. The fact is, none of the products at Five Below offers are special or unique – the real magic is the store experience they deliver. Of course others may try to knock-off the Five Below concept, but it will be hard to catch them. I think the most likely competitive threat will come from the incumbent dollar store players who decide to increase their product mix to the same demographic as Five Below.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Is Bed Bath & Beyond smart to draw the line on coupons?

    Bed Bath & Beyond has spent years training its customers to expect coupons, and it will take time to wean them off this coupon fix. Using analytics to selectively moderate the number of coupons and value of the coupons it offers is a sensible first step. I suspect that coupons will be part of their marketing approach for years to come, but de-emphasizing the use of coupons and focusing on delivering a better in-store experience is the right approach.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Should retail rivals see Amazon’s $15 minimum wage and raise it $1?

    Bezos' challenge to raise wages may have been a PR stunt, but I doubt it. And even if it was, frontline employees will benefit. Raising retail wages appears to be a growing trend. As noted, Target and Walmart are well on their way to increasing wages, benefits and training for employees. Ultimately, frontline employees have a significant impact on store experience and sales results. Higher wages will enable retailers to attract and retain the best employees. I believe that more and more retailers will follow this trend and I must say, it’s about time.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

    The STORY concept is interesting, but the question is, can it scale? Macy’s acquired STORY and now it’s time to do something with it. The key issue is scalability – implementing the STORY concept across an enterprise retailer like Macy’s will be a significant effort. I’m skeptical that they can, but that’s why you experiment. If STORY is successful, good for Macy’s; if STORY is not successful, Macy’s will keep moving on to the next idea. Failure is just another version of learning.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Amazon Go doesn’t want to leave cash on the table

    This completely changes the game for Amazon Go. The entire point of Go was to provide a cashier-less experience – to remove the need to stand in line to pay/check out. Given this recent announcement – and the public backlash, Amazon can find a way to take cash, but it defeats the point of the concept. The key learning for retailers is, be very mindful of the potential negative public reaction to ideas that may exclude some people. Even the mighty Amazon couldn’t get past this one.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?

    Walmart is an innovator and leader. Using technology to manage the repetitive, mundane activities and freeing up associates to serve customers is sensible. And deploying technology to get products on the shelves faster is a win for shoppers and employees. The cost of deploying and maintaining this technology must be significant, but the savings in labor, time and improved service make the ROI attractive. While there are lots of retailers deploying interesting technology – Target comes to mind – Walmart is clearly leading brick-and-mortar retailer on the in-store innovation/technology front.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    Retailers and brands become best of frenemies with Amazon

    Amazon is a distribution channel, and increasingly retailers/brands are viewing it as such. For some retailers/brands, I believe there will always be a certain amount of trepidation with partnering with Amazon and the other major players. Over the long run, the increasing reliance on Amazon and others will likely create more homogeneity in the market as more and more of the things people want are available in the same places. At the same time, it will create real opportunities for the retailers/brands that choose to go their own way to stand out, Lululemon is a good example.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Should uniform pricing be the norm for large chains?

    While both approaches have merit – uniform pricing is much easier to manage and localized pricing should deliver the optimal price – ultimately, optimal pricing will more likely be achieved by setting prices specific to market which accounts for local market variations. Price optimization tools and the availability of data make this easier to accomplish today than ever before. That said, price setting is still challenging. While it has become more scientific, there's still an element of art involved.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2019

    Trump’s China tariff dispute leaves retail and consumer brands in limbo

    Trade policies have real consequences for retailers and consumers, and we’re starting to see these now. Shifting supply sources from China to other countries is not a simple proposition, and many retailers are going to struggle with this. Until and unless the U.S. and China get a trade deal worked out, retailers are going to be faced with a number of serious, complicated and potentially damaging consequences to their business.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2019

    Chrome extension shows Goodwill to shoppers, not to Amazon or Walmart

    I doubt that the Chrome extension will significantly increase online sales at Goodwill, but it won’t hurt. While there may be some cross-over shoppers, I suspect that Goodwill serves a slightly different demographic, and so I don’t think this will have a serious impact on the online leaders' market share. That said, the battle for market share is intense, and I doubt the big players will be pleased with this development.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2019

    Okay Google, how can you help grow Walmart’s online grocery business?

    While I have no doubt that voice ordering will become an increasingly important channel, it still has a long way to go. For those Walmart customers who are interested in voice ordering the new service will be well received, but I suspect that this will be a very small number initially. I expect that Walmart will be taking the long view on this initiative and so short-term uptake is of less concern.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Again, Amazon attempts to shed Whole Foods’ high price image

    The price decreases announced may produce a modest, short-term lift in sales, but I doubt that this will have any lasting effect. Whole Foods has a loyal following, and the extra incentives for Prime customers may encourage a few more to give Whole Foods a try, but grocery is a battle, and Amazon/Whole Foods still have a long way to go to become a significant player in the market. Top quality and low prices is a difficult formula to sustain in the long run.

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