PROFILE

Nikki Baird

VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
Nikki Baird is the vice president of Retail Innovation at Aptos, a retail enterprise solution provider. She is charged with accelerating retailers’ ability to innovate. She has been a top global retail industry influencer for several years, with a background in retail and technology. She is a regular contributor to Forbes.com and has been quoted as a retail subject matter expert in <i>The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington Post</i>, and National Public Radio, among many others. Nikki brings perspective from all sides of the retail technology equation: she has been an industry analyst for nearly fifteen years, co-founding Retail Systems Research, the premier boutique analyst firm focused on the retail industry. Prior to co-founding RSR, Nikki was an analyst at both Forrester Research and Retail Systems Alert Group, where she covered retail industry and technology topics. Prior to that, she was director of marketing for StorePerform, a store execution management software provider, and director of product marketing for Viewlocity, a supply chain software provider focusing on adaptive supply chain execution and exception management. Nikki came to Viewlocity from PwC Consulting, now IBM Global Services, where as a senior manager she led IT strategy consulting engagements for retail and CPG clients. Nikki has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, focusing on operations and IT. She also holds a bachelor of arts in political science and Russian, with a minor in physics, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
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  • Posted on: 03/02/2021

    Are short-term leases here to stay?

    While the pandemic may have given retailers leverage and mall operators incentive to take what they can get, I don't see the end of the pandemic changing the dynamic at all. The U.S. was over-stored before the pandemic, and the future has long pointed to a more dynamic store location strategy - changing demographics and shifting consumer preferences mean that retailers - and real estate - need to speed up to match the shifts.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Is suburban retail (malls, too) primed for a comeback?

    Yeah, I'm not buying it. Yes, malls will see a short-term resurgence as people go do the things they haven't been able to do for over a year. But that will be short-lived. If malls are banking on urban flight to save their bacon, then they're going to remain just as cooked as they were before the pandemic. Malls need a new value proposition for the shopper, beyond just "come see all our stuff."
  • Posted on: 02/15/2021

    Is the toy category’s pandemic sales boon coming to an end?

    Like everything else regarding consumer behavior post-pandemic, one guess is as good as another. I don't know that consumers themselves really know what their behavior is going to be like. But I will say, I think that a large portion of toy and game purchases were about occupying kids who couldn't go out and play, couldn't go to school, and couldn't participate in after school activities. When these activities come back to compete for kids' time and parents' share of wallet, the toy category is going to see a corresponding decline in spend. I'm sure that parents would cherish the continued family game night traditions (and maybe some kids would too), but that alone is not going to be enough to sustain the level of spend that occurred in 2020.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2021

    Should retailers ask workers to return to their offices?

    I feel like it's irresponsible to ask employees to return to offices without vaccine shots. Especially when we have a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccines - sometime this year. Return should be voluntary based on employee comfort until we can demonstrate herd immunity. Plus, it doesn't solve anything for parents of young children - if the day care or school is closed or limited, how can parents return to an office? Adding that pressure on top of so many others is not helpful. I agree that collaboration and integration and even the speed of decision-making can be improved by in-person meetings vs. WFH. And I'm a WFH veteran for sure. Aptos has evaluated and acquired now two companies during the pandemic, and been working on the integration of one since September. Could we have gone a lot faster if we could all be in a room together? Sure. But to insist on those benefits at the expense of employee safety and security during a time when people are still at the highest risk when inside for prolonged periods of time? Sorry, no sympathy from me on that one.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2021

    Will retail pharmacies be the cure for America’s ‘vaccine deserts’?

    Living in a state (Colorado) that has both dense metro areas and also very underserved rural areas, I can appreciate just how much of a challenge this is. If we want herd immunity, at some point we are going to have to take the vaccine to where the people are rather than expect them to come to where the vaccine is. That's why the J&J vaccine, even for its less than Pfizer efficacy, is so important, because it can actually make it to rural areas safely. Independent pharmacies, county health organizations, and at some point probably other services that reach into rural communities are going to be needed. I wouldn't be surprised if we see National Guard mobile vaccine units roll through some communities at some point. It's time to get creative to get as much vaccine in as many arms as we possibly can.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2021

    The retail apocalypse didn’t happen last year, despite the coverage

    As someone who has made a living on making predictions, I definitely agree that people are more interested in what *might* happen than what actually happened, and also simultaneously people are not interested in your accuracy as a gauge for whether they should listen to you talk about what might happen (see: political conspiracy theories). I can tell you from our own aggregated customer performance that store sales were down about 8 percent to 9 percent in 2020, which hides a huge quarterly swing. March and April were down over 50 percent, which means retailers (and remember these are mostly non-essential) made it all up in later months. They were up 5 percent to 10 percent year-over-year coming into the pandemic. But that's just looking at stores. For retailers with strong online operations, their sales will be up that 2 percent to 3 percent, and for retailers with strong omnichannel operations where they can flex between online and stores for both demand and inventory, they will be up more than that. I think a store reckoning is still coming but totally agree with Bob, it's not an apocalypse, it's a restructuring to reflect a more balanced digital/physical approach to the customer journey. But can I point out that the second half of your question is asking for a prediction? :-) And that of course I'm more than happy to try to make one!
  • Posted on: 01/28/2021

    A digital first approach is essential to retail success

    There are so many layers of meaning to "digital first" -- especially in the context of retail. I think it's important to sort those out. There's digital first in your engagement with consumers. I 100% agree that this should be a top priority. Especially today, you aren't going to "meet" a customer for the first time by having them wander in your store and browse. You are going to meet them online, and most likely in social spaces first. There's digital first in terms of business transformation. Retailers do need to digitize their business -- data is the fuel that runs the engine of growth. If your processes aren't digitized, then you have no data, and many challenges in trying to grow without it. I 100% agree that this should be a top priority. There's digital in the literal sense of eCom, and here digital first would mean that you are prioritizing your business based on what it means for eCom first. Completely disagree with that one. It should be consumer first. And the bang for the buck still lives in stores, not online -- while eCom is growing and has grown and retailers should make sure they're not screwing up that growth, the bulk of sales will still happen in stores (once they can fully reopen), the bulk of capital is caught up in stores, the bulk of operating expenses is in store labor -- your business's future will be won or lost not online, but with what you can do with your stores.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2021

    Bud is latest major brand player to punt on Super Bowl spots

    I don't want to downplay the move -- I think it's a huge win all around. But I wish they had also committed to helping create the PSAs for COVID awareness, and not just devoting the air time. This is a time when super-high-end creatives could make a huge impact on public awareness.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2021

    Will Godiva’s stores ever come back from the pandemic?

    Without knowing the specifics of their financial situation, which may necessitate something this drastic, I would say that I think this is an over-reaction. There will be Godiva stores again in the future. There are just too many pressures that will lead them back down this road: the need to define and own "the Godiva experience," too much competition for shelf space and too much consolidation in retail distribution, which just gives brands less and less power that way. If only for the Instagrammability, Godiva will need at least some physical locations. Maybe not 128 of them, but they will need some.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2021

    Should store associates deliver online orders?

    I have long wondered why more retailers don't take a harder look at this, rather than outsourcing to Instacart or a service like that. The only thing I can think of is that retailers don't want to invest the time and energy to doing it - they're taking the easy way out. But as Rick points out, you have an opportunity to own that experience - and differentiate it. The model is there. Pizza delivery has been doing this for years. And the idea of bringing expertise to the front door that not only delivers the order but can give you tips and tricks on the spot - how can you beat that? I do the rough math in my head and I just can't make the business case NOT pay off - this has to be cheaper to deliver and higher value to customers than some third-party service. And note the initial push in areas where there are multiple stores, which means taking a portfolio approach to store locations to ultimately better serve customers by geography, rather than focusing on "doors."
  • Posted on: 01/14/2021

    7-Elevens could be destined to undergo a konbinification

    There are two parts to this question, really. One is, will U.S. consumers accept 7-Eleven as a "premium" brand? I think there is going to have to be a LOT of investment in branding in order to make that repositioning successful, either that or they should plan a slow rollout measured in decades, not years or months. Two, and I would say this runs counter to the brand perception issue, 7-Eleven needs to think about the long-range future of what drives a consumer to a c-store, and what they expect to do once they get there, and this konbini style concept seems to support that well. If we move hard towards electric vehicles in the next decade or two, the c-store that is designed more as a way station is going to have a lot more going for it. Even the fastest battery charge takes much longer than it takes to fill a tank of gas, and having a service-orientation (rather than grab and go) will serve them well.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2021

    Shopify dumps Trump’s stores from its platform

    Well, after my comments yesterday, I can hardly stay away from this one! It's an easy move to make on January 7 and, in my opinion, justified. But now that Trump has put out a statement in effect conceding, Shopify is going to enter a gray area that will be very challenging - has the organization redeemed itself now in terms of their policies? If the organization or any of its representatives then reverse themselves and start repeating old debunked conspiracies (or starts spinning new ones), does that put these stores back in violation of Shopify's policies? I think this is a bigger problem for retail, and it is remarkably similar to the problems facing social media platforms. Who ultimately bears responsibility for what individuals in the community do? Should Amazon be held accountable if a third-party seller is able to sell goods on the platform that are toxic or dangerous or that they are not licensed to sell? Should Shopify be held accountable if it enables sellers that support terrorist or seditionist organizations? I think 2021 is going to be the year we find out for social media platforms. I think retailers should be watching closely because it will have direct impact on them as well.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2021

    Retailers call on Trump to end the national chaos he created

    I think every single person (and business) needs to look at themselves and ask both, what have I done that has made this possible, and what can I do now to make sure that my actions (or lack thereof) never enable something like this again. Someone manufactured and sold and delivered those Confederate flags. Someone manufactured and sold and delivered those "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirts. Just like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube are being forced to confront their enabling behaviors for spreading and connecting militias and seditionists, retailers with open marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy need to confront their enabling behaviors for the retail market for militias and seditionists. Statements are great, but it's not just the government that has a responsibility to act.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2021

    Have retailers solved their long line problems?

    I have to say, the two innovations that I hope stick around are reservations and mobile checkout. As some have already pointed out, lines happened in some stores before the pandemic, so solutions here will live beyond the need to ration customers in stores for safety purposes. But reservations are one area where I think retailers might be tempted to downplay or eliminate once they don't have capacity pressures, when they should not, because nothing gives you more information about a customer than when they tell you who they are, when they're coming, and maybe even what they're interested in getting help with - hours or days before they ever show up. Don't let that immensely valuable information go to the wayside! And it's a win for customers too - to know that they'll get the help they need as soon as they walk in the door. No time wasted for anyone in that scenario!
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Albertsons ditching in-house drivers to deliver online orders

    I agree - I have wondered what the ultimate impact will be on the retailer's brand loyalty if they outsource a major customer touchpoint. I get that the costs are still not optimized - the last mile is expensive and hard which is why grocers had never really cracked that nut before. Outsourcing it doesn't make it any less expensive or hard. But it does put an intermediary between the customer and the retailer, which ultimately may cost a retailer much more in lifetime value.

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