PROFILE

Paula Rosenblum

Managing Partner, RSR Research

Paula Rosenblum is co-founder and Managing Partner at RSR Research and is widely recognized as one of the industry’s top retail technology analysts. She was selected as one of the “Top 50 Retail Influencers” in 2013 and writes a weekly blog for Forbes. Previous to her 12 years as an analyst, she spent over 20 years as a retail technology executive and CIO at companies including Hit or Miss, Morse Shoe, Domain Home Fashions and others.

Paula received her MBA in 1991 from Northeastern University, with a major in management of High Technology firms and was nominated to the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. She’s active in a variety of organizations supporting human growth and development, and has been involved with the RetailROI charity since its earliest days.

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RSR Research blog

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  • Posted on: 04/23/2018

    Apocalypse? No. Retail faces a reset

    Gosh, I feel like we've been talking about these things at RSR (many in the exact same words) for more than a decade. This is not rocket science. It's just 21st century retailing. And yes, please bury the damned retail apocalypse nonsense. It was always nonsense, and remains so. All it does is scare the heck out of retailers and their shareholders.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2018

    CVS gets real without retouching in new beauty campaign

    In the age of #metoo and women's next attempt to be taken seriously as legitimate forces, and not just a pretty face, initiatives like this are important. Let's not forget, CVS is not the first to the party here. I think that honor belongs to CP seller Dove. So many photos are SO manipulated that companies have to put the name of the celebrity in the photo on the page, because they are fundamentally unrecognizable. There's a fascinating story in Vanity Fair today....Al Pacino, Brian DePalma and Michelle Pfeiffer did a panel session commemorating the 35th anniversary of Scarface. The "boys" got asked all the serious questions. Ms. Pfeiffer got asked about her weight during the film. To her immense credit, she responded as an actress who had to lose weight because her character was sinking ... but that question was followed by "What was the first thing you ate after the movie?" Dude ... (Jesse Kornbluth, the moderator) ... what were you thinking? What is WRONG with you? We've got a very long way to go ... this is a very small step. But we have to keep forcing those steps. It's embarrassing, really.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    Starbucks to close shops for racial bias training

    It's a very long walk from where we've been as a country around race, gender and sexual identity to where we need to go, and the walk is going a LOT slower than I expected. I think we just have to keep walking, and I congratulate Mr. Schultz for giving it a go and trying to be part of the solution. I'd LOVE to see screening out bias as part of the recruitment process ... it's sort of like forcing the thing to wither without food. But then they'll just get angrier and the process will continue. Therefore, training is important, along with insuring you have a multi-cultural staff in stores. People tend to back off their implicit prejudice of "the other" when they actually engage with them.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    I actually think retail has gone backwards when it comes to putting women in high places. Earlier in my career, there were a lot more VPs who were women than I see today. But the C-suite has always been a man's world. The tech industry also seems to have gone backwards. I never had any troubles advancing ... I think I scared them all too much or something, and the last time a guy quit because I was a woman when he found out he was supposed to report to me was 1982. Back in those days I learned techniques to ferret out sexist moments in board rooms. Too graphic to describe in a family blog, but let's say I had techniques for men who acted inappropriately. I have a black friend who said "Hey ... it's Black History Month. The other 11 are white history months." So I kind of do think it's condescending. It's really a question of talent. If you want the best talent, particularly one that reflects who your customer is, then hire and promote women. If it makes you too nervous ... well, you know ... look in the mirror.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Best Buy and Amazon expand their coopetition

    The world is now filled with frenemies. Vendors and retailers, retailers and other retailers. Is it a good idea? In some cases, I guess it's necessary. Together they are stronger.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    Cathy, you have got to come down and see Brickell City Center. I may not like how crowded the area is, but Simon and the Whitman family (Bal Harbour Shops) have built a stunning new generation mall and mixed use building. And yes, there's a food hall.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    Since I don't know what their rent structures are, it's hard to say if the landlord is forcing short leases or not, making this a self-fulfilling short-term phenomenon. Is the market over-saturated? Not particularly. There don't seem to be more than 1-2 per city, maybe 3. Are they profitable? This is the challenge of the food service industry, period — not having too much spoilage or out of stocks. Personally, I think they are great ideas, and it's honestly hard for me to see how a place like Eataly is not profitable: there are stalls that sell dry goods along with perishables. This is way, way better than cheap, crummy food courts, and a lot more civilized.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    REI lifts the sustainability bar

    How is it "going too far" to be kind? How is it "going too far" to attempt to protect the humans' habitat? To be clear, the planet will go on without this species -- it's about keeping it safe for the creatures that live here now. How is this even a question? Do we prefer fouling the air and oceans and continuing to cut off the same branch we're living on? I HOPE other retailers will do so. I'd rather pay a few cents more for good karma products.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Is product discovery now the biggest pain point for mobile buys?

    I honestly don't see why discovery is such a problem. Rendering products in a way that shows you all their features on a small screen is a problem, and that's not going away until we find a way to create bigger images (treating the phone like a projector, sort of). I'm starting to feel like AI is the latest magic bullet for everything, which it's not. It feels like killing an ant with an elephant gun in this case.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    Walmart slows push to add third-party sellers to its online marketplace

    I think the problem with having too many sellers in your marketplace is quality control. So I think it's a very good move. Also, having received one "Third-Party Prime" shipment from Amazon wrapped in Target tape, and another one in a Walmart box, I'm thinking that Walmart believes it can do better on its own. I think the marketplaces are great for new retailers selling "cool stuff," but there's no need to have 10 sellers of paper towels. I don't think this will go so well for Amazon over the long term and I don't think it would have gone so well for Walmart, either. My view? Good move.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Barnes & Noble’s crowdsourcing app engages readers and earns solid reviews

    It would have to be a LOT better than Goodreads to capture most people’s interest. Goodreads is annoying, particularly its announcements that my Facebook friends are now in my network. I agree with the comment below. There were better things to do with their IT dollars. Maybe create virtual reading clubs to go along with live ones meeting in stores? If the goal is to create community, this is a bit forced.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    Were you a paying customer? I am a non-paying customer and decided I didn't care if a bunch of Russians know what I eat every day.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    There seem to be two questions here. The poll question and the discussion question. Starting with the discussion question, as a general rule, countries that implement EMV have seen a rise in online fraud, as it theoretically is the most vulnerable point. But to the poll question: Have retailers done enough? Retailers have done enough to satisfy the mandate, but too many have not done something important that is NOT part of the mandate -- implement point-to-point encryption. I'm not sure we would have needed EMV if we had P2P encryption universally, but the banking industry will not take ownership of their mistake in not including the requirement for it, and retailers had already spent a lot of IT money on EMV hardware and software, in an age when they needed IT money for omnichannel initiatives (sorry ... I have no other short form description of it). I wrote a piece about this recently and a rep from the payments organization was adamant that this is all on the retailers. I say "hogwash" even though the CIOs with boards that could hear implemented it anyway. It's a mess, and no industry can afford to cast stones (can you spell Equifax?).
  • Posted on: 04/04/2018

    Should retailers lower expectations around last-mile delivery?

    This is not new news. In 2015 and 2016 RSR ran a 360 degree study around home delivery. We found that consumers' threshold for free delivery is no more than $100 and the fee they were willing to pay was $5. It's not just Amazon ... it's the state of the retail union and has been for some time. It's actually BIGGER than Amazon, because customers also expect two-hour delivery windows. On a personal level, when I went to Sears and spent really stupid money on a washer/dryer (I love good appliances) and they tried to charge me $15 for a two-hour window, I said I would walk out of the store and walk away from what had become a $2,800 sale if they didn't make that number zero. It's actually insulting. And it's the way it is now. For what it's worth, Amazon's white glove delivery of big ticket items is pretty sub-standard, in my opinion, and they'd have to work hard to gain my business again. They really made a hash of a large screen TV delivery and set-up. So Amazon is not the problem.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    It's a marketing vehicle and as per usual, Amazon is getting boatloads of free press out of it ... worth more than they put into the stores. Today, a huge piece in the New York Times. I simply don't think it's a viable concept for retailers. Who's going to care for and feed all that equipment? What's going to happen to shrink? Why even consider it? And then there's my personal preference. If we think of "frictionless" by this definition, there's zero reason to go to a store. Just order online and avoid the crowds. For me, an in-store frictionless experience is: I shop, the retailer puts the contents of my cart on the belt, bags it, puts it back in my cart and and an associate accompanies me to my car if I want them to. That's a frictionless in-store experience. I feel like we're all very confused and have lost track of the difference between a viable in-store experience vs. a viable digital shopping experience.

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