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

  • Posted on: 08/14/2018

    ‘Less is more’ when competing with Amazon

    Relevance is everything. So is "less is more" a viable alternative? Absolutely, as long as the "less" is consistent with a lifestyle approach. I think the outdoors guys like L.L.Bean and REI had this right from the get-go. Everything for the enthusiast. Whole Foods made its bones on organic and local and trust. I'd love to see something similar in apparel (though I suppose some would say that's why we have specialty stores). But yes, Amazon's breadth can work against it in many ways. Unfortunately you have to stay close on price, since it will always be a price comparison site, at minimum.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    J.C. Penney goes after Babies ‘R’ Us customers with new shops

    Exactly. Their original customer has aged out and ever since, under three different management team, the new target has changed, along with the message. Well said.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2018

    Party City to run pilot with Amazon, ‘the world’s largest and most trafficked mall’

    Well, if they're re-selling Ruby's costumes, then no, it makes no strategic sense. However, if they are selling their own stuff, then yes. A quick bit of history: The party supply business was notoriously un-scalable. Party City's original success was predominantly from franchisees, not company stores. But then Amscan (a manufacturer of paper products) bought them, and re-branded the company as Party City and went public. All of the sudden, scale could happen! So there is nothing quite as zooish as a party supply store in the three days before Halloween. If shoppers are willing to take a chance on an unseen costume, then it'll work. Of course, there will be a high volume of returns, but re-pack is a fact of life in the Halloween business anyway, so no real harm there. I say "Why not?"
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    Rite Aid and Albertsons call off merger – what’s next?

    As far as Rite Aid is concerned, I just don't think Amazon is the big player/threat. It's definitely much more CVS and Walgreens. But Rite Aid has some fabulous/convenient locations in NYC so I could easily see it carrying on, just not at a huge size. For Albertsons, threats are everywhere; Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, pretty much every other grocer in its neighborhoods. The day may come when Rite Aid goes private. But not all retailers have to be huge. I'm not quite sure what Albertsons should do. Probably freshen up everything about its stores and get click and collect working impeccably.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Report says voice commerce is all talk

    I don't know. How many times do you want to see if Amazon has changed the price? Like every day?
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Report says voice commerce is all talk

    I agree. And it’s a captive audience for Amazon. Probably marginally more likely to be successful than the unexplainable Dash buttons.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Walmart looks to automate grocery pick-up

    I think anything that takes payroll out of the process and provides adequate service is great. I think it would be great for associates to become "produce specialists" as this is the weak point I see in delivered groceries. So I think it's a good move!
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Empty malls spelled the end for Brookstone stores

    Given where I live (Miami), which seems to be on its way to becoming the mall capital of the world, it's hard to have a solid perspective on "declines in mall traffic." But I can't dismiss other opinions, either. What jumps out at me with regard to Brookstone is that they probably get more favorable rent deals from airports, which is frankly surprising, but seems like it must be true. In general, though, I think Brookstone is a concept whose time has come and gone. Its kitschy products were well suited to Boomers when we were in our 30s. Now the product is either available elsewhere or has become a yawn. I have to say that it still seems like an odd decision that likely speaks to the lower rents I mentioned above, and a captive audience of travelers waiting for planes. I can't imagine another chain that would make this kind of decision except maybe Sbarro.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Wayfair to open its first brick & mortar store

    I'll bet it does. Returns are a unique furniture industry problem -- different from apparel because the price points are higher and the margins better. It doesn't even matter if it's bought without seeing it. 5 percent is coming back. Period.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Wayfair to open its first brick & mortar store

    Definitely there are multiple reasons for this. The dispensation of damages and returns in the furniture business is a real "thing." You have to assume that at least 5 percent of what is delivered will be returned. And the further furniture travels, the less likely it is to return to the DC in any kind of saleable condition. And running a warehouse store sale is a fabulous way to raise cash when it gets tight. So yes, there's an omnichannel component -- I'm not convinced any pure-play of any size can be profitable, I'm really not -- but there are also some peculiar nuances to the furniture business that sort of demands a warehouse store. Of course, one has to beware of the outlets becoming a distraction -- I've seen that happen before too. When you start buying specifically for your outlet division, you can water down your core focus.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Zara bets on faster deliveries from stores to boost online growth

    Amazon doesn't actually seem to have a standard anymore. There are so many 3rd party Prime sellers that I find orders are late as often as they are on-time, and have other issues (broken bottles, etc.). Other retailers can actually do better.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Zara bets on faster deliveries from stores to boost online growth

    "The norm" is a bigger statement than I'm willing to make. I am willing to say "depending on the retailer it will become a desirable option." Zara is a fast fashion retailer. I don't believe they want to hold anything back in the DCs to fulfill demand. Target is a big box retailer. I would expect for retailers with such a large footprint (and back room), it will make a lot of sense to do a high percentage of deliveries from stores. But for others, it really doesn't make that much sense. Back rooms of specialty stores are small, and there is little room for packing, staging and shipping. Also, the more product shipped from and returned to stores, the more likely the inventory is to get out of whack. And given the lack of inventory accuracy and visibility retailers across all segments profess, the whole process becomes sub-optimized with employees looking for product that isn't there, and then passing the order along to another store. I think we are a long, long way from it being "the norm." It's just not profitable enough for many retailers.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    Walmart still trying to figure out home delivery

    I've never been convinced that grocery delivery can be profitable. The way Amazon is doing it (Amazon Fresh) there is so much packaging around the cold and frozen products that they've got to lose whatever margin they have on the product when they do the delivery. Instacart adds fees. So they can make a few bucks -- maybe. But their model is to deliver from the nearest store, so they don't really worry about temperature control. And it's not a perfect solution (substitutes remain an issue). If shoppers will accept a delivery fee, then it's possible to eke out some profits using individual drivers. Without a fee, or trying to use larger vehicles like vans the service is destined to lose money. I just don't see a path to profitability.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2018

    Retail’s new cobbling economy

    I agree with Carol. She is exactly articulating what's really happening here. For months, I have been an "odd man out" because I did not accept that retail is becoming part of the "gig" economy. Store associates have almost always been "gigging." Excluding things like IKEA furniture assembly, retailers expect a lot of turnover and part timers ... it's actually built into the in-store profitability model given its emphasis of minimum or base pay employees and minimal fringe benefits. I think we've gone from "single wage earner, stay at home wife" to "cobblers sharing child rearing duties while they work multiple jobs" in about three decades. So it's not the retailers that are cobbling. It's the workers themselves, cobbling out a life. My advice for retailers remains what it has been. In-store employees are important. Finding, hiring, training and retaining in-store talent is the NEW way to think about things, not "Oh, what we've done is fine, because it's called gigging now." Call it what you will -- shoppers expect a good shopping experience. Employees are an asset, not just an expense. We should take care of our assets. It's really that simple.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2018

    Walmart and Microsoft team up to slow Amazon’s roll

    It's about time retailers stopped subsidizing their competition.

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