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: 02/15/2019

    Will Amazon’s decision to bail cause a New York backlash?

    If anything, the other 20+ cities that vied for Amazon's HQ2 should have shown a backlash. Too many give-aways, too much information shared for what was apparently a pre-wired deal. After this pre-wired deal, the company is picking up its ball and going home? We don't know how much the new tax laws played a part in them changing their minds (seen info on income tax increases because property taxes over $10,000 are now not deductible?) ... but I don't see a backlash, particularly. Many people, like me, have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I don't like many of the things they do, but when I need something quickly, it's my go-to. It will remain so, I think. I think it was a weird and awkward process. If I were still living in NY, I'd just say adios ... see ya soon.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Retail leaders need to care more about tech

    This is true in retail and in politics. No more plausible deniability. It’s time to catch up with the times. Otherwise, emotional decisions that lead to “magic bullet syndrome” will continue.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    I cannot believe the courts allowed this to happen. He’s just going to sell off more space. And in the meanwhile, he avoided a major lawsuit. This is an American embarrassment.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?

    This is crazy! I accidentally stumbled on Marie Kondo's show on Netflix and thought I was nuts for watching a half hour. I commented to some friends, and apparently it's a thing. Now, she's everywhere. It strikes me she is mostly about mindfulness and thinking about what "brings you joy" more than just de-cluttering. I do know that I, who generally throw away too much stuff, am now fixated on two closets and a dresser because I hear or read the name "Marie Kondo" at least six times a day. It really is a little crazy-making. I have a friend who works for a library out in LA, and she said she is buried in used book donations thanks to Marie Kondo. I actually think it comes back to the search for meaning, and moving away from being a "throw-away" or "pack away" society. All this "stuff" that people seem to accumulate isn't making them happy, apparently. It's also probably the logical follow-on to the Millennial "focus on experience, not on things" paradigm. Now that they've grown up to have children, they do need things. They just don't want to be overwhelmed by them. The question of its impact on fast fashion is interesting, since that stuff is basically one step above disposable. I don't have an answer. I hope we can use whatever we can to become better stewards of our habitat. If she helps accomplish that, I'll forgive her not even bothering to learn English.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    I don't think so, at least in the stated aim of increasing web-based grocery sales. Certainly apps will improve the in-store experience. I'll avoid asking the question "Why are grocers wanting more people to shop online exactly and eat the rest of their margin?" until another day. I am a fairly ardent user of Instacart. Because the app (which still needs work) keeps track of what I have purchased in the past from a given store and presents them to me first, I end up with a de facto list of staples that I buy regularly. Admittedly if they are out of stock, or if it's an infrequent purchase, I'll just go online to buy it, but I'm finding the app serves its purpose. To me, the real magic is in the store. Use apps to make life easier in the store and improve THAT experience.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Are ‘spiritual’ brands more marketable than ever?

    Dave Bruno has it exactly right. This generation seems to be focused on organics and holistic products. They also are the generation that values "experiences" (as did, honestly, my own generation at their age). Of course, to touch spiritual meaning is the most profound experience of all. Let me add that the crazier it gets in "the world" the more likely people are to seek shelter in some kind of spirituality. Beyond the "fad" there's a reality...our daily lives are way too hectic and vacuous and people do have a natural search for meaning in a sea of meaninglessness. This, I know.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    Home delivery is its own little universe, requiring sophisticated technology, processes and financial commitment to be profitable, I see no evidence that JCP is in a position to make those commitments, so I think this is the right move. It still raises the question, "How is Penney going to differentiate?" but it likely wasn't going to be in white goods.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2019

    Will Target’s dynamic pricing strategy erode customers’ trust?

    They (I, at least) have become aware of it, and I really don't like it.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2019

    Will Target’s dynamic pricing strategy erode customers’ trust?

    I have never been fond of dynamic pricing, and all our data tells us that the best performing retailers have consistency between online and in-store pricing. Consumers will accept channel specific promotions, however. Still, for Target, this is a TERRIBLE idea. They've only recently regained consumer trust after their mammoth data breach and reaction, and their change in merchandise assortment. My recommendation would be to say "We tried it, consumers didn't like it. We've gotten rid of it."
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    I agree with Dick. The Amazon commercial was good, but overall we had a boring game, a boring halftime show and boring commercials. Bummer -- since I am a (gasp) Patriots fan. We won, but we won ugly.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?

    I think trust in brands is dead. Amazon believes it’s the key differentiator for it, but the trust was broken by third-party Prime fulfillment. Apple was a trusted brand until it wasn’t. Just delight your customers and they’ll come back. But trust? Nah.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    Experience cannot be separated from the entire store mix. It's true online as well as stores, but the expectations are different. Some basic retail truths:
    • Rule #1, sell things people want to buy;
    • Rule #2, make the experience fun (not frictionless ... that word is meaningless, really);
    • Rule #3, love your customers (apologies to Jack Mitchell who wrote the book!);
    • Rule #4, be fair to your employees;
    • Rule #5, be a positive force in your communities.
    This is a winning retail strategy. You can get away without following a couple of these rules for a little while, but not for so long. For what it's worth, Apple stores aren't what I'd call "gathering places." They are "try our stuff" places. The geniuses aren't as bright as they used to be and unless you really, really love big crowds, there's not a lot of fun to be had there once you've taken a look at what they have to sell. Don't be Apple. As they say, "You, be you." The best you.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2019

    Are new brick and mortar solutions the key to digital brand growth?

    I'm not crazy about the transient nature of the locations. I somehow think digital natives need to establish a beach head where customers will consistently find them, order, pick up product, etc. I think it's a key to profitability.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    What will it take to dramatically reduce risk in the retail supply chains?

    A lot of people are singing the glories of blockchain for this, but there are already technologies in place. Do I think it’s achievable? Only if there’s a corporate will to make it so. For example, while I would much prefer that my medication and contents within not be sourced from China, corners are clearly being cut. But we have no national corporate will to do that with generics. So, this real issue is “none of the above” and squarely in the realm of “intestinal fortitude”
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did regional constraints doom Shopko?

    The fact that Shopko survived the onslaught of Walmart, then Target and Kohl's has always been a subject of fascination for me. I've followed them and talked about them forever. Way, way back in the day, I worked for the company that ran their shoe department. All our other lessors were killed off. Shopko survived. The fact that it survived Walmart (especially!), Target and Kohl's (and the bankruptcy of Payless) was pretty spectacular. And the company was profitable when it was snapped off the public market. Since the company had so much good will, and survived despite all odds until now, tells me that the P/E owners did not provide the funds to continue building the brand. From where I sit, the P/E took something special and pretty much milked it until there wasn't much left. This is sad. It's easy to say that all the other regional chains died but the real question and thing to study is, how did Shopko survive this long and what lessons can we learn from that? Personally, I think it was management that kept it going, and debt and its P/E owners that killed it.

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