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: 04/23/2019

    Are secondhand sales the right branding move for Neiman Marcus?

    This goes all the way back to the conversation about the high rate of returns for apparel DTC sales. I seem to recall that Neiman has a very high ratio of digital sales vs. in-store sales. I want to say 26 percent of sales are consummated through a digital channel. So if 25 percent to 30 percent of that product is returned, some real portion will not be available for sale again as first quality merchandise. And therefore, it makes all the sense in the world to have a place to sell them. Sort of like a warehouse store for a furniture business. That's where a lot of our returned product used to end up when I was in that business. It makes sense, but in the Marie Kondo era, I believe the consignment and secondhand stores are suddenly swimming in product. At some point, perhaps it'll settle down, but right now there's a real glut of secondhand everything.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2019

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

    Let's see -- how do I say this -- yes, the opportunity is big enough. It embarrasses me when I buy boxes of kitty litter online, because it's so heavy to ship by air. But using a delivery service is great. However, Petco continues to be plagued by out-of-stocks. That's how they lost my cat food business (I practically begged them to order cases of what my cats eat, and there is nothing exotic about their food ... still always out of stock). Chewy got that. They are consistently out of stock in the right size litter boxes -- Chewy's got that now too. I still try to order my kitty litter from Petco, but one out of three times they don't have the brand/size I want in-stock. There's obviously a lot of margin in it, because when I complain to Instacart that I really didn't want what they sent me, they tell me to give it away and give me a charge-back. Now I could say Shipt "shoppers" might do a better job heeding my substitute rules, but it doesn't change the fact that the company does a pretty awful job of replenishment. at least for my little world. So if Petco is listening -- better to work on getting your in-stock positions right first. Otherwise, you will lose delivery customers forever.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Is AI’s impact on demand forecasting more hype than reality?

    As time goes by, more and more applications of all sorts will be infused with AI and ML. Demand forecasting is just one piece of the puzzle. The key is to determine how much personal data is permissible to use in AI-infused marketing and forecasting applications. That has yet to be sorted out.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Hubert Joly: New Best Buy CEO has the right stuff to lead chain to new heights

    I never would have guessed Mr. Joly would execute the kind of turnaround he’s pulled off. I can only assume he knows what the next woman up can do. And yay for a woman CEO, by the way.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

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

    The problem with the coupons (everyone has a drawer full, don't they? I do!) is that they create the presumption that the pre-coupon price is actually higher, otherwise why would it be so easy to get them? So the first thing Bed Bath & Beyond has to do is demonstrate that it already has price parity and also demonstrate it has a great assortment. Honestly, I've found their assortment to be pretty weak over the years. It's very broad and yet, with a store full of stuff, excluding small appliances, it's actually hard to find what I want. The bedding leaves me wanting -- among other things. I think the brand needs a makeover. What part is bed? What part is bath? And what part is "beyond?" And how do health and beauty aids fit into the mix in stores (I think it's a leased department, but still...)? So it's going to be a long process no matter what. Hopefully Bed Bath & Beyond has learned from J.C. Penney that you can't just "stop" doing what made you successful in the first place. It has to be very gradual.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

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

    It's always about PR with Bezos. I think most retailers pay their warehouse workers $15/hour-plus -- after all, they are generally trying to keep unions out, and Amazon doesn't have enough stores to matter, particularly (I don't see Whole Foods Market mentioned in here, and even if it is in, Whole Foods has always been a good paying company). So there's not a lot of cost to Amazon, more endless free press and pressure on competitors. Having said that, I have predicted that absent some kind of economic collapse, this year will find retailers with a lot of upward wage pressures in stores. If you really want your employees to engage with customers in a real way, or you really want them to work hard and stay around for a while, you have to be competitive. And that means paying a living wage. I'm glad for it, honestly. It's going to place tremendous pressure on store P&L's, but there isn't much choice.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

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

    I have been bullish on this since Macy's bought the company. The question is solely, can Ms. Schechtman lead the concept to scale? If she can, and if the "story" is compelling, it will reinvigorate a very tired experience.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?

    We have been talking about this for some time. Find a way to optimize non-selling functions so that associates can spend more time in customer-facing activities. This does that exactly well. Of course, Walmart will lose all those "props" if they then lay off associates instead of re-deploy them. But if they continue in this way, it's innovative and smart.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    Yeah, I was talking about the branded stuff. And this is a good description of the act: The law grew out of practices in which chain stores were allowed to purchase goods at lower prices than other retailers. An amendment to the Clayton Antitrust Act, it prevented unfair price discrimination for the first time, by requiring that the seller offer the same price terms to customers at a given level of trade. The Act provided for criminal penalties, but contained a specific exemption for "cooperative associations." That means that anyone who can afford to buy a truckload of merchandise should pay the same price as anyone else buying a full truckload. I actually spent a fair amount of time on this topic back in the mid-aughts. For real ... it's just not enforced, but the law is pretty clear.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    P.S. Two things: there is a reason Costco's packaging is different (like packaging two of something together). They actually do NOT violate the Robinson-Patman act because technically, it's a different SKU. This is also a way bigger problem than just food. It's a problem for everything Walmart sells.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    It would be great if we could actually enforce the Robinson-Patman Act. Suppliers don't just violate its "spirit," they violate it, period. I don't think you'd find a single person who would say it is remotely enforced. And there was a time (not sure if it's still true) when Walmart was the largest supplier of grey market goods in the country. In other words, they'd buy the truckload at one price, and then re-sell it at the higher price to other retailers or jobbers. All this points to real anti-competitive problems. Just know they are not new. It has been an issue since Walmart achieved stunning mass in the early 2000s.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    That's all well and good, but there really is a law against that. For real.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Should uniform pricing be the norm for large chains?

    I have been saying for about six years that zone pricing is dead. It's irritating for consumers and costs more money to execute in stores. Once mobile commerce came along, it marked the death knell for zone, or even channel pricing. This is not rocket science. It's a retail reality.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2019

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

    This is tricky. The industry embraced the tax cuts, but now the industry is saying "stop! no tariffs." In for a penny, in for a pound, and all actions have consequences. No choice but to lobby, lobby, lobby and hope that a good decision gets made.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2019

    What should a retailer ask at an exit interview?

    At the store level? I can't believe retailers would spend the time and money even bothering. We haven't yet reached the point where in-store employee retention matters or, if we're honest, is even desirable for many retailers. That may change and, ultimately, it's going to have to support a positive in-store experience, but I don't think we're there yet.

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