Ray Riley

Chief Executive Officer, Progress Retail
Ray Riley is the Chief Executive Officer of Progress Retail, a retail e-learning platform that layers retail management, productivity, and communication tools on the foundation of personalized sales, product knowledge, organizational, and management training content. Born in Michigan to college professors, Ray rebelled in early 2009, and left college after two semesters to expand a wholesale company he started earlier that year dealing in cell phones, parts, and cellular accessories. Shortly thereafter, he scaled this business into operating wireless retail stores, which continued the course for an entire career based in several functions within the retail industry. His passion lies in the development of front-line retail teams and the convergence of technology within a brick-and-mortar environment. Progress Retail is led by Ray Riley, Terry Hawkins, and Kash Movania, and is principally headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with an office in Sydney, Australia. To learn more, visit:
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    On one hand there's the shopping center real estate boom of the 1980s-2000s as populations were thriving in suburban areas. Like any boom, there was excess. The other hand tells the tale of younger generations (and increasingly retirees) moving into urban areas for economic opportunity. As the population has shifted, the viability of the B- and C-grade suburban shopping malls have gone with it.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    Will AR change how people buy products from eyeglasses to wedding rings?

    This tech is no gimmick and has huge implications for extending the primary role of a store (to try out/on) to virtually anywhere. The contextual representation of accessories and jewelry makes so much sense.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Walmart to offer bonuses for good attendance

    It must be a lot of fun working in the Walmart headquarters. They are green lighting action item after action item, and their PR department is kept busy. Having said that, this is a great reaction on their part from employee provided feedback, and I particularly appreciated the multi-faceted approach to reducing employee turnover, which as the article stated is at a five year low. No silver bullets in retail, and much less so with 2.1 million team members.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    The article I've been waiting for! "Experience" in the retail context is a post-"omnichannel" buzzword that causes me a nearly involuntary eye-roll. How can one craft a physical retail "experience" without crafting a team member "experience" that is aligned and drives similar outcomes? Engaged team members will create engaged shoppers, and isn't that an experience worth crafting? I absolutely agree that the focus on smoke and mirrors, the bells and whistles, and ultimately retail silver bullets come not only at the expense of the product and shopping experience, but also at the expense of the most important people in the store: the front-line team members. If they aren't considered a high-priority in crafting "experience," why not just convert your shop to a vending machine?
  • Posted on: 01/28/2019

    What do shoppers really want? Do retailers have a clue?

    Agreed Bob. Customers visit stores to connect with people that are ideally experts in the products and services being rendered. Help me in an efficient manner, with accurate information, and assist me in getting on with my day. Retailers need to remove all obstacles (merchandising, inventory work, excessive scheduling work, package delivery cadences etc.) so that in-store teams can best assist the customer with revenue-generating activity. And to avoid confusion, I mean adopt technology that can make those previously mentioned laborious processes streamlined and more efficient. The focus has to be customers.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2019

    Which retailers deliver the best customer service?

    There will be many great comments, so I’ll keep it fairly simple. A sales associate that has a positive disposition, a smile, and genuinely is going out of their way to help customers will brighten their customers’ day. Having said that, there are outstanding examples of amazing customer service cultures in local and independent retail, but I do not believe as an aggregate there’s a better service level from national or regional chains.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    For relevancy’s sake: a tale of two mall upgrades

    Tenant category planning is an effective measure, but does it ultimately encourage visitor traffic? And does it increase the spontaneous purchase of other categories (food and beverage is one) while shopping in, say, the women's apparel area? Last week I noticed on the ICSC Twitter page that retail developer Vestar has entered into a partnership with Lyft to share in ride revenues and provide promotional rates to and from their properties. If the consumer can get a discounted ride to/from their local Simon, GGP, or Westfield shopping center - that is a start.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2019

    NRF: Consumers prefer self-service, but associates still have a role to play

    Previous subpar interactions with untrained and underdeveloped sales professionals would definitely steer many consumers away from even the best-intentioned associates on the floor. Having said that, the role of the store and associate has evolved, and the consumer's ability to self-facilitate discovery, research, availability, and more - has seen a rapid behavioral increase concurrently as sales and service standards have generally fallen off.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Some question if digital assistants will ever live up to the hype

    My belief has always been that these devices are transitory sitting in between tactile mobile phones and eventually some form of optical assistants that can produce visuals and respond to auditory commands. Not to mention the mobility factor! Alexa needs legs.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    The new boss is different than the old boss at Starbucks

    As we slide into a natural downward economic cycle, it should be little cause for concern that Mr. Johnson has a different vision (at least in the short-term) than its founder. Globally Starbucks locations have doubled in the last 10 years and, like anything, unbridled growth has an expiration date. Starbucks, albeit a behemoth, has growing competition as cited in the WSJ article from yesterday.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2018

    Nike sees online eclipsing offline sales

    So what is the definition of “originate”? I see a pair of shoes in person (untraceable), and then I engage online to learn more (traceable), and then purchase in-store (traceable)? As long as that “experience” is consistent and optimized channel to channel, the origination component seems moot. Also, it’s quite a fascinating PR spin from a company that has garnered significant press from investing heavily in stores.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2018

    Joann invests to bring 3D-laser cutting to stores

    Brilliant. The retailer does not need to be the hardware or technology engineer. These types of hardware technologies have little utility to the consumer without the benefit of the physical retail environment to support and educate her. As 3D printing becomes more democratized, Joann reaps the benefits of investing early.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Can Barnes & Noble’s in-store experts beat algorithms?

    I don't believe the wage and unit economics are in Barnes & Noble's favor here in the slightest.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does Starbucks have a big delivery opportunity?

    Is it the normal $2.50 delivery fee? I can tell you there are plenty of folks in my generation (in cities) that order Uber Eats or Grubhub from food outlets that are a stone’s throw from their condo or apartment. I’m curious to know the delivery fee (Uber Eats standard $2.50-$3.50?), but I don’t see coffee being any different pending the product arriving in the optimum condition.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Retailing success doesn’t depend on silver bullets


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