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: 08/09/2019

    Can Victoria’s Secret recover from its founder’s past relationship with Jeffrey Epstein?

    I don’t find Victoria’s Secret’s issues to be related whatsoever to Wexner’s past relationship with anyone. However, the broader (and awful) claims made in the letter add insult to injury for a brand attempting to regain relevance and social equity.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2019

    What are the signs of a dying retail business?

    Adding to the great list above would be the deterioration of stores. Are there lights out in the window? The carpet or floor trashed? Scuffs and gashes at the corners of the cash-wrap? The clock is ticking.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    Should Simon Property Group bail out (invest in) more retail tenants?

    Generally speaking no. However, Simon and all mall operators need to be thinking about a 21st century partnership model that involves providing those retailers with resources at the coalface of their field operations. Whether that is providing learning and development opportunities for store teams, or meaningful ways to drive foot traffic (not valet parking) - there's more to the relationship than merely square footage.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2019

    How long is the customer journey?

    As retailers shift to operating as a platform (Lululemon being a recent practical example), the journey is not and should not be thought of as linear.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2019

    What does it take to develop top retail store managers?

    From my personal experiences of being a store manager and leading store managers, there is a lightbulb moment that occurs when one realizes their success is truly delivered through the success of their sales professionals via optimized interactions with each and every customer. For anyone that hasn't been in the role that may sound vague or ambiguous, but most managers were promoted due to their individual performance, while (as Bob mentions) in #1-5 management and leadership are a different game.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2019

    Are offline experiences becoming more important to online performance?

    More important than five years ago? Probably not. Distribution is the name of today’s game, and if you don’t have a physical presence to work with the customer- you’re extremely disadvantaged. The offline transaction is 8x larger, but is heavily influenced by online channels and vice versa. This requires a solid generalist retail operator who can get the first fifteen stores up and running in a disciplined fashion with respect to VM, HR, and training.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2019

    Can mobile sensing tools boost worker productivity?

    As the saying goes, “every technology is utilized before it is fully understood.” - and that seems to be much the case with this kind of tech. If the data was solely provided to employees with comparisons and insights, there could be benefits to improving health and therefore productivity. However employers will want a greater benefit, and even with anonymized data there’s privacy risks particularly in smaller teams.
  • Posted on: 06/25/2019

    Are airports now the sweet spot for luxury retail?

    A restricted environment that includes time poor travelers with disposable income, combined with the right curation of products is a great recipe for success.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2019

    Will empathy training take Walgreens to a new level?

    Empathy, when deployed at a depth more significant than merely superficial, plays a transformative role in retail sales and service. The question is whether this is a PR tactic, or actually part of a comprehensive learning strategy with continual learning initiatives for Walgreens' front-line team members. Having an empathic-based retail sales and service framework isn't novel by any stretch, and absolutely applies to anywhere the customer engages.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Ace Hardware and True Value satisfy customers, Home Depot not so much

    There are a lot of potential variables to this, but from a quick Google search to confirm my initial thoughts: the average Home Depot is 5x the square footage of an Ace/TV. This has to have an impact on the sense of assistance and attention that customer's feel they receive in-store, and without question the dwell time prior to being engaged by a sales professional.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    Are Apple’s classes getting in the way?

    There's no shortage of increasing space in the majority of Apple's mall locations, and Apple could look to leverage adjacent available space when their leases come up for renewal. At any rate, I'm sure in the most affected sites this could create a look at a redesign. All in all this is a good problem to have, and one for retail operations to manage.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2019

    Questions abound about the value of net promoter scores

    In a world as busy and noisy as it is today, a one-question survey lodged at a customer provides nothing more than a vanity metric for a retailer. I believe the phrase goes: "Correlation does not imply causation." I think that at any scale, there is nothing more effective than combing through your organization's Glassdoor, Facebook, or Instagram posts from customers and employees, and getting on the shop floor and actually talking to customers. Is there a technological middle-ground? I'm sure, but there's no shortage of feedback in today's world.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Are retail HQs and stores suffering a communication breakdown?

    Technology, at this stage, only assists in the distribution of messaging but not the consumption and comprehension. Content isn't king, but context is, and if directives or training initiatives aren't able to be consumed regardless of their format, (offline, online, in-app etc.) then it's moot. There needs to be education on communication skills, and proven methods of delivering information to create positive change.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Is Apple’s App Store a monopoly?

    I agree with Mark. Facebook and Google are exceedingly more monopolistic than Apple who owns roughly 10 percent of the smartphone market.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    Why is Party City closing profitable stores?

    There's not much sense in waiting until a store's profitability thins or bleeds out to make a decision to close. Learning from the retail real estate era of the last 30 years, Party City is indeed taking a responsible and thoughtful look at their leases and rationalizing as they see fit with respect to trends and dynamics in their leases and customer behavior. It's better for the customer (and shareholders) long term to engage with a retailer that is in a (cash) position to devote the right energy to the right things in the right places at the right time.

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