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: 04/15/2019

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

    I haven't read a recent BBBY 10-K to glean the details on its coupon finances, but the word does show up six times in their 2018 report. It's a delicate balance when distancing oneself from a hand that feeds. Frankly, the last time I visited a Bed Bath & Beyond was to purchase sheets for a new house nearly one year ago. There wasn't a sales professional within a hundred-foot radius of me, and the store (as always) was merchandised to the rafters. Those last two areas seem like the right place to start for driving new revenue and conversion as opposed to potentially alienating loyal customers who solely purchase and visit due to coupons to drive an increase in profitability on existing revenue.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

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

    The playbook seems to involve owning the conversation, deflecting from related news (for example the reports of the working conditions that these $15/hour workers experience), and most importantly distract the competition. If only for a few hours yesterday preparing a response, or at most a few meetings running a cost/benefit analysis -- it cost Amazon and JB nothing.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2019

    Will a recruiting campaign help H&M enlist new employees?

    A new scheduling app, five weeks leave, and going green -- some nice-to-haves, but does that move the needle? Retailers, H&M included, are missing a significant opportunity in developing front-line team members into candidates for internal succession planning and store roles of the future. These efforts help the career pathway conversation become more tangible to prospective recruits, and also shine the light on an actual rise in income via internal promotions. Instead of, "I get five weeks vacation and a scheduling app," it becomes (as an example), "Well look at Jennifer, she progressed from store manager to district manager to VP stores by achieving these benchmarks, recruiting these teams, and developing via these defined certifications, courses, opportunities, etc."
  • Posted on: 03/28/2019

    Is Dick’s making the right move by bringing its software development in-house?

    I agree with many of the sentiments here. Being a retailer is hard enough, but staying at the cutting edge of emerging technologies while trying to maintain the age-old inventory and POS solutions would require one hell of an internal team.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2019

    Are people investments paying off for retailers?

    Absolutely, and here is the physical retail trend: Stores shrinking in physical size, receiving fewer customers, with teams doing significantly more "tasks" beyond selling and serving. This requires a total refresh on the role of front-line workers, and the development opportunities to support them in this new reality. Learning and development isn't the silver bullet, but its a significant piece when its impact is isolated along with other drivers.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Burger King launches $5-a-month coffee subscription service

    Coffee-as-a-service - who would have thought? It's a clever concept, but I don't see it representing a threat to any of the incumbent coffee players, nor do I see it having a significant impact in urban cities or particularly suburbs with Starbucks' physical location dominance. The difference maker could be the quality of coffee within the BK Café range.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2019

    Will customer hosts raise the shopping experience bar at Walmart?

    In stores of that size, a concierge or host can pay massive dividends for time-poor shoppers to minimize the discovery process.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Do retailers need to reevaluate their omnichannel strategies and tactics?

    There will be no shortage of highly informed positions from the BrainTrust today on this one. I believe many “omnichannel” (the retail buzzword of the decade) initiatives outlined by retailers in the past several years are mere tactics, and tend to lack any overarching resemblance of strategy. Target being a positive example of laying many tactical bricks in a comprehensive and visibly strategic wall.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2019

    Where does J.C. Penney go after ending its Bombfell subscription deal?

    Love this. J.C. Penney’s former slapdash approach to driving revenue and market share was disgraceful. It takes determined leadership to turn off these “nice to haves” and focus on getting the core business right once and for all. That does not happen overnight, and hopefully there is board and investor patience to see what’s required.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Walmart says ‘goodbye’ to greeters and ‘hello’ to controversy

    I agree Mel; In hindsight I'm sure it's clear now there was probably a smoother way to signal a transition.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    Should district managers be held more accountable for store performance?

    "What got you here won't get you there" is the adage that any recently-promoted or placed multi-site manager needs to take on board. It's true that the role lacks formal role-specific learning that focuses on managing and leading through store managers and interpreting data across a fleet of stores. This doesn't mean there's any less accountability. As a store manager, if developed, simply put the role is focused on empowering your front-line talent through learning and coaching to convert more shoppers into buyers. Sprinkle in some operational mandates, and you have a (hopefully thriving) store. At a multi-site level, this immediately amplifies eight to 15 times (per store), and increases in complexity as you're building talent benches and other longer-term strategic outcomes (whether it be technology initiatives, BOPIS/audit/stock, learning and development objectives, etc.) In other words: "What got you here won't get you there."
  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Where did Payless go wrong?

  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Where did Payless go wrong?

    What's the difference between a Payless and a DSW? Payless was over-stored sure, but the quality and cleanliness of stores, development of team members, range of merchandise, and website? Lastly, when your name is "Payless" in 2019, does that require me getting in my car to visit your store? The model expired 10 years ago.
  • 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.

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