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: 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.
  • 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.

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