PROFILE

Ron Margulis

Managing Director, RAM Communications
Ronald Margulis is Managing Director of RAM Communications, a public relations firm based in Cranford, NJ. RAM Communications provides media relations counseling, trade marketing and communications support to clients in the retail, transportation, manufacturing and technology industries. Among the services offered are media relations, information sourcing, speech writing, issue research and analysis, editorial and design analysis, newsletter publishing, presentation and video scripting, marketing brochure and training manual production, focus groups and meeting planning. With more than 1,000 articles published, Margulis is also an accredited journalist. His writings on the food, retail, tobacco, information technology and transportation industries have appeared in Canadian Business, Chicago Tribune, Cigar Magazine, Computerworld, Convenience Store News, Distribution Channels, Executive Technology, FT.com, Food Arts, Forbes, ID, Sales & Marketing, Shipping Digest, Supermarket News, Washington Times and several other newspapers and magazines. As an editor and reporter, he has interviewed more than 50 CEOs of leading global companies and dozens of government officials including four US Cabinet Secretaries, the Governor of the Bank of England and the Treasurer of Australia. Margulis has won numerous awards for his writing, has written more than one dozen industry reports/white papers and is contributing editor of three professional reference books. He has been quoted in several leading newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Philadelphia Inquirer and Smart Money, on topics ranging from technology to crisis communications, and has been featured on Bloomberg Radio, Talk Canada, Westwood One and National Public Radio. He has spoken at numerous business and academic conferences, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America. Margulis graduated with honors from George Washington University, earned an MBA in economics from New York University and studied journalism at University of London. The son and grandson of supermarket operators, he also completed a management training internship and meat cutter’s apprenticeship at Wakefern Food Corp. (Shop-Rite Supermarkets). Margulis is married to Patricia Paul, an artist. They live in New Jersey with their daughter Elena. His recreational activities and hobbies include fencing (President, Westfield Fencing Club), hiking, skiing, reading, cooking and map collecting
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  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    Will Amazon’s decision to bail cause a New York backlash?

    One of the issues that hasn’t been raised is unions. Amazon doesn’t have them and many of the local pols in NYC are beholden to them. Can’t believe Amazon didn’t see that coming. Or, as has been widely speculated, they either thought the blowback wouldn’t be so bad or they had assurances from Cuomo and de Blasio that they would cover for Amazon. I suspect they will still build another major corporate center, perhaps in Toronto (if Bezos wants to poke Trump in the eye) or Boston.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Product and promo knowledge won’t make the sale

    There is a great deal of wisdom to the axiom that some people are just born salespeople. Sure, you can train people to do a better job engaging with customers and you can have them watch how the “naturals” sell. But the real talent is spotting the people who have the selling gene. This is where HR is supposed to earn its living but too often they are stuck dealing with compliance issues and under pressure to have warm bodies in the stores or call centers. C-level folks at retailers need to spend more time with their HR teams determining how to attract and retain those natural born sellers.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Can grocers sell produce without plastic bags and boxes?

    The end run here is that shoppers will ultimately have reusable containers for the various produce commodities they want to buy. I saw at least five exhibitors hawking different styles of these reusable containers at Fruit Logistica, the big European produce show in Berlin, last year. Some were similar in fashion and size to the bags Americans are used to, but much sturdier and with qualities that extend the item’s shelf life. Others ranged from recyclable bags to hard plastic boxes shaped like the fruit or vegetable they are intended to hold, almost like an egg carton.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2019

    Will AI, tariffs or some other news be the big retailing story of 2019?

    Every single retailer out there is focused on the fulfillment process. In 2019, they will be using BOPIS towers/lockers more, partnering with other retailers more and making more acquisitions to enhance the cost effectiveness of the final mile. This emphasis will continue to drive retailers to improve their supply chains and the speed to deliver while reducing the cost of goods sold. Tariffs will play a role here, mostly causing heartburn in the sourcing/procurement departments.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Will smart shelves work for Hannaford and its customers?

    Smart shelves are still a technology looking for an industry challenge to address. It is too expensive to be an effective productivity tool. Payback of a typical system would be more than 10 years. And attempts to pass off the costs to manufacturers have failed because smart shelves simply haven’t proven to deliver nearly the same impact on consumer behavior as other marketing tools. The bottom line is that whenever smart shelves have gained some publicity due to either advances in the technology or greater concentration on the issues the technology is trying to address, other applications have been deemed more critical and justifiably received the resources.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2018

    What are the takeaways from the best holiday season in six years?

    The key factor for this year’s holiday season success is, in a word, convenience. Retailers have finally come close to where the shopper wants them to be, from marketing, through sales and finally fulfillment. Retailers also took advantage of the early Thanksgiving this year to stretch the shopping season and have several campaigns.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

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

    I was always amazed how my father and grandfather knew what products shoppers at their stores wanted, what promotions would work and how customers would react to marketing efforts. They didn’t have data analytics or predictive modeling. They had near-constant engagement with the customers and that feedback was what made them sell more to more people. The best outcome of the Barnes & Noble campaign shouldn’t be the selling of another book, but rather a feedback mechanism that will give the company insight into what to do next and how to do it.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Is Kroger following the Sears playbook for self-destruction?

    I’ve been to several Kroger banner stores this year and it’s definitely hit and miss. The Ralph’s store I saw in Orange County and the King Soopers in Denver both were definitely in need of a facelift. The Fred Meyer and QFC in the Seattle area were in great shape and had buoyant staff. The Kroger in Atlanta near the airport and the Smith’s Marketplace just east of downtown Salt Lake City were decent enough, although they didn’t knock my socks off. Still like the Mariano’s a lot, and between that banner and Harris Teeter there should be more knowledge sharing of what works in the physical store to help boost the other banners.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    Targets are too big for what Amazon thinks is the physical retail of the future, as witnessed by the Whole Foods acquisition. They want 20,000-40,000 square feet for showroom, stock and customer service. Better targets (pardon the pun) would be either Barnes & Noble or Bed Bath & Beyond.Toys "R" Us would have been good too. BTW, I’m still convinced Amazon should buy the U.S. Postal Service and outfit their trucks with coolers to reach the economic threshold required to make home delivery on a mass scale financially feasible.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2018

    Has Amazon figured out how to scale its Go cashier-free tech to bigger stores?

    The real challenge in moving a store like Whole Foods to a cashier-less environment is the loss of shopper engagement. Whole Foods is a high touch retailer and that’s one of the primary reasons it’s been able to charge more for its products (I know they claim quality is the main reason but come on, twice as much for organic Gala apples…). Lose that and shoppers will really wonder if it’s worth the effort.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    How can retailers get customers to complete feedback surveys?

    I find it very hard to believe that one of the key reasons consumers don’t fill out feedback surveys isn't that there is a lack of incentives. Maybe they respondents of that survey didn’t want to be considered greedy or the survey itself was fashioned so that the right response wasn’t available. I’ve taken to asking the research people calling the home phone (yes, we still have one) “what’s in it for me if I help you?” It almost always befuddles them, which is the point. There has to be some quid pro quo. I spend time and resources helping you sell more stuff and you give me at least a chance to get that stuff early or at a discount, or some other incentive.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Millennial brand loyalty comes into question

    As has been widely opined on this site and others, there are hundreds of Millennial sub-segments. Retailers that try to group them all together as one demographic do so at their peril. That written, there are several Millennial sub-segments that are very brand-loyal, particularly those in urban areas. Age also plays a dramatic role, with younger Millennials more sensitive to price than their older, more established cohorts. And gender is critical, with Millennial men more interested in brands when it comes to sportswear and electronics, and Millennial women more interested in brands when it comes to shoes and makeup. Neither are all that brand conscious when it comes to food, however.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2018

    What would the nation’s strictest plastic ban mean for New Jersey’s retailers?

    Come on, George! That set up doesn’t exactly cast the best light on our beloved state. Kidding aside, waste reduction - plastics waste reduction specifically - has been front and center for environmental commissions across the state for several years because it impacts our beautiful beaches and is seen as the logical next step after comprehensive recycling. It will ultimately take a combination of public and private sector initiatives to make this work. The good news is that NJ schools start early with educational programs on the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra, as young as first grade, and those future consumers will be used to bringing their own shopping bags, drinking without straws and having a different food-to-go experience. I’m also interested in the potential for innovation resulting from these new laws, but will leave that for another discussion.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2018

    Will the White House listen to warnings from Walmart, others about tariffs?

    Answering the question in the headline first: no, the White House will not listen to warnings from Walmart and others about tariffs. The administration didn’t listen to Gary Cohn, its own former Director of the National Economic Council, about tariffs, so I see no reason to believe the effort currently under way by NRF will bear any fruit. That being written, it is now up to the retailers to explain clearly why prices will be going up this holiday season. In the name of non-partisanship this probably should happen after the midterm elections, but we may be past non-partisanship. On a related note, I had a professor at NYU grad school who was one of the world’s foremost experts on the impact of tariffs and he taught us there are no winnable trade wars and that ultimately everyone loses. Not necessarily due to the higher prices, although that certainly impacts inflation. No, the real cost of tariffs is in the opportunities lost and innovations delayed. Something to think about ...
  • Posted on: 09/20/2018

    What would 3,000 AmazonGo stores do to the U.S. retail landscape?

    The key for Amazon Go will be pricing. Sure, convenience and the newness of the concept will get shoppers in the doors, as will a decent assortment. But only good pricing will keep them coming back. When I was in the Amazon Go store in Seattle a few months ago, I wasn’t all that impressed with the pricing. Beverages seemed well above average and even the sandwiches and salads were higher than similar retail outlets. Of course you pay for convenience. But not too much.

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