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: 05/29/2019

    Are Apple’s classes getting in the way?

    This is a challenge that will be leap-frogged with technology. A lot of these classes are already going online as videocasts, live or taped. In the meantime, to satisfy those shoppers with the desire for community that’s offered by the Apple store classes, malls have plenty of space available. Standalone units are typically larger than the mall stores and don’t have the same issues.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2019

    Questions abound about the value of net promoter scores

    My grandfather and father, both ShopRite Supermarket operators for years, didn’t agree on a lot when it came to running their business. What they did agree on was the best way to understand the needs and desires of the shopper – talk to her directly. The first thing either of them would do when visiting one of their stores, even before talking with the manager, is go to the checkout and start bagging orders. They’d chat with the customer and that was their consumer survey. We often overthink things and make them more complicated than they need to be. NPS and related technology that collects data on shopper satisfaction is great, but that one-on-one engagement is better for both the store and the shopper.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Are retail HQs and stores suffering a communication breakdown?

    There could be an adage that since the retail HQ folks are consumers themselves, they must know what shoppers want and how best for the store staff to give it to them. If this ever was true, it certainly isn’t today. How often do HQ staff actually go out to the stores and engage the retail staff? Clearly not often enough. If HQ staff did engage the store teams beyond periodic conference calls, if they routinely went to retail to talk with shoppers, if they visited stores of all formats and approaches to merchandising and if they tried to understand what people are buying rather than selling products pushed by suppliers, there would be a host of benefits. Among these are lower inventory and higher turns, improved asset utilization, reduced product failures and, most important, better customer service in terms of fewer out-of-stocks. HQ staff should go out to retail every week, even when on vacation. They should make time for store visits when traveling on business. It will provide the insight needed to improve brand loyalty for existing products and create and build brand loyalty for new ones.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Growing demand for local products leads to out-of-stocks

    Just to confirm, the acronym CPFR stands for Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment. I wrote a book about it with one of my mentors, Joe Andraski, about 25 years ago. The base lessons from CPFR are still being used today but are called things like Unified Commerce and Supply Chain Optimization.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2019

    Can grocers digest their way to zero waste?

    Where’s that “Like” button when you need it? Fascinating video of the Stop & Shop facility. This process makes total sense for retailers and their suppliers. I also expect third-party companies, perhaps from the logistics or waste management sectors to quickly get involved with this technology. The only downside is scale and capital investment requirements but those should be quickly addressed.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Study says Whole Foods is the priciest grocer of them all

    Whole Foods is strictly applying science (in this case, data science) to a challenge that still requires some art. As much as they’d like to think that their shoppers’ fickleness can be modeled using advanced algorithms, it can’t be. There is still a need for humans to give the pricing, promotion and assortment programs generated by those algorithms a thorough review for quality control. Call it a sniff test to uncover potentially reputation impacting marketing activities. Without these QC efforts, Whole Foods will continue to operate in a shifting minefield of public opinion.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    What’s wrong with the (fill in the blank) category?

    Local sourcing is playing a major role in this conundrum. The focus on local, bolstered by traditional retailers’ efforts to compete more effectively with Amazon and their lot, means that the number of SKUs offered in each store has increased dramatically while the physical store has remained the same size resulting in fewer facings for more items. Also, they have the same number or even fewer merchandisers managing many more lines and this results in less attention paid to any individual line, which results in more out-of-stocks and worse. Technology is helping retailers address some of these challenges, but the bottom line is that they have to decide what they want to be when they grow-up - a full service merchant, a specialist, a digital player, etc. – and then focus on that go to market strategy. Otherwise they might as well raise the white flag now and get it over with.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Is anyone going to buy Sears’ rebranding?

    Not to be mean about it, but I have to wonder what Sears paid for the logo and tagline. $100 would have been way too much.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Are machine learning and AI the path to enhanced personalization?

    People are experiencing both the advantages and shortcomings of using machine learning and AI for personalization in retail. The advantages are that people can be very clever in developing the algorithms to be deployed in personalization efforts. They can build out models that segment shoppers into sets of a few and then customize promotions that dramatically increase the potential for success. Shortcomings start with the fact people are fickle. Their behavior changes as frequently as the weather and perhaps more. What works today may not work tomorrow and almost certainly won’t work in a few years. Up until now, the shortcomings of personalization efforts have overshadowed the advantages. Recent, and I mean within the past year, advances in technology are finally giving us the right tools to create the algorithms that not only work to understand and predict the fickleness of the shopper but create the right incentives to address it.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2019

    Are ‘live, work, shop, play’ environments a big part of retail’s future?

    The interesting thing with these types of developments will be the integration of digital shopping and the resulting logistics. Most if not all of the consumables (soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.) don’t really require a physical store. Even a majority of temp-controlled items don’t have to be purchased off a shelf, leaving fresh produce, proteins, dairy and bakery, and a much smaller grocery footprint. Add this to decreasing propensity of the younger generations to cook and the resulting increase in foodservice offerings, and you get a retail layout that is much heavier on delivery channels (boxes or other portals), fresh markets in the style of a farmers market and showrooms or pop-ups than traditional retail.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    Will shoppable ads help Walmart’s Vudu compete with Amazon and Netflix?

    I’m reminded of the movie "The Truman Show" where the content, a reality show based on the life of one person, is supported by both ads streaming in the chyron and sales of products from the set. I could see the Walmart service morphing into something like that, without the privacy issues, I would hope. Sprinkle in a few QVC/HSN-like programs that instruct and entertain and it could be a winning formula to compete with the subscription services.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2019

    Should retailers promote brand backstories?

    As long as the stories are concise and use visuals for the full impact, of course it will help retailers with shopper engagement. And the stories don’t even have to be true. I used to make up stories for a client of mine based on the retailer’s founder. You wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) believe how many celebrities he met and how many times he faced death only to be saved by using one of their products.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2019

    Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?

    It seems like the shopping behaviors of Eastern and Western cultures have diverged significantly during the past few years. Asian consumers are more drawn, and I’m writing in generalities here, to the frenetic pace of livestream shopping and the American and European consumer prefers peer-driven social media shopping. Neither is better than the other, just more appealing given their respective social norms and need states. The dynamics could certainly change, but retailers and brands need to be careful with their investments in the space or they might find themselves on the wrong side of the customer.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2019

    Will brands shine in a new online platform for shopping outlets?

    So I just spent 10 minutes trying to get on the site and was unsuccessful. We (my wife and I) are members of the Simon VIP Club and had received invites to the new shopping platform. The sign-up process through the invite and directly on the site didn’t work. Not a great start.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2019

    Are people investments paying off for retailers?

    If the speakers and vendors at Shoptalk earlier this month are any indication, this is a very hot space. Jim Donald, CEO of Albertsons, said; “The most important element of a successful retailer is the employees. Next is the customer. Then comes the investors and the management.” Several others shared similar sentiments and the expo floor had more than a dozen vendors eager to help retailers engage their staff members.

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