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: 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.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2018

    Analyst: Whole Foods’ lower price claims are mostly ‘noise’

    Very few people go to Whole Foods for their total food/HBC shop. Even the benefits of Prime aren’t going to change that dramatically and they don’t have to because Amazon’s plans for the retail stores go way beyond food and pricing. What it is likely to do is grab a bit bigger share of wallet away from competitors and even other retail channels (I’m thinking health and homeopathic). That is something for those companies to act to negate.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2018

    Will Kroger’s ban mean the end of plastic bags in grocery stores?

    Answering the second question first, there will definitely be other grocery chains (and mass merchants, drug stores, DIY retailers, department stores, etc.) who will phase out bags in the coming years. This will happen due to a combination of changing habits (delivery or store pick-up in reusable bins/bags) and ongoing retailer efforts to reduce all consumable packaging (containers, straws, cups, etc.). The impact on Kroger is a lot more subjective. They are on the bleeding edge of this, so they could take a hit in the form of dissatisfied customers during the course of rolling it out. That could be made up by attracting shoppers who had previously avoided Kroger stores in favor of more environment-friendly retailers.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2018

    How much do e-tail algorithms need humans?

    The quick answer is that the goal should be about 90 percent data/AI and 10 percent human, with the humans only getting involved with initial concepts and design, data issue resolutions, context confirmation and exceptions. Right now, the “seat of the pants” analysts still hold sway at many retailers, so the division is closer to 50-50. More and more of these folks are retiring every day and the new managers who grew up digitally informed are taking over, so the industry is heading in the right direction.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2018

    Got truck drivers?

    The rail industry is working feverishly to attract grocery and other consumer goods, not only to make up for volume lost due to reduced coal shipments but to diversify the business overall. And they’re having a lot of success. Last year, railroads shipped more than 100 million tons of food and 15 million containers of clothing, sporting goods, home appliances and more. There was a time when only canned goods and some very stable produce items like carrots and potatoes were shipped by rail. With the advent of bigger box cars that hold four times the weight as a trailer and refrigerated shipping containers that can maintain temperatures on cross-country trips, the growth rate for consumer goods shipped by rail is increasing. The issues facing the trucking business will only drive rail use by CPG suppliers and others higher in coming years.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2018

    Aldi shoppers are getting curbside pickup, but do they want it?


    Aldi risks a lot for little potential payoff with curbside pickup and home delivery. Even as a deep discounter, a sizable portion of Aldi’s revenue comes from impulse buys and the studies I’ve seen show there are fewer impulse buys online, even with recommendation engines. Besides, the primary Aldi customer is looking for bargains and even with digital promos and other marketing there still is no replacement for in-store shopper engagement.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    What’s the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping?

    A few things here: First, more and more shoppers are grooving to their own soundtracks while shopping or they’re talking with friends and family as they walk the store. Having music playing too loud or discordant is only going to upset them. Second, the music playing is heard by the staff as well so there needs to be balance and most certainly a lack of repetition. I see this sorrow on employee faces every holiday season after they’ve heard Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree for the 200th time. Last, I gave this a lot of thought years ago when my dad asked me what types of music should be piped into his grocery stores. I suggested that the soundtrack should build over the course of the day -- classical in the morning, Jazz through lunch, pop in the afternoon and rock at night. He nixed the idea (he was partial to Herb Alpert and Dave Brubeck) but I still like it.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Are outsiders required to tackle disruption?

    This is a total crap shoot. Most of us remember the hatchet job Bob Nardelli did on Home Depot and then Chrysler after starting his career in the industrial sector at GE. Ron Johnson’s efforts at J.C. Penney failed miserably after he succeeded with running the Apple stores and at Target. I’m sure there are a few positive examples, but they don’t stick out like the bad ones.

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