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: 10/14/2019

    Is BOPIS a good fit for Dollar General?

    I have serious doubts whether the target audience for dollar stores is interested in online shopping at all and if they are, Walmart already has their share of wallet and isn’t going to give it up without a fight. It's much better for the deep discounters to do everything they can to get shoppers into the store and keep them there. Spending resources on traditional and digital marketing would give them a better ROI.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2019

    Will consumers go for Kroger’s food hall concept?

    As a foodie, I’ve gone out of my way to visit food halls around the world (much to my wife’s chagrin). Harrods in London, the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and the Great Food Hall in Hong Kong are three of the best and they couldn’t be more different. Harrods is almost exclusively for the rich, with its caviar bar and $1,000+ picnic baskets. The Reading Market is utilitarian, serving great food at a great price. The Great Food Hall is smack in the middle, a mix of everyday Chinese food and luxury foreign delights. This should be a lesson for retailers wanting to set up food halls in current or future real estate. You need to know the consumer and the market. Harrods wouldn’t work in Baltimore and the Reading Market wouldn’t work in Beverly Hills. Interestingly, an American variant of the Great Food Hall (hamburgers or pizza instead of ramen noodles) could work in most urban settings because it will have something for just about everyone and doesn’t require the build-out or the stocking cost of a Harrods-like hall.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2019

    Retailers falling short at training frontline workers

    I had a long conversation about this topic with another writer at Groceryshop this week and the starkest disparity we could think of is the training of employees at Wegmans and Walmart. Wegmans associates are chipper, engaged, passionate and educated on product and the store. Walmart associates, well, they’re not. Wegmans sends store employees to symposiums on things like olive oil and cooking seafood. Walmart, not so much. Wegmans encourages and rewards input on product assortment and merchandising from staff members. Walmart may do a little of this, but almost all direction for the store comes from Bentonville. I understand the scale of the two enterprises is drastically different. But that shouldn’t mean Walmart can’t try to improve the way associates are trained and engaged.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2019

    Will multistory warehouses mean faster deliveries from Amazon, Home Depot and others?

    Vertical warehouses have been around for more than two decades in the retail food and foodservice business. They go hand in glove with product handling automation. While they’re not, strictly speaking, multistory warehouses in that each story doesn’t have a floor/ceiling, these facilities can be 100+ feet tall. I remember seeing the Gordon Food Service (GFS) facility in Grand Rapids about 25 years ago and being intrigued by the automated storage and retrieval system that put away pallet loads using robotics. C&S and McLane have had similar distribution centers operating for years.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2019

    Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms ‘status quo’?

    This is another proof point that retailers are more connected to the American citizenry than our elected representatives. Walmart looked at the data and determined these actions won’t materially impact their bottom lines in even the medium-term, just as CVS did when it stopped selling tobacco products. I’ve been a gun owner who has enjoyed target shooting and plinking for more than 40 years, and I believe that they did the right thing.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2019

    Trump’s tariff war escalates

    This is going to sound bleak, but there’s a story my grad school advisor told me that the CEO of JP Morgan got down on his knees and begged President Hoover not to sign the Smoot-Hawley tariffs bill into law. Businesses around the country are metaphorically doing the same with the current administration and getting the same results. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs extended the Great Depression by at least two and perhaps as much as eight years. The Trump Tariffs won’t start another depression but will almost certainly exacerbate any economic downturn. And, like squirrels getting ready for a bad winter, the only thing retailers can do is try to store away enough nuts to get them through.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2019

    Is technology really making stores more like the web?

    I’ve commented several times in this space about how old-time merchants like my grandfather knew exactly which products shoppers at their stores wanted, what promotions would work with those shoppers and how they 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. Put these kinds of minds in a store today and they’ll know that in 2019 to get a bigger share of wallet the shopper experience must include connections to each customer’s entire buying motion, both digital and physical. Start digitally and finish in the store, or vice versa. All approaches need to be satisfied.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a new grocery private label spur more Target runs?

    I remember seeing the first SuperTargets back in the 1990s and thinking that it was clear the retailer got fashion merchandisers to design the grocery sections. Little consideration for how the shopper buys and mostly concentrating on how the retailer can sell. Not a winning strategy. They modified their plans dramatically, making them look more like traditional supermarkets while keeping some of the elements that made Target’s grocery merchandising distinctive (at least from Walmart’s…). They still haven’t gone far enough on the in-store marketing front, but have gotten dramatically better on assortment, particularly in store brands. I’m sure the data is telling them that Archers Farms and Simply Balanced aren’t doing the job and that’s why they’re on the way out. I hope they’ve learned a good lesson with them and don’t repeat it with the Good & Gather line.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2019

    Nike to marry predictive analytics and RFID to optimize inventory performance

    Joe Andraski and the folks at the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative were working on this nearly a decade ago and making very good headway (Disclaimer: My agency supported the marketing effort for VICS). Things seemed to slow down as retailers and manufacturers started to keep successes and failures much closer to the vest. It’s good to see Nike and its partners hopefully jumpstart the initiative.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2019

    Walmart trains quarterly for active shooter events

    I went through active shooter training with a client about a month ago and it was a total eye-opener. Some of my takeaways:
    • There are few similarities among active shooters, the locations they target or their choice of victims.
    • Properly training employees to survive an active shooting incident can save lives. Experts recommend taking the Run-Hide-Attack approach.
    • It is important to conduct a risk assessment that examines your building and the access to it.
    • Even the best prevention measures cannot stop all acts of violence; however, creating an emergency action plan specifically for an active shooting will ensure all employees know how to respond.
    • You should ask members of your local law enforcement for input on your emergency action plan.
    • Recovery begins the moment the active shooter is incapacitated and law enforcement determines the building is safe.
    Many of the participants in the training I went to had never heard a gun fire, let alone touched one. Their shock at the noise was clearly unnerving to them.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2019

    The clock is ticking for J.C. Penney

    Without a solid ecommerce presence or at least a solid partner, J.C. Penney isn’t going to last more than a few years. Too bad Kohl’s already is teaming up with Amazon. Maybe Penney’s could try eBay?
  • Posted on: 07/29/2019

    Is private equity ownership killing retail?

    I still remember my dad telling me about an incident that happened after Merrill Lynch acquired Pathmark 30+ years ago. He was visiting stores with the new CEO, a longtime friend of his, and when they came to the first location, shopping carts were strewn around the lot and the garbage cans were all overflowing. The two of them, both in their 60s, spent half an hour collecting the carts and emptying the garbage cans. While my dad was proud of the effort, my thoughts went directly to how any retailer could let this happen in the first place. My rough and non-objective estimate is that for every five PE acquisitions in the retail business, maybe one succeeds without going through a subsequent reorganization. The ones that do succeed have a few common characteristics, like actual retail experience (not real estate!) on the PE side and significant investment on the properties and in technology.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2019

    Has Amazon ‘destroyed the retail industry’ in the U.S.?

    I’m not impressed with Mnuchin’s handling of the economy, particularly his role in the Tariff Wars and the increase in the federal deficit. I'm also quite sure he’s not an expert at either retail (he was a board member of Sears Holdings and is being sued by them for allegedly stripping the retailer of billions of dollars as it collapsed into bankruptcy) or antitrust policy. That written, there are guardrails on operations that Amazon’s actions are pushing out. Certain inflection points, like proof the company’s sales represent more than say 60 percent of a category, should trigger antitrust scrutiny.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2019

    Amazon has won. Now what?

    Amazon is far from perfect. There are still several weak links in their supply chain. Just this week I had been promised that a book would be delivered by Friday and it never arrived. I was given a refund and told that the U.S. Postal Service couldn’t deliver it. I reordered and was told it would arrive Sunday. It never arrived, I was given a refund and told that U.S. Postal Service couldn’t deliver it. I ordered it a third time and it arrived yesterday. The logistics snafu may have been caused by the Postal Service, that doesn’t matter to the consumer. It’s Amazon’s fault. Next time I may try -- gasp -- Barnes & Noble.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2019

    What does it take to develop top retail store managers?

    To this good list from Bob I would add:
    1. Passion: This is a "learn by watching" skill that must come from senior management. One of the most effective ways to get the team excited is to see the CEO on the floor bagging groceries.
    2. Customer understanding: Another "learn by watching" skill that can and should come from everywhere and should be actively rewarded. Great examples here are “manager’s advice” merchandising as a push out and customer panels as a pull in.
    3. Mentoring: Every successful CEO will tell you the most important part of their job is lining up and testing a series of successor candidates. The same should be true for a store manager.
    I have more, but you’ll have to wait for the book ...

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