PROFILE

Ananda Chakravarty

Vice President, Research at IDC
Ananda is a retail thought leader. Currently Ananda is Vice President, Research - Retail Merchandising and Marketing Analytics Strategies at the premier market intelligence firm, IDC. He formerly served as Director, Global Retail Lead & Software Strategy at Diebold Nixdorf, the premier firm in European retail and progenitor of the ATM. Ananda also served as Director, Retail Omnichannel Solutions Strategy at Oracle. Ananda was a senior analyst at Forrester advising c-level leaders on digital store, digital store technologies, retail enablement, digital in-store analytics and Digital Grocery. Prior to Forrester, Ananda served as Director of Enterprise Digital Strategy at The Hartford and executive and product roles at Staples, Talbots and Monster.com. Opinions reflect those of the author only. Ananda holds an MBA from Northeastern University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University.
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  • Posted on: 11/29/2022

    What does the promotional climate mean for off-pricers and resale?

    Off pricers are able to shift quickly based on pricing in the current market. They can easily stamp new pricing as needed. Store managers have more flexibility to manage liquidation inventories and markdowns. Assortments are usually selected for treasure hunters and move fast. The higher frequency and inventory turn makes it unlikely to be driven by promotional factors in the broader apparel market. Most operate with EDLP anyhow. As to gaining market share, this would be more dependent on store traffic. With higher promotional incentives, there should be limited change in shifting to off-pricers, other than a trickle of inflation driven bargain hunters. Some market share gains, but not an inordinate amount.
  • Posted on: 11/25/2022

    Black Friday is back as record number of Americans are expected to go shopping

    No surprise here. The shopping trend has not been slowing and a big sale day is important. Although customers have been returning to stores, expect to see more shopping -- just because there are more people who can.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2022

    Will a new shopping platform redefine the formula for AI-driven personalization?

    AI is at the heart of almost all personalization engines today, what makes this solution unique is the ability to extend across more than just a single store and across platforms as new products and size combinations come up. The fact that it attempts to separate from the brand is admirable, but 1:1 personalization across brands is not yet here and the Shoptrue platform will need to work on building a contingent following -- either as it’s own brand or as an aggregation of brands. As for the algorithmic hype, we’re seeing more algorithms in the process every day. The question really is whether the algorithms are driving customer satisfaction -- a harder metric to capture -- and certainly something Shoptrue needs to prove.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2022

    Will John Lewis or Publix win the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge?

    Difficult choice -- both are so well tuned to hitting the heartstrings. The John Lewis ad, however, adds a bit of real surprise at the end, including public service vs the Publix ad which is family focused from the start. I’m a surprise guy, but the mom and daughter hits closer to home.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2022

    Are department store shoppers getting a late start on Christmas or taking a pass?

    So right you are Bob ... too much negative almost makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but under the covers the ship rights itself.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2022

    Are department store shoppers getting a late start on Christmas or taking a pass?

    Forecasting models have been challenging given the pandemic and the lack of clarity in returning to a pre-pandemic year. With folks like Bezos telling folks to prepare for risk, the situation seems bleak. However, the real data shows higher traffic in stores, more interest in purchasing, and the shopping vs shipping experience becoming more attractive. Brick and mortar stores will be in for a surprise if they believe demand just vanished on account of current market pressures. We have super low unemployment right now, and even if people buy less (which for companies like Target and Walmart they are not), there are more people who will be buying. For retailers, I wouldn’t be too hasty to execute markdowns. Instead use real-time pricing data to help map out a course for the season. Last I looked, the mall parking lots near me were packed on weekends.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2022

    What price will Target and other retailers pay for their holiday sales promotions?

    For Target, this is an operational efficiency issue. Target believes the scenario is affecting all of retail, but truly it’s affecting companies that have seen dramatic growth in the past few years. Target is driving 1.4% more traffic, 1.3% higher tickets, ~ $7B more in sales YOY from $80B in 2019 to $100B in 2022 YTD. The top line is amazing. The bottom line however, has seen increasing SG&A costs for the last three years. Shortage of inventory has bit into their business through Q2 and then suddenly shipping opens up and distribution centers are packed with all of Q4 inventory. For Target, the inventory scenario has been a roller coaster ride. The last piece is the belief that the holidays will be heavily promotional. Although yet to be seen, consumers are waiting for the discounting to start. Black Friday will be a great indicator of consumer sentiment, so I’ll be waiting to see if promotions drive consumer buying. Promotions, Discounting and markdowns are a recipe for lower profit if it doesn’t increase volume. Target also focuses on specific sectors that are soft -- apparel and hardlines with apparel showing a bit of strengthening. As Target execs say, “Q4 is an animal.” Let the show begin....
  • Posted on: 11/15/2022

    Retailers have scaled way back on seasonal help for Christmas

    Hiring announcements can be a challenge and translate into commitments. Smart retailers don’t have to announce, especially when competitors are also being cautious. There will be last minute hiring in the event of a strong holiday season. Reduction in hires can affect holiday buying, but only if there is truly not enough staff to manage demand. Still lots of uncertainty, so we’ll have to see. Gut feel is that more in-store buyers will drive this season. There is pent up demand for shopping and I was amazed at the amount of traffic at my local mall recently.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2022

    Will retailers use facial recognition tech to reshape store layouts?

    While I don’t see facial recognition being used to lay out designs, it is useful for one key purpose -- identity. Most retailers have no clue who is in the store. Autonomous stores have cameras everywhere and they serve a special consumer driven purpose. Lolli and Pops experimented with loyalty and facial recognition a few years back with limited success, so although the privacy concerns remain, there will be a cadre of customers willing to trade a snapshot recognizes who they are to avoid paying in a checkout line or earn actual loyalty rewards.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2022

    Is Trader Joe’s success formula becoming obsolete?

    Trader Joe’s uses the same principle as its owner's other store chain -- Aldi. That is -- less is more. Fewer SKUs, less price and less square footage. It also adds to localization with pics and drawings of local landmarks and concepts. Near my Boston area we have Paul Revere on a horse (advertising apples) and the Bunker Hill monument in the background. The combination with unique brands makes the concept an effective solution. People go to Trader Joe's for their neighborhood store -- and that blows away loyalty program discounts.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2022

    Is transactional data the key to understanding retail customer behavior?

    I'm not familiar with the details of Prof. Fader's focus on transactional data -- but almost all retailers capture and review t-logs and other transactional data. The challenge is that it provides limited information about the customer when taken in isolation. Sales, units, products and timestamps are it. But this is common information and every retailer uses it. Merchandising for a customer-centric view needs more than this to offer a competitive advantage. More importantly, if retailers use only this type of information - they will only have the same type of results. This is a recipe for zero change and zero growth. Lastly, the data offered is all historic data. They will never be able to assess future scenarios based on past data alone. This mirrors an adage from Wall Street about past performance. Retailers need to strike a balance between transactional and other opportunities to collect customer data such as loyalty programs, CSAT surveys and NPS scores. Customer-centricity is much more than transactional data.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2022

    Dick’s Sporting Goods launches ventures fund

    DSG ventures is in a great position to support new initiatives in retail sporting goods. Companies like SidelineSwap are already hitting it out of the park. As a coach in both football and baseball, I see resale of sporting goods as an important part of the U.S. sports footprint, the investment offers insights into current trends, pricing, and customer demand. The partnership in an adjacent market provides the ability for Dicks to run its machine more fluidly. Brilliant move to continue this kind of support and will give DSG a competitive leg up as well as a profitable downstream.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2022

    Aldi and Walmart are turning back the clock on inflation for Thanksgiving

    Food is not the highest concern and remains a smaller part of the disposable income budget, <7 percent for the average U.S. customer. Though it pinches, it won’t reduce the impact of the holidays except for the lowest financial classes (where it can rise up to 30 percent of income). The price changes for Walmart and Aldi as well as many other food purveyors will be on key staple foods that will drive customers to the store. The retailers will make their profits in adjacent purchases. For those who aren’t running promotions or at least matching prices, there will be competitors hungry for their business.
  • Posted on: 11/02/2022

    Will Netflix send customers streaming into Walmart’s stores?

    With just under 200 million paying subscribers, Netflix brings the entertainment opportunity to the Walmart customer base. This is a complete win-win. Netflix is copying Disney’s merchandise business model - which for those not following brings in over $56 billion annually. This is a huge opportunity for pushing the content from Netflix Originals. For Walmart it taps into a strong merchandising opportunity with notable names and shows with recognizable cult followings. Expanding for Walmart only makes sense, especially as they increase the Walmart+ value.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2022

    Will freight operators serve as a canary in the retail coal mine?

    Neil you got this right. Excess inventory is still overloading many retailers, this drop in cargo shipments reflects the pack and hold steps retailers have taken to slowly wean off their existing inventory before buying new stock.

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