Bob Amster

Principal, Retail Technology Group

Mr. Amster has served the retail and distribution industries as both a Consultant and Systems Manager since 1971. He currently heads The Retail Technology Group, an independent consulting firm.

Bob was a Senior Manager with the Northeast Retail Consulting Group of Ernst & Young. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Mr. Amster held Systems Management positions for large retailers such as Kmart Apparel, Waldenbooks, and Caldor. In addition, he has consulted to retail, distribution, and software companies since 1985.

Bob’s hands-on experience encompasses strategic planning; operational reviews; and systems design and implementation. He specializes in needs assessments; software analyses, selection and implementation; operational procedures and process improvement; and systems integration. His project experience includes numerous engagements in the evaluation, selection and implementation of merchandising, financial, warehouse and store systems packages.

Additionally, Bob has served as interim head of IT for Barneys New York and Shane Company, and as interim head of the Store Systems Group for Savers, Inc.

Bob also has provided due diligence assistance to a number of private equity firms and has served the advisory board of retailers and of a number of e-commerce merchants, to whom he provided retail industry perspective.

  • Posted on: 08/03/2020

    How is Tractor Supply acing the pandemic?

    I bet you that, to their customer, that store is sexy (attractive) enough to want to visit, even he/she is not buying.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2020

    How is Tractor Supply acing the pandemic?

    Your assessment covers it. Those concepts are fundamental but not always clearly understood by a business. When management has a grasp of this and a desire to pursue these concepts, the business succeeds.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2020

    Is the future of malls outside?

    Nothing is ever black and white in business. Let us not forget why there are enclosed malls in the first place; inclement weather, climate control, multi-story footprint, and easy access from store to store to food court. In many regions of the country, those factors are going to continue to play in favor of the enclosed portion of malls. A hybrid concept might be a better idea, with seasonal stores on the outside, along with some form of outdoor entertainment. A pandemic should not dictate whether we do away with enclosed malls or not. The economics of having too many, too close, and too similar (too boring), will. This is where "knee-jerk reaction" applies.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2020

    Is a drive-through-only store the shape of things to come for Wawa?

    I don't see the most benefit coming out of drive-through and curbside pickup- only. It needs to be a hybrid because impulse items are out of the question in both scenarios. A convenience store is not the same as a drive-through Dunkin', in which the selection is much narrower and impulse purchases are likely to be few.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    How can retailers differentiate curbside delivery?

    Curbside pickup is going to be an integral part of the new normal. In fact we looked at this concept and associated technology from a German start-up years ago, back when Corona was the name of a beer and the name of outermost part of the Sun's atmosphere. There are nuances that can be introduced into the general concept that may/will differentiate one version from another but the concept will be a staple, at least for supermarkets and other grocery stores.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    Retail employment has been reduced for the long term. Retail businesses that were undergoing difficult times pre-pandemic have gone into bankruptcy and have closed or will close hundreds more stores. Those jobs are not coming back in retail so quickly. Some workers will retire, some will move onto another industry, some will come back into the retail industry working for the businesses that are in growth mode, but the total pie of jobs has shrunk permanently.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Is there a path to profitable grocery delivery?

    The answer to this particular question is no different than the answer to similar questions: most data available to the retail business have to be highly coupled or integrated. There are very few pieces of available information that are not needed. It used to be very difficult to accomplish such integration or data repositories, but today we have real-time updates, APIs, services we can call, and scalable databases that function well under great loads and activity. To the answer to the headline: Is there a path to profitable grocery delivery? Yes, charge the customer for it! There is no such thing as a free lunch!
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    There is clearly a new regime at Walmart and a markedly progressive, yet realistic culture driven from the top down. Reminds me of "... a kinder, gentler America..." And it comes none too soon for the masses. One more holiday closed so families can be together and to recharge one's batteries in what has been a hectic, stressful time for most, can only be a good thing and it should not make any difference to the bottom line. Kudos to Walmart and to a number of other retailers that are leading by good example. Nobody is going to eat their lunch because they chose to follow a more sensitive path. This moves can strengthens the bonds of loyalty.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2020

    Why does it take a crisis for retailers to get innovative?

    Necessity is the mother of invention. There is a need to prop up sales until we resume normalcy, whatever that will be by then. Creativity is addressing that need, albeit, not one hundred percent. As to whether it is "digital first," not sure. Digital? Yes! First? Not necessarily. Digital Also? Definitely! Knee-jerk reactions in the direction of one objective at the expense of a bunch others is going to come back to hurt many retailers.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2020

    How will digital transform trade shows?

    It makes sense that future conferences and shows will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual formats. There are inefficiencies about the in-person shows and attendees cannot always make the best use of their time away from their (former) office. Some of that will be rectified with a hybrid format. But some people will prefer the personal touch and the ability to renew personal friendships. Don't discount in-person conferences yet.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Is retail’s contactless future here now?

    Contactless technology, at least in the payments segment of retail, has been faster and more secure than any other form -- and mysteriously under-deployed. Contactless payment will undoubtedly get the boost it has needed and become the norm in most retail and near-retail establishments (think parking garages). For things such as product detail information and dressing rooms other forms of contactless are already available but, again, relatively under-deployed. When fully deployed, I believe they will be fully used.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?

    Cathy, after you have read my post you will see how quickly the same concern jumped out at both of us.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?

    We do not appear to know how much it costs now to put one of these carts together and how much less it may cost at scale. I will guess that the cart is very expensive and, therefore, I am very skeptical at the moment. Amazon can afford to experiment with many things in order to refine and adopt or abandon. This one is a wait and see for me.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond banks on private brands

    While private label brands can have the effect of enhancing the product mix and make some stores more interesting, the challenge is to make products that are somewhat different while being less expensive than the national or international brands. Barring these two factors, private brands are not going to help.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

    Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory

    What the laissez faire policy of the federal government and many governors of states did not accomplish regarding the control of the coronavirus, certain, more conscientious institutions will take upon themselves. Because of their constant exposure to customers, retailers need to be very concerned with the welfare of customers and employees alike (servers' lives are also important). What the federal government and states will not do, Starbucks and other retailers will. If some customers do not like the restriction, they have the freedom of choice to buy overpriced coffee elsewhere.

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