PROFILE

Chuck Palmer

Senior Advisor, ConsumerX Retail
Chuck is a retail strategist with a consumer behavior bias. He focuses on the nexus of consumer behavior, technology and creativity. With more than 25 years experience across the worlds of online and offline retail, retail strategy, operations, consumer behavior and in-store digital visual merchandising (digital signage networks). You can read his blog at www.ConsumerXretail.com.
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  • Posted on: 05/05/2020

    Will free listings elevate Google Shopping?

    Now is the time tor Google to open up and let it all in. I guess. This would only work if they are also reaching consumers in a way that will enable a shift from the behavior that sees us go to Amazon first when we are ready to buy.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2020

    Can J.C. Penney make it without Sephora?

    I don't think consumers see Sephora at J.C. Penney as a bad thing. But it seems the relationship has served its purpose for Sephora -- helping build the brand -- which I expect is doing just fine online during the current pandemic. I see this as Sephora's move to create more flexibility in its contract and now is the time to apply pressure. JCP is not in a good position to negotiate. They need Sephora more than Sephora needs JCP. Is it wise to fully pull out? Maybe. Maybe not. If JCP is viable, then revenue and reach remains important to Sephora, but they may achieve that at Macy's, too.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2020

    Are Target’s skyrocketing online sales retail’s new normal?

    We're seeing the payoff of a diversified portfolio of ways to separate a consumer from their money. Seriously, we know the best players have read consumer behavior over the last 10 years and given us as many ways to shop as we like. It's no surprise Target has benefited from the way they do business. They consistently operate in a way worthy of consumers' trust. In a time of crisis, it follows that consumers gravitate to them.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2020

    Can grocers help sit-down restaurants stay afloat with to-go meal programs?

    We're going to see in the coming weeks an uptick in demand for variety. The novelty of homemade sourdough is going to fade. Grocers carrying local restaurant meals makes a lot of sense. While the logistics and packaging issues are different from a take-and-bake pizza or the like, it seems the operational part of the equation is where retailers can step up. This could reduce the number of trips customers take out of the house and alleviate the need for each restaurant to figure out online ordering and pick up. This gives retailers more differentiating points, restaurants more volume and consumers more choices.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2020

    Is it time for ‘essential’ retailers to stop running in-store promotions?

    I wish I could say Lowe's doesn't get to have it both ways, but it seems they will. It's really disingenuous to go ahead with a promo like this and then hide behind all the measures they've taken to "protect" their customers and staff. They are willfully ignoring the seriousness of the threat.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2020

    Is Amazon facing a crossroads with the coronavirus pandemic?

    Well, it took a global pandemic to slow Amazon's roll. The reliability we've come to expect is in short supply. It wasn't too long ago the promise of same day delivery was the latest in holy grails. Also, it wasn't too long ago they were taking extraordinary steps to keep quiet warehouse working conditions and efforts of their staff to unionize. Perhaps in some way this is stripping away the mythos of Amazon. They will remain the behemoth, but they will have some ground to make up on those extraordinary promises they were making and keeping.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2020

    How can stores get social distancing right?

    While limiting behavior is counter intuitive for retailers and their associates, they do have the ability to amp up control over what people do in stores. We don't have strong enough guidance as to what works and what doesn't and what the new rules are. Retailers are left to figure out their own way of dealing with this -- someone at Walmart thought one-way aisles is important -- makes sense, I guess. But Target and Kroger are focusing their adaptations to in other areas. Thing is, we don't have evidence as to what works and what doesn't, so we have a seemingly tossed salad of what to do. While it's not usually their job, essential retailers will eventually have to be behavioral police. In the meantime they should be increasing their security and management staff's training toward enforcing rules. This is the only way we'll eliminate behavior we see as putting others in jeopardy. Perhaps a return to olden times is in order -- when you asked the proprietor for what you need and he or she collected it and rang you up. Think of an in-person e-comm experience where you share your list and runners gather your stuff.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2020

    Will off-pricers be major share gainers post-coronavirus?

    Given the glut of spring/summer inventory out there and the timing of when we think stores will re-open, we may see off-price retailers gain new share. We may also see unsold inventory--especially in colder climates--stick around for a year or be re-directed to warmer environments and heavily discounted. Consumers will be in a value mindset for a significant period, but as back-to-school and holiday looms over merchants' heads, they'll need to free up open-to-buy. While value retailers will benefit in the relative short term, they can't take all the inventory that is out there. I would expect those same retailers to re-think their online positions and messaging. No business today can ignore the vital importance of connecting with consumers online, especially for transactional sales.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2020

    Will a new pot and pizza delivery concept become all the buzz in legal weed retailing?

    Sounds like a great joint venture. (Sometimes I just can't help myself.) Pizza and pot delivery makes a lot of sense. We have seen hybrid retail trending in recent years. Mashing together two categories creates unique value and POV that consumers can connect to. One of my favorites is Baby's On Fire in Baltimore. It's a combo of a vinyl record store and coffee shop. It's run by a husband and wife team who each have solid music backgrounds. Successful hybrid retail comes from the founder's passion for one or both of the categories.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2020

    How will this change us?

    Unless the fundamental economics of how retailers run their businesses changes, we won't see much of a difference post-pandemic (if that will ever really be a thing). The reason we are calling these folks heroes is mostly because they are doing something we can't or won't do -- for $11 an hour. ($2/hour increases are temporary, just to keep folks coming to work.) Will we see a living wage come out of all this front-line worker worship? Will we see changes in minimum wage? I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2020

    What’s going on inside the heads of consumers right now?

    Being a behaviorist, I am mostly skeptical about the use of Maslow's work in the realm of marketing. It's usually misinterpreted at best and bastardized at worst. BUT -- in this extreme case it is uniquely applicable. We are in an unprecedented reset that will change behavior. We are being pushed back down the hierarchy -- some of us deal with the comfort issues of food and shelter on a regular basis; for some of us it is something that we have never had to engage. Uncertainty and fear drive us to protect ourselves and our own interests. This is exhibited in panic shopping and hoarding. We may see an uptick in discretionary spending in the coming weeks, but we won't see anything close to "normal" any time soon. Consumers will become accustomed to the new reality that just may keep us on those lower levels of the hierarchy for quite some time.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Will augmented reality tech effectively bring the try-on experience online?

    AR works in the consideration and inspiration phases of decision-making. It has proved itself in home furnishings and color cosmetics (with highly customized applications). If Warby Parker's application takes those 30,000 facial measurements and makes suggestions as to the "best" frames for your particular face (the way a professional eyewear sales person would) then it's a win and would underscore the brand's authority. (Their demo video starts with "select a frame" which seems to assume one knows which frame.) I remain skeptical about apparel try on via AR. Shoes maybe, but for low consideration items like t-shirts, I'm not sure customers need that sort of reinforcement. For higher consideration items like dresses or suits, fit, feel, weight, construction are difficult to convey off-body. Which sets up an interesting challenge for all those engineers dreaming of the next big thing.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Burlington Stores walks away from e-commerce

    Like many off-price retailers, the "treasure hunt" excitement becomes key. In this case, it seems Burlington holds a unique place in their customers' minds -- a place reliable for solid family essentials and an occasional impulse indulgence. While TJMaxx plays in a quasi-upscale space with just enough well-known brands, they have some clever tricks online to emulate the thrill of the hunt (see "Reveal Designer" on their category pages). That seems to be the luxury of scale and buying power. I admire a retailer who knows who they are and who their customers are. They are showing growth from their stores and if they redirect resources to making their stores even better at what they do, we might even see some new store openings in the future.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Can retailers ensure stores are coronavirus-safe?

    If we think about stores as social environments, retailers have an opportunity to extend their values to their customers. Being transparent about how and why they are responding to current concerns is vital -- not just hand sanitizer, but making cleaning activities visible and apparent, training staff to share their experiences with customers will go a long way to reassure guests and underscore their trust in the brand. Nordstrom's letter over the weekend is a good example -- it is clear, concise, reassuring and from top leadership.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2019

    Andy Dunn’s departure from Walmart indicative of a broader problem

    I saw Mr. Dunn speak at RetailX earlier this year. I was skeptical; the dude from Bonobos was now at Walmart and he's the keynote? How substantive could this be? I was pleasantly surprised by his transparency and candor. Of course, I am sure his public remarks were approved by corporate communications. And that is my point. His description of how Walmart is (was) organizing management around the digital acquisitions, and the goals to learn from them and influence the rest of the organization was refreshing. Ultimately, a drop in the ocean? Perhaps. Later in the year, I got to hear the leaders of Eloquii tell their story. If you are not familiar, it's worth learning about. While they were reticent to talk about Walmart, but they told a very entrepreneurial story that included what sounded like a lot of freedom to innovate, fail and learn. Now, these are highly skilled retail professionals, which is worth noting in this context. The folks who start bright shiny "digitally native" stores are good at startups, not necessarily retail fundamentals and operations -- which still matter. I hope the new, fresh thinking the Mr. Dunn and his cohorts bring to the retail landscape is embraced. After all, hasn't retail always been about the fresh and new?

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