Gary Sankary

Retail Industry Strategy, Esri

I am a 45 year veteran of the retail industry. My career started in the back room of my father’s shoe store. His advice to me when I went to college, “Don’t go into retail”.

After 27 years in executive leadership at Target, I now work for Esri. Here, I get to survey the retail industry holistically. I evangelize location intelligence and help retailers unlock the local insights the need to better engage customers, preform local market analysis and make key decision about store and facility optimization.

Everything in retail happens in a specific place for a reason. Location intelligence can help you understand that reason.

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50-year veteran of the retail industry, from my father's small business to Target to my current role with a solution provider. All opinions are my own.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    Did Target just move Black Friday up to October 7?

    The focus on "Black Friday" is misguided. The day after Thanksgiving will always be a huge shopping day. People are home, have had enough "family time" for a while, and are eager to get out and do something. Moving holiday deals up earlier and earlier -- we're all looking for a little extra advantage. If consumers respond, it will happen. If they don't, we might see those early deals move back closer to Christmas. And if the season shapes up to be disappointing this year, as I suspect it might, we'll see retailers hit the promos in December and this whole conversation will be moot.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2022

    Did Walmart just guarantee it will be the easiest place to shop for Christmas?

    Walmart+ members will have the option to have their returns picked up at their homes? Wow. That's a serious customer service commitment that I would have never expected from any retailer except maybe some of the really high-end luxury brands.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2022

    The Starbucks experience aims to be the same no matter where you get your coffee

    This is LONG overdue. Customers don't care where a store is located, they care that it's a Starbucks branded store. Providing customers with consistent experiences is a core aspect of every brand strategy. Kudos to Starbucks for closing this gap.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2022

    Gap is cutting 500 corporate jobs as it searches for a CEO and answers

    Gap lost its focus a long time ago. Their brand is convoluted, and they haven't been able to attract new customers to replace those who are aging out of their target persona. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results never works.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2022

    Are biases still holding back marketing analytics?

    One of the benefits of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is that these tools can find discrete correlations in data that would take years and luck to find using legacy methodologies - building hypotheses and proving or disproving. New data and analytics allow these tools to give insight into "what else we should be looking at." That said, the bias for gut feeling, especially in retail, is tough to overcome. We've had assortment optimization and automated planograms for years, and yet the main barrier to adoption is that buyers don't trust the results. I firmly believe that this is changing. It has to. Retailers are looking for more ways to be competitive, and the low-hanging fruit in calculus is mainly gone. Finding new insights to attract retail customers will require more and more analytics and new and innovative types of data.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2022

    Amazon to give marketplace sellers greater email access to its platform’s users

    From a marketing perspective this makes sense and I'm sure it will generate ROI for the brands. From a customer perspective, this makes me angry. When I buy something from Target or Walmart, the brands do not get my email. When I buy the same products from Amazon, I'm going to get spammed based on my purchases? No thank you. I do wonder, how will Amazon feel about brands that use Amazon purchases to solicit DTC business, bypassing Amazon?
  • Posted on: 09/15/2022

    Will climate change make supply chain disasters the new normal?

    Business resiliency has become a very hot topic. I am seeing more and more retailers asking questions about risk mitigation associated with climate change, and with good reason. The best companies understand that building the capabilities to respond to disasters, climate-related or otherwise, requires a resilience strategy with short-term execution, guided by long-range planning. For example, they are incorporating data about where coastal flooding will impact stores 20 years from now to inform their current planning and development strategies. Another example is sourcing raw materials that are climate dependent. Take cotton, for example. It's important to understand how changing weather patterns might affect growing conditions in the future. There are decisions they can make now to mitigate disruption when the supply of that raw material becomes more volatile. Finally, resilience boils down to sustainability. The more sustainable a business is in its operations and supply chain, the more inherently resilient they are going to be.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2022

    Should Target expect something big from its FAO Schwarz toy deal?

    I had the same response. Target has had FAO Schwarz products in their holiday assortments for a long time.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2022

    Should Target expect something big from its FAO Schwarz toy deal?

    Target has been a leader in the toy category for a long time. When Toys "R" Us closed, they moved aggressively to expand their toy category and went after the holiday season. Target has been outstanding at partnering with brands and designers that they feel will resonate with their customers, and FAO Schwarz does that well. Adding to a toy assortment with solid presentations from Disney, Mattel, and Lego, FAO Schwarz is another win that helps establish Target as a leader in the category.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2022

    Walmart and other retailers are canceling billions of dollars in orders

    Merchandisers are on the hook to deliver margin and sales performance. During the pandemic, forecasts went out the window as consumer demand became extraordinarily volatile. In some cases, buyers overreacted. Not surprisingly, they built new forecasts based on the increased demand but missed their forecasts as demand returned to more "normal" levels. Now they need to make cuts to get inventory back in line. Not surprisingly, it's happened before and will happen again. Even the best forecast models have difficulty forecasting sales at the item/store level. Delivering an accurate forecast to buy, too, is important. Maintaining flexibility in the supply chain to react when things don't happen as forecasted is even more important.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2022

    Shoplifters force Wegmans to pull the plug on its self-scanning app

    Shorting receipts has been a problem in grocery since the first dishonest cashier started ringing up customers. Now we've expanded the population of potentially dishonest employees to anyone interested in shorting a transaction. This will definitely be a problem that retailers and technology will have to find a solution for before we see wider adoption of self-scanning apps in the market.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2022

    Is now the right or wrong time for retailers to invest big in their businesses?

    Retail is full of examples of companies that cut back on making capital expenditures during tough times, and in almost every case it was a disaster. Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney. It doesn't take long for a retailer trying to cut corners by not investing in their operations to fall behind and for the customers to notice.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2022

    Kroger simplifies its budget private labels

    I think this is an excellent move by Kroger. Too many labels confuse the customer and dilute one of the primary purposes of private labels, driving loyalty.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2022

    Is ‘shrinkflation’ a better option than charging higher prices at retail?

    Trying to sneak in a price increase by reducing product size and hoping that the customer doesn't notice, that's not a great strategy. Consumers notice and they don't like it. Giving consumers informed choices to select smaller product sizes, that's going to be a win-win. See the smaller size cans of Coke products for example. Exactly what parents and health-conscious consumers wanted.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2022

    Target ditched its mandatory retirement age to keep Brian Cornell in charge

    I'm a Target veteran, and I remember when Bob Ulrich was "retired" when he reached 65. He was an effective leader, and I suspect he had a lot to give back to the company. At the time, I was in favor of the move. It certainly helped bring fresh ideas. Across town, at Best Buy, I watch their CEO Dick Schulze take retirement, come back from retirement, take it again, come back... That wasn't a great plan at all. It was confusing for the team and led to whiplash policy changes. There's value in experience and continuity. As long as the leader continues to lead and the company continues to thrive, a number shouldn't be the determining factor in forcing an employee to leave. Full disclosure, my perspective on this at 60 is different than it was at 35.

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