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.

To learn more, visit:

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: 02/08/2023

    Will Bed Bath & Beyond’s meme stock move transform its fortunes?

    A housewares brand building a house of cards. It appears their strategic plans are now focused on day-to-day survival.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2023

    Is brainstorming better done electronically or in-person?

    Brainstorming can be very valuable, but it needs to be well-moderated. Electronic brainstorming, especially so. It's difficult enough for people to keep their focus in live sessions. To make these sessions valuable, a good facilitator is essential. Someone who can keep the group focused, sense when the horse is dead and they need to move on, and who can draw out ideas from everyone (even us introverts) while keeping it fun and engaging. Not impossible, but it is essential.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2023

    2023 could be the year of the recession that never happened

    It's all about consumer confidence. During COVID-19, normal economic indicators were turned upside down and not a lot made sense. We have high inflation at the moment and, as predicted, as extraordinary supply chain issues are resolved we're already seeing it subside. This in turn affects consumer confidence. If wages can catch up with inflation and we get back to some level of stasis, I think any downturn is likely to be short and mild.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2023

    Is it time for retailers to pay their managers OT?

    There is more than "some" truth that retailers create manager roles expressly to avoid paying overtime. This is just one contributing factor to retail's terrible reputation as a place to work, and I suspect is also a contributing factor to the ongoing labor shortage for front-line workers.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2023

    Stale Amazon grocery stores need a fresh approach

    It's hard for me to have an opinion on this. My market only has the zombie version of Amazon Fresh stores. They've made significant investments in real estate and work to get the stores ready to open, only to have it all grind to a halt. I applaud Amazon for recognizing that they need to change their strategy and quickly fail, and using that to drive change is good. And Amazon has been very good at being nimble over the years. At the same time, I don't understand how they're justifying holding these spaces and leaving work unfinished for months and in at least one case, in my area, over a year. This is also on the minds of Amazon investors, who, I would bet, aren't all that satisfied with the responses. The reality is physical grocery is a very different business model for Amazon. At the time of the Whole Foods purchase, I conjectured that a big motivator for this purchase would be to learn how to run grocery. Their strength in logistics gives them an excellent base to build a grocery business. Learning how to run a store and making it a compelling place to shop in a crowded market? What's the Amazon value prop here? It will be interesting to see how they solve this issue.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2023

    Are grocers becoming conflicted over love and football?

    Super Bowl seems to be winning in my market. I haven't seen much Valentine's Day merchandise out in the market. That said, be very careful about using the big game as a reason you forgot to buy a card and gift for those in your life who might be expecting such acknowledgment. That might not work out well. Pro Tip -- When you make your snack and bevy run, make sure to hit the card aisle too.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2023

    Ahold Delhaize USA’s Retail Business Services CIO talks IT’s place at the table and the need to work differently

    Any strategic planning process has to start with an assessment of the business’s goals, where they can grow, where can they optimize, and where they need to change. Assess their value prop for their customers and what capabilities are required to meet those goals. Then, they can start thinking about what technologies are in play or are required to extend those capabilities and deliver on their goals. Mr. Kosla is taking this approach. His idea that Ahold Delhaize will take a customer-centric approach to drive technology investment is spot on. I really love that IT and the Business are involved, at every level, in aligning their IT strategies with business objectives. Too many companies chase squirrels investing in tools without ensuring alignment with the capabilities they need to leverage to meet their business goals.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    Impossible Foods says there’s nothing faddish about plant-based meat

    Agree with you. I just wish these companies would be more transparent with exactly what we're eating. My wife, not a fan BTW, when I order an impossible burger, always askes "why?" Response "Healthier." Her retort "how do you know?" And I have no good answer.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    Impossible Foods says there’s nothing faddish about plant-based meat

    Great point.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    How do consumer brands really feel about buying ads from retailers?

    This is simply the evolution of existing channels. Vendors have been paying retailers ad coop money for decades. There are slotting fees for planograms, incentives for endcaps and promotional spaces. If I were a vendor, I would think this is a good use of my marketing dollars. I get access to a pre-screened audience, in a place where converting an impression to a purchase is about as seamless as can be.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    Impossible Foods says there’s nothing faddish about plant-based meat

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with the statement that plant-based meats are a fad. Full disclosure, I might be biased as a consumer of these products. The category has been around for a long time. I've been able to get plant-based burgers in restaurants for decades. The new offers from Impossible and Beyond have raised the bar on quality. Good food will always have a place, even if it's a niche. Consumers, especially younger consumers, are increasingly interested in how their day-to-day actions affect the planet. The raising and processing of beef have come under scrutiny in this regard, and for a good reason. Demand will ebb and flow, but as the products get better and prices get better because of efficiencies and scale, I can't help but think the overall trend line in this area is positive. Let's be real, beef isn't going away any time soon, but neither are these products. The market is settling and is going through growing pains at the moment. Calling this a fad is shortsighted.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

    Hy-Vee uses tech and people to deliver a sense of awe in its stores

    Today, the top challenge for grocers is staffing. Finding great team members to make the store run while provide outstanding customer experiences their customers is a challenge. In a tough labor market, it is essential to find technologies that help them do more with fewer people while balancing team member experience and workload. They must consider how they interact with team members from the initial recruitment and hire through their last day. Not easy. Hy-Vee is very aware of this. Their stores are larger than most, they provide many high-touch services that enhance customer experience, all of which makes Hy-Vee a great place to shop. This also requires a seasoned staff of trained team members to make it work well. Hy-Vee is making the right moves here, innovating in scheduling and compensation to keep their teams engaged, and, I suspect, reducing turnover.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

    What does Amazon know about delivering groceries that others don’t get?

    This surprised me. Amazon, for the first time I can remember, is now not the most competitive player in a business they've been trying to build out for a while. Many grocers, most notably Walmart, now have membership plans that provide grocery delivery for free, at a far lower threshold than Amazon. Will these services also raise fees to match Amazon, or will they keep their pricing and aggressively promote their offer? There might be some opportunity here to take market share from Amazon, which is not something that happens very often in many categories.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2023

    Sam’s is back in the business of opening warehouse clubs

    Sam's has great brand recognition. Consumers, even those who have never set foot in a Sam's Club expect that they'll find great deals there. Given the challenges in the economy that have impacted consumer confidence, this is a great time for Sam's to move out and grow its market share. And, like every great company, they learn from what they did in the past and design for what they see coming in the future. More fulfillment options for their customers, better in-stocks, better shopping experience for customers, a perfect example of a company extending its value proposition to drive growth.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2023

    How much say should retailers have over an associate’s appearance?

    Team members reflect the company's brand. That makes sense. But what is reasonable for employers to require in terms of appearance? Very difficult to define what's ok to mandate and what's not. It feels like requiring dental work as a condition of employment is going out of bounds, and I expect this will be challenged in court. So what is open to an employers discretion? That gets difficult pretty fast. Recently, African American hairstyles have become the subject of this same discussion, and discrimination based on hair is now protected in some states. Tattoos are another great example. There has been a substantial societal shift in the acceptance of tattoos. But at the same time, while a full-sleeve floral tattoo is probably fine now, facial tattoos will be a problem for most companies. I would suggest retailers stick to those employees have full control over and contribute to the brand perception—uniforms, ties, no beer t-shirts, ok. Requiring certain standards of personal hygiene, being well groomed, for example, seems fine. But disqualifying employment based on certain physical characteristics, especially those not covered by the ADA? Not everyone has access to dental care, especially in retail's low-wage, customer-facing ranks. Is Sheetz going to pay for any work that an employee may need to stay employed? I suspect Sheetz is going to be forced to revisit this decision.

Contact Gary


  • Apply to be a BrainTrust Panelist

  • Please briefly describe your qualifications — specifically, your expertise and experience in the retail industry.
  • By submitting this form, I give you permission to forward my contact information to designated members of the RetailWire staff.

    See RetailWire's privacy policy for more information about what data we collect and how it is used.