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Digital and Physical Commerce Thought Leader, enVista
As CEO and co-founder of enVista, I have built a retail software solutions and consulting services firm with the depth and breadth of capability to truly optimize and unify both physical and digital commerce end-to-end, from order capture thru fulfillment and from source to consumption. Hundreds of the world’s leading brands, including Sephora, Best Buy, Tory Burch, Tractor Supply, Advance Auto and Urban Outfitters, have leveraged my expertise and the capability of enVista to drive efficiencies and cost savings, improve profitability, customer service and competitive advantage and transform their operations. I am a regular contributor to RIS News, Total Retail and other industry and business publications, serve as a Forbes contributor, and regularly speak on trending retail topics at NRF’s Big Show, Future Stores, IRCE, and partner and supply chain conferences plus I currently sit on the executive board of US Auto Parts.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2020

    Grocers are primed to compete with Amazon’s free grocery delivery

    First and foremost, nothing is "free" in this world and "free" is typically a race to the bottom strategy unless you are providing some additional value that the customer wants. If you want to compete against Amazon, you do it by providing the customer a better experience and you manage the the customers expectations. You then have to build out operational excellence that keeps the promise that you make to the customer. Why do customers pay for PRIME ($125/year)? It is because Amazon delivers your order 99.5% of the time within 2 days or better. Stated differently, would you pay $125/year if they set the expectation to deliver in 2 days and delivered your order in 3 or 4 days? The point is that ANY retailer is required to set expectations and execute against it. As it relates how to compete and WIN against Amazon: 1) create a better experience. Wegmans for example does not see themselves as a grocery store chain. They raise the bar on the shopping experience: the best quality; a spectacular abundance of choice; restaurant-quality prepared foods; beautiful stores and displays; and a nearly telepathic level of customer service, 2) leverage technology and specifically order management that allows the retailer to orchestrate order/inventory any place and anywhere (store, vendors, micro-fulfillment centers) and 3) localized inventory that expands beyond just the store that you buy from. Meaning shop multiple stores with an expanded item assortment vs. just your local store. Last, own the entire experience and data. Grocery Chains need to be vertically integrated from order capture to fulfillment. No one is going to run your business better than you. Proof point: Amazon is becoming and will become the most integrated end-to-end supply chain company in the world. They will become the largest logistics service provider (LSP) and will offer this service to sellers.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2020

    Will the election sidetrack holiday shoppers?

    History has shown over the last 100+ years that consumer spending will be impacted by a presidential election and especially if there is a change in party. The main reason is uncertainty based upon the fiscal policies established by the new administration. With that said does a national election send the retail industry into a tail spin? The answer is no, but it does not mean that retailers should ignore the impact of any presidential election. What we don't know is the impact of a pandemic combined with a presidential election. We are definitely in unprecedented times. Which is more significant, the pandemic vs. the presidential election, in terms of its impact on the retail industry? Our (emphasis on "our") current pandemic wins by a long shot. Lets get this pandemic under control so ALL of us feel secure and safe to shop and buy in stores again.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2020

    Retailer saves itself at the buzzer with TikTok

    TikTok is definitely having an impact on social media. The key is, can TikTok turn impressions into conversions? Brands have benefited by using other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Hence this is not a new concept just a different social media platform. Note 41 percent of TikTok users are between 16 to 24 years of age. If you compare TikTok users' buying power and consumer spending dollars to other age groups it is very small (<10 percent). However TikTok is a means to create rapid and instant brand awareness cost effectively as user counts increase on the app.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    How big is the staycationer opportunity?

    There are a number of driving factors that are driving this trend: 1.) the safety of traveling and 2.) consumers' economic confidence. The combination of both these factors is driving people to stay home. Speaking from a personal standpoint my check book is a little larger as my family is not going out to eat and we have cancelled two trips in the last six months. With that said we have bought board games, outdoor hiking equipment and bicycles not to mention all the DIY projects that we have completed. This trend will not change until the country is in a better position regarding my first two points. As for brands and retailers I would focus on how to create experiences for consumers that allow the consumer to stay home focused on creating memories. For example we have created a garden and leveraged the experience to teach our children about sustainable farming techniques.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Will Santa be bringing as many toys this holiday?

    We are fortunate to have a leading toy retailer in Canada as a client. They leverage our OMS and drop ship platform to enable their omnichannel fulfillment. Hence we have a lot of data on what is selling and what is not right now. We are optimistic about toys and the demand data illustrates that specific categories are up (60% to 100%). The biggest challenge is not demand but supply: 1) manufacturing capacity in low cost countries (LCL) is being impacted by COVID, 2) there are container shortages from ASIA and 3) parcel carriers in North America are clamping down on their capacity to deliver D2C. What we are seeing is a massive shift to curbside pickup and pick up in store. Retailers are nudging customers through the use of promotions, same-day pick-up (speed) and scarcity strategies to pick up merchandise in stores vs home delivery. It's working, it is cost effective, it is faster, and if executed well is a win-win for the customer. The challenge with BOPIS and curbside is "uncontrollable" order cancellations. Meaning the customer does not pick up the merchandise and the order $$ are lost. However, good retailers turn this into and opportunity by turning a BOPIS order into a delivered order assuming the orders is profitable. Last we are seeing retailers and specifically toy retailers bringing inventory in early to manage with demand variability and capacity constraints.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2020

    FAA gives permission for Amazon’s drones to take off

    Love the innovation and encourage the progress as it relates to transportation. The transportation industry is 50 years behind other industries and I am being kind. However, think about the practicality of delivering freight or parcels with a drone. For example, a 40 foot trailer can hold 1,800 parcels (1 cubic foot) on average at 80% trailer utilization. A parcel package van on average delivers 30 to 40 stops per route based upon package cube and route density. Now imagine the number of drones required to move the last mile. This is not possible in suburban and urban areas The challenge is also with city ordinances and the permission to fly drones. The FAA requires line of sight. Again love the innovation and forward thinking, but there are others areas I would be spending capital with respect to transportation innovation.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Should grocers go full steam ahead on new store openings?

    Opening the right store format is key. I am not sure opening a 75,000 to 100,000 square-foot super grocery store is the answer compared to a store format that merges physical and digital together to service the customer. Consumers are buying more groceries and eating at home more because their favorite restaurants are either closed or have limited capacity due to state and city ordinances. Digital commerce has been pulled forward by three years. Grocery stores' digital commerce represented 4 percent to 7 percent of their total demand pre-COVID-19 and now 18 percent to 25 percent for some grocery chains. The pull back for many chains will be between 13 percent to 15 percent. Which is why the stores of the future are required to operate differently and will actually do more business if designed correctly to service both an in-store and/or a digital consumer.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Best Buy produces record results doing things differently in the pandemic

    Best Buy was deploying winning strategies that were focused on the customer experience before the pandemic. They have been successful leveraging their OMS to improve inventory visibility across their network and have added additional fulfillment methods (curbside) and contactless pickup/payment in order to deal with consumer safety concerns. Having an OMS as a back bone has allowed them to move quickly. However they have also executed operationally to deliver on the promise. It is that blend of technology and operational excellence that will continue to propel them forward and create brand loyalty.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2020

    How should grocers prepare for a possible pandemic stockpiling redux?

    Understand that many supply chains are built for efficiency and not necessarily effectiveness -- specifically for CPG companies that are focused on LEAN principles. LEAN is about waste reduction and not over producing or allocating resources that are not necessary. Hence a pull system that assumes that demand has very little variation. What LEAN does not teach you is about exponential growth that happens in days or weeks. The pandemic has taught us that LEAN can be "brittle" when demand, for example, of Paper Towels (House Hold Paper Products), spikes by 150%. Sorry no contingency planning is going to help you and no CEO or EVP of supply chain is going to invest millions of dollars for plant expansions to deal with short term demand spikes. However, there are things that CPG companies are doing to increase their throughput (capacity) and they are getting an additional 20% to 25% out of their supply chains. But note it is more than just manufacturing capacity that is required, you have to have the transportation capacity as well. Grocery stores absolutely should prepare for stockpiling and limit consumption of key items and categories. But understand we need to control the demand because CPG supply chain capacity cannot and will not keep up with 150% demand spikes.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2020

    Can Payless avoid past mistakes with its new comeback effort?

    I had the pleasure of working for Payless as a consultant from 2006 to 2009. I can share they had an extremely efficient supply chain (source to consumption). Their supply chain was a competitive differentiator. With that said, the opportunity is with respect to their digital strategy (unified commerce) and the enabling technology to execute their strategy. Given the current climate it will be interesting to watch and learn as they pivot from being a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to a future state that will require agility and speed to compete.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2020

    Build vs. buy: Is that still a question in retail IT?

    I will apply the pareto principle (80/20) rule. The advantage of leveraging third-party solution providers is scale, innovation and their R&D. For example do you really want to develop and AI (ML/Predictive Analytics) platform with your own data scientist? No doubt you can move faster with third parties who are focused every day on their technology and as a retailer take advantage of their platforms -- especially if they are truly cloud native. I always ask retailers, what is your secret sauce and what is it that you do that makes you different and that no one else can do? That is where you focus your internal IT teams and business analyst (the 20 percent) and let the third-party software and solution provider focus on the 80 percent. I think that so many retailers are sitting on monolithic and bifurcated applications to run their business and they are simply stuck. Hence the need to move to platforms that are cloud native with a common data model built with integration at their core. Salesforce buying Mulesoft was the best acquisition they have ever made -- which no one talks about. It is why they are now in the position to uncouple and re-couple bifurcated systems while adding value with business process objects.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Is the Walmart/Instacart pilot a sign of big delivery news to come?

    I posted (below) this over 3 months ago on LinkedIn. I predicted Amazon would be the obvious choice to buy Instacart. My mistake -- Walmart is now in pursuit and if so, watch out. Keep your friends close and enemies closer ... ART of WAR. Walmart wants customer data (behaviors and insights) to predict and determine how to service their customer (position inventory optimally). Instacart provides them the data to optimize their supply chain. Instacart - Strategic Friend or Foe? To Instacart's credit they saw like many entrepreneur led organizations a need to solve a market problem: fulfill & deliver groceries because grocery store chains were not focused on e-Commerce in 2012. Let Instacart worry about e-commerce fulfillment and the chains will focus on brick and mortar (was and has been the strategy). For those of us old enough to experience the first “” boom, there was a company similar to Instacart in the late '90s called GSI Commerce that had a similar business model. GSI Commerce managed the experience, however, it was expensive and could not pivot fast to enough based upon changing customer behaviors (omnichannel). Retailers pulled these capabilities in house to manage the E2E experience. The difference between GSI Commerce and Instacart is that GSI did not own the brand. However, Instacart does. They have done an exceptional job building customer brand loyalty on the backs of grocery chains' item assortment, inventory and customer. Instacart is not a fulfillment and delivery company; they like Amazon have shifted their business model to 100% about the data and technology and that's what makes them now a potential foe. Could you imagine if Amazon owned Instacart?
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    What does new "normal" mean? Humans have incredible coping mechanisms and we are survivors by nature. Retailers will survive as they will be required to change and adapt to consumer behaviors. No one predicted we were going to have a pandemic. The real question is, what do we do about it? Retailers and brands will need to shape how they engage with their customers by adopting new paths to purchase and customer journeys that are different. Retailers who can provide options to suit consumer emotions will come out winners.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Pandemic ‘fast-forwarded everything’ for nation’s largest cannabis retailer

    Until our federal government and banking institutions pass laws and policies to allow the cannabis industry to operate and trade like other retailers, they will operate as if they were in the 19th century. It is difficult to move to a digital strategy when the use of cash is the only means to trade. Granted, cannabis retailers have gotten creative by creating shell merchant accounts to fly under the radar of processors and banks, but these are not legitimate solutions to move into the 21st century and beyond.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    Will retail employment return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon? The answer is no. The retail and/or commerce landscape is changing. It was changing prior to COVID-19 but it is now accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Understand, the customer is now in control and drives the journey and experience they want vs. the retailer "thinking" they are in control. That does mean you cannot NUDGE a customer or educate the customer regarding new "paths to purchase" but if the journey is not driving value for the customer, then the customer will not engage. Brick and mortar is not going away and retail jobs will be restored. However, not at the same levels as before the pandemic. Two reasons: 1) digital commerce and optional fulfillment methods will continue to rise at accelerated rates, and 2) economic recovery is predicated on our ability to get this pandemic under control and put people back to work across all industries.
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