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JJ Kallergis

Retail Industry Advisor, Softtek
As the Retail Industry Advisor at Softtek, JJ partners with retail executives to transform their IT operations and deliver greater value to their businesses. His focus is in two main areas: improving the operational effectiveness of retailers and enhancing the overall customer experience. JJ takes a consultative approach by aligning Softtek's services to his customers' business goals and quantifiable performance metrics thus ensuring his customers’ technology organization is creating value and delivering on the retailer’s vision. Softtek is a global IT service provider that partners with companies to innovate their technology processes and platforms in order to optimize and transform their business operations. Agility and collaboration are inherent in our culture, which we believe is enabled by the proximity of our Global Nearshore delivery model. For more information, visit:
  • Posted on: 07/18/2017

    Is Best Buy’s latest Geek Squad service a blueprint for niche IoT?

    Targeting niches of smart homes services or specific use cases should be helpful to Best Buy and other retailers looking to make these technologies more tangible to the average consumer. They are still on the early end of the maturity curve, but with them and others pushing smart home technologies, it should rapidly take off in the coming years. Another smart home niche that we have already seen Comcast and the competition get into is home security. Most consumers would like nothing better than to get rid of the $50 per month-or-so security monitoring fee in favor of something more DIY like SimpliSafe, which by the way is sold at Best Buy and runs for $15 per month. Best Buy could also partner with its suppliers to push the boundaries of the smart kitchen with its Pacific Kitchen & Home subsidiary doing some exclusive partnerships with manufacturers to wrestle away share from Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, etc., but also close the loop with grocery e-tailers to automatically replenish and establish new digital revenue streams.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Is e-commerce a job builder or killer?

    Exactly my thought Tom. While Amazon and others are bringing massive employment to areas surrounding their DCs, in the long-term (likely after the period agreed upon for tax benefits) these jobs will be automated. And on the other side, we will see more automation and robotics in the customer-facing retail environment as well. How can retail employees protect themselves in the store or the warehouse? Add more value by providing more personal touch and high-touch experiences to your customers, whether in-person or remote, and within your company or to the end consumer.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2017

    Are $3.00 generics a sound grocery e-tailing model?

    As a Millennial, I find many of my contemporaries shunning the large CPG companies for smaller, values-focused companies that are hyper-focused on a smaller subset of products. Large CPG companies overall have struggled for some time lately and if Brandless, Amazon, et. al. continue with the progress they have made on the digital front, they will continue to lose share as traffic and comp sales decline. But I do not take this loss in market share to mean that people overall have shunned brands. There is some leakage to smaller, local and organic brands where there is noticeable difference in quality and ingredients. And there will be more leakage to digital competitors with private labels perceived to be equal quality where consumers can fill their baskets with products to achieve free shipping and more convenience than running to their local store for the store brand equivalent. Brandless is a great concept, but with such a large basket amount for free shipping, and going against Amazon with Basics (and now 365 Everyday), they have a steep uphill climb to gain more traction and become a destination for more consumers.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2017

    What should Staples do differently now that it is going private?

    As Marc Benioff once said, speed is the new currency of business. If Staples understands this and doubles down on its B2B focus, they could bridge the gap between physical retail and digital/tech support through a hybrid in-store/remote tech support service similar to CDW. SMB owners and endusers could essentially pop in for services to the stores instead of paying for an internal IT staff, which could be cost prohibitive. This would entail a large transformation and clearly one more easily achievable with private ownership.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2017

    Does Blue Apron’s ‘meh’ IPO spell trouble for meal kit services?

    Agreed on all points. Grocery stores have long had the potential to deliver on better, cheaper meal kits but have been hamstrung by the inability to deliver to their customers' homes. Now that Amazon and Whole Foods have hooked up, they have the culinary chops and logistics prowess to make it a reality. AmazonFresh will be bolstered by the Whole Foods private label brands, and they will have the most legitimate chance at dethroning Blue Apron and all the copycats. Only time will tell how long they try to go at it by leveraging their loyal Prime customer base and also if they are successful at turning a profit more quickly.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2017

    Will Sears get traction with its new appliance and mattress store concept?

    I remember when the first Sears appliance standalone store opened up with the large interactive display, strong assortment and a good attempt at blending physical with digital. But this was against the backdrop of full-line stores closing at an increasing clip, so any news was good news. To double down on this and add mattresses seems like a valiant effort to start generating cash for an enterprise that has almost forgotten what it is like to operate in the black. Sounds like Custer's last stand.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Does Costco need to significantly undercut Amazon’s prices?

    Exactly what I was thinking about the long lines! Costco needs to do something to alleviate the long lines, since it is a major drag on the customer experience when you are on your way out of the warehouse. Customers demand convenience and frictionless shopping, and if Costco would like to broaden its customer base and drive more traffic, they should get serious about their checkout lines. And, some organized way to put products back in the cart and into the car trunk would also be nice, while we are at it.... In terms of pricing, Costco is and always has been the price king. You end up having to buy in bulk and maybe more than you would like to compared to packages at Walmart and Target. So, they should continue on the same path, focus on their logistical efficiency and in-and-out items, and also tinker with E-commerce to drive incremental revenue especially on items that are bulky and difficult for customers to pick up. IMHO, they are moving in the right direction to remain relevant, and provide a lot of value to their members by taking low margins and operating efficiently!
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Is Starbucks passing the buck to baristas on customer service?

    You hit it on the head, Art. This is all about culture. We saw this several years ago when Starbucks lost its identity and culture by growing too quickly. And we are seeing it again as Kevin Johnson takes the reins. The common theme here? Howard Schultz, or the lack thereof, and the culture that trickles down from the top. Customer service needs to be the reason that employees get up each morning and show up for work in the retail and restaurant industry. Especially when customers are dishing out several dollars for something as simple as a black coffee or even more for a fancy "coffee" drink and upscale food. How can some retailers get the customer service equation so right and so consistent across thousands of locations? It is surely not due to a single customer service training program, but rather a culture that emanates from the top and is adhered to by general managers and their hourly associates. Which are the companies in retail/QSR that have gotten this customer service equation down and where customers enjoy spending their hard-earned dollars? Trader Joe's, Chick-fil-A, and even more recently, Best Buy, to name a few.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    Peak fee increases make sense given the massive amount of online shopping that is done during the holiday season and the stress it puts on the UPS and FedEx supply chains. These two companies invest a lot on behalf of their customers to get packages to the right place at the right time. I would predict that given the modest increases, it will not have a material impact on retailers during the important Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping period. Even if retailers passed on these costs to the consumer, which I do not think they will, would an online shopper think twice about the convenience of home delivery for 27 cents? Not likely. However, when you consider the thousands or millions of packages that some retailers process for home delivery, it may cause some to work online promotions around these windows of the last two weeks of November and the week leading up to Christmas in the name of profitability. Or it may even cause some retailers to increase the minimum shopping quantity for free online shipping. And the least likely scenario, which may be music to many retailers' ears, is that consumers might actually get off their couch and go shopping in their brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Will customers try Kohler showers before they buy?

    Agree with your point about measuring conversion, Tom. While I think that the experiential retail concept will increase conversion, this cannot be the only goal as the ROI may likely not pay off. But, I will add one more thing this is about -- an emotional connection to the brand. We get this emotional connection with a car during the test drive and car purchasing process, but not typically buying a toilet or shower. This concept will help Kohler bridge this gap. With all that being said, it is still a little strange and creepy to consider taking a shower/bath or using a toilet in a fancy showroom. If they took the West Elm approach instead and created a chain of experiential Kohler day spas, it might be a more natural experiential retail experience.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Is ‘Building the New Blue’ the right plan to complete Best Buy’s transformation?

    Best Buy is certainly on the right path to succeeding over the long haul, but the leadership team has significant work ahead. They have done a great job showcasing their key brands and staffing the floor. On my last 15 minute visit, I was approached by 4 separate sales people in different departments of the store. That is remarkable -- compare that to some of the major department stores where you cannot even find a store associate. Where does the work lie for their executive team? Top priority should be driving traffic and customer engagement within their stores and they can do this by building stronger data-driven partnerships with their key suppliers. Next, what they did with Geek Squad for people that just don't get technology, they need to take a step further and expand within the customers' home. They have already taken this step with Vivint, but it would be even more helpful to be a one-stop-shop and authority for technology to help customers keep track of their technology inventory, connect it to their lives and even suggest new devices and technologies that can enhance their lives even further. If their store associates and in-home associates can work together to deliver on this, they should be a true long-term, omnichannel success story.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2017

    Is ultrafast fashion a thing – seriously?

    One technology solution that could speed up the reaction time to trends and even predict trends is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Why are fast-fashion retailers like Zara successful? Well, they have a highly responsive and efficient supply chain. But, more than that, they have mountains of data that they leverage to their advantage. Data points from their store associates, within their stores, etc. that they can boil down quickly to determine what's hot and what's next in fashion. If other apparel retailers were able to replicate and automate these processes, they could get to market faster than traditional fast-fashion retailers. AI and cognitive computing, while still early in their maturity curve, hold tremendous potential to act upon all the data that companies have access to in the physical and digital worlds. I would advise companies that are thinking in "Day One" terms to start experimenting with and learning from these types of tools if they have not already.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2017

    Why is Target investing in a mattress direct seller?

    Agreed Keith, Casper is differentiated and in a complementary and attractive category for Target. As they continue to expand in urban areas and attract a younger generation of shoppers that are renting or buying their first apartments or homes, this is a big ticket item that will round out their home furnishings assortment. And I believe as more competitors enter this space, the partnership with Target should also be highly beneficial to Casper as well by tapping into their engaged customer base and adding POD. As we have seen with Walmart, Macy's and others, offering exclusive brands differentiates you as a retailer and creates a reason for customers to shop with you.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Can Walmart’s sweepstakes game teach the unbanked to ‘bank’ their money?

    Say what you will about Walmart, they are true believers and practitioners of helping their customers save money and live better. This gamification initiative enables its customers to do exactly that and even have fun while doing it. These same types of customers tend to be the ones that are nickeled-and-dimed by traditional banks and credit unions, so it is great that Walmart is helping its customers on several fronts and they should benefit from an uptick of long-term customer loyalty as a result. When these same customers build their wealth and have more options in the future, they will tend to stay with Walmart and even as they shift more spend online.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Will independent grocers turn it around in 2017?

    Steve, I shop at Sunset Foods regularly as it is right down the street from my home. I have other options nearby that are marginally further for me to drive to like Jewel, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Why and when do I choose to shop at Sunset? You hit it on the nail with the freshest meat, seafood and produce plus incredible customer service. And it is convenient for a quick trip to pick up milk or eggs. Their associates are always smiling and happy to help unload groceries from your cart and bag on the other side. So I agree with the comments so far that independents need to focus on what they can control -- customer service, the local community card, limited and special offerings plus I would add prepared foods. Customers like myself will probably continue to migrate our wallet share on center aisle items like cleaning goods, paper goods and non-perishables to Amazon, Target and others that offer rock-bottom prices and the convenience of shipping or BOPIS. So my recommendation to independent grocers and the wholesalers that supply them would be to radically reconfigure the center aisle and add a more locally-sourced and differentiated product set that gets the community excited to shop there and support a local retailer and its suppliers. This would help them to more efficiently utilize their current footprints, benefit from quicker inventory turns and positively impact profits.
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