Ken Morris

Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors

Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.

  • Posted on: 02/07/2023

    Is brainstorming better done electronically or in-person?

    Remote brainstorming is the way to go, and for a host of reasons. Some employees tend to feel that there is more freedom of speech. When the pandemic began, we in consulting had to figure out a different way to work. We adopted a portfolio of tools to ply our trade. We used a brainstorming tool coupled with Teams to facilitate these sessions. These included small sessions as well as large focus groups, and I was amazed by the success of the projects. The capability to capture the raw data, the video, and the audio, was just fantastic. Being able to show audio, video, and a transcription of a session makes this set of tools extraordinarily effective. Visualization is important. Brainstorming shouldn't be limited to words only. Using whiteboards can help teams discover connections between concepts or issues, and that's sometimes where the big breakthroughs happen.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2023

    Is it time for retailers to pay their managers OT?

    I’m sure there is some truth to the statement but typically these managers are eligible for bonus which can more than make up for the discrepancy. Becoming a manager is the first step to senior management and retailers need to show a clear growth path for store management. The best operators I have worked with have come up through the ranks from stores to the home office so I believe bonus compensates overtime with the opportunity to move up the ranks.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2023

    Is it time for retailers to pay their managers OT?

    I’m sure there is some truth to the statement, but typically these managers are eligible for bonuses which can more than make up for the discrepancy. Becoming a manager is the first step to senior management, and retailers need to show a clear growth path to store management. The best operators I have worked with have come up through the ranks from stores to the home office, so I believe bonus compensates overtime with the opportunity to move up the ranks. By the way, with workforce management tools in common use there should be little risk of padded hours.
  • 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

    Ahold Delhaize has this 100% right. Business process should start with the customer, and IT needs to be front and center in making sure the technology serves as the key enabler. Agile development processes are the key to implementing customer focused solutions that matter. The typical waterfall approach has you defining a requirement today and implementing it 12-18 months later when everything may have changed. Retailers don't have anywhere close to even six months to react to trends and act on opportunities. Ground-level, IT-influenced decision-making and initiatives will help win the game. With more than 2,000 stores across almost two dozen brands, the bottom-up approach sounds illogical. But it's the only way to move forward at today's pace. Agile is the only logical solution to that dilemma.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    Do stores have a place as vocational tools inside high schools?

    I see this as an opportunity to give back to the community while improving brand perception and creating a path to retail management. It's a viable alternative for those not seeking higher education. I believe profitability is less important than the brand equity a retailer builds by partnering with the community, it increases the lifetime value of their customer base. That being said, the students should be paid at least minimum wage for any of these jobs. It's only fair.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2023

    Is technology the answer to better customer experiences in grocery stores?

    I think it's a combination of better tech and deeper commitment to staff development. Supermarkets need to address everything from omnichannel integration to data-driven decision making. They can't afford to just pick one area to focus on, so they need to prioritize and then allocate budget and resources as best as they can. For old-fashioned better customer service, product locator gets my vote. I’m constantly baffled by product placement. Is that in the ethnic food aisle or with the rest of the rice? I also believe that a replenishment model could work at the customer level. Simply stated, one that produces a suggested shopping list based on purchase history that can be picked and packed before you arrive to pick your produce, meat, and deli. Long story short, technology can help grocers better their customer experience, but only if they leverage technology in the right way.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

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

    For Hy-Vee and other regional supermarkets, it's all about the unique brand experience. It's refreshing how much focus Hy-Vee is putting on the employee experience, too. These guys get it. You don't get to make the top ten list for grocery chains in the U.S. (Readers' Choice Awards) without doing lots of things right. They're not just adding tech for tech's sake; they're using it to support their business model and brand. Digging a little deeper, Hy-Vee and their competitors face a labor market crunch unlike any other. To combat the challenge, Hy-Vee leverages technology that creates a frictionless environment that not only improves the customer journey but creates an associate-friendly experience as well. Innovations like daily pay and flex scheduling make it easier to work for them. With these solutions comes the challenge of things like controlling shrink and optimizing self checkout, but Hy-Vee appears up to the challenge. 
  • Posted on: 01/30/2023

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

    Flair? Fifteen pieces of flair! For those who haven't seen the 1999 film OFFICE SPACE, think required number of "personalized" buttons the Jennifer Aniston character is supposed to wear at a TGIF-like restaurant. Spoiler alert: she rebels. This is a very slippery slope, and I think Sheetz is on shaky ground if they don’t offer dental insurance. I have experienced this issue earlier in my retail career and I worked with HR to counsel the employee. Giving feedback like this is extraordinarily hard for everyone involved. This is also part of the bigger story: when will retailers start hiring people with the goal of helping them develop a career in retail?
  • Posted on: 01/27/2023

    Is it time for retailers to radically rethink their business models?

    Retailers need to retool their businesses to match the way consumers actually think, shop, and return today. And once they catch up to today, it's time to figure out tomorrow and beyond. It's now more important than ever to be flexible and willing to adapt. BOPIS, curbside, bracketing, drones, Just Walk Out. Nothing in this list fits with the traditional model of retail logistics or traditional shopping habits. Retailers need to step back, figure out what their brand means to their customers, and then rethink how everything in their business should be rearranged to make that work -- and maybe even turn a profit!
  • Posted on: 01/26/2023

    Has it gotten harder to find a top notch retail CEO?

    I think the problem is the type of CEO most retailers choose. Playing musical chairs with current CEOs is a losing game. The next top notch CEOs can rise up from within their current companies or make a diagonal move from elsewhere. Very few CEOs come from the ranks of CIOs, and that is a mistake. Retail today is a tech-based enterprise, yet most CEOs come from the merchant or financial disciplines. So one qualification has to be met: they must understand technology and, more importantly, how it can support their specific retail business. Retailers must invest in infrastructure to compete with Amazon, yet almost all are batch-oriented and not real-time as they are unwilling to make the commitment to invest in the infrastructure necessary to make this dream a reality. Until those investments are made, retailers will continue to cede ground to Amazon.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2023

    Will consumer anger drive down inflation?

    Suppliers are quick to raise prices but slow to drop them back as things settle down, like the price of fuel. As the major component of transportation costs you'd think it would have a ripple effect on consumer prices. Shoppers vote with their wallets, not their rage. But I think there's already a term for an angry mob that refuses to pay full price. It's called looting. In any case, brand loyalty is a powerful force. And that's what's keeping shoppers from switching to lower-priced options.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2023

    Amazon looks to undercut rivals with monthly Rx prescription plan

    Every segment of retail that Amazon sets its sights on is vulnerable with this low-cost juggernaut. Amazon knows it must win the prescription game while Walgreens and CVS compete for in-person medical care. This might be a tough slog, though, with two giants in CVS and Walgreens fighting neck and neck and both competing against Amazon. I believe that, in the end, patient care will win out. The personal touch in stores will remain strong, but Amazon will get their slice of the pie. Imagine the additional wealth of personal information (aka data) Amazon will amass once customers are incentivized to tell all regarding their prescriptions!
  • Posted on: 01/23/2023

    Does retail need a data-based rebuild?

    I believe that every retailer should periodically re-engineer their processes. Many retailers focus on the hiring and organizational, the technology and their processes as separate entities but the reality is that best-in-class retailers harmonize the people, process and technology and look at their organization holistically. Business process management tools that allow you to model, simulate and instantiate change are the building blocks necessary to streamline functions, activities, tasks and steps that allow an organization to reinvent itself.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2023

    Will Lowe’s become birthday party central for kids?

    Yes, this is exactly what retailers should be doing. The kids get a fun experience—and pizza—while Lowe's engages them in the brand and the whole concept of DIY, giving them inspiration for their future. The kids don't get to take their customized bear home after the party, but they do go home with new memories. Not to mention the photos to be shared on social. Lowe's builds its list of parents and perhaps stores the kids' names away until they're old enough to handle the power tools. I see this scaling and becoming an integral part of the Lowe's brand throughout the chain.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2023

    Retailers should be prepping now for economic recovery

    If Dr. Kalish is prescribing investment in technology and focusing on the post-downturn economy, I like those doctor's orders. In this type of environment I would adhere to Warren Buffet’s approach of doing the opposite of the crowd. When we come out of this speed bump, those retailers who have invested in the recovery will seize the day.  Retailers can take advantage of this time to make their operations more efficient and cost-effective. Automation, RFID, and prescriptive analytics are all technologies that can help streamline operations, reduce costs, and provide a better customer experience. But retailers should also be investing in the development of their employees, creating career paths and providing training opportunities to ensure their employees are well-equipped to handle the challenges of the future. I have no idea what Dr. Kalish meant by companies "hoarding employees." Not sure where they're being hoarded, and I hope they're all okay.

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