PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 08/10/2022

    Americans turned to food waste apps as grocery prices rose

    Nothing should go to waste, and food waste apps offer a smart alternative. With inflation, grocers are struggling to move all inventory before it goes bad. Same thing for restaurants. Every ounce of food saved from oblivion is a win. I just hope that food banks and charities aren’t pushed out of the mix. Also, labeling these applications as “food waste apps” puts a negative connotation on the product the consumer is buying. Remember when pre-owned vehicles were called "used cars"? Let's hope for a better term, although "Imperfect Foods" is already taken. By law, everything sold by these apps is a clean, consumable product with minor cosmetic damages or approaching its sell-by date.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2022

    Will a new store design turn Abercrombie & Fitch into a getaway shopping destination?

    Good retail is theater, so I applaud A&F's move to elevate the customer experience. But does it go far enough? Experiential shopping creates a bond between friends and the brand that's hard to break if you hit the right notes. Making sure the experience leverages all five senses is key. With Millennial and Gen Z shoppers in particular, it needs to have look AND feel. How about a store concept that encourages random meetups and interactions among customers? In other words, try a lounge setup with board games about A&C's latest products. Then maybe a social component that extends the experience online.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2022

    Walmart goes tiny to reach nature-loving vacationers

    This is a brilliant idea! It's the next frontier for Walmart, but it's hard to believe that Getaway didn't call L.L.Bean, Patagonia, REI and others before calling Walmart. Can this even be called "glamping" if there's a tiny Walmart a few trees away? Also, at $199 to well over $400 a night for the cabin, we're probably not looking at long stays requiring lots of shopping at the ol' general store. Still, having an average of 35 "quaint" cabins clustered around a fake general store will always sound better than sweltering in the big city.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2022

    Will refurbished products deliver ‘good as new’ results for Walmart?

    Everybody loves a bah-gin, as the say in New England. This move is clearly the right one for the retailer and the consumer. The consumer gets said bargain and the retailer gets to resell those pesky returns which can be up to 30 percent or more of the online purchases. With shoppers moving down market in a troubled economy, this will play well. Also, it's more sustainable. They are following in the footsteps of a lot of other retailers, such as Best Buy, who have already found success in becoming more sustainable through offering resellables.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2022

    New stores are opening in malls, inflation or no

    Town centers are the trending success stories of bricks and mortar shopping. Anchored by higher-ed grocers, these are the Disney-like shopping areas that combine chain retailers, chain and regional restaurants, and semi-ample parking. But shorter-term leases and tenants extending their online brands into physical stores in malls? Yes, those will extend the lives of newer malls but probably not save the ones built in the '50s, '60s, and '70s -- no matter how many renovations they've been through. Retailers now know that they have to think in terms of delivery points for shoppers: malls, town centers, and front doors. The key is to have a vision for the future, a good sense for what this delivery mix will be, and the tech and distribution infrastructure to support it.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2022

    Will Amazon deliver same-day results for GNC, PacSun and other retailers?

    Of course retailers will offer same-day delivery via Amazon. It's another bolt-on sales channel, and Amazon will deliver in every sense of the word. Same-day delivery is a great perk for customers. They may not always want it, but it's a huge plus to know it is available. I think this will start a chain reaction and Amazon will add more brands to their platform. Retailers of the world, resistance is futile.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2022

    Dynamic pricing may be ‘stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey’

    Is dynamic pricing the Runaway American Dream? I think it is simply the evolution of pricing. Historically, there have been only two basic forms of pricing. Haggling: No price tags. The vendor starts ridiculously high, the shopper threatens to walk away, they meet somewhere in between. Price tags: A "retail" price is marked down to approximate haggling. In online subscriptions, just cancel and watch the email drip campaign offer lower and lower prices for what you were overpaying for already. Same idea. In retail, we started this game with company pricing, moved to division pricing, leveraged zone pricing (by advertising zone) and store pricing. Customer pricing is the new frontier. What will I pay the Boss? What we're all headed for is actually personalized pricing. All the algorithms you've been feeding data into since the first iPhone came out will essentially read your mind and determine the maximum amount you'll be willing to pay and still think you've gotten a good deal. Okay, this is not the future. It's now. As a retailer, you just need to find the right technology at the right price to do it. See, there's that pricing thing again!
  • Posted on: 07/29/2022

    Kohl’s throws back with Levi’s

    This is a winner, says the guy who has jeans (also called dungarees) older than his kids—who are in their late thirties. Back to the future is the way to go. Kohl's is reaching various audiences with this Levi's move, including previous generations who wore similar styles in the past. Jeans have never gone out of style; the legs just become pegged and then morph into bell bottoms. This is a winning strategy. "Exclusive," "limited time," and "while supplies last" will never go out of style either!
  • Posted on: 07/27/2022

    Can Walmart roll back inflation?

    Just-in-time was broken by the hoarding during the pandemic. Retailers moved to a just-don’t-run-out mentality so, as the supply chain disruptions lessen, markdowns are sure to follow. Walmart's model of "sell merchandise before you have to pay your vendor for it" is also a mismatch in today's out-of-whack economy. Back to markdowns: It's already tough to compete with Walmart on price, so I doubt that markdowns will create a wave of anti-inflationary pricing. In other words, I don’t believe this will do much to blunt the inflation beast, but lower gas prices will.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2022

    Will Target’s ‘stores-as-hubs’ strategy get turbocharged by sortation centers?

    Hello, MFCs and CFCs. Target is calling. This hub-and-spoke concept is definitely the way to go. It has the flexibility to go from stores to sorting facility or reverse and robotically pick from the mini-DC (sorting facility) and ship to the local store for lower-cost delivery. The cost of online orders, with their higher-than-in-store return rates, makes this move an inevitable evolution of people, process, and technology.  Target is a good example of adapting to the new multichannel reality. Online is overtaking in-store, but almost every retailer's infrastructure was built 100% for in-store shopping. Retailers need to step back and map out what their business mix will look like in the future. Step two is to retrofit or retool enough to keep up with orders. Phase three will be to establish a true multichannel system that can flow goods quickly to wherever shoppers want them to be.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2022

    When will supply chains return to normal?

    Everyone's supply chains will return to normal on Friday, September 23, at 3:21 a.m. Eastern time. That's also "Save the Koala Day," by the way. In the off chance that my prediction is off, then here's what I really think about this: We have already been burned by the offshore supply chains, and many retailers and their suppliers are moving to real-time, nearshore or onshore alternatives. It will take years to pull this off, but leaving yourself open to never-ending pandemics and unpredictable political conflicts leaves us no choice.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2022

    Should career retention efforts focus more on ‘squiggling’?

    When I was in line management in retail this "squiggling" idea was what worked. Our best people in IT came from the stores or came to us via a co-op agreement with a university. Retail needs to be a career not just a temp job. The student I hired ended up being the CIO. We need to foster upward mobility. What we're talking about here is getting corporate aligned with store management in a new way. What about offering store managers a bonus for identifying talent that could be of greater value in a "desked" role? (Yes, I just made that up.) Retailers are still struggling to welcome new staff and see them as anything other than short-timers. Maybe if corporate gives managers an incentive and skills to look for future stars, things will start to improve.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2022

    Will more Americans make e-grocery delivery a weekly habit?

    It's clearly decision time for grocery chains and e-delivery. MFCs and CFCs are the only way to compete with the Kroger/Ocado and the Publix/Instacart/Fabric etc. alliances. These robotic pick-pack-and-ship solutions need to be part of everyone’s strategy before it's too late and the giant players squeeze everyone else out.  I've said it before: The way to win customers' hearts with delivery is filling orders accurately, communicating clearly regarding substitutions, and offering shorter and shorter windows for arrival times. To do this, retailers absolutely need to have real-time stock visibility.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2022

    Is luxury retail’s sweet spot?

    The polarization of the economy continues. The rich get richer and everyone else moves to off-price or nothing. Luxury return rates for online fashion sales hover at over 60 percent in many of these brands, yet they still make money. There will always be a strong luxury market that is immune to the volatility of the market. Maybe it’s time for a separate Consumer Price Index for the wealthy. Still, while the luxury retail market is positioned to do better, resale luxury will experience a reality check. Resellable assets, such as designer handbags, luxury watches, or cars, are already experiencing a 10 percent+ decrease since the beginning of the latest interest rate increase. Discretionary spending will decrease eventually, but it will still be higher than pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Posted on: 07/18/2022

    Is closing stores the best solution to Starbucks’ safety concerns?

    Drug addiction and crime are, of course, serious problems. We've seen what is essentially looting and rampant shoplifting for quite some time. As for this move by Starbucks, are other coffee chains experiencing the same issues? Starbucks claims they're moving employees to other locations. But if we go with the de-unionization motive, why would they move a union employee to a non-union shop? Wouldn't this risk inspiring non-union shops to unionize? One thing's for sure, these store closings are news because Starbucks wants them to be news. Let's all hope that life returns to at least semi-normal soon for retailers everywhere.

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