PROFILE

Ken Morris

Retail industry thought leader

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: 02/25/2020

    Amazon goes bigger with its cashier-less store concept

    The ROI for a store requiring this amount of technology today isn't sustainable on any large scale but like all technology the cost will come down over time. I applaud Amazon for leveraging their tech savvy heritage and their acquisition of the premier grocery retailer in the country. The big issue is shrink in these locations and not all zip codes are created equal. This can't scale in an America that has the economic imbalance we have today. Someone has to mind the store.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2020

    What are the biggest barriers to AI adoption for retailers?

    I think a big problem is the definition of AI. Some definitions seem to essentially be "AI is whatever hasn't been done yet." So what exactly are we talking about? Self-checkout is a process and to me not AI, to give one example. The biggest stumbling block to real AI in retail is the legacy applications that support retail today and their siloed architectures which make integration with natural language, robotics and machine learning a daunting challenge. Retailers need to create unified platforms that make this transition possible rather than trying to satisfy the need for hype with robots that sit on top of tech silos and just roam the aisles with little functionality.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    What does it take to make collaboration work within organizations?

    Equality is the most important factor to make collaboration work. Whenever I have worked with a retailer I have always leveraged ideas from the total organization and not just management. Equality is stifled because of the rigid hierarchy and need for management control. Frequently our teams are prevented from soliciting total organizational input and need to resort to surveys to collect what are frequently breakthrough ideas. Retailers need to leave their rigid hierarchies behind and embrace equality.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Should retailers scale hyper-localized store elements chainwide?

    I believe retailers need to hire local influencers. People who are wired into their local scene. Retail is theater and hiring creative local directors and actors will be the key to a successful performance.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Will store associates become the ultimate personalization tool at retail?

    Associates are invaluable in making the in-store experience work but not all associates are created equal. We have a unique opportunity to leverage technology and process to transform a poor performer into a outstanding one. By capturing the expertise of an “A” player and using technology to offer that to entry level associates we enable them to delight the customer and increase sales. Furniture is a segment that has embraced the real-time retail concept given the complexity of the transaction where there is no scan and bag but more order management. Marrying the online visit with the in-store experience offers an unbeatable customer journey that cannot be duplicated in the online world. This is true retail theater with the associates being cast members.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    I am a Peapod shopper on Cape Cod and I wasn't even aware of the BOPIS option. I believe this Midwest closure has little to do with BOPIS and everything to do with attachment to the brand and the cost of delivery. Stop & Shop and Hannaford have a loyal following in New England, they have many distribution centers and hundreds of stores. I believe their routes are more economical given the logistics involved with more compact geography and number of distribution options (stores and distribution centers). This would allow them to be more efficient and more competitive in markets where they own retail real estate.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?

    We coined the phrase unified commerce a few years ago along with real-time retail, omnichannel retail and harmonized retail, but I agree it’s all just retail today. Some customers want a frictionless experience where others want a hands on friction-full experience and frequently the same customer prefers a different experience from the same brand each visit. We need to be flexible enough to accommodate our customers wherever, however and whenever they wish in a manner they want each time they engage. It’s not easy but the rewards are worth the effort.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2020

    Will Staples’ new concept Connect with small business owners?

    I believe Staples can succeed with this concept. The idea of incorporating the coworking space can work for them because the economics are different if you already own and are repurposing the real estate. Working from home can be a challenge for many of us. Virtual companies in the services space are thriving in the new economy but the home office has its challenges and I see this as a potential alternative to the home office that would be low cost, well-stocked and convenient for most workers.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why isn’t voice commerce taking off?

    I believe the biggest issue is privacy. People don't feel they are secure if something in their home facilitates the invasion of their privacy. You wouldn't allow people to physically enter your home, so why would you allow them to virtually do the same? From a shopping experience perspective frictionless commerce is the goal, but few of us trust that the nuance required when making a purchase can be accomplished without a visual element. We will get over this eventually, but for non-commodity purchases this will take some time.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?

    Quality product, impeccable customer service, value and social responsibility are keys to a thriving retail enterprise. This never changed. From brick-and-mortar, to catalog, to web and mobile sales these have always been the constants. You earn trust by living and breathing these core concepts every day regardless of channel. Pay a living wage, staff appropriately, allow frictionless returns, understand where, how and by whom your product is produced and create an entertaining customer journey. It's back to the future.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2020

    Can a new off-price retailer find treasure without opening stores?

    I believe there is space for an off-price e-commerce brand but whether it will be Cara Cara remains to be seen. The challenge here has always been inventory accuracy. Off-price doesn't have complete size runs and styles but a mix that is tracked at a department/vendor vs. stock keeping unit (SKU). That makes for an inventory accuracy nightmare in an online world that demands accuracy. Another challenge is returns, which can run at 25 percent to 35 percent in online fashion sales. You need to maintain a healthy margin to sustain a business with these metrics. I think discovery and treasure hunt are synonymous, just ask the conquistadors.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2020

    Is Forever 21 a wise investment for its new mall landlord owners?

    They will need to listen to professional advice, hire retail pros and put their egos aside. The failure here was clearly avoidable but sometimes founders can't transition. If the bid is finally won by Simon, Brookfield and Authentic then much of the debt and future liabilities will be wiped out, the mall owners will gain control of the space and hopefully repurpose that space to change the mall journey to be more experiential, more theater. Maybe the future of the mall looks more like the newly opened American Dream mall in New Jersey where half the space is entertainment and not retailing, a shift from buying things to feeling them according to Amanda Hess in the Sunday New York Times.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2020

    IKEA makes a data promise to its customers

    I agree with the IKEA strategy. Coming from Europe, where they are guided by strict privacy laws, this is leveraging existing standard operating procedures. I also believe that privacy will be legislated in the U.S. as it is in Europe in the next few years. What I like about IKEA’s approach is its simplicity. By giving consumers an easy to understand privacy dashboard they are being transparent in a world of obfuscation.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Will a resale shop deliver bigger sales for Nordstrom?

    I believe it is a great move by Nordstrom to win over a segment of shoppers who believe in sustainability and truly care about the planet. People make investments in clothing and can't always afford full retail price. That is proven by the incredible success of off-price retailers like Ross and TJX. This move will allow people to mix and match their wardrobe with classic pieces and fast fashion or off-price finds to create a sophisticated look at a reasonable price. Department stores need to innovate to succeed in this new retail paradigm and Nordstrom is doing just that.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2020

    Will 2020 be the year of less flash and more substance for in-store tech?

    I sure hope they will return to the basics, rid themselves of the silos of technology, process and organization that plague retail and move to a real-time cloud based "platform" to change the customer journey. As mentioned above, for every point increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS), Carrefour sees a 20 million euro jump in store sales. That is huge, and being able to interact with the customer in real time with marketing, sales, inventory, and pricing will give retailers the opportunity to change the journey, increase customer satisfaction and beat Amazon at their own real time game. Stores need to be connected in real time, not have their sales, inventory and customer information retrieved tonight and reviewed tomorrow. You can't win the game today by looking at it tomorrow when the game is over.

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