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: 12/08/2022

    Will Santa place grocery gift cards under the Christmas tree this year?

    Gift cards are huge. I mean, yes, they're exactly gift card size. But they're big business, and especially good for retailers because the cash comes in up front. Recent studies show that almost half of U.S. adults are leaving money on the table with unused gift card credit in their wallets. A stack of cash doesn't have a logo and festive holiday designs on it, though. If we're going to go all in on the "practical" side of gifting, how about a gift card that tracks with inflation? You know, it's pegged to the CPI. Lots of shoppers would just hold them until they think they're worth double! Really, is there anything more impersonal than a grocery gift card? Gift cards require zero thought and, to me, are a lazy person's holiday gift. I think I would prefer coal over the grocery gift card, because at least I could heat my house with it. 
  • Posted on: 12/07/2022

    Will persistent theft compel Walmart to raise prices or close stores?

    It's highly unlikely that Walmart will close stores because of theft problems. I can't see how that makes any sense economically. So, I see a couple of ways that Walmart can deal with theft which, left unchecked, could eventually lead to stockouts and shortages. With fraudulent returns running at 10 percent of all returns, Walmart should implement serialized returns, leveraging RFID. Serialized inventory makes every item sold unique so that thieves can't return what was not bought in a Walmart. They could also implement RFID-enhanced LP, leveraging gates and video to capture theft on camera. Thieves will steal from someone else if they are being filmed. Walmart has the resources to adjust for higher inflation and higher theft at the same time. As for having their hands tied when dealing with shoplifting, yes, this is long overdue for being addressed.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2022

    Is online grocery shopping a guy thing?

    I don’t agree with the study's findings. It certainly isn’t true in my home. It feels like this finding is similar to election polling, which has been off quite a bit in recent years. Are they calling land lines to collect this data? I would love to see the collection methodology, but maybe I’m just an outlier. As for the in-store shopping analysis, I'd love to see more detail, especially info on how long it takes men vs. women to make buying decisions when they're in front of a shelf of options. I also think men and women have different reasons for ordering groceries online — and for choosing to go to the store. This is generalizing, but many men might not care as much about making choices while in the store. Whatever the store delivers will be good enough. Of course, gender doesn't matter when it comes to at-home chefs who want every ingredient to be perfect!
  • Posted on: 12/05/2022

    Is it time for Publix to scale its Greenwise Market concept?

    For the life of me, I'm not sure why Publix has been slow on the uptake with this concept. I first experienced the Greenwise concept when they opened in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It was essentially their version of a Whole Foods and it always drew a wide audience. This location might not have been the best, as I see success with this format being all about the demographics. Palm Beach or Jupiter are much better candidates. Just follow the leader here and open where Whole Foods has built the clientele.  By the way, Publix could probably scale its number of Greenwise locations substantially, based on these numbers. But they'd need to be careful with cannibalization with their larger format stores, which are already on every other corner in Florida. Another thing that intrigues me about this is that shoppers spend more time in the smaller format Greenwise stores than in the larger ones. Maybe there's some insight here that can be transferred to the larger stores.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2022

    What drives social influencers’ abilities to influence purchases?

    For retailers, there's another important thing to keep in mind. Keep your shoppers on your site as much as possible and provide content for them so that they do not have to go out to social to gather information about your products. Being genuine is the most important factor. Brand fit is a close second. What good are followers who don’t represent the brand? I would also look to create a diverse set of influencers who represent the client base as a whole.  I think the key takeaway here is that social needs to be engaging and at a comfortable pace.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2022

    Walgreens rolls out 24/7 delivery and parents with sick kids do the happy dance

    Walgreens is not competing with Amazon on price, so offering night-time delivery is a smart move. The late-night snack business combined with the OTC goods will be huge, if they can make the logistics work. I noticed that there's no delivery price mentioned, only a short window for free with the $20 minimum. Also a clever approach to gauge demand patterns. Walgreens will be viewed much like the doctor who made house calls. They will become a trusted healthcare provider that your family depends on. The only challenge is that it won’t be available from all locations. This is a tremendous value to their customer base and will push CVS to match their service. 
  • Posted on: 11/30/2022

    Was the high-traffic Thanksgiving weekend a promise of things to come?

    I think the Thanksgiving sales are a trend for the holiday season and beyond. Consumers are spending and clearly think that, despite the inflation fears, the economy will survive. The survey number that might mean the most is the return to in-store shopping. Of course this is what drives impulse shopping, upselling, and cross-selling -- all things that push up the top line for retailers. The jobs are there and finding people to fill them is more of a challenge. This is a weird time but, if you were an investor, the safe bet is still the U.S. vs. Europe, Africa, or Asia. 
  • Posted on: 11/29/2022

    What does the promotional climate mean for off-pricers and resale?

    I believe that off-price will thrive in the current economy. Uncertainty generates sales in off-price and we are clearly in an environment with rising interest rates and lower market returns. Look for off-price and resale to thrive in the coming months and perhaps years. The blip in overstocks for full-price retailers is a holiday bubble. They will heavily discount to move the merchandise but should return to their normal cadence by fall 2023. In other words, they got in-season merchandise delivered late because of the supply chain disruptions and needed to execute a pack-away strategy, but this should be used up by the end of next year's fall season. As for thredUP, we can't discount (pun intended) the price pressure they're seeing from other second-life online clothing brands—which now includes Goodwill. Nothing like some healthy competition in a red hot shopping segment to get creative with improving logistics, merchandising, and ways to boost conversions!
  • Posted on: 11/28/2022

    Is being the low price leader critical to Amazon’s ongoing success?

    It isn't just price as there are a number of other factors driving traffic to Amazon. The two biggest are ease of shopping and, of course, shipping. With shopping, one click is the standard, and few can match the Amazon juggernaut. We needn’t talk about same-day, next-day and free shipping. The Amazon Prime renewal rate of 98 percent among longtime members is nothing short of astronomical. Returning to price, some back-of-the envelope math suggests that Amazon might keep its price advantage to the end of this decade overall, but it's clear that challengers like Chewy will force Amazon to cut margins to keep competing on price in certain categories.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2022

    The direct-to-consumer kitchenware brand Our Place gets physical

    If Our Place can compete on price, they have a chance to thrive where other premium kitchenware brands have not. The experiential concept for stores sounds like a good recipe for success (pun intended)! I would choose the old catalog method to expand their brand to brick-and-mortar. Find out where their online customers reside and open stores in the zip codes where their customer density is greatest.  Also, they might want to allocate some budget to acquiring the domain (vs. the they use now). The shorter domain is definitely being held for ransom, but might be worth the spend.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2022

    Will cracking down on serial returners solve retailers’ return problem?

    Bracketing is possibly the number one reason for clothing returns. Shoppers still have trouble guessing the best size for them. Pair that with making returns painless and, abracadabra, you've got astronomical return rates. But shutting off serial returners is not necessarily the answer for clothing. The solution is to provide a way for getting the right fit — for whatever body type — to reduce the "need" for bracketing. I believe in a multi-discipline approach to the returns challenge. Online returns for clothing brands are frequently over 30 percent, which I believe is directly related to sizing issues. We need a better way to address the problem. One way we are addressing this is via AI and user-generated content (UGC). Another solution may be RFID using serialized inventory, and drop-and-go returns to speed the process and lower the cost. 
  • Posted on: 11/18/2022

    Simon says digital native brands can find a home in its malls

    Given the return rates for pure-play digital-native brands, stores give them an opportunity to allow the customer to use more of their five senses to cement the brand in their minds. Warby and Bonobos appear to have successfully made the shift, but they are not scan and bag. I believe the best play is still cash and carry. One of the biggest challenges that online only brands will face in malls is the almost complete lack of shopper behavior and activity data coming from the stores. Online, they're used to seeing dashboards and heat maps that give them constant insights into what works and what doesn't. In the stores, they'll need to rely on store, managers and associates to make this work. Oh, and find store managers and associates, too.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2022

    Local artists now have their own retail holiday

    Local restaurants have been showcasing local artists forever, often letting customers buy artwork straight off the wall. Just like the locavore movement with food, so too should the same hold true for artists. Supporting your local arts scene will drive store traffic. I see this as a win for the customer, the artists and the retailer. Let's not forget that each of these artists is trying their hardest to survive as a business owner while producing their art. Not easy, so this type of partnership can be quite powerful. I think this is one way for big brands to stay fresh and relevant, too. Otherwise, it's too easy to have their creative agencies essentially guessing at how to express their brands through art at a local level. I'm not so sure why picking Sunday was the best idea for this day, though. I understand that it's sandwiched between Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, but Sunday has never been the biggest day for retail. Though any day is better than none!
  • Posted on: 11/16/2022

    Is durability a more sustainable selling point than sustainability?

    My vote is with durability, as it is synonymous with both quality and sustainability in my mind — which can be somewhat warped, in the opinion of some. I always buy durable products, but some of my footwear is older than my children who were born well before the millennium. Anyway, with circular economy life extension widely available, for clothing in particular, durability can basically multiply an item's sustainability factor. I'm all for it. By the way, price and free shipping will always be top of mind for online shoppers. Product availability ranks high, too. If you can't buy it, durability doesn't matter.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2022

    Will two digital-first concepts prove more successful than one for Panera Bread?

    The push into smaller footprint concepts makes total sense for Panera. I'm not going to bet on either concept winning the digital-first race, because they both leverage momentum in digital sales while solving multiple limitations: workforce and urban real estate. Panera has found a way to expand their reach to various target audiences while continuing to stay within their brand. 

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