PROFILE

Mark Ryski

Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Mark Ryski is the author of two books on retail analytics, Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric and When Retail Customers Count – books that are widely considered the definitive reference guides for the retail industry. He is also the Founder and CEO of HeadCount Corporation – the leading authority on retail traffic and conversion analysis. Founded in 1994, today Mark and his dedicated team work with retailers across virtually all categories and sizes from independents to large chains.
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  • Posted on: 11/30/2022

    Can Alexa find a path to monetization?

    Voice shopping will find a place in the market, but I believe it will be small for a very long time. It’s clear that despite significant investments in creating Alexa and devices that use it, and being connected to the most prolific online retailer in the world, Amazon still couldn’t make money at it. The fact is, it’s really hard and that’s part of the challenge -- high cost of development and low consumer usage for shopping means that this endeavor will burn cash, and that’s exactly what’s it’s been doing from the start. Given how much Amazon has invested in this I don't believe that they will give up completely, but they are hitting pause.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2022

    Claire’s sets up shops inside of Macy’s stores

    Stores-within-stores can be an excellent way to build traffic and attract new consumers. But at 21 locations this isn’t more than a small pilot. When you consider that Walmart is planning to expand Claire's to 1,200 locations, I’m not sure how this announcement moves the needle. That said, I do think store-within-a-store can be an excellent strategy for department stores to expand their offerings if you find the right partners.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2022

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

    Off-pricers are in a most enviable position. The heightened promotional activity amplifies their price positioning and so while other retailers battle it out, the off-pricers continue to deliver great results. While there is overlap in off-price and resale, I suspect that the overlap isn’t as great as one might expect so I think we need to look at the segments differently. That said, I think both off-pricers and resale will continue to be strong post-holiday as inflation continues to be a drag on consumer spending.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2022

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

    Price is very important, but the main reason people buy on Amazon is selection and convenience, especially for Amazon Prime members. Price will remain a key consideration for consumers, especially given the still high inflationary pressure consumers continue to face. I see Amazon continuing to push the low price narrative, and Walmart’s aggressive price positioning will ensure Amazon has no choice but to be competitive.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2022

    Black Friday is back as record number of Americans are expected to go shopping

    As our first holiday season substantially post-pandemic, this makes complete sense. Black Friday shopping is a tradition with many consumers, and even people who don’t traditionally do it may want to explore this year as an outing. More traffic will help, but ultimately retailers need to convert that traffic into sales. While it’s hard to predict how this year will stack up given the various head and tail winds, I am cautiously optimistic that this year will be stronger than 2021. Happy holidays!
  • Posted on: 11/22/2022

    How should Mary Dillon reimagine Foot Locker?

    Effective, proven leaders like Mary Dillon are exceptional at finding the direction. Shifting focus to being “consumer-led” may seem obvious, but to make it a strategic direction is a wise move. While it may have seemed at first that the choice of Mary Dillon at Foot Locker was a head-scratcher, it seems like a smart move now. Dillon’s focus on the customer is spot-on and her proven ability to deliver results will be well received by Foot Locker shareholders, customers and employees.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2022

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

    Yes, it makes sense to crack down on serial returners and tighten returns in general. The fact is returns are an endemic profit killer in the industry. And while providing a great customer experience and minimizing risk to shoppers of buying online is important, there’s a significant cost of doing so without some way to regulate it. It has to make financial sense for the retailer and be fair to the consumer. Tightening of returns policies on serial returns will help mitigate the impact, even though it will alienate some customers.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2022

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

    Cultivating new physical stores in-mall is a smart way for Simon and other mall operators to grow new tenants and create a meaningful ecosystem for nascent DTC brands. Translating an online brand into a three dimensional store experience is a big challenge that each brand needs to discover on its own. The fact is there will be lots of trial, error and failure – but that’s the point. It makes good sense for DTC brands to open in malls where they can leverage the existing traffic instead of trying to drive it on their own.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2022

    What price will Target and other retailers pay for their holiday sales promotions?

    Target is a massive enterprise and adjustments take quarters to resolve, not months. Target is still managing down its excessive inventory and this will impact profitability, including in Q4. But let's keep these results in perspective: same-store sales were still up 2.7 percent and they made meaningful progress on markdowns during the quarter. Notwithstanding these adjustments, I remain confident in the leadership and operators at Target.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2022

    Will a strike on ‘Red Cup Day’ get Starbucks to change its anti-union tune?

    It’s clear that Starbucks' labor issues are not resolved. Despite Howard Schultz's efforts, this one-day strike brings national attention to their labor dispute and puts additional pressure on the company. Management has made the decision to take a hard line against unions, and that’s their prerogative. Starbucks needs to resolve these festering issues as it's clear that they are not going away anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2022

    Is durability a more sustainable selling point than sustainability?

    Durability is part of sustainability. Ultimately consumers will interpret these messages from their own point of view, but it doesn’t matter as long as we collectively reduce our environmental impact. There’s no doubt that sustainability has become an over-used and sometimes misused term but words don't matter as much as action.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2022

    Can Walmart hold onto the new, wealthier customers it is picking up?

    Walmart is perfectly positioned for the current market environment, and their results reflect this. Only time will tell if Walmart can retain the new customers that they are attracting, but the first step is to get these new consumers in the door and Walmart is certainly doing that. There's no doubt that some of these new customers will remain Walmart customers in the future.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2022

    Retailers have scaled way back on seasonal help for Christmas

    Given the high level of uncertainty, it’s very reasonable for retailers to be cautious about hiring plans. And while there is no question that frontline staff are key to delivering a great store experience, after two years of tumult caused by the pandemic, I believe consumer expectations for service levels have also moderated somewhat.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2022

    Will retailers use facial recognition tech to reshape store layouts?

    Exactly Cathy. If retailers choose to use this technology for my benefit as a shopper, then disclose it at the front door and let me decide if I'm OK with it. As we're learning with mobile device location tracking, when given a choice most consumers will opt out.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2022

    Will retailers use facial recognition tech to reshape store layouts?

    Sentiment analysis using facial recognition is still largely unproven, but the backlash against the use of facial recognition is gaining traction. I argue that the benefits of using facial recognition in the way described in the article can be acquired without the use of facial recognition. Facial recognition – and other biometric data – is a hot potato, and I recommend that retailers find less controversial, less legally risky ways of acquiring the insights they are seeking.

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