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: 07/30/2020

    What didn’t Jeff Bezos know and when didn’t he know it?

    Ending counterfeit goods is an ongoing challenge, but I don’t think it’s impacted Amazon’s success in any material way. The allegations about competing directly with third-party sellers are more problematic. The fact is, sellers can choose to be on Amazon or not, however, given its size and place in online retailing, the choice for these sellers is difficult: sleep with the enemy (Amazon) or try to go it alone without the massive distribution from Amazon? This is not a new issue, and I was unsatisfied with Bezos’ answers to these questions.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    Will Amazon become the go-to place to buy face masks?

    For now, masks are part of our daily lives and having better access to them is a good thing. If there is one thing Amazon is particularly excellent at, it’s responding to market demand. The Face Mask Store seems to be made for the times we’re living in and I expect Amazon to do very well with it – at least until an effective vaccine is broadly available. If masks are a secret, it’s the worst kept secret ever – this is not about outmaneuvering competitors, it’s about filling a market need.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2020

    Has retail adaptation become more about survival than competitive edge?

    Yes, for many businesses it’s about business survival -- period. When market demand is impacted to the extent that it has been, worrying about competitors is of least concern. Businesses should be focused on their customers and employees first and foremost. Ultimately, a vaccine and/or effective therapeutics will be required for the market to return to some semblance of normality but, even then, I’d expect it to take years to return to the consumer demand levels we enjoyed prior to the pandemic.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    Yes and yes. I believe the lingering effects of the pandemic will be felt for years as the industry recalibrates. Not only will there be fewer employment opportunities in general (notwithstanding pockets of growth), but I think working in retail — especially frontline — has become less desirable. Nothing lasts forever, but this industry will need years to recover.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Best Buy connects strong sales to frontline worker performance

    Investing in frontline employees will make Best Buy stronger, and I’m delighted to see management acknowledge and importantly, invest in their people. For too long, many retailers have under-valued the contribution and importance frontline employees have to the success of the operation. Platitudes are nice, but Best Buy is putting their money where their mouth is, and that makes all the difference.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s shake off its racist branding tag?

    The racial tension in the US is palpable and any brand/retailer that includes an ethic tone is having to do some serious reflecting on how they need to respond in the current climate. Trader Joe’s, like so many others, will need to think carefully about how they manage this, but whatever they do, any modicum of racist branding needs to be expunged, period. While Trader Joe’s response was reasonable, I believe they missed an opportunity to make an even stronger statement.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2020

    Why does it take a crisis for retailers to get innovative?

    Many retailers suffer from institutional inertia and COVID-19 was a shock to the system. This was not a cyclical decline or a soft holiday season, it was the mass shutdown of retailing (along with most everything else). Many retailers are very much still in the throes of survival mode, and innovation is happening as a matter of necessity. Any retailer that successfully navigates the near-term challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and survives had better re-prioritize their digital platforms and services.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2020

    Struggling retailers lay off workers and pay millions in executive bonuses

    Fair points Craig, but the "top quality leadership" are often the same people who were at the helm when the company ran into trouble — they simply retain their "leaders" to help with the wind-down. At that point, these leaders are often as disheartened, disgruntled and angry as most other employees — but they know how the business operates so they're needed to ensure that receivers can maximize the value of the remaining assets or business itself, if there is any. It’s a morbid process. I've recently been on the receiving end of a number of retailer bankruptcy notices — in fact, some from major chains that have been in the news — basically saying, “sorry we owe you money but we’re not paying” and the letter has a four page addendum listing all the law firms involved. Someone's getting paid, but it's not employees or vendors.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2020

    Struggling retailers lay off workers and pay millions in executive bonuses

    Great point Rachelle. In fact, there should be Board liability attached to this. If this became a corporate governance issue that was also connected to Director and Officer (D&O) insurance, that might actually get some attention.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Struggling retailers lay off workers and pay millions in executive bonuses

    These are terrible optics for the front line workers who are literally risking their health and welfare to earn a living. That said, this is not an issue specific to retailing – this is how the corporate world works. The executives at the top always get paid well, regardless of what’s occurring in the business. As long as compensation/payout decisions are made by the people at the top, this will always be the case. What needs to change are bankruptcy laws that allow for this kind activity while employee pensions are cast aside. It’s sad and disgraceful.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    As the CEO of a retail analytics company, I can attest to the erratic patterns we are seeing in store traffic and conversion trends. Historical trends are out the window, and now the key is to remain flexible and monitor trends by day and even by hour. The key consequence of all this is that the interpretation of the data has become significantly more nuanced and complicated, so on top of everything else retailers are dealing with, they also now have to be even more careful with how they use and apply insights from their data.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Are subscriptions a winning strategy to get through the pandemic?

    COVID-19 has been a trend accelerator for subscription services. Given that the pandemic event seems to be one that will linger for some time, I would encourage CPGs and retailers to seriously consider how subscriptions could work in their own context. But while the pandemic has been good for subscription-based services, I believe that this is primarily a result of social distancing and consumers wanting to avoid physical stores, and so some of this behavior may create a headwind for subscriptions once a vaccine or therapeutics have been created.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2020

    What will retail’s back-to-school season look like this year?

    It’s going to be a terribly mixed bag of results for this coming back-to-school season. With school openings and closing happening at the local level, it’s impossible to predict how overall demand for school supplies will be impacted. Retailers should not merely rely upon historical business activity, but instead turn to the daily store traffic and conversion trends as a guide for activity. For this back-to-school, constant monitoring and staying flexible will be key to making the most of it.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond banks on private brands

    Bed Bath & Beyond was in need of a significant reset – pulling this off in the face of a pandemic is a much more challenging task. And since there are so many uncontrollable factors that retailers are dealing with, it’s hard to say if new initiatives are paying off or not at this point. Notwithstanding the tumult, I think Bed Bath & Beyond management are making the right moves. Not only is their focus on private brands a smart play that will breathe some fresh life into the product mix, the generally higher margins private brands enjoy are also welcomed.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

    Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory

    Starbucks along with other forward-thinking retailers are putting safety first. I suspect that Starbucks' customers will be agreeable to the rules and compliance will likely be high. The more prevalent face mask wearing is, the less of an issue this will become. Face mask wearing is becoming normalized, and I suspect the awkward and unhelpful confrontations with people not wearing them will diminish over time.

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