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.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2020

    Where are curbside and BOPIS services falling short?

    BOPIS and curbside will be one of the defining features of this year’s holiday winners and losers, and it will come down to one thing: execution. The really challenging part of executing BOPIS/curbside relates to the unique physical challenges each store has. Some stores are simply better suited for delivering these services than others, like providing access to the curb for example. BOPIS and curbside continue to evolve as the pandemic continues to place new constraints on retailers, but the best operators find ways to turn these challenges into competitive advantages.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Can Gap prosper without mall stores?

    I think this is an important step in what will be a long road back for Gap. Pruning the store count just makes sense and so does moving out of malls in order to more easily provide services like BOPIS and curbside, which will definitely remain part of retailing well past the current pandemic. I also think the focus on Old Navy and especially Athleta are smart. Old Navy still delivers solid results and Athleta is one of the few brands that has any chance of taking a bite out of Lululemon’s attractive market.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2020

    Can Target assure customers they’ll be safe shopping for the holidays?

    Yes, and that’s despite all the headwinds created by the pandemic. I think Cornell and his team are spot on to be leading with safety as we move into the busiest shopping season of the year. The pandemic will no doubt dog retailers throughout the season and some shoppers will gravitate to retailers that prioritize safety. Great move Target – I expect that they will be a star of the holiday season.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2020

    Amazon will pay you to know what you bought somewhere else

    Amazon is a data collection machine. But as great at data collection as they are, there are still some things they can’t know without asking. Undoubtedly, Amazon will use the insights to refine their own product mix and pricing. Shopper panels and surveying is old school, but it still provides insights that Amazon can’t get from their sales transaction and other data they collect. I suspect the other sophisticated online marketplace players are doing the same.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    COVID-19 Essentials is a startup designed to end with the pandemic

    Interesting concept, but betting on a permanent impact of COVID-19 and related maladies as a focus seems limited. While there's no doubt the concept makes great sense during pandemics, I question whether there is a bigger/sustainable market for this retail concept. I hope not!
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Whole Foods draw more Prime shoppers with one-hour curbside pickup?

    This new curbside pickup program will draw Prime members to Whole Foods. However drawing customers is one thing, delivering an excellent experience is another. It is vital that Whole Foods executes this well, as shoppers' tolerance for a poor curbside experience is low given the other alternatives available. The key upside for Whole Foods is attracting new customers; the downside is the risk of poor execution turning customers off.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2020

    Will virtual recruiting and onboarding hurt seasonal hiring?

    While there is no substitute for an in-person meeting, I doubt that the quality of seasonal retail staff will be dramatically impacted by virtual hiring/onboarding. Let’s face it, doing things virtually is becoming a way of life, and employers are going to have to find ways to make it work. Ultimately, I believe in-person interviews and onboarding will return to normal, but like so many other things that have been permanently impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I suspect that some elements of virtual hiring will remain.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Retailers need to prep for in-store COVID conflicts

    The situation can be difficult, awkward and even dangerous when people get belligerent. Approaching the situation with empathy is the best approach. Try to understand the customer’s situation and de-escalate as best you can. If the customer is unreasonable, enforce your store’s policies including removal from the store. There are no easy answers for dealing with emotional issues and irrational people. All store staff can do is their best.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2020

    Amazon follows record-setting Prime Day with Holiday Dash Deal events

    Good points Jeff. It's also worth noting that even if online sales increase to offset some of the sales lost in-store, the profitability of online sales is significantly lower. So even a flat comp (which many retailers would take right now in a heartbeat), will look much worse on the bottom line.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2020

    Amazon follows record-setting Prime Day with Holiday Dash Deal events

    Prime Day and the aggressive, early holiday promotions in general, will pull holiday sales forward and spread out the activity over a longer period of time. Given the economic headwinds, I doubt that the sales pie has gotten any larger, so I don’t see the early promotional activity driving a lot of incremental sales when the final numbers are tallied at the end of the season. The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt, and a resurgence will further dampen sentiment and sales.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Macy’s is turning stores dark for the holidays

    I was referring to Macy's use of dark stores for distribution as being problematic as an ongoing strategy. In the short term, I think it's absolutely the right thing for Macy's to do -- what else can they do? I appreciate that Macy's is making the best of their difficult circumstances, but using high priced mall real estate for dark store distribution is not economically viable in the long term.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Macy’s is turning stores dark for the holidays

    Many retailers are in survival mode and so this is a reasonable approach under this circumstance. However it’s a short-term survival tactic only. Macy’s decision to convert stores into dark locations is just that, a short term tactic to try to serve customers through what will be a brutal holiday season for Macy’s. Using high priced mall real estate for dark store distribution is a losing proposition.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond CEO’s turnaround plan may just work

    I am becoming a fan of Bed Bath & Beyond and the decisive, meaningful steps Tritton and his team are making. Unlike other turnarounds where the moves were incremental and modest, it’s clear that Tritton isn’t afraid of making substantial changes. I like where Bed, Bath & Beyond is heading and I encourage Tritton to keep his foot firmly on the gas pedal. There’s still much more to do.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    Walmart has realized that there is big money in services and they’re going after it in the typical Walmart way – low price. In the short-term Walmart’s lower cost service will likely not cause a significant impact with competitors since it will take time for the service to gain traction in the market. However I do think this will gain traction quickly with Walmart shoppers who want low prices, and the extra service of getting their devices installed and setup. I believe that this will eventually be a big win for Walmart.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    Staples to accept returns from other stores

    I agree Jeff. It all makes perfect sense, until you start to consider the real cost/benefit of acting as a returns depot for others. Not only is there a cost of processing the returns, but what about the lost opportunity cost of not serving actual Staples customers because staff are preoccupied with returns processing? No doubt this effort will increase store traffic, but more traffic has only nominal value unless it can be converted into a sale.

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