Ray Riley

Chief Executive Officer, Progress Retail
Ray Riley is the Chief Executive Officer of Progress Retail, an operations and learning platform for retailers and brands. Born in Michigan to college professors, Ray rebelled in early 2009, and left college after two semesters to expand a wholesale company he started earlier that year dealing in cell phones, parts, and cellular accessories. Shortly thereafter, he scaled this business into operating wireless retail stores, which continued the course for an entire career based in several functions within the retail industry. His passion lies in the development of front-line retail teams and the convergence of technology within a brick-and-mortar environment. Progress Retail is led by Terry Hawkins & Ray Riley, and is principally headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with an office in Sydney, Australia. To learn more, visit: <a href=""> </a>
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    To furlough or not to furlough?

    There were dozens and dozens of instances where retailers immediately and inhumanely laid off teams as of March 15-16; the onset of the shutdowns. Regardless of the balance sheet realities for any of these companies, the ability to deal with the situation in an empathic manner was lost, in addition to team member good will.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2020

    Should C-suite execs keep their opinions to themselves on store visits?

    On one hand it is critical for retail organizations to develop a resilient, feedback-oriented culture at all levels and roles within the business. On the other hand, if the C-suite is finding themselves critiquing in-store behavior, operations, or execution, they should look internally first, and then at the divisional retail heads, multi-site or district teams that they've employed.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves

    Apple has had third-party products in its store in nearly all categories outside of desktop, phone, and laptop for years, and clearly they identified in the audio category what was working and what wasn't - mind you at full MSRP. They now have an opportunity to introduce product lines reflective of that data that are likely better in quality and higher in margin within their coveted four-wall physical environments.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2020

    Did Amazon just end criticisms about its COVID-19 safety record?

    The level of testing and contact tracing that Amazon (in addition to Apple and even the NBA) has implemented is smart and simply good business. Most unfortunately, the cost of these sophisticated programs are likely prohibitive for other retailers to consider- outside of it being an ethical, moral, and economic imperative.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2020

    What would Walmart do with TikTok if its bid with Microsoft succeeds?

    A move like this bolsters Walmart's value chain, and is their strongest competitive move to date against Amazon. I've been quite critical of their puff pieces in areas of media and streaming entertainment over the last two years, but this provides them with data and insights that traditional retailers simply wouldn't have access to, in addition to the ability to influence consumers prior to even seeing an ad through the development of the platform. Hoping to get more clarity on the terms of this deal between Microsoft and Walmart.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    Considering the positive news regarding vaccine trials in the past two weeks alone, it is realistic that by the end of Q1 2021 things will begin to return to some form of "normal." While the level of retail employment will fluctuate considerably, and likely will trend down for the remainder of the year, the composition of employment is where the focus should be. The re-skilling and retooling needed for roles that will be need to be distributed from front-of-house in order to support the realities of modern retailing: fulfillment, BOPIS, reverse logistics etc. This will also vary considerably category to category.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2020

    Can a socially distanced event launch a sneakerhead hub?

    The dynamics of a pandemic and recession create the perfect stress-testing environment for a retailer to trial a new model. Sneakers and streetwear is a fire-hot category, and the store is in a densely populated area that can guarantee a higher degree of quality traffic than a traditional Tier 1 shopping center launch. Economic conditions will eventually improve, but I'd rather refine my model in challenging times than operate in a false economy like the past few years. (I.e. Instagram DTC fantasy land.)
  • Posted on: 06/11/2020

    COVID-19 is a deal-breaker for Simon/Taubman merger

    COVID-19 is practically a dealbreaker on any merger where the core business activities touch retail. Whether that is Tiffany x LVMH or Sycamore x Victoria Secret -- there's enough legal wiggle room to kill a deal. COVID-19 has accelerated the eventual bulldozing of the bottom 1/4 shopping centers in America that simply aren't productive enough and aren't supporting a healthy halo effect of digital revenue in the areas they serve.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2020

    Should Apple and other stores require shopper temperature checks?

    In a once-in-a-lifetime global health pandemic, public health and economic growth are not mutually exclusive. A lower chance of the virus spreading is good for retailers (teams, healthcare costs, and their families), the healthcare system, and of course customers. The challenges in execution on the front-line in retail stores on the other hand are significant. We've already seen some of the tragic outcomes for front-line retail workers trying to enforce a mask policy.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2020

    Is Amazon about to buy J.C. Penney?

    From a real estate and distribution perspective this makes a lot of sense for Amazon, particularly for last-mile fulfillment in more rural areas. I’d expect Amazon to be looking for lighter pricing reflective of that model, and looking to further develop what could be the retail format shortly thereafter.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2020

    Costco is refusing returns on hoarded items

    It's rare I don't side with the customer, but there's nothing normal about what is going on at the moment. Costco or any retailer shouldn't have to pay for these consumers behaving foolishly.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Burlington Stores walks away from e-commerce

    The move itself makes perfect sense, but how many other other components of a retailer's online presence will Burlington forgo? As I browse the website for a treasure hunt item, can I verify that it is actually in stock and in my size prior to visiting the store? No. Can I purchase the product online with only the option of picking it up in-store? No. Will new arrivals or close-out deals be advertised or displayed on their Instagram page -- with the opportunity to then convert as above? Killing off e-commerce due to the unit economics of their merchandise mix is one thing, but where does that sit within their greater strategy to delight existing customers and attract new ones?
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Will store associates become the ultimate personalization tool at retail?

    Oftentimes training is a “tick the box” item. An “Oh we did that.” kind of thing. In physical retail today where the product has been reduced down to a minimum standard commodity, “training” or better yet “learning and education” needs to become a lot more comprehensive to reflect the modern retail ecosystem we all live and consume within. For example: a basic “steps to the sale” just isn’t enough. Outside of education this includes transparently sharing data from e-commerce and marketing so that their role and their store’s role is reframed in a way that they recognize the significant impact they have. This then begins to address the talent attraction piece which is a story for another day!
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

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

    In specialty retail it is still an uphill climb. Many 100+ store chains are still dealing with legacy POS as a major hurdle - therefore limiting their ability to get a solid read on customer and transactional data. With respect to the other question, I would love to replace omnichannel with just: retail.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2020

    The measured store, version 2.0

    As a baseline, in-store traffic has been beneficial for over twenty years for optimizing labor spend. More recent technologies have added additional layers to this data, but the privacy and regulatory concerns are still an unknown entity as customer in-store behavior is married with marketing and transactional data. So many retailers at various segments have no form of in-store traffic tech, which no doubt means the category will continue to grow. The question becomes for the modern store: are your front-line team members skilled to relate and understand to customers at various stages of their journey to maximize opportunity?

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