PROFILE

Roy White

Editor-at-large, RetailWire

Roy White has covered the mass market retailing scene for several decades, initially as the editor of Drug Store News and then with Perspectives Group, Inc. He was also vice president of education for the Global Market Development Center for nine years.

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  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Has Rite Aid found the right prescription for growth?

    Although we’ve all been through several resets of Rite Aid over the years, the initial results of this iteration look good. Current Rite Aid results are much better than CVS's, for example. But there are caveats. For example, the sheer number of stores and dollar sales of CVS and Walgreens tends to swamp competitors; indeed that was one of the reasons Bartell sold out to Rite Aid. CVS and Walgreens units are more productive in sales dollars. CVS has a much more robust pharmacy services segment. At the same time, another loss is predicted by Rite Aid for the current fiscal year. So, while Rite Aid’s restructure -- especially promoting the interaction of the pharmacist with the patient, and the store make-over especially in beauty and the rebranding -- is extremely positive, the chain has a long way to go before it achieves full recovery.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    What’s behind the Amazon/SpartanNash deal?

    From Amazon’s point of view, this is a pretty good deal. For not a lot of money (for Amazon, anyway), it’s getting major reach in food distribution, over 150 supermarkets, the military market, and a solid addition of high-quality store brand capability. SpartanNash gets huge opportunities of being closely aligned with Amazon, opportunities that it has the ability to take advantage of. The grocery wholesaler is a major player and its first half numbers were quite good and showed substantial sales and profit growth. Time will tell if Amazon’s stake in the company works out since Amazon can sometimes be a tough company to work with.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2020

    Will Dollar General win over higher-income consumers with its new store concept?

    Dollar General has been quite successful by making sure that they are exactly who they are: providing reasonably priced merchandise to people who have to stretch a paycheck in accessible locations where no one else goes. This format has given DG gross margins in the 30 percent range, net-to-sales ratio of around 6-9 percent, phenomenal growth rate in sales and the ability to afford an amazing store expansion pace. While the popshelf format does emphasize private label, the merchandising excitement projected by this interesting experiment, as well as the higher income bracket that is the target audience, moves away from the highly effective, very successful original vision that looks to be perfect for the post-COVID-19 world. popshelf shifts DG away from who it really is and may not prove to be a winning strategy.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2020

    Online to make up 21.5 percent of grocery’s sales in five years

    Whether it’s 15 percent, 21.5 percent or 25 percent, it doesn’t make a difference. Online selling is not going to get smaller, will become an important, sizeable portion of retailers’ sales, and will force changes in how mass market chains function. The role of the brick-and-mortar store will depend on how they evolve with new technology, such as that outlined in yesterday’s post on Amazon Woodland Hills, to restore their ability to draw traffic.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2020

    Amazon Fresh grocery store opens touting low prices and cashier-free checkout

    In a way, this store is a little bit of a disappointment. While the actual store itself displays many developments that may tell us what supermarkets of the future may be like – Dash Carts, casherless checkout, etc. — the Dematic-automated microfulfillment center is apparently manual. That’s an important part of supermarketing in the future. Nonetheless, everyone should take a careful look at this unit’s front end which has Amazon’s technology now installed in a real supermarket of some 35,000 square feet. How it performs in the next year will give us some important lessons on how grocery retailing may evolve.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    Will Big Lots continue to stand out after the pandemic?

    The pandemic has perhaps made the home much more important in Americans’ minds as well as their lives. And it’s going to stay that way with the likely continuation at a high level of working remotely. Big Lots’ timing was good. In 2019, the retailer introduced new furniture lines, lease-to-own-financing, Operation North Star strategic transformation and new store designs. Furniture was already a high-scorer in sales growth, while consumables lagged in FY2019. Now the chain is benefiting nicely from the pandemic-caused interest in the home, and that will probably continue.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2020

    Will other booksellers follow Powell’s in just saying ‘no’ to Amazon?

    Powell’s has likely made the right decision. While Amazon’s marketing reach is truly seductive, it’s no picnic for a third party seller to use its site. When a consumer selects a third party seller, a lot of alternatives appear on the screen. At the same time, third party sellers are subjected to a great deal of control. Amazon’s newer search algorithms are apparently calibrated to favor Amazon products. Amazon also gets to access the sales data. Amazon is concerned with developing its customers, not the sellers.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Should grocers go full steam ahead on new store openings?

    New stores are the lifeblood of retail. However relative to grocery retailers, the marketplace was already overstored prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has introduced an enormous number of consumers to online shopping. The role and format of the store may be changing. Unless a retailer has an unstoppable low-cost, low-price format, new brick-and-mortar units should be carefully considered in light of innovation, altered consumer shopping patterns, and the requirements for developing an online business. Less may be more in the post-pandemic era.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2020

    Walmart keeps growing and growing and …

    The key elements of this earnings report are the substantial gains in online business and the consolidation of the store and online teams into a single omnichannel operation. In the future, the online business gains won’t be quite as large as the stores come back on stream more fully, but they will be bigger than they were pre-COVID. Walmart’s digital sales are now well established. The management moves tell us that the chain continues to move deeper into a hybrid online/traditional retail mode, a necessary development for the future health of the retail business. Net-net, this earnings report says that Walmart looks very much like it’s going to lead mass market retailing into a new era.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2020

    Will Amazon install distribution hubs in malls across America?

    The opportunity now being presented to mall operators as retail store lights go out across the country is part of a larger decision that many mass market retail channels will face over the next several years: how to serve a growing online business. Do you construct central fulfillment centers or micro-fulfillment centers frequently based on stores? Amazon does both. Kroger has also gone the central fulfillment center route with Ocado, but many supermarket chains such as Albertsons are opening micro-fulfillment centers in conjunction with their stores. Mall operators can validly look upon this as a business opportunity. The process of coping with online business is just starting and perhaps mall operators may benefit by actively participating with retailers in resolving this issue. Many of the stores aren’t coming back but retailers are now seriously grappling with digital selling.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2018

    New CEO focused on keeping the Dunkin’ brand relevant

    You can’t argue with success. In the most recent fiscal year, revenues (with the biggest share being franchise fees and royalties) rose 4 percent and income before taxes increased 8 percent. However, the coffee-based marketing may not be the perfect solution. During fiscal 2017, sales growth at Dunkin' Donuts U.S. was driven by breakfast sandwiches. Beverage sales were flat. Iced coffee, helped by cold brew, grew, but there was a decline in hot coffee. First quarter sales and profits continued to rise although modestly, with one of the big growth drivers being the breakfast sandwiches.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2018

    Nordstrom opening more Local stores without inventory

    That Nordstrom is opening more inventory-less Local neighborhood hubs is a highly positive development and appears to confirm the success of the initial store. Long term, it is another step in breaking the mold of the traditional store and replacing it with something exciting and different which is aimed at creating a new shopping dynamic for shoppers that no longer respond to the old format.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2018

    Abercrombie & Fitch goes to college with a new store concept


    It is highly laudable, indeed necessary, for retailers of all channels to replace the tired store concepts of the past that no longer provide the performance to survive in the 21st century. In the case of this new Abercrombie & Fitch unit in particular, the omni-functionality interplay is excellent, especially the interactive screens enabling customers to shop the entire site and move items added to their carts to in-store registers for checkout. However, the experimental store might have been more cutting edge had more technology been involved in the design, along with the marketing efforts.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2018

    Toy City pop-ups look to fill the gap left by Toys ‘R’ Us

    This is as much about the changing nature of retail as it is about filling the retail toy vacuum. Not only are traditional retailers, such as Walmart and Target (plus a start-up with toys and baby products under one roof) seeking to move into the space left vacant by the demise of Toys "R" Us, but now a different kind of operation is entering this arena. Party City not only operates with pop-ups, it’s also a vertically integrated manufacturer, distributor, franchiser and retailer. It has over 900 units globally. It achieved nearly $2.4 billion in sales last year, generated net profits equal to 9% of sales and its retail business operates on 44% gross margins. In the first quarter of this year, sales grew 7 percent and profits 14 percent. The toy retail market looks like it’s going to assume a completely different shape than before.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2018

    CVS looks to one-up Walgreens, other rivals with nationwide Rx deliveries

    This will undoubtedly strengthen CVS’s competitive position and reinforces the chain’s persona as a healthcare provider offering a very broad menu of services. Like supermarket checkouts, prescription lines at the in-store pharmacy counter are a pain and, I’m guessing, even with the fee it will be a popular benefit. It also appears CVS can afford it: In the first fiscal quarter, the corporation’s retail segment generated a 13 percent increment in operating profits on a 6 percent gain in sales. Moreover, this segment operates with pretty healthy gross margins of 29 percent. As for the issue of not getting that valuable prescription customer into the store, the front end now only accounts for less than a quarter of store sales and about 12 percent of total corporate sales. If a drug store retailer wants to set itself up to counter Amazon, this is one way to do it.

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