Shikha Jain

Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Shikha is a Senior Director in the Boston office.

Since joining Simon-Kucher in 2012, Shikha has specialized on all topics related topline growth. Her portfolio of clients spans the B2C world within consumer goods, durables, cosmetics, fashion/apparel, grocery, consumer services, consumer internet and luxury goods. Shikha works with C-level executives to find solutions for effective go-to-market strategies across price strategy and optimization, portfolio architecture, promotional effectiveness, consumer segmentation and value proposition and revenue management organization creation. While her work has been primarily in the US, she has experience across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Shikha graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in strategy and marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics from Smith College. Prior to her MBA, Shikha was an Analyst for a global investment bank focusing on M&A and capital markets advisory.

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Shikha Jain is a Partner based out of Boston. Her primary focus is on everything B2C from packaged goods, durables/discretionary purchases, consumer services, retail including fashion/apparel, grocery etc. The topics she covers are commercial excellence, portfolio architecture, monetizing innovation and new products, value creation through pricing and promotions as well as anything else that touches topline growth.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Is Walmart about to become the king of online resale retailing?

    We can learn a thing or two from thredUP partnerships that have already been attempted with other retailers. Markdown retailers like TJX benefit more from hosting resale platforms than classical department stores like Macy’s or JCP. The keys here are consumer audience and brand fit: those who already make a habit of buying things at less than full price are more likely to spring for preowned items. For this reason, Walmart, which associates itself with affordability and getting high value items for a steal, could have the right shopper demographic for a successful thredUP partnership, at least in the short term. If this works, resale partnerships with big box stores could be the new Starbucks inside grocery stores. Soon, Millennials and Gen-Zers may expect to be able to find a secondhand section at most large retailers. The opportunity for resale growth is wide open, and secondhand retailers will need to seize it. Traditional retailers will have to get on board to keep the attention of sustainability-minded shoppers, while ensuring brand fit in the assortment they take on.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2020

    Is Kohl’s a stronger retailer as it reopens stores?

    I think Kohl’s was in a position where they had nothing to lose in pulling out all the stops to move inventory, and fortunately it paid off. I applaud their alacrity in putting a crisis response strategy into motion. Additionally, they’ve taken key learnings away about the importance of digital. No store at the scale of Kohl’s can survive without ongoing investment in ecommerce and omnichannel strategies in this day and age, especially after the catalyst of the pandemic. Vis-à-vis competition, they have a lot to live up to in supermarket giants Target and Walmart. It’s hard to argue that anyone is in a better position than those, and Kohl’s has some catch-up to do, but the last quarter has made a good case for keeping them in the game.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Will face masks be a lifeline for apparel retail?

    Waste not, want not. First, don’t waste perfectly good materials. Repurposing unsold fabrics is a move toward sustainability that resonates with consumer values and in turn creates brand loyalty. Second, as Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is about meeting consumer needs in a unique way and in no way about price gouging. Retailers find four opportunities in this emerging market for a necessity-turned-accessory:
    1. Branding: We’re already seeing the rise a whole new category that will run the full spectrum, from pop culture-inspired masks from entertainment houses to luxury masks from high-end designers. It’s an excellent branding opportunity.
    2. Personalization: Consumers will want their masks to match their style and even to bear some kind of personal branding that is unique to them.
    3. Range: The more they have to wear masks, the more consumers will demand options. This is a chance for retailers to provide the assortment of face masks that people didn’t know they needed, and even to distinguish themselves with special features, like “breathable” or “adjustable.”
    4. A Greater Cause: Face masks aren’t just a chance for retailers to grow their businesses; they’re an opportunity to grow their impact by contributing to the cause and supporting frontline workers.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Wegmans breaks price increase news to its customers

    Wegmans is following the Golden Rule for communicating price increases - don't just state the what, explain the why. In a pre-COVID-19 world, grocery shoppers were fairly savvy on prices for their everyday items like milk, eggs, bread, etc. but not so much for the less frequent items. However, in the social distancing digital world, transparency makes comparing prices very easy. Once loyal shoppers that are cash constrained are now evaluating which retailer will give them the most value for price. Communicating a price increase is always a double-edged sword, but if it has to be done then follow the Golden Rule like Wegmans. Furthermore, they are being very clear that the increase is not a blanket across the entire store but surgically implemented based on supply chains being overwhelmed.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Has the pandemic transformed Walmart into an unstoppable force?

    Walmart’s success stems from a structure focused on 1.) consumer needs and 2.) an omnichannel strategy. Meeting customer needs has always been top of mind for Walmart and this, coupled with an unmatched cost position, has served them well. Take Express Delivery — it met a need, took off, and is now a growing, in-demand service. The omnichannel focus adds to this by providing the convenience shoppers are looking for, with the added benefit of thereby winning their loyalty in an environment where macro-economic factors are instilling financial anxiety. Given the positive trends in the face of crisis and Walmart’s extraordinary demonstrated adaptability to the market situation, we shouldn’t be surprised if the YOY gains continue beyond the pandemic.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2020

    Is Amazon about to buy J.C. Penney?

    From a go-to-market and commercial perspective only (i.e. excluding all the back-end operations and logistics), there are several potential benefits to such a partnership.
    1. For both. Brand fit. Both brands largely stand for getting the best price and best price-value so they already have an overlap in their consumer base for apparel.
    2. For Amazon. Assortment. Not only is Amazon trying to build out their clothing product lines at low prices, but they’re also attempting to enter the world of fashion (for instance, by sponsoring the show Making the Cut and selling winning designs on the Amazon website). They currently lack depth in this area; J.C. Penney can offer higher quality products and an established reputation that many of their sellers in this sector cannot.
    3. For J.C. Penney. Omnichannel experience. Amazon can accelerate J.C. Penney's e-commerce and omnichannel presence. As a natural result, customer experience and loyalty will be heightened. A great analog is Whole Foods whereby Amazon is providing the extreme convenience that select shopper segments were looking for.
    It could end up being a win-win as Amazon broadens their range in categories, and J.C. Penney is given the ability to meet current consumer demands and needs.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    The new normal will look a lot like the old normal

    Specifically for #2: I do expect to see an uptick in home delivery, BOPIS, and curbside pick-up; grocery retailers will just have to figure out a more cost-efficient system as many are still cautious about returning to old habits. However, BOPIS and curbside alone won’t be enough; an even more important aspect is customer experience and loyalty. Amazon has mastered this really well and small DTC companies are beginning to replicate best practices. For example, Whole Foods can show you what you recently bought, what people in your area are buying. Kroger’s app allows shoppers to scan and check out items as they go to avoid the checkout line. Adaptive convenience elements like this are what win consumers over. Online digital shopping furthermore provides a goldmine of data that grocers must tap into in order to increase CLTV not just for now, but in the new normal as well.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2020

    Americans are shopping more impulsively online

    Americans are presently deprived of many of the things that bring them fulfillment and a sense of purpose: gathering together, participating in events, even the ability to run normal errands and feel like an active, productive member of society. So where else would a housebound, consumeristic society turn to try and fill that hole but to online retail? On one hand, people have more time on their hands to invest in hobbies or projects they’ve been putting off, try new products, or just browse their favorite sites. On the other hand, impulse buying “useful” household items is even more justifiable -- people feel good about themselves for snagging that discount and thinking ahead. Online shopping is one of the few things that can hold consumers’ attention right now, but that will soon change as restrictions are gradually lifted, particularly with the warm summer months ahead. They won’t feel the same need for those items they were purchasing for. Their time and energy will slowly shift back to the more fulfilling activities of normal life, and the challenge for retailers will be to find ways to keep that attention and draw consumers in to a post-pandemic commitment.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2020

    PepsiCo launches direct-to-consumer sites for its brands

    Going DTC has a lot of benefits especially in the current environment and PepsiCo is one of the best positioned companies to do so. What is compelling about the offer is that they have applies best practices in their first attempt. For example, the bundles/kits encourage consumers to spend more than if they would have bought individual items. By offering a good and better option, they have eased the consumer decision making process. The second best practices employed mirror what typical DTC platforms do such as free shipping over $X and fast delivery times. The primary challenges that DTC platforms are facing right now are in fulfillment logistics, ability to scale quickly and the unprecedented levels of demand in essential industries. Given that PepsiCo is a global food and beverage giant means that they are well positioned against all these challenges. That's during the pandemic. Post-pandemic, certain consumer segments that have gotten used to the convenience of "food boxes and meal kits" appearing at their doorstep at regular intervals will continue to maintain this behavior. There is a future opportunity for PepsiCo to add more service elements to the kits and bundles such as subscriptions or members' club with rewards to retain its loyal consumers and provide a value that can't be found at a grocery store.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2020

    Is the coronavirus pandemic sparking a meal kits comeback?

    Grocers and other meal kit providers have their work cut out for them. Consumers are looking for more convenience, comfort and certainty right now, and a meal kit subscription provides all of the above: weekly deliveries that come (ideally) at the same time every week, a fixed monthly cost, and reduced/eliminated need to risk virus exposure by spending time in stores (and waiting in lines). It provides both consumer and seller increased transparency and predictability in cash flow—that is, provided these companies can retain clientele. Kit subscriptions can be an excellent tool for garnering customer loyalty as long as they deliver on the features they need. The pricing, portioning, packaging and assortment issues need to be addressed first. Restaurants and meal kit services can ensure sustainability with the right bundling and pack sizes. Not only does this ease consumer decision-making, but it also builds overall basket and average transaction size, plus it opens up entire potential consumer segments (such as millennials or individuals). An added perk for restaurants is that they will have remained top of mind by demonstrating their commitment to serving their customers through the pandemic.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2020

    Gap plans move into non-apparel categories

    The time is ripe to say the least for Gap (and any other struggling apparel store) to reveal version 2.0. While diversifying assortment could have been useful if thought of a while ago, it could still be a worthwhile endeavor if well-executed. The focus should be on brands that already have enough market clout to carry momentum through this change, and on ensuring that said branding is not diluted through the broadening of inventory, but rather reiterated and strengthened. Otherwise, the effect will be temporary at best. For other, less-loved brands, though, it could be too late to see success from measures that are anything less than dramatic. Before implementing anything, Gap Inc. should take a good hard look at themselves, their brands, and their customers’ preferences and habits. How does the public consumer eye see them, and how can they strengthen this identity through their new assortment?
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Nordstrom focuses on seamless shopping as stores reopen

    Nordstrom will have to make huge shifts like those they are already making and perhaps more to maintain relevancy to the new market landscape. And like so many aspects of retail, “customer service” will have a new normal. Being friendly, attentive and helpful will remain important, but respecting the customer’s space and health safety will also now take a prominent role. If Nordstrom can deliver on promised safety measures and demonstrate their reputed care and attention to detail in a way that serves the customer in this regard, it may be their saving grace.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is it time to move beyond ‘now more than ever’ COVID-19 commercials?

    At first, people wanted not to feel alone and to know that everything would be alright. But now many are ready to move beyond coping to finding solutions—work-from-home and stay-at-home and isolation solutions. They’re looking for the next thing to fill that gap left by the shift to a new way of life. The question is, what will companies bring to the table? What can they offer that’s of unique value and can fill some of that gap consumers feel currently and as they start to adjust to a new normal? The risk of being dubbed tone-deaf will always be there. It’s a fine line. But you don’t have to pretend everything’s normal to acknowledge that the world won’t be this way forever. People need things to get excited about right now. In some ways, showing consumers that your business is still going on heartens them that, indeed, life will go on, and there is hope for the future. In sum, do acknowledge the situation, but don’t dwell on it. Move beyond it, and show consumers how your brand will be part of that future for them.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2020

    Will free listings elevate Google Shopping?

    The benefit to the seller is that free listings create somewhat of an even playing field and allow the smaller shops to stay afloat during this difficult time, even though those with deeper pockets will continue to purchase premium listings. The benefit to the buyer is the ability to compare prices for similar goods across ecommerce platforms. The two main challenges for Google are 1) generating awareness since product discovery still happens mostly on Amazon and 2) ongoing merchandising optimization so that the search and product display pages encourage a shift from searching on Amazon to searching on Google.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Will Walmart’s customers pay $10 more to get deliveries in two hours?

    Consumers aren’t just “popping into the grocery store” anymore, they are planning their trips during the pandemic and buying in bulk. This trend is likely to continue somewhat as people incorporate habits gained during the pandemic into their “new” lives afterward especially if grocery/department stores follow rules about reduced capacity and social distancing. It is also no surprise that there is a whole segment of loyal Walmart shoppers who have that extra willingness-to-pay for premium service. Now is probably the time to think about additional premium features both that mirror Amazon Prime (example, same-day delivery) and are novel (example, exclusive access to select inventory, deeper discounts) to continue to build shopper loyalty.

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