Brandon Rael

VP Retail Strategy & Operations, Strategy Consulting
An accomplished strategy and operations executive, thought leader, trusted advisor and partner with significant experience in both the retail and consulting industries, who has led global digital supply chain transformations with Fortune 500 retailers including, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Saks Fifth Avenue. Extensive experience in leading and delivering complex innovation focused, digital merchandising programs, to meet strategic business objectives, in a very dynamic retail industry. Throughout his career, he has performed as the essential business liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, marketing, creative, digital and consulting teams.

He is passionate about driving retail thought leadership, developing global teams, defining best practices and innovations to meet the challenges of a very dynamic retail industry. Most recently, he has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community of thought leaders.

His core areas of expertise include:

• Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships
• Digital innovations and transformations
• Retail merchandising, assortment planning, & inventory optimization
• Strategic planning and operational improvements
• Operational and business transformations
• Customer experience strategies
• Global cross functional delivery leadership
• Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management
• Unified commerce, omni channel digital business & technology transformations
• Consumer insights and predictive analytics
• Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise
• Organizational Change Management
• Business solution planning and delivery
  • Posted on: 10/18/2017

    Amazon is making a power move on Nike and other sportswear brands

    With these types of partnerships, Nike and other speciality athletic brands are caught in a bind, as they are almost forced to enter into the Amazon marketplace, yet it comes at a price. Amazon now has an entryway into the inner workings of Nike's supply chain, vendor partnerships and potentially their rich consumer insights, which will further drive personalization and customization to their loyal Amazon Prime members.Rather than going the acquisition route, as demonstrated by the Whole Foods model, Amazon with their Nike collaboration has demonstrated their interest in potentially exploring the apparel and specialty athletics segments. Clearly Amazon has proven to be omnipresent across the many retail and consumer products verticals, and this partnership with Nike and others may prove to be a competitive advantage against Walmart.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2017

    Should the holiday selling season be retired?

    Traditionally the holiday season has been the most critical time for retailers to go from the red to the black. The importance of the 4th quarter remains, yet there are opportunities for retailers to provide transporting experiences throughout the year. The holiday season's importance should remain, as there is such a significant amount of business to be done and it's tied so closely to the seasonal merchandising strategies.The call to arms is for retailers to provide compelling values, promotions and great shopping experiences throughout the year, and not just focus only on the November/December time period.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2017

    Rent the Runway sees new program leading to a ‘closetless’ future

    So true Meaghan! Rentals and a subscription-based model are absolutely critical to the future of retail. Especially as the fashion and social sharing worlds are so intertwined. Everything is disposable and apparently nobody wants to repeat the same outfit.Rent The Runway is well positioned to dominate the fashion rental market.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2017

    What is the online marketplace opportunity for retailers?

    With the expanded reach and great potential of the online marketplaces, companies such as Amazon, Alibaba and Farfetch have opened doors and provided a direct-to-consumer channel that may have otherwise been very challenging. However, the marketplace is very mature at this point.While an online marketplace has significant advantages and benefits from a branding standpoint, the ultimate goal may not always be to have the conversion take place on the online market place. Rather, the retailer will benefit by having this online presence, but ultimately the objective is to build the relationship via the online channels and draw them into the brick-and-mortar stores, via personalization, promotions and exclusive offerings.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2017

    Rent the Runway sees new program leading to a ‘closetless’ future

    This move by Rent the Runway certainly will increase their reach, and increase their monthly subscription levels. Considering how price sensitivity plays a critical role in the consumer decision-making process, offering a tiered subscription model will resonate very positively in a shared economy.In our image-is-everything Instagram universe, clothing as a service works very well with the fashion couture categories. This new model works for a specific socioeconomic, mostly cosmopolitan, Millennial segment and not the broader consumer base. While the pricing tiers offer additional choices, the core customer base remains the same.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    Should Coach Inc. have changed its name?

    Changing the Coach corporate name to Tapestry has created more confusion than clarity. While it's clear that Coach, Inc. has to come up with a strategy to move to more of a multi-brand conglomerate, the Coach name is extremely valuable from a brand recognition perspective.Historically, companies have faced challenges when they have to explain the re-branding and name changes. It's challenging to find a name that keeps the integrity of the original parent brand yet makes a statement for the road ahead, especially when the company is undergoing a transformation.Lets see how things progress as Coach expands their acquisition strategies.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    Will lessons learned at Amazon Books translate to Whole Foods?

    The Amazon Books model is very much in its infancy, however it's clear that these strategic locations have quickly evolved to be the physical manifestations of Amazon's online marketplace.As it pertains to Whole Foods, the personalization and curated assortments, as well as dynamic pricing are the expectations of both the loyal Amazon Prime members and the Whole Foods customers who are seeking a better value-added grocery shopping experience. The goal of the modern, healthy, organic-first grocery store is to engage and personalize the grocery shopping experience, all the while removing all the friction from the shopping journey. I am not so confident that engaging with your Amazon app as you go up and down the Whole Foods aisles is the right strategy.However, once Amazon matures their model, Whole Foods would benefit significantly from electronic signage, user reviews on key products, a clear distinction between Amazon Prime members-only pricing and non-member pricing and other exclusive offerings. We are all very interested in seeing how this plays out.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2017

    Amazon gives teens their own Prime logins

    This is a brilliant move by Amazon as they look to engage the digital native generation. As a Father of both a six-year-old and a four-year-old who crave their independence, especially when it comes to digital interaction, it's abundantly clear to me that the teenage segment who grew up as digital natives will jump at the opportunity to engage with Amazon. The segment that Amazon is seeking to attract, Generation Z, has grown up as digital natives and is socially and digitally connected and empowered to make decisions on their own.This is a win-win for Amazon, as they will gain a competitive advantage by engaging with the teenage generation while enabling their parents the controls and mechanisms to complete the final transactions. In addition, teenagers are continuously engaging with each other on their mobile devices and will enable another line of communication with their parents, while instilling a sense of responsibility when it comes to shopping.However, the long-term advantage for Amazon is that they are starting a long-term relationship with the teenage segment, which will ultimately lead to a more sustainable and profitable one as they move to adulthood and become independent.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    Meijer cuts IT staff as it moves to the cloud

    The transformation of retail also has a direct impact on IT organizations. Outsourcing the IT-related operational processes makes complete sense, and will provide short-term economic relief. There is a clear differentiation between supporting technology and infrastructure.However by all means the business-facing technology systems, which support the customer facing solutions, absolutely should remain in-house. These include all of the solutions and systems which support the merchandising, store operations, design, e-commerce, digital, mobile, social, teams. This paradigm shift from the traditional IT support model, to one that is focused on the business side was well captured by Forrester's CEO, George Colony back in 2007. Technology is now your business, and business is your technology.The leaders within the business technology departments should work in complete partnership with the business retail leaders and do what is necessary to keep, retain and acquire new customers.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    What marketing lessons can we learn from Amazon?

    I believe when it pertains to Amazon, what we are missing here from the classic four Ps of marketing model is Prime membership, which is the most critical value-added component from a customer experience standpoint. One of Amazon's wisest strategic moves was to establish the Prime membership program, which provides seamless second-day guaranteed free shipping, exclusive membership-only pricing promotions and the added on benefits of Prime video streaming.From a customer experience perspective, it's clear that Amazon has won the hearts and minds of their customers via the Prime membership model, vast assortments, ease of shopping, etc. However this perception may cloud the consumer's judgements when it comes to the actual product, place, price and promotional strategies. Amazon may not actually have the advantages in these areas, however, the Prime membership strategy and now Alexa voice-activated commerce are clear competitive advantages.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?

    This is a very common issue. There is a very clear distinction between doing what is expected (customer service), vs. providing an outstanding customer experience. In today's experience-first economy, the retail store operations team has to have the customer experience at the forefront of all of their strategies.It's not simply providing a compelling bargain or a faster checkout that will provide a memorable experience. These are the the bare minimum and simply not enough to draw and retain customers. The customer experience is not easily measurable, but will provide significant long-term dividends in terms of a sustainable, meaningful relationship between the retailer and consumer.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Has Amazon really saved Whole Foods from its ‘Whole Paycheck’ trap?

    To put things simply, there is a long way to go before Whole Foods loses the "Whole Paycheck" perception. The Amazon/Whole Foods signage and discounted prices narrative are now posted throughout the store yet, at checkout time, the bill is still pretty significant. Perception is one thing, but the reality is that only a very small percentage of products have been discounted. Typically the higher profile products such as avocados and gala apples have been reduced, but otherwise everything remains the same from a pricing perspective.Key to Whole Foods and Amazon's partnership, and evolution, will be leveraging the power of your Amazon Prime membership. Once that is unleashed, the mobile app will be a critical part of the shopping experience, as Amazon Prime members would have ample opportunities for exclusive members-only savings, a robust loyalty program, mobile payments, etc. The current Whole Foods shopping app does not provide any loyalty incentives or discounts upon checkout.So it appears that this is very much in progress. Let's see how things play out in a few months, once things are in motion.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2017

    Walmart deal shows it’s serious about same-day delivery

    For the NYC, Boston and San Francisco cosmopolitan hubs, the strategic move to acquire Parcel is outstanding as it helps to close that critical last mile, which is now the Holy Grail of retail fulfillment and customer satisfaction. Walmart continues to cultivate both online and fulfillment strategies to compete head to head with Amazon and, as we know, competition will ultimately benefit the customers ... with choice.However as most on this panel could agree upon, though same-day/next-day shipping strategies may work wonders in NYC and other cosmopolitan cities, it is neither a viable or realistic model in the rural parts of our country. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the long run.With that said, Walmart continues to build a very impressive portfolio of digital native brands (, Bonobos etc), and the acquisition of Parcel is well in line with their long-term strategies.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2017

    Will Uniqlo find success with its denim-only concept shop?

    Uniqlo's business model is built around speed to market, affordable pricing, a seamless in-store shopping experience and most importantly a diversification strategy that enables their loyal customers to enjoy unique and interesting product offerings. A single product-targeted denim shop may provide short-term dividends and a new revenue stream, however, when the denim trends fall off, what is Uniqlo left with?A visit to a Uniqlo shop is intriguing, and you tend to find products that you are unable to find elsewhere. By entering into the denim market, Uniqlo will face fierce competition, as this is a very mature category and there are far more dominant companies in this space who have the ability to flex and shift with the changing trends.This may prove to be far more challenging for Uniqlo than they expect, and perhaps they would be better served focusing on the diversification and curated assortments that have helped retain their very loyal customers.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2017

    Will a window to Disneyland bring Disney fans to the mall?

    Disney certainly has won the hearts and minds of consumers of all ages and is universally loved by all. Focusing on the experience side of retail should be natural for Disney, yet it is challenging to translate this over to the mall stores. These days, the customer expectation of going to a store and having a multi-sensory, immersive experience is the standard all retailers have to live up to.Perhaps as Disney continues their retail transformation, they could take a page out of Lego's book and consider a hybrid smaller-scale Disneyland/Disney World model, similar to what Legoland has evolved into. Legoland has been well positioned in "town squares," offers a few hours of multisensory entertainment for the family, and the retail presence is naturally integrated within several stations.Now that is a competitive model Disney may want to consider.

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