PROFILE

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
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  • Posted on: 12/18/2017

    Did Netflix cross the data-disclosure line?

    There's a fine line between leveraging consumer insights as part of your entertainment algorithm and crossing over the line. However, I do believe that this tweet by Netflix was never meant to be anything other than funny. Things get misinterpreted in the Twittersphere and this did drive quite a big discussion afterward as to how much insights they really have about their consumers.When we engage with a Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc., we are willingly sharing our information with the expectation that this will drive the personalized and customized shopping and entertainment experiences we are all seeking.The mantra that Netflix and others should follow is that with great power comes great responsibility.
  • Posted on: 12/18/2017

    Do pop-up efforts make sense for subscription box services?

    A subscription box service on top of a pop-up offering is an excellent way of promoting, growing and building a brand. Pop-ups have emerged as a new and experiential-focused offering, however they are a new twist on an old retail concept.Pop-ups offer significant value to emerging designers, artists and creative small businesses, as the model helps to mitigate all of the significant cost overheads associated with long-term leases. In addition, there is the newness and inspiration that could be built in the pop-up spaces, and a pop-up offers far more flexibility for small and mid-sized companies to make a statement.Pop-up and subscription services tied together with a social media presence could have a significant impact.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    The next logical step for category management

    Excellent points, Dave! Consumers not thinking in categories, also reminds us of the fact that consumers are indifferent about whether a retailer is "omnichannel." The consumer is only concerned with commerce and having the right product, in the right place, at the right time.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Home Depot vs. Lowe’s

    Home Depot for the win! It wasn't the most magical advertisement, but between the two, Home Depot does connect and resonate with the audience about the magic of the season.Lowe's ad is quite functional and plays out like their typical advertisements, but with some holiday decorations and themes.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    The next logical step for category management

    In a word ... curation. Curated assortments are one of the trendier topics in the merchandising and category management arenas. Traditional category management processes simply no longer are effective in today's customer-driven environment. At their fingertips, consumers have the ability to compare, contrast, learn, showroom, share via social channels and seemingly are one step ahead of retail organizations.With the onset of fast fashion and significant social media influences, category management essentially has to become a more fluid, agile, scalable and flexible process. "Less is more" should be the mantra, as optimized and personalized assortments will resonate with today's consumer.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    Will late deliveries mess up Christmas?

    Unfortunately considering the increased online shopping demands, retailers are now challenged to scale, expand and evolve to a more agile fulfillment strategy to avoid creating friction and not meeting consumer expectations. With that said, late deliveries are simply not acceptable in today's Amazon Prime dominated world with a second business day shipping precedent.For some retailers and carriers, this season may end as a difficult lesson-learned situation, and the opportunity is there to streamline and optimize the fulfillment processes next year.The pressure is on both the retailers and the carriers to find innovative strategies to keep up with the demand, beyond just increasing resources, trucks, etc. This is where retailers could take full advantage of the omnichannel fulfillment capabilities that have been evolving over the past few years.Leveraging the store as a fulfillment center via the BOPIS process sounds like an ideal mitigation plan. However, there are downstream implications that need to be considered once the products hit the stores, as there will need to be dedicated resources, space and equipment to handle these products.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    Penney gets fashionable with its Jacques Penné pop-up

    If there is a time for J.C. Penney to experiment with pop-ups and other innovative in-store concepts, it's now. This will resonate very well in the cosmopolitan and more urban areas. As the J.C. Penney brand looks to regain its mojo and relevancy, the recommended approach is to crawl, walk, run when it comes to in-store experimentation.Any positive publicity is good publicity for J.C, Penney. Combine that with a social media-targeted campaign and, along with strategic urban stores, the pop-ups may just generate some interest and potentially some new fans.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    The new NYC Nike store will have a members-only floor

    For the die-hard, lifelong loyal "Just Do It" Nike aficionados, this is an interesting in-store exclusive add-on, which will drive the personalized experiences they are seeking. As we all know membership has its privileges. However, the critical aspect of this exclusive offering is how to translate this into incremental business, not only with their loyal consumers but also with new customers.Considering that Nike's main competitors, Adidas and Under Armour, are making significant headway with their relentless innovation and personalization services, Nike has to keep up this charge as well. Nike products are omnipresent, and this may evolve into an upper-end exclusive offering that may just resonate very well with their most loyal consumers.Now if the company could blend the art and science when it comes to in-store exclusive merchandising, they may have a winner on their hands!
  • Posted on: 12/08/2017

    Get ready – there are still three shopping holidays left before Christmas

    Beyond Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the remaining "special" shopping events are targetted towards not only driving additional business but capitalizing on the procrastinators, as well as the value/promotional-driven holiday shoppers. Traditionally, retailers have built-in aggressive promotional and markdown strategies as we get closer to the holidays.As we are living in a digital-first world and e-commerce has become so prominent, free shipping and guaranteed second-day shipping would honestly be the most intriguing part of these remaining special days. Especially as retailers are up against the precedent that Amazon has set.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2017

    Amazon is (quietly) upending private branding. Will others follow?

    The private label fashion arena was ripe for the taking, and Amazon has stealthily made significant strides to become a force to be reckoned with. Private label offerings have always provided significant value to the consumer. However, when you combine contemporary and basic trendy offerings at the right price, along with the Amazon Prime's seamless shopping experience, you have a winner.In addition, not all contemporary fashion brands are featured in the Amazon Marketplace. Through their pricing and Prime promotional strategies, the significance of the brand has been diminished, with value and convenience becoming increasingly more prominent in the consumers' minds.In the past, private label offerings were featured side by side with other fashion brands and priced more promotionally. However, via the Amazon platform, their private labels are front and center in their online merchandising presentation, which should be concerning to the fashion industry as a whole.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    Will mobile move the needle for J. Crew – this holiday and beyond?

    The fundamental fashion, assortment and branding issues that J. Crew has faced over the recent years will not be solved simply by an optimized mobile strategy. Certainly, a big component for any mid-priced specialty and department store retailer is to have streamlined, frictionless omnichannel BOPIS operations in place. As we all can agree, an optimized and personalized mobile/digital strategy is a critical component of this as well.However, J. Crew has struggled to retain their most loyal consumers with their struggles around getting their assortments, pricing, promotion and in-store experiences right. Also, the company has faced severe competition in the specialty store space with the emergence and dominance shown by H&M, Zara and other fast fashion retailers, who have the ability to flex and shift with changing fashion trends.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    Dollar General is betting on the continuing decline of the middle class

    Off-price retail and the dollar stores have been the most rapidly expanding retail segments in recent history. While the economic conditions are ripe for the dollar stores to fully capitalize on this opportunity, this is a clear reflection of an emerging underclass demographic that has been most impacted by the recent events.Dollar General and other dollar stores have grown significantly over the last few years, as they offer compelling value not only to the lower economic segments but to anyone who is looking to save money on commodity items. In addition, for the moment, dollar stores are thriving as they offer convenience, value and are omnipresent, as well as a segment where folks exclusively shop in-store, vs. online.As our new economy shakes out, we can expect not only dollar stores and off-price retailers to have aggressive promotional strategies in play, but also we should expect all mid-level and even upper-ended retailers to work their pricing strategies to attract continued consumer interests.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Subscription services are moving beyond just being surprise boxes

    I couldn't agree more Charles. Subscription services for retailers could be an outstanding consistent revenue source however, if the experiences are not unique, personalized or curated, the consumer will quickly lose interest.It's all about the relationship between the retailers and the consumer. Knowing your customer and making the experience personalized can only be achieved via advanced analytics, insights and a business-wide passion for customer experience.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Does Everlane need to open stores?

    The old adage is to "never say never." Hybrid retail, which is a blend of both online and in-store experiences, has proven to be quite a successful model for the once pure-play e-commerce innovators Bonobos and Warby Parker. Everlane is wise to follow suit on this strategy, as per a recent study, nearly 90 percent of all purchases are still influenced by the in-store physical experience.Digital and mobile are critical components of this equation and enable consumers to be far more empowered, educated and provide choices beyond what was possible in the past. Providing consumers a choice or a physical playground, is the most advantageous aspect of opening a store or leveraging the pop-up model.Regardless as to how advanced our technology becomes, or how powerful the AR shopping experience becomes, the tangible and emotional connections are still made in-store.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Barnes & Noble wants to get smaller, more bookish

    Smaller format stores, curated assortments and a laser focus on the customer experience are most certainly the way to go forward for Barnes & Noble. However, the fundamental challenges the company has faced has been the marketplace disruption caused by both Amazon's disruption and the fact that the brand has lost touch with their core customer.In the short-term, Barnes & Noble should seek methods of returning to their roots so to speak. In visiting one of their new concept stores, the format seems to have the winning combination of a curated assortment, comfortable format to shop in, a nice cafe and restaurant offering. For long-term sustainability, Barnes & Noble will have their challenges competing on price and convenience. Up against Amazon, however, what could turn the momentum in their favor is to leverage their in-store talent to provide more of a guide shop-like showroom experience.For the moment, Barnes & Noble has a clear advantage of having these brick and mortar locations, which could be transformed into an experienced focused format. Returning to their roots and being all about the books, rather than competing in the e-reader universe, is the way forward.

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