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: 08/17/2017

    Should drones be used for data collection in addition to deliveries?

    Data is naturally the modern day version of oil, and with it comes great knowledge. Yet as we all know, knowledge is power and will drive significant insights.This version of data collection, without any user intervention or approval cycles, is concerning. We are all welcoming and interested in Amazon's relentless innovation machine, as its driving the friction-less experiences we are all expecting. However this particular data collection strategy may prove to be a bit more creepy and intrusive than what we could be comfortable with.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2017

    Is Walmart on an unstoppable run?

    There certainly is some significant momentum building up at Walmart, as they grow their digital portfolio. However, if they are to take an "Amazonian" approach to growth then the shareholder expectations will have to be in check, as they may experience some profitability losses as their digital businesses help to drive sustainable revenue growth.A digital-first strategy, especially when executed successfully, will help drive revenue across all shopping channels and help grow the brands. What remains to be seen how the autonomous businesses, such as, Bonobos and others continue to innovate and sustain their loyal customer following under the Walmart umbrella. The advantage for these subsidiaries is the investment capital to help power their growth. The Walmart team can certainly learn e-commerce/digital best practices from Bonobos and their leadership team, as they were one of the first digital native brands to evolve into a hybrid retail model with their showrooms.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    Will more promos fix Dick’s Sporting Goods pricing challenge?

    Promotional pricing and aggressive discounting are a slippery slope for any full-price specialty retailer. Dick's Sporting Goods should proceed with caution as this strategy may only end up further eroding their margins and impacting the perception of the brand. Dick's has made transformational strides to focus on customer experience and curated assortments with their strategic partnerships with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. Reducing prices significantly or discounting may provide a short-term increase in business, but at what cost?The move to aggressive discounting in my opinion simply is an overreaction, and Dick's challenging business could also be impacted by the overall state of the economy and retail industry. All in all, Dick's is the last big box specialty athletic business still in operation. The company should continue to curate assortments, provide excellent customer experiences and cultivate relationships with both their employees and customers to have a sustainable and thriving brand.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2017

    Is it time to reinvent category management?

    The time is always ripe for change. Fundamentally the concept and methodologies of category management remain very much the same as 20 years ago, however it's the data inputs and customer shipping complexities that need to be accounted for. These are in the form of attribution, third dimensions of planning and other aspects that will incorporate the multi-channel, digital omnichannel retail model we face day-to-day.In addition, the rapid emergence of the speed to market, fast fashion and the vertical integrated showroom model necessitate the need for a change, and revisiting how category management can address the new planning universe powered by insights.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2017

    Should Walmart buy Birchbox?

    It's rapidly becoming a digital brand portfolio play and competition between Walmart and Amazon, as they race for marketplace dominance. While the fruits of the Bonobos, Modcloth and acquisitions are very much a work in process, Walmart is rapidly diversifying and transforming their digital fashion retail portfolio. The acquisition of Birchbox just might be a very wise strategic move, as there are shared synergies and economies of scale that can be achieved with these digital native brands.Certainly the core customers of the traditional Walmart brick-and-mortar model are different from those of the emerging digital native fashion powerhouses. However, the Walmart digital team and portfolio are rapidly growing, diversifying and are a force to be reckoned with.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is Wayfair Amazon-proof?

    Visual search, curated experiences and personalization are critical differentiators for Wayfair. Wayfair has carved out a very unique position in a home decor industry dominated by Williams & Sonoma and Restoration Hardware. Wayfair has enabled a virtual marketplace-like digital experience through transporting content and created a seamless shipping journey. There are parallels that can be drawn between what Wayfair has accomplished in the home decor industry and what Farfetch is achieving in the luxury online marketplace.As they continue to scale and build strong sustainable partnerships with home decor vendors, as well as solid customer relationships, it will become increasingly challenging for Amazon to penetrate this marketplace. No industry sectors are 100 percent Amazon-proof, however things may change in a heartbeat via strategic acquisitions.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2017

    Is agile fulfillment the solution to retail’s renaissance?

    Retailers, particularly fashion companies, are under significant pressure more than at any time before to evolve to a more agile manufacturing and fulfillment model. By taking a more predictive, strategic approach to merchandising, planning and fulfillment, as well as evolving to a more streamlined supply chain operating model, retailers will have a fighting chance to compete in today's marketplace.The agile fulfillment supply chain model has worked very successfully for the fast fashion houses such as H&M, Zara, Forever 21 and so on. Vertically integration focused retailers such as Bonobos and Warby Parker can produce very nimbly, a customized product, following an excellent in store showroom experience.One of the better examples of traditional brick and mortar retailers evolving to a more agile, speed to market model, has been Tommy Hilfiger, who is part of PVH. The company underwent one of the biggest business model shifts in its history when it moved to a “see-now, buy-now” runway show called Tommy Now , last year. This essentially shortened the normal 18-month production process into just six months, as they launched product live in 70 countries around the world simultaneously as brand ambassador Gigi Hadid hit the catwalk.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Will talking about pain points make Babies ‘R’ Us the go-to retailer for parents?

    Being a parent or grandparent of little ones has its challenges. If stores such as Babies "R" Us focus more on the stages of infancy/toddlerhood and concentrate on the life style, vs. the broad assortments, it would help mitigate the friction and confusion when you go shopping for essentials. There are so many pitfalls and mistakes we make along the way that having a "trail guide" could be extremely helpful.This is an outstanding opportunity for Babies "R" Us to differentiate themselves from Amazon, Walmart, etc., as they have the brand recognition. A focus on service and educating their sales force will be a competitive advantage.The "Be Prepared-ish" campaign may just be the antidote that Babies "R" Us needs to gain back some consumer loyalty in a saturated, online dominated marketplace.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Are there too many grocery stores?

    There clearly are too many grocery stores and it's rapidly becoming very difficult to differentiate between the brands. What may evolve out of the rapid expansion plans of Lidl, Aldi and potentially the smaller-scale Whole Foods/Amazon/365 hybrid is that the grocery store will become far more specialized. It will offer far more organic assortments curated to the local markets and will no longer be the one-stop destination that we all grew up with in the suburbs.The most precious commodity outside of money is time. If the grocery business evolves and the stores focus on organic, lifestyle and holistic trending products in a format that is easy to navigate, enabling far greater self services capabilities, they will be able to differentiate themselves from the intense competition.Convenience is one thing, but the in-store experience and product assortments are critical as well.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2017

    Will Lowe’s UpSkill Project empower more consumers to tackle home improvement jobs?

    This is an outstanding strategic move by Lowe's and should become a regular home service offering, as it will prove to be a key differentiator to help stimulate the growth of the DIY trend. DIY has increasingly become a trend that is here to stay and Lowe's and other home improvement/home decor companies would be very wise to capitalize on this opportunity.Services, such as training, support and personalization that can be better achieved via in-home visits will help remove the intimidation factor when it comes to home improvements. Training and education will also lead to further in-store sales and revenue opportunities, as Lowe's consumer base will be further empowered.Combine the personalization and training services with the digital and social platforms and you have a winner.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2017

    Is ‘free’ a big enough incentive to get consumers to try click and collect?

    The most valuable incentive of any BOPIS model is removing the friction associated with the in-store shopping experience and enabling the last-mile transaction to close the conversion loop. Leveraging the store as a fulfillment center for popular and commoditized products could be a competitive advantage for brick-and-mortar retailers as they leverage their digital channels to draw customers to their stores.In my mind, the best savings "pass" for consumers isn't necessarily in the form of discounts. Rather it is the time they will save with curbside pickup, which is the most valuable commodity in today's time-deprived society. Additionally, there will be incremental opportunities for retailers to drive more business in-store, as retailers will benefit from the potential impulse purchases that will naturally occur once a customer is in-store.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    How much did Amazon’s Prime Day hurt rival retailers?

    Retailers would be hard-pressed to compete with the reach, compelling bargains and impact of Amazon Prime Day. Amazon's vast assortments and heavily discounted products on that day may just be an outlier that retailers will have to account for when they do their pre-season merchandising plans. Perhaps there will be a one-day substantial impact, and this should be planned for both from a store operations and supply chain perspective, yet in the grand scheme of things there may be ways for retailers to capitalize on this strategy.Some reluctant retail brands such as Nike now have entered into the Amazon marketplace and they, certainly, as well as others will benefit from this increase in online traffic. So perhaps rather than cultivating strategies to compete with Prime Day, joining or collaborating with Amazon's marketplace may be advantageous.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2017

    Can in-store experiences save retail?

    Dr. Fader has some very valid points. However the level of multi-sensory experiences the customer expects clearly depends on the type of retail establishment. Data and analytics most certainly can drive personalization and curated assortments, yet the most critical component in the shopping journey is to remove friction and pain points that could lead to diminished customer loyalty or, ultimately, losing the customer to another brand.The new and innovative showroom-like hybrid retail model works extremely well, as it's fully integrated with mobile and desktop apps and profiles. They have one view and perspective of the customer which really resonates, as the showroom serves as the testing ground, experience-first focus, and the "guides" serve as the closers -- so to speak -- to help drive the conversion and cultivate long-standing relationships.Yet this entertainment-first model doesn't have to be applied to the entire retail industry. This would not work, and is not a critical component with a commodity, basics-like business. In this scenario, data and analytics can effectively drive inventory optimization across channels which will enable a more seamless customer experience.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Do mini makeup studios make sense for Sephora?

    In today's experience-first economy bigger isn't always better, and Sephora is doing the right thing to provide a smaller-scale shopping channel to better connect with their existing and new customers. These smaller-scale brick-and-mortar locations could provide the proof of concept testing grounds for Sephora, as well as other experience-based retailers, to test their innovations and other strategies that perhaps would be too risky to roll out to the larger-scale stores.Today's customer is seeking speed, agility and seamless experiences, and Sephora's approach with the new concept may just prove to be very successful. In addition, the smaller-scale, innovation-first stores will provide an opportunity for Sephora to quantify, test and fine tune their merchandising strategies before rolling them out across the chain.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Do consumers want to be recognized across channels?

    The right balance has to be achieved to provide the personalized and customized experience today's digital native consumer expects. Consumers most certainly want to be recognized by the brands across all their various shopping channels, however the data is perhaps indicative of the overwhelming amounts of communications, pop-ups, notifications and emails that are being sent out to the consumers.Just as brick-and-mortar retailers are challenged to provide curated, personalized assortments in-store, it's the appropriate time for retailers to reexamine their cross-channel communications strategies, including the social network channels. Curated pop-up notifications and more strategic email promotions are the right way to go.There is a fine line between personalization and being overwhelming. It will take some experimentation, trial and error to get this right.

Contact Brandon