Brandon Rael

VP Retail Strategy & Operations
Brandon is an accomplished retail strategy and operations executive, thought leader, trusted advisor and partner with significant experience in both the retail and consulting industries. He has led global digital retail supply chain transformations with Fortune 500 retailers including Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Saks Fifth Avenue. Brandon has built an impressive track record of leading and delivering complex merchandising transformational initiatives across the full spectrum of technology, to meet strategic business objectives. Throughout his career, he has both worked for and partnered with some of the world’s most iconic retail and fashion brands. Brandon has performed as the essential strategy liaison at the intersection of the retail, technology, digital and creative worlds.

Brandon has led and inspired global delivery teams to enable retail clients achieve their desired operational efficiencies and sustainable profitability improvements. 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.

His core areas of expertise include:

• Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships
• Retail merchandising, assortment planning, & inventory optimization
• Strategic planning and operational improvements
• Digital innovations and transformations
• Operational and business transformations
• 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
• Technology solution planning and delivery
• Customer experience strategies
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    How can retailers make employee recognition resonate?

    In the age of the customer, one of the key competitive differentiators for brick-and-mortar retailers is incentivized, motivated and comprehensively-trained front-line employees. The old Employee of the Month recognition and other outdated incentives simply do not resonate well with this current generation.Frequent and creative compensatory packages are key to an outstanding employee experience. In the spirit of innovation an employee points system could be implemented based on hitting sales, revenue and inventory targets. Especially since the workforce is as digital-native focused as the customers, and loyalty-incentivized points would help retain the best employees and keep them satisfied.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    What will a Nike/Amazon deal mean for the brand and other retailers?

    This was inevitable. As the lines are being blurred between the physical and digital shopping experiences, brands now are following suit and taking advantage of digital channels that go directly to the consumer. To remain relevant, trendy and accessible to the digital native generation, every specialty manufacturer has to consider the significant positive impacts and Amazon's reach. The concepts of brands has experienced some issues in our digital-first age and, by being part of another channel, Nike has taken a strategic leap of faith as it goes direct-to-consumer, instead of going through the traditional retail channels.This represents a significant paradigm shift and a warning shot to the specialty athletic brick-and-mortar sector that has been suffering over the past few years. This move by Nike, and potentially others in the specialty space, puts tremendous pressure on the brick-and-mortar stores to continuously innovate and drive a superior customer experience. It's not an easy task to say the least.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Will the Bonobos acquisition give Walmart a fashion edge?

    From an e-commerce branding perspective, the Walmart acquisition of Bonobos further expands their reach and competitive edge in the e-commerce world. However, Walmart would be wise to enable Bonobos to continue to run their operations as they stand, as Bonobos has a well established yet evolving business model with their innovative guide shops and outstanding customer experience. The model has significant advantages, as Bonobos saves on inventory costs and real estate.The strategy will continue to work well if Bonobos continues as an autonomous business. They have a very loyal Millennial and Generation Z following who do not necessarily align with the traditional Walmart customer. However, with the power of Walmart's technology, resources, capital and infrastructure, Bonobos will have the ammunition to continue to be pioneers in the digital native e-commerce businesses, helping to bridge the gap between the physical and digital with their multi-sensory guide shops.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Did Amazon just patent tech that could end showrooming in its stores?

    It's simply remarkable that the company that was benefiting significantly from the "showrooming" experience would create a technology to suppress these capabilities. In today's age of the customer, the democratization of data, information, reviews and the ability to comparison shop, consumers can control the shopping journey.However, consumers and even Amazon loyalists will find a means and a way around this. The brick-and-mortar channels are as relevant and vital as ever, as up to 90 percent of purchases are influenced by the multi-sensory experiences that only a store could offer.This potentially could lead to some frustration, and friction, all of which Amazon prides itself on mitigating with their platform.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    Very bold and exciting move. In a few simple words, Amazon and Jeff Bezos have made a significant and very strategic move to both grocery and brick-and-mortar domination. While we were all under the assumption that Amazon was taking a crawl, walk, run approach into the brick-and-mortar commerce model with Amazon Books and Amazon Go, this monumental acquisition is a game-changer and demonstrates the power of Amazon's capabilities.The whole grocery industry should be on notice as Amazon has expressed that they are firmly in the brick-and-mortar business. Brick-and-mortar remains very relevant and is undergoing a transformation to be a customer-obsessed model.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Who owns the in-store experience?

    The legacy mindset was to keep the store operations team siloed from the merchandising, e-commerce, strategy and customer experience groups. Yet as we all know and embrace, the customer is engaging with a singular retail brand and not a singular store operations entity. It is absolutely critical for the entire retail organization to own the customer experience and get it right across every single shopping channel. This is only achievable by connecting and embedding the store operations team into all of the key strategic merchandising and operational decisions, and providing the necessary training and incentivization so they are empowered to provide a superior customer experience.In the age of the digitally- and socially-empowered customer, the obsession organization-wide has to be around providing a seamless, transporting and elevating multi-sensory experience that is not easily replicated via e-commerce and mobile commerce channels.There is not room for conflicts in today's retail world. The customer obsession has to be an integral part of the retail organization's DNA and it starts with the C-suite on downwards.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Will Best Buy increase gadget sales with a try-before-you-buy offer?

    Outstanding idea, as enabling consumers to try and rent products before buying will go a long way to help Best Buy gain and retain customer loyalty. Best Buy and other electronics retailers have been challenged to close and convert consumer transactions, as their stores have been leveraged for their showroom capabilities. This has led to sales decreases as consumers tried out the product in-store and ultimately bought the product online, most likely at Amazon.This is the age of the sharing economy and one that is experience-driven. Once consumers have the opportunity to try these innovative gadgets at home and they determine that one fits their lifestyle, then Best Buy will have a winner on their hands. Potentially this could lead to a subscription model, where you can rent electronic gadgets for a monthly fee without the full cost of ownership, similar to what Rent the Runway has done for fashion couture.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Can retailers escape the scourge of free shipping?

    We are past the point where retailers can avoid or mitigate consumers' expectations on free shipping. Free shipping, which once was a key competitive differentiator, now has essentially become the standard. Competing directly with Amazon in this arena will be a difficult proposition, however what can really differentiate brick-and-mortar as well as "hybrid" e-commerce companies with a physical presence are personalization, outstanding service and, ultimately, a subscription-based model which will enable online companies to scale, grow their community and retain consumer loyalty.All of these incentives will help to reduce and potentially mitigate the significant costs associated with free shipping. There's honestly no going back.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    What does At Home know that Amazon, Wayfair and other online furniture sellers do not?

    In my mind the online and instore businesses are symbiotic. The customer is ultimately engaging with a brand, whether it's in person, or online, and regardless of where the goods are ultimately purchased, the experience has to be seamless, and fulfilling throughout. The furniture sector is growing significantly, and it's already a crowded marketplace with Wayfair, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel and others to compete with.It's already a competitive marketplace, so adding an ecommerce site is a no brainer, and essential in this emerging retail sector.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    What does it take for retailers to thrive amid shifting consumer preferences?

    The article hits on the fundamental aspects of the challenges that traditional brick and mortar retailers are facing. However, in today's dynamic retail shopping industry, it's the experience focus that is the most critical to get right. Experience is most certainly the most important and obvious factor of sustaining a long term customer relationship. However, it is the most difficult to support, as a customer first mantra has to be embedded within the DNA throughout the entire organizational culture.Retail organizations may profess that they are customer-focused companies and concentrate on having the right product, at the right place, and at the right time. However, that is simply not enough to win the hearts and minds of their shoppers, who have far greater opportunities to choose and control their shopping journeys. Customer loyalty is a fragile thing, and a bad experience, whether online or in store could have permanent impacts.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Is UNTUCKit the next big thing in apparel retailing?

    It's a magical combination that these hybrid commerce brand have that legacy retailers struggle with. The obsession with the customer-first model, as it is at the heart of their entire operation, as well as their existence. This model is very scalable and it is without the significant inventory and real estate liabilities that traditional brick-and-mortar operations face.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    What will happen to J.Crew without Mickey Drexler as CEO?

    This was a necessary change for J.Crew who faces the monumental challenge of turning their business around, transforming their organization into a customer-first/digital-native model, somehow recovering the loyal customers they lost, engaging the trust and confidence of new customers and perhaps a significant rebranding of what makes this company unique in a very dynamic apparel industry. Whatever their approach, it will require collective creativity and fashion innovation to make this process work.James Brett will have his hands full, but it will take a complete company-wide internal disruption for J. Crew to recover their once-prominent position in the mid-priced apparel arena.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Is UNTUCKit the next big thing in apparel retailing?

    The customer is king now and those hybrid e-commerce and physical brick-and-mortar showroom start up operations are responding to this transformation of the shopping expectations. The UNUTCKit model is following the emerging trend of personalized, curated and customized showroom-like experiences that provide an opportunity for the customers to enjoy a multi-sensory shopping journey powered by analytics and insights. This is absolutely a scalable model as long as it's done strategically, thoughtfully and with the customer at the forefront of all strategies.There are several other hybrid retail startups that are emerging and I expect this trend to continue to drive, change and evolve what we know the shopping experience to be.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2017

    Does store operations have a seat at the digital transformation table?

    Store operations is where the rubber meets the road and if this critical point of the retailer's digital transformation is overlooked, do not be surprised if the results are not what you expected. All of the back-office and executive level transformation initiatives are responses to the changing dynamics of the way people shop however, as we all know, approximately 90 percent of all retail purchases are influenced by the brick-and-mortar store.The customer's interaction with the retail brand could be negatively or permanently impacted by a disappointing in-store experience. The execution and customer-facing aspect of retail is where companies need to empower their associates to be evangelists of the brand, to be digitally and socially connected and to drive a superior customer experience.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2017

    Will virtual reality become the ultimate retail training tool?

    Virtual Reality, while truly an exciting innovation, does not replace person-to-person training mechanisms. The old but still very relevant concept of learning by doing still applies and VR, despite all the excitement it generates, should be treated as a learning enhancement rather than a replacement of tried-and-true in-person interactions.Certainly VR will have a place in both the in-store experience and employee training, however the key differentiators for retail brick-and-mortar stores are the highly motivated, engaging, well-trained, knowledgeable customer-obsessed sales associates.

Contact Brandon