Carol Spieckerman

President, Spieckerman Retail

Carol Spieckerman is an internationally-recognized authority on retail and brand positioning. She specializes in future-proofing her clients’ retail strategies and positioning them for high-volume success with key retail decision-makers and influencers.  As president and CEO of Spieckerman Retail, she tracks Retail TrajectoriesSM that cut across categories, tiers, environments and borders and transforms them into actionable strategies for her brand marketing, agency, licensing, and technology clients. Carol is an author and regular contributor to leading retail and business media. Her credits include the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Forbes, Dealerscope, Women’s Wear Daily, Bloomberg Business Week, Private Label Buyer and Retail Wire. Carol speaks at corporate and industry events around the world including the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the International Licensing Expo. Her blog, The Right Brain of Retail, is considered a “must-read” by major retailers, brands and suppliers and her retail insights are prominent on Twitter @retailxpert.

  • Posted on: 09/22/2016

    What’s behind Zara’s crazy sales gains?

    This ties in neatly with yesterday's discussion on Gap in which opinions about whether apparel is "trendless" got heated. Of course trends EXIST at any given time and retailers act upon them. The question is whether consumers feel as compelled as they once did to act upon trends -- to identify and purchase "must-have" items on a meaningful scale and on a regular/seasonal basis. The answer is, sometimes they do if the stars line up. A trend hits social media (coverage of a runway show, perhaps), lots of sharing and commenting, Zara clicks its fast-fashion supply chain into gear and the items hit Zara stores pronto at a crazy great price. Boom! Very different from when retailers dictated fashion, bought way ahead, stocked the shelves, advertised the latest and consumers bought in droves (or not, yikes). Zara is geared for the, let's say "trend-challenged" times!
  • Posted on: 09/21/2016

    Is a trendless fashion industry killing Gap’s business?

    I'm glad to hear Mr. Peck mention this if only because I've been saying it for a while! Apparel retailers tend to trot out the weather, economic trends and other all-purpose excuses when business is down. These are often valid but ignore the fact that "trends" as we once knew them are no longer driving the business and they certainly are no longer being dictated by retailers. Gap was actually a hold-out in this regard, declaring that it was the season of the puffy vest as consumers shrugged and went online. Three other related dynamics are at work here -- 1. Consumers trading off dollars between apparel and consumer/personal electronics; 2. Social media-driven "trends" that require reaction on a dime and that therefore favor fast-fashion retailers over those with traditional supply chains/lead times; 3. "Category killers" of all stripes are at risk when Amazon aggressively attacks as it certainly has in the apparel space. Self-branded retailers have even less room to move.Together, these dynamics create some mighty headwinds for any apparel retailer (forget "thriving"). Although Uniqlo has not been pleased with its U.S. performance to-date, I do think they have a more concrete model. Instead of selling blah basics, they spice things up with technical fabrics and offer depth of assortment in seasonal key items, encouraging multiple purchases. Uniqlo's flagship-style stores are also much more exciting to shop.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2016

    Why is Target making nice with Amazon?

    As I shared in the Star Tribune article, now that Amazon Prime is in its prime (near-ubiquitous), the risk of shoppers fleeing Target and heading to Amazon through the devices is lower. In other words, as the Prime membership base matures, Target can view Amazon's offerings from a brand and product advantage perspective rather than through a competitive lens.Target is well-known for its proprietary branding bent yet it is quite difficult to pursue this strategy in consumer electronics. By partnering with Amazon, Target gains a powerful brand (one that isn't being emphasized at Walmart), and a growing selection of innovative hardware that it can pick and choose from.The time is right as the risk is reduced.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2016

    Will AI mobile apps replace associates on Macy’s sales floor?

    These types of digital in-store engagement innovations are in the early, early stages and Macy's is to be lauded for getting started. These days, launching experiments (many of them), tracking results and managing strategic rollouts places a heavy burden on retailers, the danger being excessive dabbling without traction. How is Macy's massive beacon beta going? Does anyone know?
  • Posted on: 07/14/2016

    Publix buys its way into the Richmond market

    I give Publix credit for NOT being so precious about its culture that it shuts off scale-building opportunities. One of the first things I often hear from Floridians that have relocated to other states, and from people who have visited Florida then returned home, is "I wish we had a Publix here." That alone speaks to the built-in demand, power of the brand and probability of success in new markets.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2016

    Walmart in no hurry to add other mobile payment options

    I use Walmart Pay and find it quite easy and efficient. Just capture the QR and off I go without waiting for a receipt. It seems that any time Walmart develops a customer-centric digital/mobile innovation, the naysayers come out of the woodwork, often implying that "Walmart customers" will be slow to adopt. Walmart is smart to keep its customers in its ecosystem and the rest of the industry will benefit as Walmart once again accelerates usage of these types of solutions with millions of customers, customers who also shop in other places. Next steps will be for Walmart to fully integrate Walmart Pay with As it puts the pedal to the metal on onboarding new sellers on its online marketplace, the scale will be massive.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2016

    What will happen to Macy’s after Terry Lundgren steps down as CEO?

    Terry Lundgren is one of the last members of retail's old guard still at the helm of a major retailer. After acknowledging that he was tardy to retail's digital party, Lundgren coached an admirable game of catch-up but more will be needed in order to secure Macy's future. It's interesting that Ron Johnson's name came up in this discussion. Perhaps Johnson-phobia is fueling a preference for home-grown leadership but I can't help but think that bringing in an outsider would make more sense at this critical juncture. At least have a look at some fresh faces?
  • Posted on: 06/23/2016

    What’s the next step for content marketing?

    Excellent work by UPS! The challenge is one of restraint. With the mediums of broadcasting (and narrow-casting) content proliferating, it will be all too tempting for retailers to inundate shoppers with irrelevant promotional content. This is a walk-before-you-run proposition where helpful content (product information and store navigational assistance for example) should take precedence. Based on my conversations with retailers, many are frustrated by brand marketers' one-off approaches and lack of strategic content planning. I see retailers starting to take an "if you want something done right...." approach which is unfortunate given the opportunity for brand marketers to forge deeper content collaborations with retailers.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2016

    Ralph Lauren making a turn to fewer and faster fashions

    Stefan Larsson is spearheading a long-overdue rework of the Ralph Lauren empire. Ralph Lauren had a great run, longer than most, during the reign of the department store and even beyond as mass retail and e-commerce took hold. Retail is changing fast but scorched earth (a la Ron Johnson), isn't the only way to go about it. Larsson's quote, "We have all the cards, but we need to play the cards in a different way" perfectly sums up where many retailers and multi-model companies like Ralph Lauren find themselves, yet it speaks to taking a more prudent approach that leverages existing assets. I'm bullish.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2016

    Home Depot and Lowe’s can’t touch Ace for satisfied customers

    Ace enjoys many advantages over the big guys, including smaller, easier-to-shop formats and assortments that are optimized accordingly. Ace's more curated approach to retail makes providing great service easier as well. Store associates can see when shoppers enter the store and quickly identify those who need help. Its co-op approach ensures that individual stores resonate with local markets in a way that Lowe's and Home Depot haven't quite been able to crack. Ace has carved out a great niche and should just keep working it.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Does Walmart need fitting rooms?

    Walmart shouldn't accelerate its fitting room foray unless/until it backs it up with additional housekeeping. Piles of clothes in shopping baskets or on the floor will be counterproductive and could easily erase any incremental gains.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Should Sears sell its Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore brands?

    As appliances become the new grocery (in terms of hot categories), the timing for an asset auction could be auspicious. If nothing else, further expanding the presence of CDK in other retailers would seem to make sense. These days, keeping a brand to yourself is a ticket to obscurity (and as Sears has experienced, a drain on brand equity). Sell now before value seeps out.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2016

    Walmart to end price matching in some stores, but not really

    From an administrative and efficiency standpoint, directing price matching through Walmart's app makes nothing but sense.`Doing so speeds up the process and mitigates confusion, inconsistency and potential confrontations over matching criteria. That said, the switch puts Walmart completely in charge and turns price matches into a passive experience for shoppers. Walmart would be smart to ensure that shoppers who participate see meaningful savings. Walmart must message "We've got you covered."
  • Posted on: 05/24/2016

    Is the paper receipt dying?

    I guess this is a start but far more wasteful and excessive in the pharmacy world are the paper bags and instruction sheets stapled together in a wad with NO other option offered. I would like to have the option of forgoing all of that. How about a recycling program for the bottles themselves, and even safe disposal of unused prescriptions, which have been known to wreak environmental havoc?

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