PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Will meal kits be a hit on Walmart’s virtual shelves?

    My concern is how Walmart will drive awareness for these new offerings (and for any number of more upscale concepts, brands, etc. that may now be found on Walmart.com). I found out about the Walmart kits through a reporter and went on to order the Ethiopian lentils and injera kit. Anyone who loves Ethiopian food knows how difficult it is to duplicate at home. I had to see how well the concept was carried off and made it last night. The packaging and directions were awesome. The kit itself was pretty much a combination of items and brands that can be purchased elsewhere. It was okay, definitely a "fix" for Ethiopian flavors but no competition for even a mediocre restaurant. I knew how to doctor it up but someone unfamiliar with the cuisine probably wouldn't. It was super spicy which I love but could be off-putting to others. I like that these kits are tackling ethnic and vegetarian cuisines and the longer shelf life that Takeout Kit offers is also a step in the right direction.The key will be to offer cuisines and combinations that most people would not attempt otherwise. Given that the kits are available on dedicated websites, on Walmart.com and Amazon.com, this is a smart distribution play for the kit companies and a no-harm small bet for the likes of Walmart and Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Is private label grocery about to go to the next level?

    At a time when national brands are ubiquitous, with the only difference being who is selling them, private brands are one of the only ways to differentiate these days. So yes, another private brand explosion is teed up in food, and already underway in other categories. I addressed a new wrinkle on the private brand front, driven by Amazon, in an article published yesterday.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2017

    Are retailers caught in a content trap?

    Some of the points seem a bit out of alignment with the premise of "content" but I'll go with the main idea. Thanks to the ever-proliferating number of "spokes" mentioned in the article, retailers now have an insatiable appetite for content. The challenge, and opportunity, is that they can't (and actually don't want to) create it all themselves. Hence the requests-evolving-into-demands to obtain more of it from their brand marketing partners. The idea of "curating" content is fast becoming past-tense as simply managing it, ensuring accuracy and defining accountabilities become front and center. I call this the "content conundrum" and the world of content is only going to become more unwieldy and blurry as digital marketplaces proliferate, as mobile marches on, and as the digital rethinking of physical retail and interplay between digital and physical intensifies.Content is at the center of the action yet retailers tell me that even the big CPGs aren't developing comprehensive and relevant content plans. Retailers will increasingly take an "if you want something done right ... " stance which will call for dedicated internal effort. As retailers gain more expertise and confidence on the content front, they will find more ways to monetize their platforms and the balance of power will shift. Not unlike the evolution of private brands over the years ...
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    What marketing lessons can we learn from Amazon?

    A disruptive, three-word sentence sums up Amazon's contrarian advantage, with an "f word" deserving a place among the musty Ps: Fulfillment IS marketing.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?

    If you ask Jeff Bezos, customer service is something you have to give when customer experience fails. Perhaps he was the inspiration for the book. Many don't draw a distinction between customer service and customer experience and certainly not to the point of deeming customer service an undesirable back-up system. He has a point though and I would throw in user experience as yet another spin-off that warrants attention. When user and customer experience are on target, customer service can stay in the quiver.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Will lower everyday prices boost Target’s traffic and sales?

    We retail watchers are in the loop about Target's pricing moves but shoppers will only know about it through experience. That means Target will really have to walk the talk to make any kind of impression. Target joins J.C. Penney and other retailers that are eschewing convoluted pricing schemes in favor of simplicity. The timing is interesting (and perhaps late) given Whole Foods' well publicized, and already executed, price reductions and Walmart's ongoing EDLP promise.My guess is that Target is reducing prices because it can. Not only through its recent massive private label overhauls and introductions but also through (hopefully) more sophisticated data mining. Will national brands that are available elsewhere bear the brunt? That's where the comparisons are harshest and price reductions most noticeable.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    ‘Okay Google, I want to order from Home Depot’

    The Home Depot announcement is a real boon for Google as category variety and scale will be key to Google's relevance. The backlash against Amazon is real in the retail world and retailers have viable non-Amazon options when it comes to platform partnerships. I expect that Amazon's announcement that it is shopping for a site, and city, to call home for its latest mega distribution center is egging on the defections and alternative-exercising.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    The need for speed is one aspect but it's an offshoot of the bigger dynamic: retailers are no longer dictating fashion and trends, they are responding to consumers' shifting whims. Foot Locker has the right idea by carving out open-to-buy for more spontaneous opportunities but, at the end of the day, the fashion and footwear industry is still locked into a months-long, buy-ahead model that is out of step with reality. Amazon is a factor here as well (when are they not?) as they have redefined fulfillment and convenience. The next nail has landed in the form of Amazon's proliferating private brand offering, ensuring that all kinds of "looks" will be a click away. Married with Prime Wardrobe ... well, you get the picture.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2017

    What’s delaying BTS selling?

    BTS is turning into more of a prolonged, dispersed season than a concentrated event thanks to the varying school schedules across the country. Buying closer to need is also a big factor with Amazon possibly playing a larger role than even the weather. Shoppers are buying closer to need because they can. Why hit the stores when you can order on Amazon Prime and get it the following day (and send back whatever doesn't work)? Retailers would be smart to monitor day-in and day-out value in relation to the competition rather than getting trigger happy with promotions.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    Is the one-stop grocery shop coming to an end?

    What if the retailers themselves are changing shoppers' habits? The default assumption is that retailers are constantly reacting to changes in shopper behavior and that small formats (or conversely, mega-assortment emporiums) are a response. No doubt this is true to an extent but the proliferation of small formats, digital-to-physical delivery mechanisms (even for small orders) and other convenience options also encourage shoppers to eschew time-eating stock-up trips in favor of quick and specific fill-ins from multiple retailers. Retailers are accelerating the convenience trend; opening up opportunities for multiple players to participate in it and attack it from multiple angles (small, large, digital, clicks-to-bricks ... ).
  • Posted on: 06/07/2017

    Can licensing safeguard against retail downsizing?

    Thanks all for the comments so far. The originally published title (since updated by RetailWire), positioned the article as touting licensing as a solution for retailers. The intention (as reflected in the now-revised title) is to explore and delineate the benefits of strategic licensing for licensors, licensees, agencies and others who already participate in that world, and those who might consider it, particularly as retailers shrink their store fleets. Whether consumers realize it or not, licensing is already pervasive in retail and brand marketing.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2017

    Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl?

    I'm in Walmart's back yard and can attest to the fact that Aldi enjoys industry-defying loyalty here. I know people who plan regular trips to the not-that-convenient local Aldi to pick up their favorite private-branded products, organics, and produce. Still others call out little-known details like Aldi's selection of authentic products from Europe, the oddly compelling "treasure hunt" vibe in general merchandise and, of course, the quick check-out process with cashiers that tend to be just a bit friendlier. (Aldi pays them well.)A lot going on in that little box and none of it is lost on Walmart.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2017

    Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl?

    Walmart is (rightfully) concerned about Aldi and Lidl for several reasons:
    1. The combined, efficient, small-format scale;
    2. The just-different-enough propositions of Aldi and Lidl cover a lot of important ground (private and national brand strength, easy-to-shop and easy-to-operate formats, convenience and more);
    3. Lidl beta testing click-and-collect in Europe (with potential to parlay in the U.S.) -- something U.S. dollar stores haven't prioritized;
    4. Aldi's ongoing format refinements and doubling down on organics. Aldi isn't standing still;
    5. Lidl isn't just putting a toe in the water, they will roll out aggressively.
    I'm sure there is more but that's enough to keep folks awake at night for now.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2017

    Has North Face reached a summit in consumer segmentation?

    This type of lifestyle segmentation is very "VF" -- they've taken this approach for years so it's only natural that the strategy is being applied to North Face. What is different, and I think quite relevant, is the way North Face is breaking out some of the segments and parlaying them to build localized brick-and-mortar propositions. Just as with the "athleisure" movement in women's, the outdoor segment is also splintering into multiple sub-movements that ideally address how and when people really wear certain looks. Head-to-toe, mono-brand outfits are a thing of the past so North Face would be smart to present mix-and-match looks, even if they incorporate other brands.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Are consumers’ AI fears rational?

    AI is an inexorable force at this point so any consumer fears frankly won't curtail it. The fact that many in government don't understand AI compounds the potential complications down the road as regulations will lag behind actual implementation. I'm by no means anti-AI (not that it would matter if I were!) but the job losses, particularly in the retail sector, and accelerating creep factor will eventually become more noticeable to consumers. By then, AI will already be pervasive.

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