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: 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.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Will acquisition of a mom and pop shop pay off big for Kroger?

    Kroger's acquisition of Murray's Cheese exemplifies several new retail realities:
    1. Test and learn - Kroger acquired Murray's after testing the concept first. Retailers don't have to go all-in from the start, but smart ones pull the trigger once the benefits of ownership become clear.
    2. Niche plays - Just as Walmart is following its big gulp of with niche chasers like ShoeBuy and Moosejaw, Kroger is bolstering its early platform plays with category killers that bring instant category depth, relevance and fan/user bases with them.
    3. Talent grabs - Kroger got more than cheese and olives with its acquisition of Murray's, it acquired, and leveraged, the talent, culture and processes that make Murray's so special.
    This is only the beginning...
  • Posted on: 01/31/2017

    Will free two-day shipping give Walmart an edge over Amazon?

    Walmart is smart to cast a wider net and depart from delusions of mass loyalty to its shipping program. However, as Manmit pointed out, price optimization will be critical to Walmart's success with this strategy. The end game is to put Walmart in the decision set, right up there with Amazon, for purchases over $35. If Amazon beats Walmart on price, no sale. It really is that simple.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2017

    Will Walmart’s Scan & Go catch on this time around?

    It's great to see Walmart getting back on the horse with Scan & Go. The solution has absolutely increased the frequency with which I shop at Sam's -- it's a game-changer -- and parlaying the convenience to Walmart makes total sense. The scam factor is the biggest potential problem given that Walmart baskets are often filled beyond the brim with items tiny and massive, particularly near pay days. I'm sure that Walmart has factored this in. Never give up!
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    Will PetSmart’s luxurious Pet Spa concept catch on?

    Am I the only one who thinks PetSmart (and "co") are schizophrenic? On one hand, selling small animals, birds, reptiles, fish, etc., to whoever has the cash (regardless of their ability to care for them). Promoting spa services, grooming and even adoption events for cats and dogs on the other. Perhaps a name change to DogandcatSmart might make sense. Doesn't roll off the tongue but in the meantime, I'll continue to buy from Amazon.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    Will its acquisition of boost Walmart’s online performance?

    Acquisition is a great way to play a quick game of category catch-up but not everyone is taking the same approach. Amazon's acquisitions of category killers such as Quidsi ( and other fill-in-your-niche dot-coms) have been largely defensive. Amazon's philosophy seems to be, "if you can't beat them, eat them." By contrast, Walmart is leveraging acquisitions to grab tech talent and ensure category relevance. Footwear is a logical foray as Zappos acclimated millions of shoppers to buying (and easily returning) shoes online. Walmart can ride in Zappos' wake and bolt on a bevy of national brands, accompanying content and user relationships/data. Nice deal!
  • Posted on: 12/07/2016

    Zara succeeds with speed

    Speed-to-market is critically and uniquely important to clothing retailers (and wholesalers) for one big reason -- fashion trends are now dictated by consumers and social media influencers (not retailers). This one fact changes everything: Choosing "key items" and planning inventory six or more months in advance no longer makes sense. Retailer-dictated trends are taking a back seat. The need for speed, rapt attention and quick reaction to social media-driven trends is everything. Zara's business model is built for this. Others are finally realizing that they can't shape consumer behavior to fit their antiquated models.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2016

    Are Neiman Marcus and Rent the Runway meant for each other?

    I'm sure this was a tough sell within the Neiman's organization initially, but it makes nothing but sense. Rent the Runway will build a bridge between Millennials and Neiman Marcus while introducing fashionistas-in-the-making to designers who are part of the Neiman's stable. For the long term, this partnership should translate into purchases from new customers. In the meantime, the rental business will boom. Visions of hours-long mother-daughter trips to Neiman's!
  • Posted on: 11/11/2016

    Will Donald Trump’s presidency be good for retailers?

    Looking at Mr. Trump's presidency from a literal "policy" perspective would seem to be dicey given his bouts of rebellion and ongoing contradictions, not to mention the sway that others will certainly hold once his administration is in place. The jury's out on this (perhaps literally but that's another discussion).The most interesting dynamic is the shift in the Trump brand both literally (actual Trump-branded stuff) and figuratively (association and affinity). As I commented in a recent media article, there may be no such thing as bad publicity but there is such a thing as being out of alignment with your fan base. Trump's new, and perhaps unintended, fan base is the "non-college-educated white males" we keep hearing about. His historic targeted fan base is higher-end consumers and partners who are willing to pay a premium to license the Trump brand and produce products and erect buildings emblazoned with it (licensees, the ones that have largely been left out of the Trump brand conversation yet have a lot at stake).Ivanka of course has a big stake in the outcome of this shift as well. For now, many of those high-end partners and customers are fleeing and showing the hand to the Trump brand, complete with hostile hashtags, and the new base is cheering loudly. For the short-term, I would expect this dynamic to impact retailers that cater to these customers accordingly. The big question is whether Mr. Trump's presidency will save or sink the Trump brand, with which customers, and at what volume potential. We've never had a branded president before.
  • 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.

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