PROFILE

Lee Peterson

EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

After over 30 years as a merchant at Limited Brands, a retailer and a retail consultant, Lee brings an innovative approach to strategic assessment and brand development across diverse industries. He is particularly in tune with cultural trends, consumer demographics, and buying behavior. This experience gives Lee a well-rounded and informed approach to brand development and designing customer-focused retail and restaurant experiences. Lee wholeheartedly believes that stores must perform for the retailers, as well as consumers.

At WD Partners, he leads an experienced group of creative retail designers and strategists working on brand and prototype development for such clients as Wal-Mart, The North Face, Starbucks, Gatorade, Red Bull, Best Buy, New Balance, Safeway, Home Depot, Culver’s, Bob Evans, Whole Foods Market, eMart, Co-op Mart, Mimi’s Cafe and LensCrafters. Lee also leads WD’s marketing team which produces their web site, white papers and all marketing communications.

His comments have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, and on American Public Media’s Marketplace, as well as in industry magazines such as VM+SD, Brandweek, Chain Leader, QSR, Restaurants & Institutions, Nation’s Restaurant News, and Chain Store Age. Lee is also a frequent speaker on retail issues and trends. He is currently serving on the editorial board of VM+SD, a retail design trade magazine.  He is also an avid cyclist, outdoor enthusiast and lover of Nantucket Island.

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  • Posted on: 09/28/2016

    Are private labels the key to beating Amazon?

    Private label is absolutely ONE of the keys to beating Amazon. Customer service, quality of said private label and (if you have stores) a great environment being some of the others. Amazon is the same as Walmart only more convenient. Remember how we discussed beating Walmart for about 20 years? Some, like Abercrombie or Whole Foods, paid no attention to them and were on top of the world. Think of those lessons: quality private label, cool stores, very distinct brand positioning, great staff (maybe not so much at A&F, other than looks) and consistency across all those factors.Same David vs. Goliath game, different Goliath.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2016

    Can a revamped Office Depot compete with digital?

    A young person I work with recently told me this: "I needed some paper clips and i was near an 'office' store (which shall go unnamed) so I walked in ... it took me 15 minutes to even find the paper clips! I'm never going back, never." So there's a tough row to hoe for the office guys and it's not just services, IMO.I always thought a showroom store would be the best progression for the office stores to evolve to. Or at least test. "Showroom" meaning you shop a sample then either have it shipped to home or pick it up at the counter. And for what it's worth, this idea tested really well with young people in our studies. We've actually discussed that idea with certain "surviving" office stores ... but we got nixed. I guess they know a lot more than we do about the store of the future, and hopefully finding the paper clips.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2016

    Toys ‘R’ Us mulls small, urban stores as part of turnaround

    Smaller, urban concepts could work as "showroom" and pick up (from online purchases) centers, but from our own testing, the customer has to be much younger to accept that idea, and I'm not sure that TRU's core customer fits that bill.In terms of the "experiential destination," I'll believe it when I see it. TRU is still very much stack it high and let it fly oriented with the exception of their test store in NJ that makes the occasional 10 x 12 area "experiential." They have a long way to go and are still pretty much run by operations, not customer expectations.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2016

    Why did Walmart buy Jet.com?

    Ok, that listed logic makes sense ... if you didn't already have Sam's Club! How does that Walmart brand play into this? Because, you know, it's the same thing! Only difference is the way JET does the "incremental" pricing, but certainly Sam's could've just copied that.So I'm sorry, but it still makes no sense. I'd bet most Sam's Club execs are scratching their heads as well (behind the scenes, of course). UNLESS it's the old "take out the competition before they get big enough to take you out" tactic (which isn't listed). THAT, makes sense (see also: Wild Oats/Whole Foods).
  • Posted on: 09/19/2016

    Is digital defining the shopping experience?

    I just read something in Forbes that asked, "since everything about shopping has changed, why do we still measure ROI from stores the same way we did 30 years ago?" -- great question. First of all, there will be fewer stores and the stores that remain will become more experience-oriented vs. sales-oriented (see: no "Store" after "Apple") so, yes, the ROI expectations are way off.All this is of course fueled by Amazon figuring out digital native thinking way ahead of the retailers that came before them. Amazon looks to gain information as an ROI from stores. Smart. Traditional retailers need to pay more attention to the 900 pound gorilla in the board room.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2016

    Amazon to roll out pop-ups nationwide

    Pop-ups for Amazon are a great idea. You just knew they had to get physical sooner or later but to do anything more permanent, including book stores IMO, is much riskier. Amazon is the best retailer in the world at "digital native thinking" and has always really only been about gathering information vs. building revenue (see also: Echo, Fire, Grocery, etc.). This idea just further enhances that quest.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2016

    Is altruism the secret ingredient in Starbucks’ success?

    Wow, that's impressive. And really so spot on. I hope Schultz runs in '20.Having said that, it would be hard for other companies to emulate this excellent behavior considering how many retailers are struggling right now. Can you imagine Staples pushing a similar campaign? It's not that they shouldn't, it's that they can't. That's not to take anything away from the fact that Starbucks did all the right things to get to where they are, but that mentality has been a part of their DNA all along (see also: insurance and education for all employees, etc.). Which has not been the case for most.Given that success is a factor in breeding altruism, maybe Bezos could do a little more? Between Gates, Schultz and Mr. Amazon (all in the same city, by the way -- coffee clutch?) they could put a serious dent into changing the world for the better.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2016

    Can pop-ups wake up mall traffic?

    Pop-ups really make sense during peak periods like holiday, but to pop up in the middle of summer and expect that event to increase traffic is a mistake IMO. If customers are trained to look for new and exciting things when they go to the mall anyway that will help, but it's not the end-all. Mixed-use is the ultimate draw.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2016

    Will new retail associate roles drive Apple’s sales even higher?

    Of course product has a lot to do with Apple's success, but IMO, their people are a close second. I once counted the number of associates Apple had on the sales floor (not Genius Bar) of the 5000 square foot store I was in. 32. 32 sales associates in 5000 square feet! Every single customer was being waited on hand and foot — and there were a lot of customers there as usual. Do we really think that there's NOT a correlation between that number and the $ sales per square foot they put up? Everyone talks about emulating Apple but a high sales cost is rarely mentioned. Time to wake up.Apple is also smart in that given online's encroachment on physical retail, store associates will become even more critical going forward. So defining roles so that customers know what they do (not just for operations) is brilliant and necessary all at once. I wouldn't look for the world domination to end any time soon.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2016

    Has American Girl made a wise move into Toys ‘R’ Us?

    This falls under the "You know an iconic brand is dead when ... " category. It'd be like selling Ralph Lauren to Walmart. American Girl should have a seance with Nancy Reagan: Just Say No.It's kind of amazing to me that the new American Girl execs don't get the fact that the difficulty in terms of access actually increases brand cachet and therefore allows for higher margins and continued quality. What they should've said is, "Because we're under pressure to make more profit dollars, we're going to sell out and put our timeless brand in a dying retailer. This will give management in the future the chance to be compared to an overpriced Barbie collection as our quality goes down with sales."They probably won't say that though, huh? Too bad, as you know honesty really works with Millennials.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2016

    Can fresh foods revive department stores?

    Didn't Macy's at 34th Street have food in the basement before? You know, the area that they changed to attract Millennials? Although I believe retail will have to provide amenities like this at all levels in the future (see also: UO Spaces), it seems like department stores have been down this road before. Maybe if they would stop grasping at straws, like Millennial shops, and stick to what made them successful in the first place (exceptional service, great atmosphere, unique product) they'd be WAY better off.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2016

    Retail executives have no clue about digital

    Nikki's right! The difference to us is the difference between digital natives/digital native thinking and digital immigrants, leaders of most retailers being from the latter group. First indicator: Amazon does over 50 percent of e-commerce in the Spring, and the closest competitor in that arena is Best Buy at 8 percent. Eight percent! Target and Walmart rang in at around 6 percent. Those stats, to me, prove her point: despite all the investment in time and money, the digital immigrants are being out-foxed by people who at the very least think and act like digital natives. In a major way!If I have an Echo in my house, a Dash and I'm a Prime member with 24-hour free delivery, who am I going to buy from? That kind of thinking needs to invade the offices of the digital immigrants running today's retailers ASAP, especially the ones with thousands of stores. It's NOT just about the stores anymore, it's about the homes AND the stores!
  • Posted on: 08/29/2016

    Target holds first storewide sale

    Wait, I thought Target was a discount store. No? Because in reality, they actually became one yesterday? They were just kidding? Ok, so why should I pay full price next weekend? I'll just wait.Funny how Target, of all people, didn't learn from Macy's demise. "Discounting" is a slippery slope. Especially for discounters. Sure, they'll punch up some big numbers today, but long term, what's the damage? You could ask Mr. Lundgren about that.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2016

    Why is Apple dropping ‘Store’ from the name of its stores?

    Apple gets it. Here's the premise: we don't have to go to stores anymore, we have to WANT to go to stores. The future of brick-and-mortar is not about "stack it high and let it fly," it's about giving the shopper reasons to come to the space OTHER than just buying stuff. Apple already excels at this strategy with their classes, informed associates and Genius Bar -- they're way ahead of the game and have been since day one.Others executing the "store-as-space" strategy are Starbucks with their Roasteries and Urban Brands with their "Space" concept (see Space 24 in Austin) and even Nordstrom's "Space" category is close. Well done, can't wait for more to follow suit.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will Amazon drive-up grocery stores disrupt food retailing?

    Sure they'll try them, why not? They've tried everything under the sun, including telephones and drones. Walmart has a few free standing units in the ground right now so for once, Amazon isn't first with the idea. And in the long run, this should only strengthen their hold on Prime members too as to hit one of these on your way home and have your groceries put in your trunk would be incredibly ideal. (Don't forget, buy online, pick up AT store is still huge for consumers.)As has happened previously, retailers with stores will react slowly, as to activate that kind of capital on a grand scale is almost impossible for them. Walmart might be the last soldier standing if this clicks for AMZ, look out.

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