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: 01/20/2017

    Will online sales redeem struggling brick and mortar retailers?

    Simple answer: they're going to be smaller. But hopefully a lot better. So many lessons to learn right now. In talking to retailers I know across all categories, with rare exception, the comments are like this, "our online sales in increasing tremendously, but that's not making up for the delta we're losing in stores." That said, whittling down to your "A" stores seems to be an inevitability. Smaller, better. Or gone.And you don't have to look far for the culprit. Amazon's revenue increased over 100 billion in just the last five to six year period. That's a piece of everyone's pie, not just Macy's and Penney's, but some of Walmart and Target's as well. No one ever said retail was for the weak of heart, but this is a whole new era of culling the herd.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2017

    Why does Gen Z like brick-and-mortar stores but not malls?

    Another classic case in which what is being said is different than what is being done. Footfalls in stores have been down at least 10 percent year-over-year for the last five years. If Generation Z prefers shopping in stores, where the heck are they? The young people we talk to don't go to stores to actually buy much of anything -- if they go at all, it's to look around and hang out. So to us, therein lies the future of physical stores: a great place to hang out (see also: UO Spaces).
  • Posted on: 01/13/2017

    Will Alexa become the voice of IoT?

    I have to admit, I'm stunned by the AI move Amazon made. It is so brilliant that I don't think it has sunk in for most retailers or consultants. Amazon, a retailer, has just put 5 million devices inside people's homes and it is not only helping them with their lives, it's running those requests, purchases and purchase information right through Amazon IT. Wow. What has any other retailer done like that? -- Ever?Now it will become very difficult for Amazon's major competitors to actually do just that -- compete. Years from now, I believe we'll look back at this move as a historic game changer, like department stores were in the early 20th century and even bigger than the advent of online shopping as this takes even that to a new level. Get ready, this is starting to look like Amazon's century.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2017

    Will 2017 be the year retailers start making their stores relevant again?

    I'd say the stores of the '80s and '90s are over, but not smaller, curated stores with great service. That's a comeback story for the ages. It's the idea of "stack it high and let it fly" out of big warehouses that no longer resonates. After all, that's what Amazon is, only you don't have to go anywhere.Many retailers understand all of the above, but with existing conditions what they are, that's almost an impossible transition. And therein lies the challenge before us: what to do with all that retail space that customers are increasingly not going to.We think there's a need to evolve existing retail to become two things: 1) a fulfillment center — where you pick up your orders or they get shipped to your house within hours and 2) a playground — where you interact with product, knowledgeable associates and a cup of coffee in a great environment.But boy, as the article points out, do we have a long way to go.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2017

    Are reports on the death of newspapers greatly exaggerated?

    Boy, I question those numbers. The three Millennials I live with don't even know what a newspaper is, let alone take the time to sit there and read one. We get the Sunday New York Times -- which is still amazing -- and I can't think of one time (when not forced to) that they, or their friends, or their friends' friends, have picked up a single section and looked at it. I'd stick with digital to reach them. Boomers -- totally different story.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2017

    What does giving up alcohol say about Starbucks?

    Good move. It was "brand wrong" to begin with. Also, from an operations perspective, it's one thing to manage a bunch of happily chirping, caffeinated morning birds and a whole other process managing scores of buzzed-up night-timers. If you've ever worked in a bar, you know what I'm talking about!
  • Posted on: 01/10/2017

    Do healthy foods have a price perception issue?

    I have a hard time with this one. What's more important than what you put in you or your children's stomachs? Not much, right? Yet, for some reason, the appeal of cheap, "less" healthy food is still pervasive. Seems more important to buy a new iPhone than it is to buy healthy food. I realize that some of us don't have a choice, but as has been proven by many studies, you absolutely CAN eat healthy for a lot less than most think.The crux of the problem is that Americans are raised on / only think of / and live and die by price, price, price. In any study we do, price is #1 in importance and everything else would start at #5. We don't even measure it anymore. It's become a "duh." This sickness not only drives unhealthy eating, but cheap labor, outsourcing to other countries and misdirected thought in general about quality.One way to stop this thinking IMO is to use food as an example and have brands that aren't perceptively associated with "elitism" teach people how to eat great food for less. Traditional grocers have started this idea but more along the lines of competing with Whole Foods. Time to start thinking about changing public perception for the good of all.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    What do Millennials want in store design?

    A miss in this info compared to what we know is peer reviews. Young people we talked to across the country rated peer reviews higher than touch and feel and wondered why no one was using them in-store (other than AMZ's new bookstores).Good question. And the 900 lb. gorilla on this topic is the fact that the more convenient online buying gets (I can just ask the AI on my kitchen table now to get me some socks if I want to), the less people of any age will go to stores. Stores CLEARLY have to become something else, like a social gathering place vs stack-it-high-let-it-fly.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2017

    RetailWire’s top five discussions of 2016 – What will top the list in 2017?

    Unquestionably store closures. It's already started, but we're going to shrink physical retail this year by a much bigger number than people realize.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2017

    What does the strong 2016 Christmas foretell for retail in 2017?

    As we used to say, "when the salmon are running" ... take advantage of the mood. But it feels temporary to me. We really haven't "fixed" anything. Retail is still in a very liquid mode, especially physical retail. I think people are just so relieved to have that election over with that getting on with their lives just feels really good.My message to retailers would be: keep innovating and move faster than you think you should move — we're not there yet, or even close, but the 900 lb. gorilla is.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2017

    How can retailers make online reviews more useful?

    Online reviews would be extremely useful in stores. Our studies have shown that young people value peer reviews over the touch and feel of a product, so the combination would be a killer. Amazon's bookstores do that now and although execution is still a question mark, it will be important to figure it out and get them into the brick-and-mortar component.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2016

    Amazon considers floating warehouses

    In the parlance of the week, touchdown! Craziest idea of the year -- they win! Of course, you can never count the Amazon PR department out, but this one takes the cake. Wow.Silliness aside, whenever we see anything like this we always ask the retailers we're working with, "what idea have you come up with lately?" Not ideas about a better wayfind system or bigger sale -- ideas like this! Or drones, or AI in people's houses, or using the USPS on Sundays or Dash -- those kinds of ideas. THAT's the new competition: floating warehouses, not lower gondolas.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2016

    Will online grocery gain traction in 2017?

    I'll bet if you walked into the depths of Amazon's headquarters you'd find a big bullseye with "Walmart Grocery" in the center of it. Walmart does more than half of their business in groceries. Yeah, that's approximately $250 billion. Between them and all the traditional grocers out there, you'd have to call that a "soft target." Because if Amazon could solve that the way they've solved the rest of retail, they'd be over the hump of being the dominant U.S. retailer.Why do you think Walmart's opening pickup centers for grocery? They're protecting their turf -- smart. The enemy is at the gates!
  • Posted on: 12/28/2016

    What does Alexa’s holiday win mean?

    I recently had a retailer tell me to stop talking about Amazon. My reply was, "how?" What other retailer had the foresight to put a device to help you with (fill in the blank) inside your home that will oh-by-the-way also quickly get you anything you need ... from them? Right — none.I may be wrong about this, but I would hope to see Walmart and any other retailer capable of competing with AMZ get on the ball and follow suit. Otherwise, if your main competitor is in everyone's home and you aren't, how long till they clock you for good? Right — not long.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2016

    French retailer parodies Amazon Go

    That's pretty good, other than the "poking the bear" business. They one-up Amazon with the home delivery and the human factors but boy, you just have to wonder how that works operationally. You still have to let them know where you live, right? What if they beat you home? Oh well, I guess it doesn't really matter -- we don't know if either one of them will work! (Amazon Go is not open to the public yet.)One thing we know for sure -- the younger you are, the more receptive you are to concepts like this. So a word of caution to Monoprix: better keep these concepts in youthful demographics.

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