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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Chicago born, globally educated, 30+ years as a retailer and retail consultant, hammerhead cyclist
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Are some retailer CEOs too old to learn new tricks?

    I believe the greatest sin most CEOs commit is not leaving behind successors for modern retail. So, by successor, I mean someone who "thinks like Bezos" (Day 1), not just someone who can carry on what's already there.Why didn't Target's CEO think of creating AI that goes on people's kitchen tables (Echo) and runs all sales info through them? Why didn't Walmart's CEO think of using drones? Who's going to take over J.Crew? L Brands? And not just take over, but have the vision to compete with the likes of AMZN, Alibaba or even Warby Parker. Now that we're in the thick of this new age of retail, that needs to be a consideration for every board, every CEO. Who's next? And how do they THINK? Can they "think like Bezos"?
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will Amazon’s use of data transform how retailers operate stores?

    This is the store of the future. The 50-year-old ROI model for physical retail is pretty much dead in the water. The struggle going on now for most of the over-stored retailers is just that -- they're up against an old numeric system that desperately needs to change. The store of the future will provide exactly what Ms. Cast described -- discovery and data. Notice that she didn't say "profits." That's going to come from prolific online offerings where people buy things.It's a new dawn!
  • Posted on: 05/19/2017

    Is Walmart on track to offer customers a seamless shopping experience?

    Walmart is the only brand that is assertively addressing the Amazon threat. DTC is the first thing to nail down. Stores/associates in the stores is a close second. It feels like everyone else, including Target, J.C. Penney, Sears and Macy's are flailing against the headwinds. When Walmart starts shipping to home from their stores (i.e. fulfillment centers) for same-day delivery then you'll know they're really on it.We shall see, but so far Sam's folks are on a trend line to still be here in 20 years. I'm not sure the same can be said for the aforementioned retail brands (along with many, many others).
  • Posted on: 05/18/2017

    Is the $400B prescription drug business ripe for an Amazon disruption?

    Here's how you know that Amazon is going to win big at this: what kind of brand loyalty do you think CVS and Walgreens have built up over the last 20 years? Any? I doubt it. Do you think of going to either of those stores as something you look forward to? No way. Stores just stacking stuff on shelves in a non-experiential, low-service model (drive-thru being their most distinguishing feature) is not enough anymore. Sure they're on every corner, but if I'm sick or elderly, that doesn't really matter.But prescriptions shipped to my door? Huge. Especially from a brand you already trust (most trusted brand, years running). This is Amazon's wheelhouse. Here comes more big time disruption.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2017

    Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl?

    Walmart is wisely cautious and protecting their turf but, deep down, they know they've got it covered. Does anyone remember Fresh & Easy? If Tesco can't get it done here in the U.S., what makes us think for a second that Lidl can? C'mon. Trader Joe's is probably a bigger threat, but they can't figure out how to expand -- so, just another speck on the Walmart windshield.Again, it's smart to gear up for battle but in the end it'll be like watching the Warriors play San Antonio: a wipe out.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2017

    Has J.C. Penney figured out a fix for its fashion problem?

    Ok, here's the deal. If you have kids, ask them where they want to go to buy apparel. If you work with people in their 20s or 30s, ask them where they go to buy apparel. Ask your wife, her friends, women you work with. Ask anyone. J.C. Penney? Are you kidding? For unaided awareness to purchase (especially in apparel), they have to get the lowest score in any given mall.So why go to J.C. Penney? Oh yeah, Sephora. But other than that, once Baby Boomers stop going there to buy amazingly funky clothes, who does that leave as a customer base? People under 40? No way. Let's face it, this is a dying brand and, without Sephora, about two notches below Macy's. We are witnessing a slow death spiral equaled only by Sears and K-Mart. Don't believe the turn around hype, that's all about getting Sephora more space.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2017

    Can retailers keep up with Gen Z’s digital savviness?

    We call this the digital native factor and it is accelerating as we move forward. Those of us who were not born into the digital world (digital immigrants), which includes almost everyone running retail corporations today, are having a hard time keeping up with the speed of change and the acceptance of new ideas invoked by said natives. Gen Z included, obviously.After talking to thousands of young people (natives) over a five-year period, we came up with four characteristics of the digital native mindset: 1.) openness to new things, 2.) a desire to have things changed now, 3.) a desire for on-demand service and 4.) reticence to deal with businesses that act like digital immigrants, even they are.From our conversations, most young people felt like retailers were not moving fast enough toward the right kind of customer experience across the board, i.e., not as fast as they move from idea to idea. Or maybe a better way to put it is that these retailers don't move as fast as the tech companies Gen Zers grew up with like Apple or -- yes -- Amazon.Realizing that "Fail Fast" needs to be the new mantra will be the biggest challenge for retailers to address in terms of landing and keeping digital natives in the future.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2017

    Do customer reviews suffer from a herd mentality?

    In a study we did, online reviews rated as more important to purchase intent than touch and feel, especially with young people. So the last thing you want to do in my opinion is tamper with said reviews. That would be damaging the brand.The issue we're discussing falls back on the openness of the internet itself and how retailers who were raised in an earlier era have problems with the lack of control. In this instance, just like social media (think: Glassdoor), you've got to focus on quality across the board and let the chips fall where they may. As they say in sports: focus on what we do, it's the only thing we can control.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2017

    What makes consumers so loyal to Publix, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s and H-E-B?

    From my experience it's all about staff. First and foremost, the people that work at Publix own a piece of the company, so when touring stores with their executives the associates act like owners and ask difficult questions to said executives. That's pretty powerful. And the other two grocers also do a fantastic job of hiring people-people who not only go above and beyond for the customer, but have fun doing it. All three make for a much more pleasant experience than a traditional grocer.I think Whole Foods should be on the list as well, again because of their staff. In terms of knowledge and attentiveness and just caring about you and the product, they're at the top of my list.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2017

    Will next day delivery make Target an omnichannel force?

    Table stakes. Target is just being their semi-laggard selves and catching up to the hard fact that next day delivery is now simply the cost of doing business. While Walmart innovates and competes mightily (pick up stations, pricing wars, delivery, drone licensing, etc), Target is trying to get up, dust off their clothes and put on some gloves.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2017

    Will retailers get cut out by consumers in the future economy?

    I get it, but that's not going to happen. Imagine for a second going to the Crest site for toothpaste and the Kellogg's site for cereal and the Mars site for candy. Then looking out on your porch and seeing 500 boxes. Yeah ... NO.Retailers, as aggregators of brands, will always be a necessity. The profitability of said retailers is what's under assault. Clearly, unless we think a monopoly is cool all of the sudden, manufacturers are going to have to work harder with the aggregators to ensure fair competition. This is not inclusive of proprietary brands though which, to me, are the golden goose (always have been) for retailers. Fun times.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2017

    Are malls better off without department stores?

    No doubt. If you want to see the future of the mall, just spend some time in LA: visit older department store-less versions like Third Street Promenade or the newer ones like The Platform or Pacifica, or even The Grove (with only a Nordstrom) where Nike is really the anchor. With tenants like the ones they have, who needs the old model?The new mall is really more about mixed use than anchors -- food, music, entertainment and oh-by-the-way, retail.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2017

    Is omnichannel a retail margin crusher?

    There's a learning curve for every new facet of operations and omnichannel elements are no exception. The problem/challenge with omnichannel right now is that you can't NOT do it. That'd be like handing your business to the 900-pound gorilla. "Here Amazon, thanks for serving our customers, because we can't afford to!" Which is ridiculous. Retailers are by nature fighters and they're just not going to give up on this for the mere reason of cost.This study is analogous to doing a study on the cost of prototype stores when they first open. Yes, they're much more expensive. But after a few rounds you find out what works and what doesn't and the costs eventually come in line. I'd look for the same from omnichannel. It'll get to profitability. It has to.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2017

    Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?

    Boy, there's a lot of "duh" in that study, eh? Snark aside, it is interesting talking to people under 30 about price in that life stage comes into play in a big way. Millennial and Generation Z categorizations don't apply as much as where they are at in life: high school, college, new workforce member, married, married with kids, all those "stages" are SO much different. You see price mattering more as they ascend that ladder. It is great that you can comp in a second, but it might not matter.Interesting to note on all this: AI is not such a big deal in moving people under 30 to purchase. Kids don't talk to apps, they use them. It seems from initial conversations that AI is way more interesting to older consumers. So the latest/most high-tech seems to have done a generational reverse. At least for now.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Is personalized packaging going mainstream?

    I'm with Ken on this. I would think regionalized packaging would be more relevant. Magazines like Sports Illustrated have been taking advantage of that for a while now: Alabama on the cover for the South, Oregon on the cover for the West, etc. To Ken's point, what's going on now with customized packaging on CG products ("Zesty!" Snickers) seems trite.

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