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: 03/17/2017

    Will Uniqlo beat Zara with speed and customer focus?

    Uniqlo looks too much like Gap to me from every angle and, in case we all forgot, we already have one of those. Zara is better at fashion as well, and their verticality will go a long way to keeping them on top of that element. So all-in-all, I give it to the Spaniards.Having said that, either one would be foolish to open a lot of stores and expand too quickly in the U.S. market. The American consumer is showing a burgeoning love affair with online shopping, and it's not going to slow down any time soon. Au contraire.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery?

    Ha, that's pretty good. Funny how after the leader in innovation (Amazon) takes the bloody nose for being "crazy" or for doing something that will never happen, the truth comes out: damn, that's a great idea! The question would be, where's FedEx and USPS on the drone issue?It's going to be weird seeing those things landing in my yard, I guess I better get used to it.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2017

    Has the retail industry’s real estate bubble burst?

    He's right. About a lot of things, by the way. But it's not only a pure space bubble, it's the quality of those spaces that's driving the lack of foot falls. Take Hayne and Co.'s idea behind their UO Spaces concept. That works. But to just stack it high and open the doors anymore is an arcane idea that consumers are no longer responding to.In the past most retailers were focused on three things: logistics, procurement and operations. Not one of those is customer focused. In the future, all retailers will have to spend much more time on customer-driven initiatives like service, convenience and experience. It's either that or turn your business over to the 900-pound gorilla where leading with the customer is a part of their DNA.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Do consumers want AI and AR in their mobile apps?

    Have you ever used the AI in the Google app? Or Siri? Or Echo? At least to a Boomer like me, it's a dream come true. For retailers, imagine a customer simply being able to ask their phone, "please show me all your tops in a medium" or "yes, purchase" and then done. It's a game-changer in a way, but one I think all retailers will have to come up to speed with sooner than later. Otherwise, you can count on the 900-pound gorilla to do it before you. Let's go! Speed your way to innovation or wind up on the cutting room floor!
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Has Walmart found a digital answer for empty store shelves?

    We did a study on which digital tools consumers wanted to see in-store the most and "endless aisle" ranked very high (not as high as buy online pick up in-store though). However, this idea works best for big box stores like Walmart. Because with big box stores, you're semi-stuck there. Getting to another store would be more of a chore than just having it shipped to your house (free I'm assuming). But it's hard to imagine seeing that in an apparel store in a mall where anyone could just go next door to look for something comparable. So yeah, works for Wally, but caution for others.PS: where's Target on this? Is caution towards speed-to-market an issue in Minneapolis?
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Will Dick’s Sporting Goods win by cutting SKUs?

    I think this is a very good call. I recently saw where an analyst called Dick's stores/merchandising "undisciplined," which I think is accurate. Doing SKU RAT would eliminate that "junky" feel in their stores and clarify their high points and best sellers. You know, make it easier to shop. You have to do it well of course, and be able to shut your ears to the noise made by staff or fringe customers about certain low-turning brands, but the results can be stunning.I was part of a SKU RAT effort with a specialty retailer once and the effects were astounding in that there was a direct correlation between SKU reduction and sales increase -- to a point. It seems that if the customer can see your assortment, they have a better shot at purchasing. Imagine that. Now, if we could only convince the drug store category of that! Where is that Bayer aspirin, anyway?
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Are chains cannibalizing their own in-store sales with e-commerce?

    You bet there's cannibalization. Do a little regression/progression analysis and you'll see that if your online sales keep increasing year-over-year at the same rate they are now, say, 15 to 20 percent and your physical store sales keep decreasing year-over-year at the same rate, say, 3 percent, after eight to 10 consecutive years of that you won't need stores at all to produce the same revenue you are now. The AUV will be so low (which will make the stores super expensive to keep), you'll close most of them anyway.That's the pure quantitative side of the equation. But clearly, in order to maintain that rate of online sales increases, you'll still have to have some physical presence to continue to act as a foundation for the brand itself. A living, breathing ad so to speak. A place where people can touch, feel, see and talk to what you've positioned as your reason for being. I think you're already seeing that now, with store closings that cover the next few years, like what J.C. Penney just did.What we're not seeing though, with rare exceptions like UO Spaces, is the physical stores actually becoming that living, breathing brand. The sooner the better, in my opinion. Let's let the "stack it high" philosophy die a permanent death and be done with it for good.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2017

    Will content ever top discounts in e-mail campaigns?

    Have you ever heard of a cycling brand called Rapha? If you haven't, I would recommend you check them out (google: Rapha cycling). They are masters of content marketing. What they email you is stories of riders, where they ride, high production value videos of the rides -- of the beauty, the suffering, the camaraderie, the food, the places they stay on rides, etc. For an outsider this sounds corny, but if you're a rider you know that they GET it. That they REALLY get it. Then, oh by the way, here's some product that goes with said ride. This M.O. works in so many ways, but primarily it allows you to absorb and identify with the brand vs. diving right into price.As a matter of fact very rarely do they even talk about price and, when they do, it's not with any of the stories or excellent videos. Of course, it helps that their product is off the charts in terms of quality, but that's the price of entry for any brand pushing something other than price. Long story short, Rapha is a great case study for best-in-class modern lifestyle marketing sans price push. We need to see way more of that.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2017

    Will VR/AR keep consumers out of stores?

    If you've ever put a VR/AR headset on and "walked" a space (which is something we do here a lot) you would know this: VR/AR will NEVER replace the feeling you get in a physical environment. It's just not the same. It's very cool in terms of determining what a store/environment looks like, but it is not a replacement for the experience. Not even close, IMO.As a metaphor, imagine meeting someone virtually and shaking their hand. You can look at that person, maybe even talk to them, but you'll never know what it's like to physically shake their hand. A store is something you smell, hear, feel and touch -- you don't just see it. There are at least four senses missing in a VR encounter. Good for a lot of things, but not as a replacement for actually going to a store.
  • Posted on: 03/02/2017

    Will consumers make a pilgrimage to Yeti?

    Yeti has hit on the key note of what physical retail will be in the future: a top flight, highly visible, limited quantity on-brand experience. Great job and really, pure fun. Remember, today, customers don't have to go to stores, they have to WANT to go to stores. And who wouldn't want to go to that store?
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will Target’s $7 billion investment pay off in market share gains?

    Given the fact that 85% of a Target store's customers live within 10 miles of said store, the idea of a refresh is a good one. But Target will also have to move faster on other key areas they lag in like improving the BOPIS process, grocery placement (which will improve sales in that category) and speed to check out. Which is, yeah, a lot of to dos.It's wise to create lower expectations while doing all the above. Let's hope that investors have some patience and take the long road with these initiatives like they did/do with Amazon, who lost money for almost a decade. Because Target, as a discount alternative to Walmart and Amazon, is filling a niche that is obviously there: a more fashionable, dare say it perceived chic (hipper?) option that appeals to millions who are turned off by base-line shopping experiences.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2017

    Has J.C. Penney pulled off ‘one of the greatest financial turnarounds in retail history’?

    Wait, is J.C. Penney doing well or is Sephora doing well? I'm confused. Is the strategy for turnaround evolving the company into a real estate brand? Or, I should say, a better one? The greatest turnaround ever would've been keeping Ron Johnson, in my opinion, but that's for another day. If anything, J.C. Penney is in line for more right-sizing. At least until they fill their former "stores" with hotter brands. I wonder if Marvin's talked to Warby Parker yet. Bonobos?
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    There are two keys to this: 1) in partnership with your manufacturers, you've got to build shipping costs into the cost of the goods. As a former merchant, I can tell you, that's been the case for just about everything you've bought since before the Revolutionary War, why would that change? Stop showing your customers extra costs. And 2) you have to have as much private label as possible to make that work -- selling commodity goods is going to be Amazon's game; get over it and drive your PL strategy fast, the Huns are at the gate.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Is Amazon’s Alexa a threat to rival retailers?

    That's an easy question. Answer: a big "hell yeah!" Having a personal assistant help you do whatever it is you need (including buy whatever it is you need) in five million homes -- are you kidding? If that doesn't put a cold shiver down your spine as a retailer, I don't know what will. That's like being 20 yards behind Usain Bolt; hard enough to beat him straight up!This proves again that Amazon is just so far ahead of the rest of the retail pack. We're about to see massive store closings and major corporate restructurings because of it. Oh yeah, and potentially the first trillion-dollar retailer in history.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

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

    Starbucks bought La Boulange and it paid off. Their pastries and food offerings in general are much better. Key is, can Kroger proliferate that knowledge to 2800 stores the way SBUX did? Not sure, IMO, as they're as organized as SBUX from that perspective since they are structured regionally for many aspects of their business.

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