PROFILE

Brad Eckhart

Partner, Columbus Consulting
Brad Eckhart is a Partner Consultant with Columbus Consulting. Prior to joining Columbus, Brad held various executive leadership roles throughout his 30+ year career with both global and national retailers including Ralph Lauren, J. Jill, Finish Line, Juicy Couture and Warner Bros. Studio Stores. Brad’s various leadership roles have included responsibilities in Merchandising, Merchandise Financial Planning, Store Planning, Allocation, Strategy, and Business Analytics. In his current role, Brad has worked with various retailers on system selection, design, integration, and implementation of Merchandising, Business Intelligence and Business Analytics systems, as well as assisting in business process optimization and change management.
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  • Posted on: 08/19/2020

    Walmart keeps growing and growing and …

    From what the CEO is quoted as saying, it sounds as though the "path to transform..." has been successful. He states it is completed. This must have been no small task for an organization as large as Walmart. Having served in executive roles during these types of organizational transformations, it is no small feat, even for average size retailers. I give Walmart a lot of credit for recognizing the need to become more omnichannel by consolidating the .com business with brick and mortar. I suspect that even though the CEO states this transformation is complete, there is no doubt fine-tuning yet to be done. I would suspect this integration will be their biggest opportunity in the months ahead.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2020

    REI is going remote and selling its corporate headquarters

    The COVID pandemic has forced all retailers to adapt to not only the current state, but more importantly, it requires the need to rethink their business models for tomorrow and beyond. This includes what the physical office space looks like in the future and how collaborative tools can enhance the remote working experience. I believe REI's approach to satellite campuses is a smart move. Even with the best collaborative tools, there are certain functions, particularly in the merchandising and marketing departments, that require face to face discussions and touching and feeling the product.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Kroger’s marketplace sets out to ‘deliver anything, anytime, anywhere’

    Marketplaces have proven to be a viable strategy for retailers to grow their online digital business. Studies have shown that successful marketplaces experience increased customer lifetime value through improved user experience, and average order value (both through increased basket size and average unit retail). Kroger's ability to rapidly adapt to the changing consumer behavior toward online shopping for groceries (evident from their Q1 sales results), in my opinion, speaks to their strength of delivering on their digital strategy -- both currently and into the future.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    Retailers hunt for spare change

    I don't think we as a country are in any position to encourage walking away from contactless transactions. COVID-19 is, unfortunately, spreading like a forest fire. The country has managed up to this point with all of this stagnant coinage. I suggest retailers do nothing to encourage the use of coins or paper, until we are through this pandemic, or at least until it's under control. I totally understand that for some less fortunate individuals, cash is the only means of payment, and for these individuals retailers should honor cash as a form of payment. But as an industry, I don't think we should be encouraging contact transactions. Finally, if a retailer finds themselves unable to make change, they should round the transaction down to the lower dollar amount. Shame on them for not having the appropriate change in their register till.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2020

    Has retail adaptation become more about survival than competitive edge?

    I believe that retailers are in survival mode currently and reacting in a knee-jerk way to the seismic shift in consumer behavior. I don't believe that understanding consumer behavior has been a strategic initiative by many retailers pre-COVID, so the "in the moment" reactions to try and keep up with the changing consumer has been awkward and messy. Going forward, executives must begin thinking more proactively about what their customer’s beliefs are and how those beliefs affect their shopping behaviors. Companies that develop a nuanced understanding of their target customer’s beliefs, habits and shopping behaviors – and adjust their product offerings, customer experiences, and marketing communications accordingly – will be best positioned to thrive in the future. These are the companies that will have the competitive advantage by truly understanding what motivates their target customer.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    The unprecedented shift to online shopping due to store closures, the "black hole" of store-level sales data as a result of the shutdown and the shift in consumer spending from non-essential to essential product categories has disrupted retailers' forecasting models and allocation/replenishment algorithms. While it's very true that retailers are struggling with the missing sales data from this spring season (which I believe there are workarounds to this challenge in the short-term), the bigger challenge in my opinion -- for both the short-term and the long-term -- is that retailers must rethink how they engage with their customers. Analyzing sales data is not going to be enough in the future. Executives must begin thinking more about what their customer's beliefs are and how those beliefs affect their shopping behaviors. Companies that develop a nuanced understanding of their target customer's beliefs, habits and shopping behaviors -- and adjust their product offerings, customer experiences, and marketing communications accordingly -- will be best positioned to thrive in the future.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2020

    How can retailers cope with anxiety about the future?

    Make sure that your priorities are well articulated to your team. Taking care of your team and keeping them motivated and focused during this time of crisis is a huge challenge, but will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. Make sure that you protect your talent and manage any unfortunate lay-off or furlough situations with compassion and integrity.
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