PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Strategy & Operations Delivery Leader

Brandon Rael is a trusted advisor with significant strategy, operational improvement, profit optimization, organizational change, and technology experience in the retail, wholesale, consumer goods, and consumer-facing industries. Having worked for and in partnership with Fortune 100 companies, Brandon has a deep understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset. He is a valued partner for companies as they evolve, adapt, and grow.

Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in leading complex business transformation programs, delivering significant EBITDA improvements, driving meaningful ROI, building high performing teams, inspiring organizational change, and exceeding the client’s expectations. He has authored industry articles, is a regular podcast and conference presenter, and is a member of the RetailWire Braintrust global community. *

Select prior engagements include:

▪️ Led the global business transformation for a $10B vertically integrated multi-brand apparel company, with a presence in both retail and wholesale, across all elements of growth, including assortment optimization, omnichannel improvements, product development, business processes, pricing, e-commerce, digital and customer experience strategies. The operating model transformations resulted in 150 EBITDA basis points improvements alongside a 3% comp sales increase and $100M in cost savings

▪️ Delivered and defined localized micro-merchandising assortment planning methodologies and processes for a $45B national off-price retailer, which optimized inventories and enhanced the customer experience, contributing to 75 EBITDA basis point improvement and a 2% comp sales increases

▪️ Executed and led the business transformation for a $3B teenage apparel company, empowering a fully integrated merchandising assortment planning solution that increased efficiencies, optimized the supply chain, and led to 100 EBITDA basis points improvements

▪️ Directed an IT infrastructure outsourcing global delivery engagement workstream for a $150B pharmaceutical company to restructure, define and operationalize processes across 140 countries and centralized work-groups across 4 continents, which led to $225M in cost improvements

▪️ Established commerce solutions for an $8B vertically integrated global beauty company that enhanced cross channel customer experiences by executing the future state assortment planning processes and pricing strategies, which contributed to 2% comp sales increases, and 100 EBITDA basis points improvements

* Opinions are my own

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  • Posted on: 01/27/2022

    Will Americans go to Lowe’s to buy dog food?

    The store within a store concept has been a winning collaboration for decades. This collaboration offers Lowe's an opportunity to draw more traffic to their stores and serve customers with pets. While customers may not specifically go to Lowe's for Petco's products, the fact that they are there and it's a complimentary product, they will consider the impulse buy. These sorts of collaborations have worked very well for multiple retailers. It's a win-win for Lowe's and Petco. Petco has an opportunity to extend its reach and scale without the significant capital investment of opening up a new store location. For Lowe's, its yet another merchandising category to serve the customer and draw more traffic
  • Posted on: 01/27/2022

    Retailers need to prove their sustainability cred to grow sales

    Retailers do not have the luxury of time to define and develop meaningful sustainability initiatives. There is no time like the present to make significant commitments to sustainability and carbon reduction strategies. One of the more recent initiatives has been Walmart making a substantial investment in vertical farming and sustainability with their funding of Plenty. Walmart’s investment is part of a $400 million round of funding for Plenty led by One Madison Group and JS Capital, with participation from SoftBank Vision Fund. With the move, the country’s largest grocer is diving into a trendy area of food tech that brings farm produce closer to customers’ kitchen tables to boost freshness, limit waste, and promote sustainability. Indoor agriculture also has become a potential solution to unpredictable weather patterns and natural disasters, such as California wildfires fueled by climate change. Walmart sees the approach as an environmentally friendly way to ensure a reliable supply of high-quality and affordable produce year-round. Starting later this year, Walmart’s 250 stores in California will have leafy greens grown on a vertical farm in the city of Compton in southern Los Angeles. This collaboration is such a welcome development. It's so commendable to see a company of the size and scale of Walmart make such a significant investment in the sustainability and vertical farming space.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Amazon Go is going big(ger) in suburban locations

    The just walkout Amazon Go technology solutions have been gaining some momentum lately. However, the rollout has not been at the rate we initially expected from Amazon. Considering that there are labor challenges and the lines are overwhelming in the grocery and convenience stores, perhaps the Amazon Go operating model is the solution we need in the suburbs. The self-checkout process has had its challenges and, at times, is a friction-filled experience for consumers. An Amazon Go just walkout technology may make your trip to the local convenience store and grocer a bit more seamless and efficient. Efficiency matters; however, it will be interesting to see how Amazon's other physical retail formats compete on price, quality, assortments, service, and the overall customer experience.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Will social shopping even the e-commerce playing field?

    I could not agree more that livestreaming and social commerce will be a significant trend throughout 2022. Retail store associates are truly brand ambassadors, and as the representatives of the brands they serve, who better to lead the livestreaming content creation? Especially as the workforce will be dominated by both the Millennials and Gen Z segments, where social media content is so intuitive and second nature to them. Larger retailers such as The Home Depot and Walmart have already experimented with livestreaming and selling via social channels. Eventually, mid-sized and indie retailers will be joining this movement. The key to livestreaming success as a viable selling strategy is incentivizing the store associates with defined career paths, clearly outlined job descriptions, appropriate compensation plans, and other benefits befitting a brand ambassador.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2022

    NRF 2022: Grocers stay prepared for tomorrow’s new and unexpected challenges

    Collaboration will be a critical theme between the grocers and their wholesale distribution partners. The great digital acceleration spurred on the pandemic has required grocers and wholesale distributors to take a more progressive approach with digital transformation efforts, merchandising, assortment optimization, pricing optimization, BOPIS, and micro-fulfillment strategies. With these digital imperatives, sustainability, transparency, and holistic living trends will be the prevailing themes in the grocery industry throughout 2022. We should expect grocers and their wholesale distributor partners to take the necessary steps to offer more localized assortments. Consumers also expect a greater level of transparency in the sourcing processes. The rise of conscious consumerism extends into the grocery space, as the consumers are more interested in product sourcing and ingredients. Holistic living and organic foods will be a crucial differentiator for grocers in 2022 and beyond.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2022

    Will 2022 be the year of trading down at retail?

    We are witnessing the highest rates of inflation since the early 1980s. Combined with the unprecedented global supply chain disruptions, customers are now experiencing product availability issues while shopping. Retailers such as Target, Trader Joe's, and Walmart are well-positioned with their private label strategies, along with their breadth and depth of assortments, to offer customers choices across a broad range of categories. With the emergence of high quality private label offerings, retailers now could offer consumers viable, price conscious options when national brands are experiencing shortages. Thus will ultimately be a win-win scenario, as retailers could focus on assortment and pricing optimization for growth while offering consumers the products they seek. During this disruptive and inflation fueled time, retailers should continue to provide outstanding customer experiences across the entire shopping journey, including product returns.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2022

    Are perks the secret to associate job retention at retail?

    It's impressive and commendable to see retailers step up and drive far more significant employee benefits packages. While discounts and other incentives are welcome, especially at popular brands like Lululemon, the career growth incentivization benefits are the most welcome development. It's truly encouraging to see the paradigm shift, where retailers such as Walmart, Apple, and others recognize the importance of store associates and providing tuition reimbursement programs for advanced education. While this is a welcome development, a significant part of this evolution is that there needs to be a clear and transparent path for career growth. Retailers willing to offer invaluable tuition assistance and invest in the store associate's development will be the winners in this space. In that case, there will be opportunities to rise the corporate ladder, and that commitment will work both ways with store associate retention.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2022

    Why is user generated content missing from physical retail?

    User generated content and the voice of the customer are as critical as ever for a connected commerce experience. Unfortunately, most retailers have not connected the physical and digital experiences, aside from star ratings on the shelf labels and QR codes. Retailers have made strides in leveraging QR codes and maximizing how to connect consumers with their apps and their social platforms for additional engagement. There is an opportunity for retailers to integrate smart technologies in the store, including interactive shelves, streaming content via iPad-like devices, and a more interactive and cost-efficient guided experience driven by the customer's smartphone. As Best Buy, Nordstrom, Target, and other leading retailers have done, they have made their content engaging, informative, and interesting to mitigate the customers from showrooming while at their stores. There is unlimited potential in leveraging store associate and customer social media content and incorporating that within the customer journey across all channels.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

    Indeed you are, Gene. The acceleration of innovative technologies requires us to evolve and pivot how we live, shop, and engage.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

    Yes, please bring on the department store of the future. We all want convenience, powered by QR codes, connected commerce, touchless payment options, integrated loyalty programs, augmented reality. Bring it on and at scale profitably. It's not just the younger generations that want this. Older generations that continue to evolve, pivot, and embrace new technologies and have abandoned department stores want this type of experience as well.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

    Great perspective as always, Liza! The Amazon hype machine thrives on publicity. Any publicity is good publicity for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    NRF 2022: Will Chinese shopping festivals migrate to the U.S.?

    We are at the precipice of a significant shift in how consumers shop and engage with brands. In 2021, we witnessed the emergence of livestreaming and immersive shopping experiences that were established virtually. However as a Western society, we are in a crawl/walk/run-like scenario in terms of large-scale influencer-driven shopping events. There is plenty of potential in influencer-driven shopping events via livestreaming. However the Western market is still dominated by the traditional holiday shopping season calendars. Though we have the holiday season extend throughout the October - December timeframe and a somewhat diminished significance of Black Friday. Spreading out the holiday shopping season has relieved some of the sales target and margin pressures for retailers. So, considering that and how quickly consumers adapt to innovations, we should expect influencer-driven shopping events to become more prominent over the next few years.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

    With the opening of the "Amazon Style" format, Amazon will now be offering a wide range assortment from the $10 basic to the designer jeans to the $400 timeless piece. There will be elements of the traditional department store. However the connected experience is extremely dependent on the consumer's smartphone, as the interaction is all around the QR code experience. A few things to consider:
    • The department store segment has been facing challenges for well over a decade;
    • There are signs of a slight renaissance in the department store segment with the innovations that Nordstrom has put forth with their curated assortments, personalization, restaurants, cafes, and a customer-first strategy;
    • Amazon enters a department store arena that is congested, competitive, and fighting for relevance in a disrupted pandemic economy.
    What will distinguish the Amazon format from the competition as these formats roll out? Will it truly be an immersive, digitally connected experience? Will there potentially be a Prime-like loyalty program and competitive pricing? How big will this potentially scale to? So many questions. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2022

    Are retailers’ returns concerns coming to a holiday head?

    The returns process is an intrinsic part of the customer experience and must be managed delicately. While we should expect the rate of returns for online purchases to be higher than in-store, regardless, the returns experience has to be a positive one, with clear and transparent rules centered around the customer experience. There are methods and strategies that retailers and brands could leverage to mitigate the rate of returns. These include assortment optimization, localization, pricing, promotion strategies, and leveraging augmented reality to drive "true fit" experiences for digital customers. As we move to a more personalized and customized on-demand shopping experience, retailers have to account for every unique customer, their sizing, and other preferences to help mitigate the overwhelming product returns. However if the customer has to return a product, retailers and brands must make this experience as seamless as possible. A negative returns experience is one of the main reasons why customers abandon brands.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2022

    Will Microsoft’s Activision deal open the metaverse up to enterprise tech?

    By acquiring Activision Blizzard, the Microsoft team is making a long-term strategic play into the commercial potential of the metaverse. The metaverse is scaling, evolving, and pivoting rapidly, and larger companies such as Microsoft are positioning themselves for the long game. We live in a fragmented world, where we are balancing our time between physical and digital experiences. The winners in the metaverse space will drive experiences for Gen Z and all other generations that span across both physical and digital platforms. At this point, the smartphone remains the most dominant "key to the metaverse." The smartphone form factor is perfect for the modern consumer that enjoys shopping in a physical store with digitally connected elements.

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