Brandon Rael

Strategy & Operations Leader | Retail Strategist | Trusted Advisor |
An accomplished, passionate, and inspiring leader who partners with global retail companies to solve complex business challenges. Brandon is an experienced retail strategy and operations expert who operates as a senior liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, technology, digital, and marketing worlds. Having worked for and in partnership with fortune 100 retailers, Brandon has held diverse leadership roles spanning across the Consulting Delivery, Business Development, Pre-Sales, Strategy Advisory, Marketing, Branding, Digital, Omnichannel, and Merchandising organizations. With an innate understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset, Brandon is a key partner for companies, as they evolve, adapt and grow more effectively. Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in delivering significant business improvements, driving meaningful return on investments, inspiring organizational change, all with a holistic view of the changing business landscape. Most recently, Brandon has driven retail industry thought leadership, white papers, social media blogging, content marketing, led retail conference speaking engagements and has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community His core areas of expertise include: • Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships • Digital innovations and transformations • Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management • Retail merchandising, assortment planning, personalization & inventory optimization • Strategic planning and operational improvements • Operational and business transformations • Customer experience strategies • Global cross-functional delivery leadership • Unified commerce, omnichannel digital business & technology transformations • Consumer insights and predictive analytics • Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise • Organizational Change Management
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    eBay looks to lead a ‘retail revival’

    The eBay e-commerce domination days are long gone. While the Retail Revival program is a worthy endeavor and could help indie retailers and creative companies to succeed on the platform, there's a certain global e-commerce giant from Seattle that has already optimized the third-party selling process. Unfortunately, the online paradigm shift has pivoted eBay to be the go-to place for the hard-to-find unique products you are unable to find on Amazon.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    Will Amazon’s decision to bail cause a New York backlash?

    The rents and demand for NYC real estate and commercial properties remain at an all-time high. While we are all frustrated and disappointed by the entire NYC Amazon HQ2 process, especially how it ended up yesterday, all is not lost for NYC. NYC has and always will be extremely resilient. Amazon has gone the distance and committed so many additional jobs to the NYC market, and this is a short term loss. Google has stealthy gobbled up significant real estate properties south of 34th Street, especially the Hudson Yards and the Chelsea area. NYC has become a tech hub with plenty of larger firms like Google establishing a larger presence, and also a significant amount of innovation-led digital start-ups. Adding Amazon to the mix would have been a significant step in growing the NYC tech environment. Amazon remains the clear winner here. The publicity machine around the HQ2 process has been all over the news and social media for well over a year.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Retail leaders need to care more about tech

    The main objective of the C-suite is to lay out the foundations for success, mission statements, financial goals, and objectives, and to set up the organization to achieve these. Technology is certainly part of the equation, yet from the C-suite perspective, it's a means to solve complex business challenges. Technology certainly is a top priority for retail leaders, however it essentially is the tools and solutions to drive increased revenues, improve margins, and most importantly enhance the customer cross-channel experiences. They have to care of course. But it's all about building a team of executives within their merchandising, innovation, strategy and operations teams. Their main goals are to integrate the technology tools and business processes for success but also drive the critical change management initiatives to ensure that the technology is adopted with a business purpose in mind.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Can Whole Foods’ business afford higher prices?

    The post-Amazon Whole Foods acquisition shopping experience has not lived up to its promise of increased savings, Prime benefits, and an improved assortment. Whole Foods already suffers from the "Whole Paycheck" moniker. Even though customers see the Prime savings signs throughout the store, the savings simply are not significant enough and are not living up to the hype. There are far more competitors already creeping up to Whole Foods organic and holistic living strategies. Everyday grocery staples, produce, meat and seafood are already priced at a premium rate as it stands. If Whole Foods/Amazon have to find ways to increase their prices, there has to be a way for Prime members, who are spending $119 per year, to garner more benefits and savings whole shopping at Whole Foods. Another way for Amazon and Whole Foods to extend savings to their customers is to increase their penetration of the 365 private label offerings.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?

    The Marie Kondo trend is on fire and every couple in the country is questioning whether every item in their home sparks joy, or if it has any meaning. There is some merit to Kondo's philosophy, as clutter and disorganized lives lead to stressful relationships and chaos in your home. It's always hard to part with your sentimental stuff, but Kondo does have a point. This trend does indeed contradict the mass merchandising, fast fashion consumption trends that have dominated our society. It opens the door for retailers and service companies to provide curated assortments and personalized experiences that inspire joy. Less is more, however if you have the right products, clothing or home goods that inspire joy, then this could be the paradigm shift you have been looking for. Let's see if Kondo's philosophy has some staying power.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    Anything that makes the grocery shopping experience more efficient and friction-free is a very welcome development. The grocery stores that integrate their offline and digital experiences will come out on top in a very competitive field. The best example of this transformation has been Kroger and Microsoft's partnership, as they build the grocery experience of the future. Kroger, America’s biggest supermarket chain, has remodeled two stores to test out the new features, which include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly along with a network of sensors that keep track of products and help speed up the shopping experience. Kroger could potentially roll out the cloud-based system it developed with Microsoft in all of its supermarkets.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Foot Locker makes $100M leap into the sneaker re-seller space

    Very interesting to see Foot Locker invest in a digital platform to drive interest in the secondary-goods market. The partnership between Foot Locker and GOAT represents another way for the company to engage with another selling channel, and attract additional customers to their stores. Foot Locker could potentially evolve into a cross-brand destination for these consumers by being the one-stop shop that brings together all of the popular sneaker brands. The timing couldn't be more ideal for Foot Locker as Nike, Adidas and other DTC brands are upping their experiential retail strategies. The resale market is heating up. In the world of luxury fashion, brands like TheRealReal and Rebag are taking off, and in the world of sneakers, GOAT and Stadium Goods are making it easier than ever for sneakerheads to get their hands on rare or secondhand shoes.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Are ‘spiritual’ brands more marketable than ever?

    Mindfulness and spirituality matters and this is an untapped market for retailers. In our always-connected digital world consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z are seeking ways to improve their overall lifestyle. This includes having a more holistic organic-led way of life, place more emphasis their health and mindfulness, experience new things, and finally along with all of that find some ways to reconnect with their spirituality. While Millennials and Gen Z have all but rejected organized religion, they remain spiritual, and they have found many other options to express their spirituality outside of going to a religious center. Consumers will flock to brands that empower ways to enhance their health, spirit, and soul. Community focussed brands such as Soul Cycle, and meditation studio MNDFL are outstanding examples of brands that have successfully tapped into this new trend. We should expect the momentum to extend to traditional retail and DTC companies.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    Are legacy retailers on the right track or heading off the tracks?

    It's a customer-centric world and they are in complete control as to how they shop, engage with brands, and choose to spend their money. Legacy retailers used to dominate the scene by piling their assortments high, and by offering everything they believed the customer would need based on historical and market trends. Legacy retailers who do not adapt, evolve and take the necessary strategic risks to drive innovation and better customer experience will get back on track. It all begins with the right corporate culture of innovation and taking risks. The biggest anchor to being a legacy retailer is a "legacy" mindset, that allows outdated strategies, technology debt and siloed thinking prevent them from moving forward. All is not lost, however, as we have seen Macy's drive innovation via the STORY acquisition. Story’s unconventional concept of a complete makeover with a new design, product assortment and marketing message every four to eight weeks is all about innovation. However, contrastingly, if the innovation strategies are not at the forefront, then as Neiman Marcus has experienced, you will not derive any benefits.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    Dropping home goods, appliances and lifestyle products may not be the elixir that J.C. Penney needs to get back on track. Adding or dropping product categories will not solve what is fundamentally wrong with the J.C. Penney shopping experience. Being objective, without looking at the P&L financials, it's hard to see how the company will benefit or have any missed opportunities by dropping the appliance categories. However, for the modern customer, it's challenging to even know what J.C. Penney even stands for today. Way back when, they were known for their affordable apparel, and were an alternative to shopping at Macy's or Sears. Their legacy strengths are only but a memory today, as there are so many other players to contend with. Perhaps it's high time for the company to completely take some risks and reinvent themselves.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2019

    Is Amazon Vine a win for all?

    Studies have shown that gamification simply works. By providing the right amount of rewards and incentives, Amazon, brands, and other retailers could provide the right amount of motivation for customers to write a review. Whether or not these reviews are purely objective is another questions. Reviews certainly have merit and could influence customers' shopping decisions. However, it's up to the consumer to really look at a broader set of feedback before making their final decision. In our time-strapped society, people really cherish their personal time, so Amazon offering these kinds of rewards could drive customers to spend a few minutes to share their feedback. For Amazon it's a win, and they also gain significantly more customer insights and product reviews from a broader population.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2019

    What will Angela Ahrendts’ departure mean for Apple’s retail business?

    For the company that redefined what a retail store experience could be, and established their stores as a town center, a place to connect, experience and build connections, Apple perhaps is in need of some new inspiration as the innovation curve continues to climb upwards. Even with the departure of Angela Ahrendts, which was somewhat of a surprise, Apple is challenged to diversify their product, service and retail offerings, as the iPhone sales have started to stagnate. With that said, Apple remains an extremely dominant global presence, and their retail stores are their prime media locations to connect with existing and new customers. For Apple and Deidre O’Brien, now is not the time to stop taking risks, driving new innovations and in-store experiences. Apple has a prime opportunity to entertain, engage and personalize experiences for each of their customers. Nike's House of Innovation and the Starbucks Roastery both in NYC, along with the Gucci Garden in Florence Italy among many others have taken the customer-centric model that Apple started with, and took it to the next level. Now is not the time for Apple to take their feet off the gas pedal.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Did Trader Joe’s make the right decision to end grocery deliveries?

    Trader Joe's did indeed make the right decision to end their grocery delivery business. Delivering groceries, especially in large cities such as NYC, is an expensive proposition, and simply not profitable. Trader Joe's charm and unique culture are what draws customers to their stores, not their delivery businesses. It's extremely challenging for Trader Joe's to compete in the delivery segment with Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh, Fresh Direct and others that have already built their economies of scale, infrastructure, fulfillment centers, and the supporting digital technologies to mitigate the last mile. The Trader Joe's team should continue to keep their laser focus on their positive, sometimes quirky in-store experience, and interesting assortments.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    For the football sentimentalists, the National Football League’s “The 100 Year Game” commercial had the right mix of nostalgia and humor. It really served as a self-deprecating vehicle for a league that continues to pull in record profits year after year, but also has a fair amount of damage control with the Colin Kaepernick controversies, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) deflections, and record player contracts. The Super Bowl remains the number one media play for the NFL and is essentially a national holiday in the U.S. For those who watch and enjoy the NFL, it was nice to connect the stars of the present, Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr, along with showcasing Terry Bradshaw, Jim Brown, Franco Harris, and others. It was just the right amount of magic that makes commercials memorable even when the game, other commercials and even the halftime show was underwhelming. In my humble opinion, none of the other commercials stood out.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    So much truth here Paula! The Apple Stores are given credit for reinventing what the retail showroom could be, However, it's more about media and a try stuff out and play model than authentic experiential retail.

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