PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Strategy and Operations Executive

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
Brandon is a trusted advisor, with more than 20 years of strategy, operational improvement, profit optimization, organizational change, and technology experience in the retail, wholesale, and consumer space. Having worked for, and in partnership with Fortune 100 companies, Brandon has a deep understanding of the retail market landscape, the evolving consumer mindset, and he is a key 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. 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 * Opinions are my own
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  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Are CTOs finally getting the respect they deserve?

    With all momentum around digital and the imperative to modernize organizations, it is impossible to achieve any transformation without the right leaders in place. Unlike the traditional CIO role, the CTO has become increasingly important, as having the right technology infrastructure, organizational support, and innovations are key to success in the modern commerce world. Having the right leadership in place ensures that organizations de-invest in failing/legacy processes and invest in the value-added technology investments. The digital-first imperative calls for dynamic leaders who can drive organizations to shift to a more agile strategy and ensure that innovations are prioritized.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Is Texas messing with retailers?

    One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been the inconsistent policies across different states. Now that we have federally mandated CDC COVID-19 guidelines, state governments should comply and ensure the workforce's safety and do what they can to help contain the virus's spread. Unfortunately, retail stores have become such politically polarizing contentious battlegrounds, as each company has every right to enforce mask wearing and social distancing guidelines. With Texas's highly misguided mandate, retailers have a social responsibility to keep their associates and customers safe. Considering the polarizing nature of how people view these viruses, we should expect plenty of viral TikTok and Twitter video posts of people arguing with store associates about their right not to wear masks.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

    Will seniors trust CVS to keep them safe with in-home IoT?

    As long as CVS and other retail pharmacies can gain the trust and confidence of the growing seniors market, there is a significant opportunity to succeed with in-home technology services. There is a misconception that seniors are not adept at adapting to new technologies. However seniors have welcomed health monitoring systems and appreciate all the convenience that comes with smart devices. There are great advantages for both CVS and the other retail pharmacies to take a more prescriptive approach by leveraging all the powerful consumer insights to drive more personalized assortments and experiences.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

    Target CEO says record-setting 2020 was no ‘fluke’

    Target was well positioned before the pandemic, with its relentless focus on innovation, technology investments, and connecting the digital and physical shopping experiences. Target was among a handful of retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, and others that have significantly invested in the critical technology infrastructure and processes, streamlined their supply chain, and pivoted their in-store operations to meet the needs of a changing consumer landscape around digital. Certainly a significant amount of the credit has to go to Brian Cornell and the Target leadership team. They have not relented on making Target one of the more seamless in-store and digital shopping experiences. With that said, the pressure will be on to maintain this level of excellence throughout 2021. Target has also streamlined their assortments and offers plenty of value with their private label options focusing on the value-driven consumer. It will be interesting to see how the balance of the year plays out.
  • Posted on: 03/02/2021

    Is off-mall where it’s at?

    The days of spending an entire day in a shopping mall are clearly behind us. Even before the pandemic, there were significant shifts to off-mall and downtown locations. There are clear advantages for the retailers of accessibility, convenience, and being closer to local communities by setting up off-mall sites. Additionally, the town center trends that Apple started a few years ago resonate as many cities are building significant mixed-use residential and commercial developments. Who wouldn't want the convenience of having a pharmacy, Sephora, cafe, and restaurant steps away from your modern apartment?
  • Posted on: 03/02/2021

    Are short-term leases here to stay?

    With so much disruption and chaos, there is nothing certain in the retail industry. This calls for creative and flexible ways for the property owners to ensure there aren't mass vacancies. Short-term leases are one of the strategies that will be around for the foreseeable future. There are also co-tenancy clauses that will need to be reexamined in light of so many anchor department stores closing. Now is the time for increased levels of collaboration between landlords and retailers to ensure that the malls and strip malls are vibrant and full of diverse businesses.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2021

    Automated checkout ‘will be everywhere’ sooner rather than later

    We should fully expect that automated checkouts will become omnipresent across grocery stores, retail pharmacies, airport terminal shops, QSRs, convenience stores, and gas stations. The majority of our society is already living in a digital-first world. While we do crave and enjoy the interactions that come with a cashier-led checkout experience, convenience, and efficiency have become increasingly important in a post-pandemic world. Going to a full just walkout automated cashier model is not a simple undertaking, and we should expect a hybrid model of cashier-led checkouts, self-checkout, and walkout technologies to emerge over the next few years. While some folks enjoy the interesting "banter" with a Trader Joe cashier, there is an emerging portion of the population who just wants to avoid any human interaction when they are grocery shopping.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2021

    Will the post-pandemic era be America’s next Roaring ‘20s?

    There have been clear winners and losers during the pandemic, which will continue to be the situation in a post-pandemic world. We should expect a post-pandemic commerce world fueled by the innovations, creativity, and digital everything experiences to help drive forward the economy. Some of the most prominent innovative companies surfaced in a post-financial crisis world, including WeWork, Airbnb, Instagram, and others. Historically some of the most innovative companies and economic shifts have come out of the prior pandemics and crises. We should expect an economic uplift from the explosion of creativity and innovations surfacing this time around. We should, however, take a very conservative view on the next ten years being the new roaring 20s. Millions of families have been disenfranchised during the crisis and have had their lives and livelihoods disrupted. We should expect plenty of growth but plenty of economic recovery over the next few years.
  • Posted on: 02/26/2021

    Is it the right time to reopen food bars?

    Absolutely nobody is going near a salad bar anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 02/26/2021

    Is it the right time to reopen food bars?

    Food bars were becoming extremely irrelevant and disappearing altogether from most delis and grocery stores. Before the pandemic, there were health, sanitary and hygiene concerns with food bars. This has led to the salad bar as we knew it to become a relic of another time. The emergence of Chopt, Sweetgreen, and other prepared food bars speaks to the fact that the modern consumer doesn't feel safe, or get value from a traditional salad bar. This business model was already on the way out and, certainly, in a COVID-19, and post-pandemic world, there really isn't a place for salad bars, where the consumer has so many other choices.
  • Posted on: 02/26/2021

    Target wants a bigger slice of Apple’s pie

    Retail collaborations, aka "mashups," are critical strategic partnerships, and it's a win-win situation for both brands. Target has already had an outstanding run, and Best Buy has proven that companies can benefit from a strategic partnership with Apple. Apple is placing its bets on both Best Buy and Target, as both companies draw so much traffic as it stands. It also allows the iconic tech company to extend its physical retail reach without the significant capital investments of opening additional store locations, hiring additional staff, and all the necessary infrastructure to run things. Convenience and accessibility matter, and physical retailers are as relevant as ever.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2021

    Macy’s says it will recover and rebuild coming off a tough 2020

    This is brilliant, Gene! Brand equity matters, and Macy's is world-renowned. There is so much that could be done to turn the company and brand around. Considering Disney's diversification strategies, they could help transform Macy's back to the magical wonderland it was during the golden days. I am sure Georganne agrees.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2021

    Macy’s says it will recover and rebuild coming off a tough 2020

    We should, unfortunately, expect more disruption and challenges to come in the department store sector throughout 2021. There will be a continued cost containment and liquidity preservation strategy throughout the sector, with the right sizing of store fleets, downsizing corporate staffs, and mass discounting. There is an accompanying loss of brand equity in an industry sector that could least afford it. Macy's has been in the news cycles as they undertake their long-term transformation cycles. There are macroeconomic and consumer behavior shifts that may lead to irrevocable changes in how, where and when we shop. For a company associated with traditions such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 4th of July Fireworks, and the holiday season, let's hope Macy's can turn things around.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2021

    Can making deliveries once a week make e-commerce sustainable and more profitable?

    It's very commendable to see what company's such as Olive is doing to help drive sustainability initiatives and reduce the significant carbon footprint of frequent e-commerce deliveries. In addition to reducing the carbon footprint, there are operational, organizational, and cost economies of scale that will kick in with once-a-week scheduled deliveries. However, this is not the first time companies have offered this service, and it has yet to scale. The ultimate challenge is that consumers enjoy the instant gratification of either next-day or 2nd-day delivery cycles. Convenience is the main competitive differentiation factor for digital channels, and that is one of the main drivers of not going to a physical store.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2021

    Will 7-Eleven’s beer and wine on tap be a c-store game changer?

    The convenience store sector is evolving and addressing the needs of the changing consumer behaviors. We have seen the emergence of healthy, fresh, and perishable offerings in 7-Eleven and other convenience stores. Offering alcoholic beverages is a natural extension of this strategy. By offering far better products, and now alcoholic beverages, 7-Eleven and other convenience stores are rising to the challenge and will be a force to be reckoned with as customers seek convenient ways to shop. This is very similar to the European convenience store model and may provide consumers with a way to avoid the mid-week fill-up trip to the grocery stores.

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