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: 06/12/2019

    What does FedEx’s break with Amazon mean?

    This is an interesting move by FedEx, especially considering that Amazon represents only 1.3% of the company's overall revenue. The interesting development is that this is occurring at the same time that Amazon is vertically integrating its fulfillment capabilities with the company's own shipping fleet. With these capabilities, Amazon will grow increasingly less dependent on 3rd party logistics companies to meet their 1-2 day Prime shipping window commitments. In the short term, the FedEx move will open the door for their competitors to pick up some of the Amazon business. In addition, FedEx could refocus, and enhance their existing brand partnerships, including Walmart. In the long term, Amazon will ultimately have greater control over its supply chain with their own integrated logistics fleet.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    Has Barnes & Noble found its savior(s)?

    For Barnes & Noble to evolve and thrive under Elliott Management or Readerlink's control, the company will have to significantly reimagine what their store and shopping experience could be. Regardless of which firm ultimately buys Barnes & Noble, the ubiquitous bookseller is in dire need of a reset and establishing their stores as a go-to destination. While either Elliot or Readerlink will offer Barnes & Noble the financial lifeline they need, it will only be a temporary solution, as the firm has struggled with their evolution over the past few years. The original big box book store disruptor has been disrupted not only by Amazon, and e-readers but also the changing customer preferences. The Barnes & Noble stores were a magical place to visit in the late '90s and the turn of the new millennium, yet now is the time to drive new experiences, and have a far more curated assortment of books, that the local community would want to read. All of the proposed changes have to be centered around the customer. In the age of the customer, experiences matter more than ever before.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Should CMOs be more prevalent on retail boards?

    In the age of the customer, retail executive boards should reflect this paradigm shift accordingly. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has emerged, especially with the customers owning the shopping journey, and how they engage, shop, and ultimately transact with brands. Previously, the merchandising and IT executives dominated retail executive roles, however, we are now seeing how important the CMO has become. The CMO role is essentially the leadership role that is the liaison between the physical, digital and technology worlds. Retailers have committed to improving the customer experience, and driving greater personalization. Marketing as we knew it has evolved to track and meet the customers needs, as well as engage on social channels. In short, we should expect the CMOs to be included on corporate executive boards in the near future.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

    While these are right moves strategically for Walmart and Amazon, there are certain lines that we simply won't cross. I am all for efficiency and helping to mitigate the last mile. However, there is no chance most people would allow this. If this helps to make the delivery process faster, a locker or storage outside of your residence solves the last step of the journey.  With that said, the home delivery segment has grown significantly in cosmopolitan cities, particularly NYC, where there is a thriving home delivery industry already. The home delivery grocery services will resonate in larger cities, especially where most folks are dependent on mass transit, and do not own cars. Luxury apartments in NYC already a concierge like experience, and what Amazon and Walmart are offering is a natural extension to this.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Macy’s balances plusses and minuses of free shipping to loyal customers

    It's interesting to see how Macy's and other retailers have gameified the free shipping perks. With both Amazon and Walmart leading the fulfillment next-day shipping wars, free shipping is the battleground where customer loyalties are won. We could argue that retailers could get creative with this, however, the bottom line is that Amazon and Walmart have irrevocably changed the game, where the expectation of free shipping or reduced shipping costs are in the mainstream. There are creative ways that retailers could adjust their pricing strategies to absorb some of the incremental shipping costs and maintain their margins. By leveraging BOPIS, retailers will attract customers to their stores, position the store as a fulfillment channel, and while there entice consumers to shop, engage and connect with new products and experiences.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    How long before Amazon launches its fleet of drones?

    Drone delivery is on a short list of areas where we could innovate, but we have to fix the fundamental infrastructure first. Amazon and Jeff Bezos have stirred up the drone delivery publicity machine, and it's only a matter of time before these scale up. However, before we go to the next frontier, we have to consider that our highways, roads, and mass transit infrastructure are in dire need of repair, renovations, or even replacement. Our highways are jammed with relentless traffic, especially in larger cosmopolitan cities. Especially now that Walmart, Amazon, and other retailers' delivery fleets are using the same roads as FedEx, UPS etc. The race to mitigate the last mile of delivery is out there to be won by Amazon, Google/Alphabet, Walmart, etc., and drone delivery will certainly help in that regard. Yet we are a long way away from this scaling up as there are FAA approval and safety considerations that need to be worked out. We are still struggling with converting to electric cars and sustainable energy.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Will a city’s ban on tobacco sales catch on across the nation?

    While the Beverly Hills city council's stance is impressive, and certainly inline with the social consciousness that resonates with today's consumer, tobacco remains a very lucrative product category. Consumers will absolutely go to other local communities to find tobacco products. NYC has historically raised the price of cigarettes to help deter smoking, yet people continue to buy these products at a premium. Yes the astronomical costs of lost productivity due to smoking illnesses are concerning, but the consumer demand for tobacco remains quite high. It's certainly very progressive for the Beverly Hills community to take this stance. However it's unlikely we will see other towns and cities taking this bold step.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Are Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Tops wise to drop in-store childcare?

    As a father of an 8 and 6 year old, it's a welcoming development when a retailer, grocer, or restaurant has kid-related services and a kid friendly environment. While not having a willingness to make your operation more kid-friendly isn't a deal breaker, there are plenty of parents who will avoid certain stores and restaurants due to their kids' boredom. The European model of having family-friendly environments simply resonates. Children are far more influential on their parents' shopping decisions than I expected. It should be a priority to cater to the important "parents with young kids" shopping segment. Both the parents and kids will enjoy the shopping/dining experiences, and there will be a quantifiable increase in business and overall customer satisfaction.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Will the price of avocados make Americans say enough to Trump’s tariffs?

    Outside the political ramifications, the golden rule of any business is to be agile, flexible and have a clear cut diversification strategy in place if and when these sorts of situations happen. The United States has grown increasingly dependent on imported produce, particularly in the winter season. However, as any business will need to do when tariffs increase, they extend the costs over to the customers. A positive outcome out of all of these tariff discussions could be an increased interest in locally-sourced produce, which will also reduce some of the carbon emissions of imported fruits and vegetables. In addition, customers always have a choice. The imported produce, especially avocados, are already priced at a premium so increasing the price 10 percent to 20 percent really won't make that much of an impact. Bottom line, the U.S. produces some of the best fruit in the world. There's nothing better than ripe peaches, nectarines, plums, or strawberries in the summer that come from local farms.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    There is a clear distinction between having the "right" experience for a particular job versus having the personality and intangibles to fit in with a carefully curated corporate culture. The race for talent is not about acquiring those with the right skill sets and comparable experience. Rather it's about soft skills, such as empathy, kindness, and willingness to adapt to any situation that will make one candidate stand out versus another. With that foundation, the onus is on the company to provide the right amount of training, appropriate compensation, ownership, accountability, career growth, and incentivization structures to enable an outstanding employee experience. The old adage is that if you provide an outstanding employee experience, there is a strong chance that this will extend over to providing an excellent customer experience.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2019

    Will TheDrop get the drop on streetwear retailing rivals?

    Streetwear is on fire, and the key to TheDrop's success and momentum is their ability to provide freshness and assortment that is laser-focused on their customers' needs and interests. TheDrop uniquely provides streetwear manufacturers with a hip digital platform to release new items, yet also enables smaller grassroots emerging brands an opportunity to connect with new customers. Data and customer insights are a significant part of TheDrop's success. TheDrop's disruptive force has helped to ignite Amazon, Barneys, Foot Locker and Nordstrom interest in the streetwear market. There are clear advantages to having both a physical space to help connect, engage and connect with new and existing customers. The curated collections, popups, and store-within-a-store concepts could potentially impact TheDrop's dominance. Without a physical space, TheDrop is at a disadvantage and, as we have seen, digital native companies are opening brick-and-mortar locations at a record rate. A retail presence could be the next step in the company's evolution as a brand.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2019

    Abercrombie & Fitch CEO says ‘stores matter’ – particularly the smaller ones

    Abercrombie & Fitch was long overdue for a reboot, and the retailer is making the right moves to reinvent the in-store shopping experience, to reflect how their new consumer prefers to shop. While their omnichannel stores and digitally empowered associates are encouraging signs, I would caution the company to keep a laser focus on the customer experience outside merely technological innovations. Abercrombie & Fitch had caught lightning in a bottle in the late '90s and early '00s, with their nightclub like stores and their overall image as the "it" destination. Their NYC flagship store, which should still be open, had lines around the corner on 5th Avenue and was a hit especially with the tourists. The company got off track by not modifying their go-to-market approach, their assortments did not adjust to the changing customer preference to more preppy clothing, and their pricing was far too steep. Abercrombie & Fitch should also reconsider a smaller flagship store in NYC and other key markets.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Target turns to advertising opportunities as its core retail business thrives

    This is a critical evolutionary move and will help drive personalization to a whole new level. Competition is always welcome and, considering the monopolistic hold by Google and Facebook, this will benefit many. The moves by Amazon, Walmart and Target are outstanding moves to vertically integrate the advertising strategies in-house and drive more optimized personalization strategies. The keys for Amazon, Walmart, Target and potentially other retailers are to drive consumer engagement and leverage all the valuable insights into driving improved customer experiences. These companies will now have a more efficient way to track consumer behaviors across channels and determine how digital, email, physical and social media advertising channels are actually leading to increased conversions, profitability, and full priced sales.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Can department stores shake themselves out of the doldrums?

    It's beyond high time to both reinvent what a department store actually could be in our digital age, and what services and experiential retail stores will attract people to shopping malls. The fundamental challenge department stores are facing is that their legacy shopping model of the large sales floor, with everything under one roof, and being the dominant force attracting consumers to the mall has lost its luster. The easy answer to this is to blame online shopping and of course Amazon's disruptive impact on the retail industry. Yet customers still want to shop in a physical store, just not old fashioned department stores. Experiential retail has become the latest industry trend, as its all-encompassing business model connects the physical, digital, creative, and art worlds. The retail space remains extremely relevant, as the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that 90 percent of all purchases are still made in the store. There are no easy answers to the challenges that department stores are facing. We will experience continued right-sizing strategies, as unprofitable store closures will continue. The more and more technology algorithms automate things, the more we desire to have a place to connect with our community. Customers are always seeking newness and inspirational content that satiates their appetite. It will be very interesting to see how Macy’s integrates some of the elements of STORY’s creativity into their department stores. The question that remains is, with the scale and reach, will the uniqueness dissipate in a department store setting?

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