Carol Spieckerman

President, Spieckerman Retail

Carol Spieckerman is an internationally-recognized authority on retail and brand positioning. She specializes in future-proofing her clients’ retail strategies and positioning them for high-volume success with key retail decision-makers and influencers.  As president and CEO of Spieckerman Retail, she tracks Retail TrajectoriesSM that cut across categories, tiers, environments and borders and transforms them into actionable strategies for her brand marketing, agency, licensing, and technology clients. Carol is an author and regular contributor to leading retail and business media. Her credits include the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Forbes, Dealerscope, Women’s Wear Daily, Bloomberg Business Week, Private Label Buyer and Retail Wire. Carol speaks at corporate and industry events around the world including the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the International Licensing Expo. Her blog, The Right Brain of Retail, is considered a “must-read” by major retailers, brands and suppliers and her retail insights are prominent on Twitter @retailxpert.

  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    It's all too easy to back logic into Amazon buying Target but Target (and specifically, Brian Cornell) has too much to prove at this point. I've yet to see significant improvements at Whole Foods since Amazon acquired it - if anything, things have moved in the opposite direction in terms of service and product selection. Amazon has bitten off enough for now and Target needs more time to prove its point. As Amazon receives more scrutiny, antitrust hurdles are another consideration.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2018

    I don’t like Amazon as much as I did last week

    Amazon’s tale of two cities may seem like a buzz kill in the wake of all the winner-takes-all speculation but it is a manageable and beneficial situation overall. Amazon will be able to draw talent from a more diverse skill pool and build upon its existing presence in the DC and New York areas, both of which are well-suited to running brick-and-mortar tests. Negative implications like traffic congestion and rising home costs will be dispersed, making the aftershocks more manageable for both metro areas. No doubt Amazon received incentives from both cities that made the bifurcated location strategy even more attractive. Also, as Amazon receives more scrutiny, its proximity to power brokers both financial and political will come in handy. Either way, this isn’t necessarily a one-time shot. Retail is becoming more decentralized in general, leaving plenty of satellite possibilities open for round two (and three, and four), and not just for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2018

    Walmart puts AI to the test in an in-store lab

    Artificial intelligence is the most promising innovation in retail as it has so many applications. Ranking the benefits misses the point since all of the tests Walmart is running will ideally work synergistically. Through dedicated laboratories like the Sam's Club Now location in Dallas, Walmart will be able to test the full potential of AI on multiple fronts then deconstruct and deploy what works rather than having to tease out the insights from its regular formats. Things are going to start to get exciting on the AI front, just in time for the holiday season.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2018

    Will right-sized stores drive bigger returns for Macy’s?

    Small formats make all kinds of sense but Macy's approach sounds convoluted and potentially perilous. Fewer, centralized checkouts, skeleton crews and walled off areas aren't very customer-centric. Macy's is also perpetuating a lack of consistency across its brick-and-mortar fleet and widening the yawning gap between its flagships and the newly-reconfigured "other" stores. Macy's isn't doing itself a favor through this latest round of wrong-sizing.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2018

    Why aren’t women buying Amazon’s private label clothing?

    Amazon's stealthy, large-scale private brand deployment may be backfiring - diluting the impact of the overall portfolio (not to mention other brands that sell on Amazon). J. Crew is actually selling a secondary brand on (Mercantile) rather than letting its flagship fly on the platform. More brands tell me that they are evaluating their plans with Amazon or at least putting in some reality checks in terms of volume potential.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2018

    Is Sam’s reimagining the future of warehouse clubs?

    Walmart is smart to peel off and create a dedicated test-and-learn lab, particularly as brick-and-mortar scale remains a Walmart strength (for now). Sam's customers are more open to experimentation so launching under that banner makes sense. The trick will be to quickly deconstruct and deploy what works across Walmart's growing platform and portfolio. Walmart is poised to define the next generation of brick-and-mortar innovation and Sam's Club Now marks an important next step.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2018

    Kohl’s CEO rejects department store tag

    It would be helpful for Kohl's to define what it is rather than what it isn't. I say that from a purely neutral perspective - not as a jab. If Kohl's truly is an alternative to traditional department stores then what is that alternative and how does it guide decisions? Kohl's deserves credit for stepping out but without a clear mission, runs a risk of darting at shiny objects. Kohl's is still a convenient alternative to malls and lifestyle centers in the markets in which it operates and plenty of shoppers like shopping in Kohl's stores. The Amazon hook-up makes sense for Kohl's customers who might be more comfortable having digital brought to them within a familiar environment rather than the reverse. On the brand front, Kohl's has shown more restraint and been more thoughtful with brand launches than J.C. Penney and Macy's but will still need to keep its portfolio fresh in order to remain competitive.
  • Posted on: 10/25/2018

    Can an Instagram-born luggage brand have staying power?

    I have an Away bag that I use constantly for business travel and I'm getting ready to order the next size up for longer trips. There is just something about the quality, the lightness and design of the bag that works for me though I can't say that my Away bag has found its way into my Instagram feed yet! As far as the company itself, I was so impressed by how Away jumped into action to develop, and deliver, a solution for quickly (ish) removing the bag's battery pack -- one of its highly-touted, unique features. Various airlines were rejecting the bags with the batteries inside, requiring travelers to go through painstaking steps to remove them. Away even offered the option of sending the bags back for them to install the solution. I thought the regulatory crack-down would break the company. They kept chugging and took full ownership. An impressive case study all around. If Away is half as determined to expand as they have been to remove obstacles, I wouldn't bet against them.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2018

    Did Target just become the easiest place to shop for Christmas?

    Although many of the ramp-ups described in the article have Target playing catch-up with Walmart and Amazon, Target still enjoys a brand loyalty advantage. Target loyalists want to shop at Target and have to dig deep to find reasons not to. That puts Target in an enviable position and its recent Smartly brand launch could be more significant than its apparel revamps at the end of the day as it has the potential to turn Target into a one-stop shop. Target's disadvantage continues to be its not-so-convenient locations, out-of-stocks on essentials, and spotty sales help.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2018

    Don’t shutter that store! Bricks impact clicks

    The study highlights yet another reason why stores are still core to multi-channel success. That's why regionally-concentrated, medium-scale retailers such as Macy's need to think hard before they shutter stores. Retailers can't afford to assume that markets can be served purely digitally if the brick-and-mortar banners aren't flying nearby. This is also why flagship stores are enjoying a resurgence. They drive brand awareness that allows retailers to continue relationships online. Just ask Uniqlo and others that have shown the hand to small formats.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2018

    Can fashion bloggers become brands?

    Retailers' collaborations with fashion bloggers and influencers are an agile way to tap into built-in fan bases, the existence of which validates those influencers' ability to engage viewers. Fashion bloggers often post the products and brands that they are using so why not just promote products that they had a hand in designing? Retailers can move in and out of these relationships, adding a layer of newness and excitement to their core brand stories. The only caution is that retailers such as Nordstrom are fairly small scale in terms of brick and mortar. Providing direct links and promoting online availability will be critical to these brands' success.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2018

    Should ‘best by’ dates expire?

    If you take a look at various product forums, you will find all kinds of confusion around verbiage that companies use to describe various levels of "expiration." When I recently purchased an item that I noticed was missing an expiration date (yet had a date-like number faintly stamped on the package), I contacted the company via email and was told that, for their products, the retailer is supposed to look at the stamped number (evidently the production date) and determine a "best by" date, then place a tag reflecting that date on the package. Oops. That didn't happen but how convoluted, right? When I did the math, I realized the product was right on the cusp so I returned it. Consumers don't want suggestions or vague descriptions. They want definitive "do this" or "don't do that" instructions that are universal. Why should a box of crackers be different from a package of meat? Both have a date past which consumers shouldn't eat the food or wouldn't enjoy it if they did. Marketers and retailers should determine which condition they are working with and use the universal system to articulate that date, knowing that the consumer will throw out the product past that date. End of story.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    Does anyone pay the full retail price anymore?

    Just because someone is shopping at a "discount" retailer doesn't mean they aren't paying full price. They're just paying the full price that aligns with that retailer's margin structure. So perhaps the bigger shift is the way that retailers are positioning their value propositions. For example, Target focused on the "expect more" side of its brand promise for years then shifted to the "pay less" angle in order to better compete with Walmart, dollar stores and hard discounters. Now it appears to be building out and balancing both sides of the house. Amazon is free to sell across the spectrum from cheap t-shirts to luxury goods and can adjust prices on the fly. Increasingly, retailers are in a position to shape shoppers' perceptions of value, not just reacting to shoppers' penchants for it.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    Walmart and Advance Auto Parts join forces online

    This is a real step in the right direction. So many of Walmart's acquisitions and brand partnerships have been focused on, and even isolated to, digital. Walmart's partnership with Advance Auto Parts leverages Walmart's full clicks-to-bricks scale in a category that is still quite fragmented. Great for both companies and a natural fit.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Will a new private label keep Target’s customers out of Aldi and Dollar General?

    The Smartly line is a good way to message value to shoppers who may not otherwise think of Target as a destination for staples. Target has gone all-in on private brands as of late and Smartly checks the "good" box in frequently-purchased categories. This effectively positions Up & Up as "better" and national brands, and Target's proprietary partnerships, as "best," giving a range of shoppers incentive to check more items off their lists while in Target. Great timing too, as the holiday shopping season cranks up. Increased store traffic should hasten awareness and help Target gain traction with the new offerings.

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