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: 04/27/2021

    Are consumers getting less creeped out about being tracked online?

    Are consumers more or less concerned? Like many things in retail, it depends. Any number of factors called out in the article fall on a spectrum from cool to creepy. There is a generational factor as well. Based on data that an emerging fashion brand recently shared with me, newer generations of shoppers mostly think of all of it as a value exchange between consumers and brands/platforms. Personalization tools and tactics seem to have hit a sweet spot that shifted perception from creepy to cool in many cases. Now it looks like they're poised to blow right past it.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2021

    Family Dollar joins a crowded retail media marketplace

    From my RetailWire article yesterday, the retailer-as-service (and retailer-as-platform) movement marches on as more retailers see suppliers (and employees) as profit centers. This has always been the case on the supplier side, yet the "opportunities" have moved to the digital space and promise to be far more lucrative than old-school slotting fees, co-op monies and markdown penalties, if only because the tools are far more sophisticated. In this case, the digital aspect makes dollar stores, and other discounters, viable platform players that can monetize data while escaping the perception of playing pricing games with consumers (verboten under these business models). The question is, will retailers show favor to brand marketers that partake and have less regard for those who don't (or can't)? I see yet another brand shakeup on the horizon.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2021

    Are you ready for the retailer-as-service revolution?

    Thoughtful extrapolation, Cynthia! Exactly the type of conversation that I hoped to provoke - not just services in retail, but the implications of retailers' increasingly overt outreach to employees and suppliers.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2021

    Are you ready for the retailer-as-service revolution?

    I love that quote, Dave, especially when applied here!
  • Posted on: 04/19/2021

    Are you ready for the retailer-as-service revolution?

    Thanks for weighing in, Jeff! Yes, solutions and services have been a part of retail for ages. The difference now is that retailers like Walmart are identifying AS services (not just places that provide them), the "customers" being served are expanding (employees and suppliers), and the approach of testing services (sometimes with employees) then marketing them to others, including competitors. A few new twists that point to new priorities and opportunities.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2021

    Kroger CEO says no one has the ‘data and insights’ that it has

    It would be hard to argue with Kroger's assertion. It has a long history of putting data at the top of the hierarchy. Kroger's groundbreaking partnership with Dunnhumby planted the seeds for its ambitious owned data platform and retail media aspirations. Now that the foundation has been laid, Kroger is poised to fully monetize its investments.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2021

    Will H-E-B conquer Dallas-Fort Worth?

    I grew up in the DFW area and the retail explosion is non-ending. It boggles my mind every time I take business trips "back home" to see apartments right on the edge of freeways and views blocked out by high-rises. Restaurants and shopping centers are crammed with people. In other words, DFW is a hugely competitive market yet one that seems to keep pushing the limits in terms of store growth and population density. Just when I think the sprawling DFW area is "overstored," I get proved wrong. H-E-B conquering the metroplex? Why not?
  • Posted on: 03/26/2021

    Will marketplaces become legally liable for what they sell?

    I'll say it again: the marketplace mayhem is in full swing and accountability is one of the biggest issues. Just as platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are having to own up to being publishers, not just passive platforms (and therefore accountable for content), retailers are going to find it harder to escape accountability for third-party seller shenanigans. Up to this point, retailers have been allowed to self-police and set standards. Now regulation is catching up with reality. It's easy to argue that the task of vetting hundreds of thousands of sellers is too daunting, yet retailers that "take all comers" are inviting scrutiny. Walmart's recent partnership with BigCommerce strikes me as an attempt to mitigate the problem. It's a two-fer that is just as much about third-party seller pre-vetting as onboarding new brands. Regardless, the INFORM Consumers Act is a warning shot. Retailers must rein things in or the spotlights will only get brighter.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2021

    Walmart opens marketplace to non-U.S. sellers, hears DoorDash drivers’ gripes

    It is dilution when it makes it harder for other brands to get discovered and when a single Chinese company can create hundreds of brands (and continually shift the names of said brands). There is a fine line between "giving the customer what they want" and the customer choosing among only what they see by default. If brands want to jump in and compete against these realities, and if retailers want to do business with brand factories, good for them, but brands should temper volume expectations accordingly. This isn't about shutting out international companies, it is about policing brand factories (or not).
  • Posted on: 03/23/2021

    Walmart opens marketplace to non-U.S. sellers, hears DoorDash drivers’ gripes

    As forecast, the marketplace mayhem is heating up! Rigorous seller requirements are fine yet even extreme vetting won't prevent a flood of no-name brands from diluting Walmart's marketplace, as is the case on Amazon. (For more on this, catch the excellent March 15 issue of the New Yorker and the article: The Rise of Made in China Diplomacy.) Arguably, Walmart has less to lose since it isn't courting high-end brands as aggressively as Amazon. As for the DoorDash rebellion, this is a case of convenience clashing with value. Walmart has trained its customers to expect a price advantage, regardless of how orders are fulfilled. Customers are doing the math and unfortunately, DoorDash drivers are taking the hit. Walmart has done a great job in the past of absorbing or obscuring last-mile costs. Delivery tips fall outside of that realm.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

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

    How could it be a fluke under recent circumstances? Only a deliberate effort would allow Target to pull off a turnaround and navigate COVID-19 simultaneously. Target played a mean game of catch up on the convenience front, following Walmart’s example by expanding options to shoppers rather than attempting to force shoppers into options that are easier for Target. Target’s pre-pandemic focus on improving its grocery game was far-sighted, ensuring a steady flow of traffic and one-stop-shop convenience throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Grocery and pharmacy are powerful gateways to the higher-margin apparel and home products that Target is traditionally known for. Target has a history of innovating through partnerships and wisely expanded that premise beyond fashion. Forging store-within-a-store partnerships with CVS on a large scale and select beauty and personal care brands has helped Target augment its offerings in traffic-driving (and data-gathering) categories. Target’s forays into small format retail also make sense as shoppers seek to get in and out of stores more quickly. All in all, Target has left its insular, store-centric past behind and that has made all the difference.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

    Will a third-party marketplace step up and give Amazon a run for its money?

    I've been cautioning against the coming "marketplace mayhem" for a couple of years and it is now upon us. Retailers have to be careful here because if marketplaces continue to proliferate, eventually everyone will be selling the same categories and brands and no one stands for anything. Then it's a race to the bottom on price. Amazon has underscored the perils of being a category killer. Swinging too far to the other side of the spectrum is just as problematic. Retailers like Best Buy, and to some degree Target, have been more selective and deliberate in building out their marketplaces. As tempting as it is to go hog wild once online platforms are constructed, others would be wise to follow their example.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Will Nordstrom celebrate or regret its decision to give brands a lot more control?

    Nordstrom's decision to lean into concession relationships makes sense on a number of fronts. Retailers that are just places with brands are at risk in today's environment. Giving more control to brands mitigates the problem by empowering Nordstrom's brand partners to create compelling brand spaces and make product selections based on direct knowledge of customer preferences. It benefits the brands as Nordstrom becomes a flagship location without requiring a brick-and-mortar build-out. Shifting inventory management and moving to drop shipping for some of these brands is an agile model that frees Nordstrom to do what it does best: create an awesome customer experience and overall environment that beautifully showcases brands. At the end of the day, the model achieves the most important point of differentiation - strengthening Nordstrom's brand.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2021

    What is Marc Lore’s legacy at Walmart?

    Marc Lore's tenure shouldn’t just be judged by the perceived success of individual acquisitions and initiatives. Lore brought a digitally-focused entrepreneurial mindset to Walmart that encouraged risk-taking and non-traditional thinking. Even so, his departure comes at a time when Walmart is leaning more into partnerships than acquisitions, unifying stores with e-commerce rather than treating them as separate businesses and making big bets on monster categories like health and wellness. Clearly Walmart is pursuing new paths and Lore obviously is as well. Lore helped lay a foundation to enable Walmart's confident expansion and it's a perfect time for him to pursue his many other interests.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2021

    Retailers call on Trump to end the national chaos he created

    If anything positive came out of yesterday it's a renewed awareness of the power of "dark money" and renewed scrutiny of corporate political support. You can't say keep politics and business separate when corporations are funding politicians. The two are already linked. Before yesterday's events, the Lincoln Project publically announced that its next-stage push will be exposing corporate donations and incidences in which corporate support for causes like Black Lives Matter are at odds with financial support for various candidates and PACs. Of course, retailers are in the mix. Beyond Trump, exposure and accountability are coming.

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