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: 08/23/2019

    Why is Whole Foods CEO dissing plant-based meat alternatives?

    This is an interesting parsing on the part of Mr. Mackey. Let's talk terminology. Terms like "healthy" are subjective in both meaning and scope (Healthy for the planet? People? Animals? In relation to what?) Meat substitutes are not always healthier (based on various definitions), and shouldn't have to be. Plant-based companies aren't claiming to make healthier products (unless they do), which is what is so misleading here. The implication is that plant-based companies are making false claims when the claims are implied. Plant-based products should not have to rise to, and prove, a higher standard than non-plant-based products, yet that is the reality. "Processed" is also an interesting term. I'll ask this question: How many people have or would walk into a meat processing facility and happily watch how their beef, chicken or even fish, eggs and dairy are “processed”? Finally, "fake" meat. Is meat that has been artificially created by manipulating the genetics, environments and family structures of sentient beings in the millions, then slaughtered inhumanely more authentic? I'll take the fake, please.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2019

    Can Jill Soltau rebuild J.C. Penney?

    J.C. Penney’s revolving door of leadership hasn’t helped its cause. However, Jill Soltau hasn’t been at the helm long enough to take the blame for J.C. Penney’s ongoing woes. She has been given a tough row to hoe. Previous leaders, like the much-maligned Ron Johnson, thought they had the luxury to approach the business more creatively, but underestimated or even ignored fundamental problems. Jill Soltau has inherited an end-of-the-line situation in which the fun and creative elements of the business must be subjugated to hard fundamentals. To her credit, she is making it clear that a slow march to irrelevance, a la Sears, is not an option. No denial at work here. Her data-driven sensibilities are a plus that stand in stark contrast to the whim-driven lurches that defined previous leaders. The thredUP hookup is already a me-too on the heels of Macy's thredUP announcement just days ago, but that doesn't necessarily dilute the potential. The main concern is that so many of Penney's formerly-loyal customers have walked. Unlike Target, whose customers seem to always wait patiently and return after unforced errors are made, J.C. Penney's pricing and promotional plays hit customers where it hurts. The big question is whether the goal should be to try and win them back or cast a wider net. The latter strategy is more risky but J.C. Penney can't win by coasting along in the middle.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Will Kohl’s shoppers like the ‘emerging brands’ chosen by Facebook users?

    "Younger shoppers" and "Facebook" would seem to be at odds. I don't think of Facebook as the future of multi-generational marketing. More compelling is the promise of newness and exclusive brands in the Kohl's environment(s). Looking at the breadth of categories, everything from greeting cards to lingerie, Kohl's risks making a spotty, diluted impression by taking a brand-by-category approach. Hopefully the new brands won't get lost in the mix, or long in the tooth. It will be important for Kohl's to keep it fresh.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Can H-E-B win the autonomous delivery vehicle race in Texas?

    As a native Texan, seeing the words "autonomous delivery vehicle" and "Texas" in the same sentence was anxiety-inducing ;) Definitely a worthy proving ground for any vehicular tests! Some form of next-stage autonomous transport is an inevitability so retailers should be testing and learning now. The fact that so many are jumping in will accelerate adoption.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Nordstrom’s Local concept needs work

    Patricia's points are well taken. I've found anecdotally that many shoppers think of Nordstrom Local simply as a BOPIS hub which has the effect of diminishing the premise. Nordstrom could dial down or shift expectations by focusing on the convenience aspects and owning "local" through B2B partnerships, as Patricia pointed out. Overall, showroom concepts can be a compelling component in retailers' convenience arsenals but banking on them entirely is a risky and limiting strategy.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2019

    Is it a stretch for Target to carry Levi’s pricier red tab jeans?

    Walmart also sells a higher-end (though by no means premium) line from Levi's and the product always seem to go fast. This isn't a groundbreaking move for either retailer but it does exemplify Levi's efforts to own good, better and best within the wholesale customers it serves. This is a smart strategy for a mature brand in a highly-competitive market: go broader and become more meaningful to existing accounts.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Will its ‘best of’ designer sale trigger a massive run on Target?

    I hate to be a naysayer but it's been hard enough for Target to ensure that tops arrive with bottoms in single designer programs and we all know how surge programs have crashed and burned in the past. How in the world will this come together in stores without creating a shop-off-the-floor mess? Do the designers themselves really want to get lost in this mishmash? Perhaps Target will focus on stand-alone items and one-piece dressing rather than full collections of separates. I'm all for Target continuing its design partnerships, particularly as it expands its private brand portfolio, however, this designer-palooza approach would seem to be risky and unnecessary. Just do the book launch and call it a day.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    CPG companies spending more to use less packaging

    Sustainability is still at the forefront as retailers and brands realize they can no longer phone it in or sit it out based on cost. Sustainability's second act will dig deeper into the supply chain, with packaging taking center stage. It does seem like a contradiction for Amazon to take a punitive stance with sellers when its very existence necessitates boxes upon boxes being created and shipped here and yon, some with one item enclosed. Also at odds with sustainability is the move toward smaller-sized packaging geared to urban markets. This would seem to be a great place to start for circular recycling programs.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    Should Simon Property Group bail out (invest in) more retail tenants?

    It makes sense for Simon Properties to make select investments in retail(ers). Simon has the broad view of locations and possibilities and can therefore flex its portfolio to make use of brick and mortar assets. As the digital rethinking of brick and mortar takes shape, Simon's ability to invest in these locations could accelerate innovation overall. Who better to get a piece of the action?
  • Posted on: 07/30/2019

    The clock is ticking for J.C. Penney

    The “middle” of retail is struggling in general and J.C. Penney is a large player that sits squarely in it. Moderate retail is a space where prices aren’t prohibitively high or compellingly low. Where service and customer experience can be okay but are rarely spectacular. Where ubiquitous brands proliferate, and private brands are undifferentiated. Retailers operating in this tier have traditionally relied on lack of comparison. Now, digital platforms and marketplaces are enabling radical price transparency and providing endless selection. It’s a tough environment for retailers like J.C. Penney, one made tougher by its multiple leadership transitions. It’s been hard for J.C. Penney to keep up as it lurched from ditch to ditch under each regime. Ever-changing category, brand, price and promotional strategies have created unnecessary distraction at a time when focus is sorely needed. Previous leaders, like the much-maligned Ron Johnson, were able to look at their roles as a blank canvas, and perhaps they went too far in that regard. Jill Saltou has inherited an end-of-the-line situation in which the fun and creative elements of the business must be subjugated to hard fundamentals. To her credit, she has prioritized freshening up J.C. Penney’s management team with outside talent. In the past, J.C. Penney has been too reliant on recruiting C-level heroes, even as its lower-level roles stayed static. The clock is indeed ticking at this point.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2019

    Tim Hortons cooks up a test for plant-based eggs

    With respect, how "natural" is it to artificially create sentient beings in the millions for our consumption when kind and planet-friendly alternatives are readily available? You hear the "franken-food" push back on plant-based products (which have to be labeled unlike those packages of raw meat/chicken/fish), inviting scrutiny that isn't applied to the meat industry. The standard is franken-animals that have been modified to fatten up at an accelerated pace, in horrible conditions, separated from their families then cruelly killed. Such a baffling argument (that I'm not assigning to you, Neil - your comment just provided the opening). No one is afraid to watch footage of how green beans are grown and canned. Can you say the same about meat and dairy?
  • Posted on: 07/26/2019

    Tim Hortons cooks up a test for plant-based eggs

    Plant-based proteins are the future. The oft-cited "who identify as..." stats are misleading. Plenty of people don't "identify" as vegan or vegetarian yet are deliberately avoiding various animal-based products for various reasons. I am literally eating a JUST egg omelette right now. It is a truly revolutionary product that removes any taste or texture-focused reasons for continuing to buy eggs for scrambling purposes (and for anyone who says "what's the matter with eggs?" a Google search will answer for you). I had to be that specific because invariably, naysayers (not necessarily in this forum!) will come back with the fact that it is more expensive, doesn't have a real yolk, etc. JUST egg, Beyond sausage, Impossible burgers, Chao cheese (available at Walmart for goodness sakes) ... the selection of amazing plant-based products available in the market is truly exciting. If you want to talk about the money side, who invested in BYND a couple of months ago? I'm smiling :)
  • Posted on: 07/17/2019

    Has Prime Day become America’s cue to shop for back-to-school?

    Amazon's Prime Day is now the official starting gun for BTS, but not just for consumers. Like it or not, retailers will be sharpening their pencils each July, but may sell more of them piggy-backing on Amazon's timing!
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    What’s the story behind Macy’s partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    Frenemy forays continue to be all the rage in retail. As the playing field continues to narrow, retailer-to-retailer partnerships can make a lot of sense. Even though shoppers may well be delighted by the curated collections and experiential elements of the Macy's/Dick's hookup as shoppers happen upon them, I don't see it as a destination driver initially. Shoppers just aren't going to clamor to see what Macy's and Dick's have cooked up. That's not to say that the concept won't have time to gain traction over the two month run as social media and word-of-mouth kick in.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    Are ‘veggie burgers’ and ‘oat milk’ confusing to consumers?

    The acceleration in plant-based options is creating a lot of confusion and push-back if only because there are so many options (which is a great thing in my book). The defensive crowd likes to dwell in the must-be-healthier realm which puts many plant-based alternatives at a disadvantage. Ground meat is simply wrapped and sold. Alternatives are labelled with nutritional and caloric breakdowns. Some plant-based foods are healthier, some technically aren't (though defining individual and collective "health" is a whole 'nother topic). The assumption that all plant-based products are making a health claim by their very existence is false. Some are designed to simply taste good. Also false is the assumption that anything called a "burger" or "milk" (or pick your term) is going for tastes-just-like status. Some are different and delicious in their own way. Saying that plant-based companies can't use particular terms is ridiculous. That's like saying you can't call something a "chip" unless it is made from potatoes. "Milk" also naturally comes from plants and I'm not hearing a blow-back on botanists. Nuts have "meat." Parsing terminology isn't going to stop the plant-based train. Also, what harm is inflicted if someone accidentally eats a plant-based burger? Is that a thing?

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