PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Retailers have been rightfully worried about defining themselves by category for a while now. At first, Walmart was the concern - which categories would it go after next at crazy low margins? Those days now seem quaint with Amazon on the scene, picking off categories one by one at massive scale and with algorithmic alacrity. Amazon already is a multi-pronged product, brand, solution and service platform. Now an over-correction is at work in retail that is even more perilous. The concern is (or should be) complete loss of identity as retailers offer store space to competitors and expand online marketplaces into oblivion. This is diluting brand equity (hence many brands' pull-back on wholesale distribution). The answer to "What business are you in?" can't be a reactionary "Selling all kinds of stuff everywhere."
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Macy’s takes stake in retail-as-a-service tech firm

    It's nice to see Macy's branching out and exploring new ways to deliver on its core premise and brand strength. Forging outside brand and platform partnerships makes so much more sense than throwing darts at new categories (J.C. Penney) or crow-barring third party sellers into an online marketplace (many others). Newness and frequency have never been more important in softlines/fashion retail and STORY and The Market allow Macy's to quicken the cadence through partnership, even as it maintains a more traditional pace with its core lines.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2018

    Millennials spend like crazy on their ‘fur-babies’

    So much focus has been given to what animals (not just "pets") do for us, I think a bigger shift is at work toward what we can and should do for them. My Millennial fellow animal lover friends embrace this shift in perspective toward responsibility, not just one-way benefit and pampering. It translates into product sales, vet visits, donations, etc. For me, "fur babies," "kids," and other terms aren't a projection, but more reflective of how seriously I take my life-long responsibility to my guys.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2018

    Is excess space behind retail’s shrink and customer experience problems?

    For the first time in history, most major retailers are true multi-format operators, even dollar stores. The trick is to create a balance between small, medium, large and even temporary and permanent spaces. Beyond this there is an opportunity to fine-tune assortments, particularly in small formats, to determine which categories and products make more sense in bricks and which are viable for clicks. Loss prevention and asset protection teams should play a role here - using data and collaborating with merchandising teams to make better decisions on the front end rather than just catching bad guys. Setting a profitable "stage" in stores and shaping consumer behavior across all touch points is the new frontier. It's time to give loss prevention/asset protection a seat at the big table.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    New organic grocery concept is an educational experience

    Education has a role in retail and enhancing in-store experience but it should be initiated in response to interest or inquiry. I thought about this for the first time just last weekend as I was poking around in a high-end gourmet and wine shop in New York. A woman in an apron accosted me at the wine counter and launched into an unsolicited tutorial. She really knew her stuff and insisted on telling me all about the attributes, history and taste profiles of a red wine varietal after I told her I preferred white ("you should switch back and forth" she told me). I hadn't asked for any tips to begin with and after five minutes or so had to politely disengage in order to make it to a meeting. I never had to think about this possibility until it happened.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Lessons in goodwill and the power of feelings

    I like Chris' distillation down to "goodwill." I wish more brand marketers and retailers thought this way instead of hammering on irrelevant net promoter scores. NPS scores seem to address feelings when in fact they assume customers will always take an additional action (make a recommendation) after having a positive experience. You can't go wrong if you focus on "the feels."
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Best Buy’s Geek Squad is now available by subscription

    This is an awesome idea and a great way to keep consumers in the Best Buy ecosystem. Hopefully Total Tech Support technicians won't aggressively pitch Best Buy products but the service could have the effect of increasing product sales regardless. Of course Amazon is pushing into this territory as well but there is no reason why Best Buy, as an established service brand, can't get a slice of the pie.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    The merchandising-centric good-old-days of retail are coming to a close. As technology drives the next era, new challenges for women are emerging. Initially framed as a bro-culture annoyance, this tech-shift can present a downright hostile systemic problem as numerous articles, including this wake-up call from the New Yorker, have documented. I've not personally experienced roadblocks in many years, but am concerned for the next generation of tech-savvy women. Retail desperately needs them and must cultivate an environment of respect in order to keep them.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2018

    Could ‘platform thinking’ be a blueprint for retail success?

    Hmmm, though I look at it a bit differently, I've been spreading the word about the shift from products (retailers as places that sell stuff) to platforms (retailers as connected ecosystems that encompass physical, digital, data, content and more) for the last several years. It's a foundational principle that underpins my work and presentations. In retail, it's a shift that made all the difference for Apple, Amazon, Walmart and others. The commonality with Ms. Ancketill's example is a focus on managing and exploiting connections, even over product/solution innovation. And yes, this "platform thinking" is available, and beneficial, to companies of all sizes.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2018

    Kroger may have an Ace (Hardware) up its sleeve

    The great brand migration marches on. First, Sears allows Ace to be yet another place where Craftsman products can be purchased, now Ace is cozying up to Kroger. This is a great hardware plug-and-play for Kroger (heaven forbid it attempt to grow a brand brain and develop its own comprehensive assortments). Ace gains an expansion and visibility play that would be hard to achieve otherwise. Makes all kinds of sense.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2018

    Should Amazon have Target in its acquisition sights?

    Target has only recently, and barely, departed from its insular past -- looking outside for leadership, dabbling in acquisitions ... and it has made bold-ish moves on the branding front through a massive revamp of its proprietary brand portfolio, a focus that nonetheless falls squarely in Target's comfort zone. Will any of this move the needle and make Target a true contender in years to come, particularly as Walmart shows its teeth as never before? Does a Target acquisition make sense for Amazon? Sure. Manageable-but-meaningful stores count, pharmacy partnership via CVS, women/moms, loyalty ... but more importantly, it may also be Target's most sensible lifeline.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Will meal kits be a hit on Walmart’s virtual shelves?

    My concern is how Walmart will drive awareness for these new offerings (and for any number of more upscale concepts, brands, etc. that may now be found on Walmart.com). I found out about the Walmart kits through a reporter and went on to order the Ethiopian lentils and injera kit. Anyone who loves Ethiopian food knows how difficult it is to duplicate at home. I had to see how well the concept was carried off and made it last night. The packaging and directions were awesome. The kit itself was pretty much a combination of items and brands that can be purchased elsewhere. It was okay, definitely a "fix" for Ethiopian flavors but no competition for even a mediocre restaurant. I knew how to doctor it up but someone unfamiliar with the cuisine probably wouldn't. It was super spicy which I love but could be off-putting to others. I like that these kits are tackling ethnic and vegetarian cuisines and the longer shelf life that Takeout Kit offers is also a step in the right direction. The key will be to offer cuisines and combinations that most people would not attempt otherwise. Given that the kits are available on dedicated websites, on Walmart.com and Amazon.com, this is a smart distribution play for the kit companies and a no-harm small bet for the likes of Walmart and Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Is private label grocery about to go to the next level?

    At a time when national brands are ubiquitous, with the only difference being who is selling them, private brands are one of the only ways to differentiate these days. So yes, another private brand explosion is teed up in food, and already underway in other categories. I addressed a new wrinkle on the private brand front, driven by Amazon, in an article published yesterday.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2017

    Are retailers caught in a content trap?

    Some of the points seem a bit out of alignment with the premise of "content" but I'll go with the main idea. Thanks to the ever-proliferating number of "spokes" mentioned in the article, retailers now have an insatiable appetite for content. The challenge, and opportunity, is that they can't (and actually don't want to) create it all themselves. Hence the requests-evolving-into-demands to obtain more of it from their brand marketing partners. The idea of "curating" content is fast becoming past-tense as simply managing it, ensuring accuracy and defining accountabilities become front and center. I call this the "content conundrum" and the world of content is only going to become more unwieldy and blurry as digital marketplaces proliferate, as mobile marches on, and as the digital rethinking of physical retail and interplay between digital and physical intensifies. Content is at the center of the action yet retailers tell me that even the big CPGs aren't developing comprehensive and relevant content plans. Retailers will increasingly take an "if you want something done right ... " stance which will call for dedicated internal effort. As retailers gain more expertise and confidence on the content front, they will find more ways to monetize their platforms and the balance of power will shift. Not unlike the evolution of private brands over the years ...
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    What marketing lessons can we learn from Amazon?

    A disruptive, three-word sentence sums up Amazon's contrarian advantage, with an "f word" deserving a place among the musty Ps: Fulfillment IS marketing.

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