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: 10/16/2019

    UK’s largest sporting goods chain calls for probe of Nike-Adidas dominance

    Nike and Adidas are under no obligation to sell in particular channels or to particular retailers. Even in the pre-digital days of retail, must-have brands have retreated from fragmented distribution in the form of independent retailers. Now they have options for replacing that business with direct-to-consumer outreach. Sports Direct's action is fascinating in light of the "brands are dead" drumbeat. Like many things in retail, brands aren't dead, just different. One of the big differences being that brands now have options beyond wholesale. Not many brands can pull off this prissiness but Adidas and Nike can.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2019

    Google Shopping gets an upgrade

    If Google is able to accomplish accurate personalization, that would be a real accomplishment. How annoying is it when an item chases you around the Internet, begging to be purchased...again? Post-purchase promotions happen to me on a regular basis and demonstrate an inability to connect the path-to-purchase dots.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2019

    Will Sam’s Club CEO lead Walmart’s U.S. business to greater success?

    Furner’s ascent affirms Walmart’s preference for seasoned corporate loyalists. His career has been cast in the come-through-the-ranks mold that defined Doug McMillon’s career. It’s not a bad message to send as Walmart promotes career advancement opportunities for its associates. That’s not to say that Walmart hasn’t balanced that strategy and broken the mold by placing outsiders like Marc Lore in top roles. There are just so many top slots. Foran’s block-and-tackle strategies and focus on clearing unforced errors provided a counterbalance to Walmart’s digital forays, acquisitions and experiments. As Walmart pulls back somewhat on the latter, it will be interesting to watch where things go from here.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Will becoming a UPS pickup/drop off point drive craft sales at Michaels?

    As pointed out in the article, Kohl's claims that 80 percent of shoppers that drop off Amazon returns go on to buy more stuff (hence the chain-wide rollout of Kohl's Amazon return program). Michaels isn't exactly going out on a limb here and may even be more successful given UPS' scope.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Can Target’s chief merchandising officer turn Bed Bath & Beyond around?

    Bed Bath & Beyond isn't too far gone. Mr. Tritton has a real opportunity to play a role in its turnaround, just as he did at Target. In Mr. Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond got a real "merchant prince" and the choice hints at what Bed Bath & Beyond wants to fix. I expect an overhaul of Bed Bath & Beyond's brand portfolio and perhaps even a few Target-esque designer partnerships to spice things up. In-store merchandising and clutter-clearing presents a real opportunity that I don't expect will get overlooked.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2019

    Can Forever 21 come back from bankruptcy?

    To be fair, this is a bankruptcy announcement, not a liquidation. However, discontinuing operations in 40 countries and shuttering 178 stores in the U.S. marks a major pruning right off the bat. Forever 21 isn’t a barometer of overall retail health so much as a cautionary tale of overexpansion. As new generations of shoppers backed off of disposable fashion, Forever 21’s aggressive brick-and-mortar scale-up and reliance on mall-based locations didn’t align with new retail realities. At the same time, large-scale competitors like Target and Walmart have refined and reinvigorated private brand programs and a host of rental, second-hand and recycled innovators are offering alternatives. Right now, Forever 21’s e-commerce sales are quite underdeveloped. If taken too far, Forever 21’s diminishing brick-and-mortar presence could compromise overall brand awareness so every effort should be made to build bridges to its digital business, particularly with the minority and value-oriented shoppers that have affinity for the brand.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    Will bringing the outdoors inside stores work for J.C. Penney?

    Looking at this as a separate initiative, and resisting the temptation to judge whether it will solve all of J.C. Penney's problems (which misses the point), I like many things about this program: The athleisure movement is getting played out and hitting saturation. Outdoor crossover is potentially the next big thing and J.C. Penney is smart to invest in it and put a stake in the ground as an affordable alternative. Although St. John's Bay Outdoor is being called a new brand, it's more of a spin-off of an established J.C. Penney private brand (St. John's Bay). It is shrewd of J.C. Penney to tap into existing brand equity and awareness rather than attempting to start from scratch. St. John's Bay Outdoor launched this week and the actual shops will follow next month. This phased approach will give St. John's Bay Outdoor an opportunity to take hold before the shops launch. I like that J.C. Penney is merchandising well-known national brands alongside St. John's Bay Outdoor rather than taking an our-brand-vs-your-brand approach. Finally, creating a shop-within-a-shop concept will make a bigger impact and tell a more cohesive story. There will be plenty of flannel shirts hitting the floor in fall/winter. The shops will keep the new offerings from getting lost in the shuffle. The program checks many boxes. Hopefully J.C. Penney is ready to pull the trigger on a chain-wide rollout when it rocks (I'm taking the optimistic tack here)!
  • Posted on: 09/11/2019

    Will Walmart have more success creating consumer direct brands than acquiring them?

    It does go back to retail's central question: buy, build or bridge? The answer these days is "all of the above" and winning retailers will shift among these strategies when it makes sense. In some cases, that may mean buying the way to innovation (or brand expansion) through acquisition, then shifting to DIY. These shifts should not be portrayed as failures by default and in fact exemplify the growing agility of behemoth retailers like Walmart. Amazon created piles of private brands practically overnight on a scale that retail has never seen. All were incubated in the digital space and many have no clear association with Amazon (intentionally). I forecasted the adoption and eventual proliferation of this "secret" brand movement a while back as the next evolution of private brands. Welcome to the party, Walmart!
  • Posted on: 09/10/2019

    Nordstrom Local hopes for big returns from the competition

    On one hand, Nordstrom's latest frenemy foray seems ingenious. Not only can Nordstrom potentially poach Macy's and Kohl's shoppers, it can even gather data on the types of merchandise shoppers are returning. Even so, I can't imagine that a significant number of shoppers actively shop at all three retailers and that those who do will think of Nordstrom Local as a convenient return hub for non-Nordstrom purchases. It's no harm, no foul for now.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2019

    Will a loyalty program give Americans more reasons to shop at Target?

    REDcard, Cartwheel, Target Circle ... For now these programs seem to be complementary, however Target could be at the tipping point of over-complicating its loyalty and promotional offerings. Hopefully Target is gathering meaningful data on how shoppers are moving between the programs and taking the opportunity to make refinements leading into the holiday shopping season. Glitch-free, seamless synergy will be key to adoption and value-add perception. Confusion will alienate customers.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Innovation: Are retailers trying to do too much?

    These days, the core is no more. The good news is that even the most insular retailers have learned how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Target and Walmart are examples of retailers that have fully embraced the power of strategic partnerships and in Walmart's case, acquisitions, to accelerate innovation. Bottom line, retailers aren't having to go it alone or rely solely on their (former) core capabilities. My advice remains to buy (acquire), build (internally) and bridge (partner) simultaneously based on an honest assessment of competence and opportunity. Flexing between these options is the future. Retailers don't have to juggle all the pins.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2019

    Trump’s tariff war escalates

    When I talk to my clients, whether they’re fashion or CPG companies, brand marketers, technology providers, they’re all sweating the tariffs, but it’s the unpredictability and volatility that’s freaking them out because it impacts their ability to plan their business. The fundamental premise is all wrong because the tariffs are rooted in political punishment rather than providing actual benefits to U.S. companies. The obvious repercussions are higher prices, however, larger, diversified companies have options:
    • Pay the full cost and live with a lower profit margin.
    • Cut costs to offset higher tariffs.
    • Ask suppliers in China for a discount to help offset the higher tariffs.
    • Seek to source supplies from outside China.
    • Pass the tariff costs on to customers by increasing retail prices.
    • Some crafty combination of the above.
    Less obvious is the disproportionate disadvantage being dealt to small businesses that aren’t as diversified and therefore have fewer options. What’s the end game? What does “winning” look like?
  • Posted on: 08/26/2019

    Will Disney shops entertain guests inside Target’s stores?

    Target’s past collaborations were largely limited to tightly controlled designer programs or proprietary programs. The Disney tie-up marks the next evolution in Target’s brand partnerships: bigger and bolder, long-term deals. The pros outweigh the cons for both companies. PROS: Target has arguably been clearing the way for this type of partnership as it ramps up remodels and focuses on in-store experience. Products will all be merchandised together in dedicated shops rather than interspersed categorically, providing a more cohesive and compelling statement. Target will be able to draw from a portfolio of Disney properties and tap into its trove of content assets. Disney’s stream of releases will drive newness in Target stores and Disney’s content platform will robustly support every launch. CHALLENGES: The Disney brand is ubiquitous in retail through Disney’s theme parks, branded stores and retail partnerships. Disney and Target must ensure that products and store and digital experience are differentiated. In-store and online program maintenance (in-store merchandising and online execution) will be critical to success and require close collaboration.
  • 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.

Contact Carol

  • Apply to be a BrainTrust Panelist

  • Please briefly describe your qualifications — specifically, your expertise and experience in the retail industry.
  • By submitting this form, I give you permission to forward my contact information to designated members of the RetailWire staff.

    See RetailWire's privacy policy for more information about what data we collect and how it is used.