Lee Peterson

EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

After over 30 years as a merchant at Limited Brands, a retailer and a retail consultant, Lee brings an innovative approach to strategic assessment and brand development across diverse industries. He is particularly in tune with cultural trends, consumer demographics, and buying behavior. This experience gives Lee a well-rounded and informed approach to brand development and designing customer-focused retail and restaurant experiences. Lee wholeheartedly believes that stores must perform for the retailers, as well as consumers.

At WD Partners, he leads an experienced group of creative retail designers and strategists working on brand and prototype development for such clients as Wal-Mart, The North Face, Starbucks, Gatorade, Red Bull, Best Buy, New Balance, Safeway, Home Depot, Culver’s, Bob Evans, Whole Foods Market, eMart, Co-op Mart, Mimi’s Cafe and LensCrafters. Lee also leads WD’s marketing team which produces their web site, white papers and all marketing communications.

His comments have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, and on American Public Media’s Marketplace, as well as in industry magazines such as VM+SD, Brandweek, Chain Leader, QSR, Restaurants & Institutions, Nation’s Restaurant News, and Chain Store Age. Lee is also a frequent speaker on retail issues and trends. He is currently serving on the editorial board of VM+SD, a retail design trade magazine.  He is also an avid cyclist, outdoor enthusiast and lover of Nantucket Island.

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Chicago born, globally educated, 30+ years as a retailer and retail consultant, hammerhead cyclist
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    Totally agree about the "new" kit of parts factor. The other thing to consider is how the performance of physical units is measured. Instead of just revenue, comps and dollars per square foot, there's now the online sales add-on, the brand billboard/ambassador element and of course, the distribution center factor to entertain. Let's face it, the idea of stamping out zillions of stores is long, long gone.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    What will it take to make department stores relevant again?

    We just did a study on this and the answer for D stores and retail spaces in general was a complete re-think. Consumers wanted to see grocery stores, food halls, fitness centers, co-work spaces, health centers, beauty mega stores (you know, relevant retail) vs apparel, apparel, apparel. It was pretty clear; the space needs a clean slate and needs to understand that Story alone, is about 1% of the solve.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will Costco’s new $15 minimum wage hurt or benefit the chain?

    Well, with their results lately, sure looks like they can afford to do this, and as we all know, nothing makes a company greater than when the team is happy. They will also attract better talent who might normally have gone to work in a mall or office somewhere. To say nothing about doing the right thing in terms of a living wage. Bravo, good move all around. I'd bet the numbers get even better.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2019

    The rise of the chief artificial intelligence officer

    Hal? Hal! I jest. I don't know, seems to me most retailers are having a hard enough time getting their merchandise and real estate portfolios in order, let alone "turning it to eleven" and taking a commanding position in AI. Unless you're Apple, I'd say, first things first!
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Where are grocers failing on in-store experience?

    For one thing, they're over-assorted. There's a 30,000 square foot Whole Foods near me and that store has everything. Traditional grocers take payola from CPG companies so their soup section, as an example, has 300+ SKUs and 20 some brands. It's not necessary. As a merchant, I was always taught to make the edit for the customer, they'll appreciate it. The problem with most grocers is that they're NOT merchants, they're procurement clerks, stocking whatever because the price or payola is good. That just doesn't work anymore IMO. Why sort through all that? There's a 100,000 square foot Kroger near me that has furniture and about 15 other categories they most likely know very little about or have established paltry consumer trust on. Subsequently, from a consumer perspective, it just makes the store more cumbersome for most of us and therefore extends the shopping trip, which is very low on our priority list. If we started by having grocery stores that were grocery stores vs trying to compete with Walmart on household goods, there'd be a big improvement in experience.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2019

    Will Kohl’s deal with Planet Fitness make its rivals sweat?

    I think the idea is solid, partnering with high draw entities and betting on the bleed. But this seems like an odd pairing. I'd shoot for Panera or a like-brand partner on the food side if I were Kohl's. We just completed a study that showed that food (not food courts, but "modern"/healthier food) is a big draw to get consumers back out to bricks. Coffee, lunch, then shopping works together IMO, always has. One hour work out, then swing over to check out some new clothes? Not so much.
  • Posted on: 03/05/2019

    Sexy isn’t selling anymore for Victoria’s Secret

    Whoa, whoa, wait a sec here, fellow BrainTrust geniuses -- let us level set one thing that went unmentioned first: Victoria's Secret still owns about 67 percent of the lingerie market. That means that two-thirds of the customers for that product STILL like them and buy there. So let's put that hat on first. Having said that, I do agree that the "glamazon" hyper-sexualized marketing needs to evolve, and evolve pretty quick, before the 67 percent goes to 50 percent goes to 30 percent over the next few years. But let's not pile on about how awful they are until we understand that from a mass level, they're still pretty well loved (liked?).
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    What will Amazon do with a conventional grocery banner?

    I would be willing to bet that in the dark recesses of the Amazon Strategy Lair, there's a huge target with a bullseye that says "Walmart Grocery" in the middle of it. Folks, that's a $255+ billion nut that is predominately tied up in "old" retail; you know, the kind that makes the consumer do all the work. #crushable. And don't think for a second think that Walmart doesn't know that bullseye exists either. Their moves with Jet and BOPIS and ship to home show the kind of sense of urgency that might (operative term) hold off the yellow smiley hordes for a bit. Also, think of AMZN's recent efforts: Whole Foods, Go, Fresh, their online grocery delivery service and now this news should ALL be signals that yes indeed, that bullseye does in fact exist.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2019

    What will going separate ways mean for Gap and Old Navy?

    Strictly a stock market move -- it helps investors put their money into one of the few bricks retailers who are doing well now, and at the same time, keep an eye on Gap so if Neil ever turns that ocean liner around, it'll be more obvious and um, invest-able again. Also it gives more operational autonomy to all their brands which, at the end of the day, is a good thing and a bad thing for obvious reasons: we now see just how good/bad you really are. Abercrombie I'm sure is thinking about this same move with Holister and perhaps even Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. It's a money person trend.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2019

    Will FedEx’s robots help retailers solve the last-mile delivery challenge?

    We know what's happening globally, right? Humans are attacking robots everywhere: #backlash. Just like jokes about the deceased at a funeral; too soon, man, too soon.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Should retailers blame slow sales on the weather?

    Working for Les Wexner a long time ago, he used to say, "there is no excuse for poor sales other than the fact that you don't have the right fashion." There's some truth to that, but when a monster snow storm covers the entire Northeast for an entire weekend, well, you might have a case against him (but I wouldn't try it!). Today, online sales should (operative term) mitigate the weather effect, but even in the best cases, that's still only 30-some percent of sales. So ultimately, I'd say yes, weather plays a role but Les is right to this extent: I certainly wouldn't lean on that weak excuse for too long.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2019

    Will robotic fulfillment centers reshape Kroger’s business?

    From my experience, Kroger has always been about operations and logistics, with their customer logic focused on price and promotion data. So to me, if the whole operation had robots from top to bottom, including at retail, I'm not sure it'd be a lot different. Robots in the warehouse, robots in the stores, robots delivering to your house and of course, robots in the home office. Basically, a procurement-driven pickup and delivery system. That might actually be an improvement in terms of KPIs. Given traditional grocers' lack of focus on the customer for the last 50 years, Kroger's robots could find themselves (if they're not already) WAY ahead of the delivery system game. And after being trained in their system for so long, it could be exactly what the customer wants.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    Is Walmart just starting to hit its stride?

    Walmart is the only company in my book that drew a line in the sand a few years ago and said, "hey Amazon, the landslide stops here." Innovation, investment in infrastructure, stores and e-com, acquisitions galore, BOPIS, ship to home, you name it -- they've either tried it or are doing it in scale. You have to take your hat off to them and if you're a retailer heavily invested in bricks, you should study what and how they've done things and move as decisively as they have. We used to think of Walmart as the image of Sam Walton, with a pair of overalls and a trucker hat on. Now, when we think of them, we should think of a high speed monorail on its way to next.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    Samsung brings its own ‘Experience’ to first U.S. stores

    Wait, what do we call the Samsung 837 in New York? Isn't that an "experience" store? They've been on the bricks radar for at least three years in the U.S. and have several stores all over the globe, especially in Korea. Given that, they should know a thing or two about physical retail. I would expect they'd do really well right out of the gate.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Where did Payless go wrong?

    They didn't move fast enough on all fronts (especially e-com), they didn't reposition their brand and they didn't move fast enough when the world was collapsing around them. That's the trifecta of imminent retail death! Nothing's more important today than speed, innovation and confident decision making, and they displayed none of the above. Also continues to prove out the old retail adage that if you're all about low price and low quality, there's always going to be someone who does that better. Always.

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