PROFILE

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
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  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    Yeah, we kind of went nuts in the '90s, didn't we? There are more than 2,000 Home Depot's as an example. That's 40 per state, and you know some states have fewer meaning some states have more than 40 Home Depots! One-hundred eighty-thousand square feet each! The ironic part about that example is that Home Depot is doing well! But why? Because they're smart enough to know that their stores need to evolve as their BOPIS orders skyrocket and their "ship to site" program goes bananas. Essentially, Home Depot's stores are becoming fulfillment centers, which, given the current track of online shopping vs. physical, needs to happen to most of retail within the next 10 years. Stores are still a great asset because they're close to the customer, but unless they evolve, a la Home Depot, the huge closing numbers will continue.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Retail leaders need to care more about tech

    I agree that tech has to be an important part of a retail leader's brain, but two things: 1.) that doesn't mean putting the head of IT in charge and 2.) that's probably not going to be fully realized until digital natives start to run things rather than the 65- to 70-year-old digital immigrants leading most of retail right now. We're going to need a generational shift before tech becomes fully integrated and is not just some kind of test gizmo to get PR out of. Here's to 2026.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Barneys to become first major retailer to open legal weed shop

    it'll be interesting to see what happens after first-to-market hits like this. Green Growth Brands opened a kiosk in Kentucky yesterday on the same note. When this type of thing becomes ubiquitous, what will the differentiator be then? Brand? Price? Strength? An all-new commodity -- this is going to be fun for retail. A reason to visit a physical space? Perhaps (at first anyway).
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    I hate to play old school, but e-grocery is going to make or break on the boring stuff like logistics, hardware and training/hiring of great associates. The consumer end, ordering, searching and pricing is the easy part and will evolve upstream quickly as the tech or AI does, but actually delivering the product (BOPIS or to home) once the button's have been pushed is the hard part that it looks to me, is a long way from being solved.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    Bad idea in the first place. Just because your competition sells dog food doesn't mean that you should. Same principle here -- appliances were brand-wrong from the get go and I would have to say with total lack of "permission" from their customer. J.C. Penney is grasping at straws right now. Even this idea of focusing on apparel, their core offering, sounds like a road fraught with potholes and killer competition. Do we have the next Sears here? Sure seems like it.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2019

    What will Angela Ahrendts’ departure mean for Apple’s retail business?

    I don't see her departure making that much of a difference. It was really Ron Johnson who set the tone and got the flywheel going for Apple retail. She said some great things to the press and some nice tweaks happened in store, but overall, for her and whoever takes over from here, the table has been set for a great experience. Would be hard to screw that one up.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2019

    Are malls better off as fulfillment centers?

    I think it's a combo. We tested the idea of being able to have a BOPIS pick up outside the mall for anyone that was in the mall and it tested really well, especially with digital natives. But from the same test, what's really going to drive traffic back to shopping centers is a change in tenant mix, especially with increased amounts of better/healthier/more modern food options (NOT the food court as is). Think of it -- increased dwell time, experience retail, social interaction and refreshments all wrapped into one. Gone are the days of rows and rows of specialty apparel as a draw. Anchors too. So 1990s.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Did Trader Joe’s make the right decision to end grocery deliveries?

    I get it, delivery is expensive and they certainly do have a unique store experience, but looking at retail's past 20 year's struggles, eventually, you start to drop footfalls to the easier, more convenient on-line counterparts. So sooner or later, hopefully sooner, they're going to have to figure out how to get back to deliveries. "Have to" being the operative term there. Example: we have a great casual dining restaurant my family and I would go often. Everything about it is great: service, food, environment; just like Trader Joe's. But after Postmates came along and we got used to using it, we hardly go to that restaurant anymore. Human condition. It's just a LOT harder to get everyone in the car, go there, park, walk in, wait, drive back, etc, etc, etc, when with the press of a few buttons, it's brought to your door. The same will happen to Trader Joe's. It's just too damned easy now to shop in different ways with just about anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    The Bud Light medieval is starting to grow on me, but the HBO combo, which humorously is kind of close to what Bud is showing, made me laugh out loud. Love it when great brands like HBO can be self-deprecating in such a fun way. They took the prize for me.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Shopper technology opportunities are the focus of FMI Midwinter

    Justin Dye is correct, traditional grocers need to wake up to new thinking and move faster. It's ironic that at FMI they spoke of "violent" change happening to them when in fact, it's been happening to retailers for two decades now. Most grocers that I know were impervious to retail's woes, thinking that they were insulated from online shopping because people "had" to touch their products. Guess not. Traditional grocers need look no further than to the #1 grocer in the world, Walmart. Their efforts at BOPIS and ship to home and online innovation in general have been nothing short of stunning. If they took the time to study their M.O. and then acted on what they learned (fail fast), perhaps the change will not be as "violent" as they think. Time to move ahead fearlessly rather than tip toeing through the produce section.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2019

    Can Domino’s gain customers by offering free pizza for pies bought at rival shops?

    It'd be a great idea if their pizza didn't taste like cardboard with globs of fat on top! They seriously need to improve their product, especially with all the excellent new third-wave pizza joints popping up. After all, product is the number one priority, right?
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    This is a great topic in that I think you have to be careful not to overdo it when it comes to CX. Example: I went to the Nike "Innovation Lab" on 52nd and 5th in NYC during NRF and found the first floor and the "tech tower" to be overbearing. Like, what is that? At the same time, the customer service was off the charts so, that made up for, I guess you would call it, "The Show." (P.S.: no one was interacting with The Lab when I was there) I find their store in Soho to be much more spot on, where you can play basketball, have it filmed and sent to you within minutes: selling and doing. Opposite of Nike's over-the-top swing at CX is Space 24, Urban Outfitter's "store(?)" in Austin, TX. There, they have an open space where you can hang out, sit by a fire pit, watch a band, get a beer/food/coffee and oh BTW, shop in one of the smaller stores they have attached to the space. To me, leaving a space open where you can create your own experience was far superior to the whiz-bang on 52nd Street. In any case, it's going to be an interesting decade as fewer people go out to "normal" stores and retailers take shots at re-creating the CX. I expect to see some pretty far out creations coming up. Bring it on! Much better the than stack it high and let it fly retail of the 1990s.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2019

    Are the futures of retail and coworking space connected?

    It certainly depends on the mix, but retail and working spaces sure seems to be a good idea (including in our research). Let's not forget food though, that could be the most important part of the mix.
  • Posted on: 01/28/2019

    What do shoppers really want? Do retailers have a clue?

    I think it's newness more than anything. That goes for brands as well. All Birds vs Foot Locker, Everlane vs Banana Republic, The Real Real vs Gap. If I were a developer, that's how I'd think; like a customer would: what are the new hot brands? vs just bringing in the same old same old. And if I'm one of the same old same old, I've got to be thinking "how can I bring 'new' to our customer," and not just from a product POV (although entirely new categories should be explored), but the entire experience from live to mobile to shop. The days of counting on a product delivery of new jeans or flannel shirts or lace bras or whatever to save you from your crappy YOY sales are over. It's time to flip the apple cart, man, and get to "new" across the board as soon as possible.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2019

    Which retailers deliver the best customer service?

    CX is so hard now. It's a journey, not just dependent on good sales people. How good are you online, on social, on chat, on the phone, in the store, on the way to the store, shipping time, returns? It's a never ending cycle -- life was so much simpler last century! Ha. But I agree with some of the other comments here; it boils down to people. Across the entire above-mentioned journey, you need people-people at every touch point. I call Spectrum now for service and I NEVER get a person. Do they fix some issues with robots? Yeah, but there's nothing -- nothing -- like talking to another person, especially a friendly one. Buying is functional. Brand is emotional.

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