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: 04/25/2018

    Are Americans ready for a c-store that sells only healthy foods?

    Finally! I always wondered why Whole Foods hasn't done this. You could say Trader Joe's is in this space already but somehow they have also been unable to truly proliferate. If there's 450 Whole Foods, you could have 450 of these in the same demo tomorrow. From there, it could get to be more of a challenge, but you certainly could have 20 of these in NYC right now. It's about time.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2018

    Gap CEO sees smooth sailing ahead for Old Navy

    Gee, discount apparel works in the U.S. Good guess. It's a lot easier than having to get fashion right like the old days, eh? All sarcasm aside, does anyone else wonder what happens to players like this if we slap a tariff on Chinese-made apparel? I guess we'll just deal with that later. Also, as an aside; an underrated player to compete here is Holister. It has the same mantra on the price side but is much better on the brand and fashion tip. Don't count them out as the kids themselves know that Old Navy is for mom. My kids call Old Navy "Old Lady." Yikes.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2018

    Will pickup drive e-grocery’s growth?

    This makes a lot of sense as all the research we've done shows BOPIS as a huge driver of sales for any category, but grocery would be the ultimate fit as most people do not like the rote "chore" of food hunting. You've got to give it to Walmart (again) who has already tested pickup stations and is rolling them out. For most grocers, it looks like they got out-innovated by the team from Arkansas one more time.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2018

    Apocalypse? No. Retail faces a reset

    Total retail sales in the U.S. have been up 4 percent year over year for the last three years so, it doesn't take much to realize there's never been an "apocalypse" of any sort. It's a weeding out, pure and simple, and much of the weeding out is coming from retailers that lacked in basic fundamental execution, like customer service, convenience and speed. So many large companies got so complacent/lazy by virtue of the stack it high/let it fly philosophy of the '90s that they became easy targets for new, more dynamic entities with missions that said things like, "to be the most consumer-centric company in the world." They deserved to get the chop! "Retail" (the art of selling goods) will always be fine. Especially in the U.S. It's what we do! But if you took a nap for 20 years anywhere along the line, odds are you wouldn't recognize it when you woke up. It's just the nature of the game. Relax and, oh yeah, fail fast.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Best Buy and Amazon expand their coopetition

    Classic case of, "if you can't beat 'em ..." Certainly a good amount of white flag from BBY going on in this arrangement.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    I worked for The Limited (now L Brands) for 11 years where the majority of the executive staff, including the CEO, were women. So it's hard for me to even comprehend the so-called barriers that exist. That aside, and forgive me for generalizing, but I find women more collaborative, less ego driven and much more intuitive on the personal side in almost any workplace scenario. And if you think about how key those attributes are today and look for them, all those characteristics will show up in any interview. I certainly don't think it's about a Title 9 kind of thing for the workplace, but I think a more objective and open mindset when considering who would help your company the most in any given role certainly would be the first step towards a more equal environment. Do we really have to say that in 2018? I guess so.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Has Google found a formula for undercutting Amazon’s product search advantage?

    60 some percent of people go to Amazon first when looking for any product. That's a tough obstacle to overcome right out of the gate. Those numbers are the classic first-to-market effect full on combined with a very high "love of brand" percent that's ingrained in consumers minds due to excellent execution. And given the Facebook revelations on privacy (no such thing), you know that both companies enjoy reams of data on their customers and probably all consumers, so that's not going to be an advantage for Google either. So good luck. In my opinion, the AMZN rocket ship is ahead to stay. At least in this century.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    DEF a good idea. We've done research on this topic so, totally agree with Cushman in that customers, especially younger ones, are being trained to "expect" some sort of food offering from retailers now. Coffee/espresso, snacks, drinks ... something, weighs big as a reason to increase visitation and conversely decrease visitation if you don't have it. BUT -- the key is: quality of what you offer. Kohl's recently learned that by producing half-step coffee shops that were soon closed. So focus on quality of food offering is key to success to making it work to the already receptive customer.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Backstage shops star inside Macy’s

    Have any of you seen or been in one of these? Are they supposed to be a competitive swat at dollar stores? Trashing an already denigrated brand is not the way to go IMO. Hey skipper! Reverse course! Not only am I not a fan, but i just don't get it at all. Nordstrom Rack? Ok. Backstage? Huh?
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    No site comes close to Amazon for Gen Z

    re: Gen Z -- into the future: Instagram shopping ... into the past, Facebook anything.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    What makes a successful retail CEO?

    To me, it's the perfect blend of IQ and EQ. Today's CEO has to make art and science decisions at the same time. Starbucks' Howard Schultz is the best example of this IMO. The other thing is empathy. This usually comes from someone who has actually worked on the sales floor, who has been in the warehouse, who goes to stores all the time, who talks to customers every day and who gets what the brand really is, not just what s/he may want it to be. There are too many numbers-crunchers currently in charge today -- too much IQ, not enough EQ. That balance needs to shift to move to "Retail 2030."
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Retailers must unite to bring dying downtowns back to life

    New York City is clearly the best example of merchants, developers and political leadership working together to create a much more vibrant retail scenario. Compare New York City in the '70s to now. Totally different town. But it's also an exception. Most small towns in the U.S. have been decimated first by Walmart and "mall America" and again by Amazon, and sometimes for good reason; merchants, developers and government not working together to stop the incursion. In either case, it's a highway with many paths. Success is not all on any one side; developers, merchants and politicians have to work together. I have a friend who just opened a store with a deal that he will pay the developer a percentage of sales for the first year, then could back out of his lease or go to regular rent. For my friend, without the burden of a fixed fee, and a year to get things going, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. And oh by the way, the city guaranteed to help with updates to infrastructure and safety. Not a guaranteed success, but a tribunal of teamwork that at least gives it a good shot. Some of the towns in the U.S. that lost all their merchants need to start to think in a similar fashion. And for what it's worth some of the old downtown areas, like a Newark, Chillcothe, Somerset or Portsmouth, Ohio, are pretty damn cool spots (attention hipsters!) waiting to happen.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Is Walmart building a tower of power with its expanding in-store pickup network?

    Walmart is the first retailer to get BOPIS right. They also get BOPAS, with the drive through set ups they've created in over 1000 stores. Bravo to that. Only question is, what took so long? And if the answer is, "you know, we're a huge hairball," well, time for a trim! I do like the way Walmart has decided to compete with Amazon though, and I think they can do that very well. I don't care who you are, but if you're a retailer, you should be paying attention to the way Walmart is executing on the innovation front. More to come, I'm sure.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Do you remember when the airlines first went digital? They literally had dozens of people there to help every single person that walked up. Same with this. When consumers do things by rote, it is wise to make the transition as human as possible. I know, unfortunately, as in design, we too often take for granted that our ideas will be "so obvious." Not true. It's more like Murphy's Law when it comes to radical new ideas. As time goes by, you'll see the numbers of associates reduced drastically, but there will always be people there to help you, just like the airlines.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2018

    What would an acquisition of Humana mean for Walmart and its rivals?

    The privatization of universal healthcare. It's the right thing to do and makes a ton of business sense as many of Walmart's customers cross the 60- to 65-year-old demographic. Win, win, win -- customer, business and no government (until someone gets greedy).

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