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: 06/18/2018

    Is Amazon killing Barnes & Noble’s chances for a turnaround?

    I'm with JG on this one -- our B&N stores here in Ohio are pretty lackluster, and not sure it matters. Unless you need some Starbucks, that is.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Is Amazon killing Barnes & Noble’s chances for a turnaround?

    I totally agree with Peter Fader; Barnes & Noble did it to themselves by not keeping up with what their customers wanted (which was pretty obvious when customers left in droves). Do you remember what it was like walking in their over-stocked stores just looking for an employee who wasn't ringing the register? You couldn't even find the book categories! They deserved to get run over by the runaway train that is Amazon.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It

    Most people who want to work in stores want to work there because of the brand. If they don't believe in the brand and they "just want a job," that's not going to fly anymore. Remember, people don't have to go to stores anymore, they have to want to go to stores. And besides, the notion that you're going to have to "sell" something is not high on most Millennials' career lists to begin with. Tesla has one of the most forward concepts at retail right now, and if you've ever been in one of their "stores," they don't "sell" you at all. They actually sell by not selling. The associates are tremendous brand advocates and are super knowledgeable and proud of their product. THAT is the new sales model IMO: brand advocate people-people talking about product they really believe in. Consumers have too many choices today; they don't need to be sold, they need to feel passion.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

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

    I remember the CEO of Southwest Airlines saying in a speech that they realized that they weren't in the transportation business, they were in the customer service business. I think the same could be said for most retailers. It seems, at this point, that Amazon gets that concept better than anyone else.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Are retailers short-changing national grocery brands?

    What you're seeing is that it's not so easy to do private label right. Just ask specialty retail, they've been at it for 40 years. You can't expect to put your detergent right next to Tide's without having a substantial organization behind that product: you need product development, marketing, R&D, product extension, sales teams, plan-o-grams, constant testing -- and that's just to start! These are not part-time jobs, by the way. And to boot, it takes time! Do we think Tide got to where they are in consumers' minds overnight? Besides, I don't think food retailers have a choice. No matter what they sell in terms of national brands, they'll get undercut eventually by Amazon. Whether it's purely on price or by free Prime shipping or superior promotions and product tie-in. SO -- stick to it, devote more time and quality people to it, and private label will work. It HAS to.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Is AI the key to legacy brands’ revitalization?

    I just read an article in WWD yesterday that said that 86 percent of all AI home use was still for "daily tasks," like search, rather than for actually purchasing something. So regardless of the "new shiny toy" syndrome, it's going to be a while even for marketing. The only saving grace was that Millennials and Generation Zers were tops with AI use for purchasing. But ultimately, it's going to be a lot slower of a transition than we all might've been excited about initially.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Costco workers get a raise and the retailer gets more good press

    Clearly the most undervalued asset retailers have is their associates. Cutting payroll is a fast way to becoming more profitable and an even faster way to brand deterioration. The entire process (if that's the right word) of human resources needs to be re-evaluated as people are the difference between online shopping and in-store shopping. Excellence in associates should be paramount for retailers in the age of AMZN. Congrats to Costco for starting down that road.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    What will Starbucks do without Howard Schultz?

    Starbucks will be fine without Schultz and besides, I'm sure he'll always be available for consultation regardless, lurking in the shadows (I'm joking about the last part). Starbucks is like a well-oiled machine, even with the threat of millions of very fine new local shops, you still can't beat their speed of service/quality combo. Love you pour-over, guys, but sometimes waiting 15 minutes for a coffee just doesn't cut it on the way to work. And lastly, I'm just going to come out with it; I'd vote for Schultz. His concern for all people and his hard scrabble background combined with the drive that built an honest global business is something we could really use right now. If only.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    Our latest research showed consumer fatigue with pop-ups, mostly because they were not done right ("just a bunch of stuff in a crummy space"). So this might cause more brand damage than good. It really has to be thought through, which has not been true of other efforts recently (beacons in-store, etc.). Also, it seems to me that it would work the other way around. Department stores become more "popup-like". I.e. more consignment of new-new brands, faster turn of staples, fresh associates with the popups, etc. You know, create a "popup alley" vs. racks and racks of apparel you never stop to look at. In today's "fail fast" retail world, I'd try both.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2018

    Walmart’s newest service brings texting and personal shopping together

    Nice test. It's easy to say "that's not Walmart's customer," but why not find out for sure? I really like the whole Store No. 8 idea. All retailers need a Store No. 8 today or, more to the point, yesterday.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’

    This could get really messy. Have you been to a Kroger Marketplace? They have lounge chairs, home goods, apparel, you name it ... and man, when looking for a simple box of crackers, that "over-selection" is a nightmare. You get the sense though, like many things Amazon does, that this is a test just to see what happens. And when they find out it's not so hot, they'll just kill it. Unlike the 120,000 square foot Marketplace.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2018

    Is GDPR an opportunity or a threat to retailers?

    For the time being, GDPR represents a great "brand moment," in that full compliance gives you an "up" over your competitors. Somehow it reminds me of the organic food movement where, at first, if you had organics you could blow your horn all day about how your selection was the best and everyone else was a laggard. Sooner or later many caught up, but it was a boon for people like Whole Foods for quite a while. The expression that today, "a good brand has to be a GOOD brand" also comes to mind, i.e. doing the right thing. And GDPR is definitely the right thing.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Lessons in goodwill and the power of feelings

    One of the things we found in a recent study was that customer experience was directly related to customer service, good and bad -- and I believe goodwill is involved in that connection as well. The challenge is, customer service today is much more than a smile and going that extra mile in person; it's fast delivery, good returns, a person on the phone -- it could even be the best AI. It's a whole new HR book. Emotions are built from experience but, in retail, experience means service. And in retail 2030, service is a whole new, complex science that only a few have really managed to master.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Ellison leaves Penney, further fueling doubts

    Wait, I thought they were "turning it around"? Guess not. This is another symptom of a long and slow death spiral. It's not going to be pretty.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    Will greater transparency drive a digital targeting backlash?

    Transparency will DEFINITELY lead to a backlash. I think it will be more with Gen Z than Millennials, though (Boomers: impervious). You'll see youth pushing back on the issues that us adults either are too locked in on or just plain UN-informed. Go kids, go, show us some common sense.

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