PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Retail and Consumer Strategist

An accomplished, passionate, and inspiring leader who partners with global retail companies to solve complex business challenges.

Brandon is an experienced retail strategy and operations expert who operates as a senior liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, technology, digital, and marketing worlds. Having worked for and in partnership with fortune 100 retailers, Brandon has held diverse leadership roles spanning across the Consulting Delivery, Business Development, Pre-Sales, Strategy Advisory, Marketing, Branding, Digital, Omnichannel, and Merchandising organizations.

With an innate understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset, Brandon is a key partner for companies, as they evolve, adapt and grow more effectively. Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in delivering significant business improvements, driving meaningful return on investments, inspiring organizational change, all with a holistic view of the changing business landscape. Most recently, Brandon has driven retail industry thought leadership, white papers, social media blogging, content marketing, led retail conference speaking engagements and has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community

His core areas of expertise include:

  • Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive level partnerships
  • Digital innovations and transformations
  • Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management
  • Retail merchandising, assortment planning, personalization & inventory optimization
  • Strategic planning and operational improvements
  • Operational and business transformations
  • Customer experience strategies
  • Global cross-functional delivery leadership
  • Unified commerce, omnichannel digital business & technology transformations
  • Consumer insights and predictive analytics
  • Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise
  • Organizational Change Management
Brandon is a trusted advisor, with more than 20 years of strategy, operational improvement, profit optimization, organizational change, and technology experience in the retail, wholesale, and consumer space. Having worked for, and in partnership with Fortune 100 companies, Brandon has a deep understanding of the retail market landscape, the evolving consumer mindset, and he is a key partner for companies as they evolve, adapt and grow. Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in leading complex business transformation programs, delivering significant EBITDA improvements, driving meaningful ROI, building high performing teams, inspiring organizational change, and exceeding the client’s expectations. His core areas of expertise include: • Trusted advisor, partner, and cultivating executive-level partnerships • Digital innovations and transformations • Business development, revenue acceleration, organic business growth, P&L management • Retail merchandising, assortment planning, personalization & inventory optimization • Strategic planning and operational improvements • Operational and business transformations • Customer experience strategies • Global cross-functional delivery leadership • Unified commerce, omnichannel digital business & technology transformations • Consumer insights and predictive analytics • Complex Program and Project Management/PMO expertise • Organizational Change Management * Opinions are my own
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  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Has Rite Aid found the right prescription for growth?

    Rite Aid is taking the necessary steps to disrupt themselves, as they are in a highly competitive and congested pharmacy and health playing field. The key competitive differentiator in this space is the service and experience component, especially in-store. The company is in a unique financial position, with their record revenues and profitability, to unleash the power of their pharmacists in what they are calling the RXEvolution strategy. Over 80 percent of Rite Aid's revenues are generated from their pharmacy and related pharmacy services/products. By having the pharmacists walk the redesigned and modernized salesfloor as brand ambassadors, they can help drive stronger customer relationships and additional revenue streams. We should expect that CVS and Walgreens are in the process, or will be taking on similar initiatives, especially as the Millennial mom, Rite Aid's target consumer, has a choice.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Is YouTube a shopping powerhouse waiting to happen?

    The shop now capabilities and influencer-led videos, along with live influencer-led streams have been around for quite a while, and the moment may have passed for YouTube. If anything the momentum in the social media space is clearly on TikTok's side. Especially as Gen Z and younger Millennial consumers are constantly on TikTok, and the platform has become a powerful influencing force on young consumers' decision-making process. The lines between social media and shopping have been blurring for years. We should expect that our market will eventually follow China's lead, with TikTok emerging as the leader in the shop now capabilities. TikTok is testing a feature that will include the same call to action in creator videos, with the ad revenues split between TikTok and the creator or brand. We should expect that more than 75 million U.S. social network users ages 14 and older will make at least one purchase from a social channel in 2020, up 17.3 percent from 2019.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2020

    Is a new store concept the start of something big(ger) for Aldi?

    Aldi's expansionary and store format diversification strategies have been spot on and their fresh and perishable emphasis aligns very well with the changing consumer behaviors. Revitalizing profitable grocery industry growth during these disruptive times includes curating the center store assortments, increasing the far more profitable fresh and perishables in a store format that resonates with today's consumer. With this strategy, coupled with new store formats, value pricing, and an increasing private label assortment, Aldi is making the right moves in the increasingly competitive grocery industry. It is also very unique to see a company succeed with multiple store format and store sizes strategies. Aldi is well-positioned to grow and scale with this approach.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond CEO’s turnaround plan may just work

    Bed Bath & Beyond's transformation was a long time coming and they have the leadership in place, starting with CEO Mark Tritton, to continue to make the necessary moves to be relevant and profitable. While the turnaround and restructuring plan included closing unprofitable locations, curating assortments, and driving value-driven private label offerings, there also was an element of human capital restructuring/job eliminations to meet the needs of a digital-first customer. It's clear that more of the same, which included piling assortments high and taking a push approach to retail, was not going to resonate with a marketplace that has shifted to how Target does business across digital channels. With that said, these first steps have proven to be successful -- Bed Bath & Beyond has the right team in place. The home sector was once disrupted by Bed Bath & Beyond 30-plus years ago, however consumer behaviors have changed. Bed Bath & Beyond is on the right path yet there is still much to be done.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Will FAO Schwarz make Target a bigger player in toys?

    Toys will always be a part of the holiday magic. The toy category has and always will be a significant part of the retail holiday success story. Considering the large gap left by the Toys "R" Us bankruptcy, there have been many players, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target who have looked to fill the gap. Everyone loves a good story, and we were all glad to see the return of FAO Schwarz’s New York City flagship back in 2018. There is a certain magic and excitement that comes along with the holidays and the toy category will continue to be a big part of the experience. We should also expect plenty of younger TikTok and Instagram influencers to be a part of the cross-promotional magic. Brand equity matters and Target under Brian Cornell understands that.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Has Walmart come up with an answer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad?

    The resurgence of Best Buy was not only attributable to their pricing, promotions, and in-store experience but also to their operating model moving to one that focused on the customer and a service-first strategy. Every day low prices are a productive strategy for most categories, however there has to be a service and expertise value proposition to help differentiate yourself from Amazon's scale and reach. Walmart continues to drive its digital transformation and customer-first strategies, as they take on the competition across so many categories. They will have a tough go with Best Buy, who have become synonymous with services, expertise, and outstanding customer experiences. However there is room for Walmart in this space, as they address the value-driven consumer who may need some technical support and expertise in-store.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    What’s behind the Amazon/SpartanNash deal?

    The wholesale grocery feed distribution process is an extremely complex one, especially when you factor in organic, fresh and perishables, frozen, and premium prepared foods. This commercial agreement between Amazon and SpartanNash makes absolutes sense, especially as Amazon has expressed their intentions to expand their presence in the increasingly competitive grocery space. Wholes Foods has its own mature self-sufficient supply chain operation, however, there are far more complexities as Amazon expands its Amazon Fresh footprint. With the announcement, there is the distinct possibility of Amazon acquiring SpartanNash. That would include SpartanNash's 2,100 independent grocery retail locations they serve throughout the United States, as well as the 155 company-owned stores in nine states. Our nation’s independent grocers with 21,000 stores, representing 25% of the retail grocery industry sales, $140B in annual sales, and 1% of the United States GDP, should stand on notice.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    Staples to accept returns from other stores

    The rules of the reverse logistics game have changed, and retailers such as Staples and Kohl's have taken the wise and timely strategy to take third party in-store returns. What may have been viewed as a losing sum game, is actually a prudent approach to attracting additional foot traffic to your stores. A key to success is the location of a dedicated returns area, that will strategically require the consumer to navigate through the store, and there will be the potential for some impulse shopping opportunities. In our digital-first world, the consumer is clearly in charge of their shopping journey. Moves such as this will incentivize the consumer to visit your store, and then the magic has a chance to happen.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2020

    NYC startup promises 15-minute grocery delivery

    This is an intriguing business model, yet at the same time very challenging for Fridge to live up to a 15-minute brand promise. As we have seen, consumers have adapted and are very pleased with a 2-4 hour delivery window. Building your entire brand promise and differentiation strategy around a 15-minute window, in a congested and dynamic NYC scene, is a race to the bottom.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2020

    Will Dollar General win over higher-income consumers with its new store concept?

    Every brand needs a refresh and for Dollar General, the Popshelf concept may just give the retail giant the entryway into the urban cosmopolitan affluent neighborhoods. While the in-store experience looks to be on par with the latest trends, of upscale assortments, widened aisled, colorful floor displays, and a focus on health and beauty, Dollar General will run into plenty of competition in areas such as NYC. The goal of every pharmacy business, including Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens is to become the one-stop-shop for all health, beauty, home, and cleaning needs. These brands are undergoing their own in-store and digital transformations, so the customer already has a choice in these markets. It will be interesting to see what strategies Dollar General undertakes to make Popshelf stand out and be an authentic store.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Will a new round of panic buying empty grocery store shelves?

    Good points Scott. The one exception has been the home, hygiene and sanitation areas, where we have experienced an inconsistent experience from store to store. Paper products were one of the areas impacted the most when the pandemic struck March. Suddenly, we have seen bamboo sourced paper products, and no name brands surface, when national brands couldn't keep up with the demands. Perhaps, from a customer experience perspective, it would make the most sense to join a subscription service for basic paper product needs. This is a prime opportunity for the brands to go DTC.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Will a new round of panic buying empty grocery store shelves?

    National grocery chains, independent grocers, and their wholesale partners have had to adjust their operating models and come up with creative ways of keeping their shelves stocked. Panic shopping and pantry loading were real phenomena back in March when anxiety and uncertainties were at an all-time high. However thanks to the change in strategies, grocers have now flexed their supply chains, increased the proportion of private label offerings, and have leveraged micro-fulfillment centers and flexible fulfillment options to meet the potential surge in demand. Fundamentally, consumers shouldn't have to pantry load if we experience another round of quarantines and shutdowns. There is simply enough product and alternatives for the consumer to choose from.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Retailers say the new stimulus plan can’t wait until after the election

    The disruption and chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are real, and employment levels have not returned to anywhere near the levels they were before March. A federally mandated stimulus plan is long overdue and simply cannot wait until after the election. Removing any political affiliations, our country is hurting, is deep in recovery mode, and any little bit of support helps families and small businesses that are suffering. This is not a politically polarizing issue, as our economy has been disrupted. We are quickly approaching the deep fall and winter seasons, where we should expect another round of quarantines and shutdowns as the virus cases are spiking across the country. Until there is a sustainable economic recovery, and employment levels are on the rise, we will be dependent upon the Federal government for critical financial support.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2020

    Brides-to-be say ‘yes’ to their dresses in AR

    The COVID-19 pandemic has required creativity and innovative ways of doing business, in light of all the social distancing regulations and apprehension of shopping in person. While shopping for the wedding dress is one of the most magical moments for a bride-to-be, AR and virtual reality enable these experiences to happen from the safety and security of their own homes. Ultimately the final dress fitting may be in person, however the initial visits and consultations could be done virtually through the power of AR. The modern day consumer is digital-first and has adapted during the pandemic to new and interesting ways to shop and engage with brands.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2020

    Will Levi’s Secondhand store give the brand a sustainable advantage?

    We all know the power and authority that brands have when they go direct to consumer. Couple that with social responsibility, sustainability, environmental consciousness, and being on point with the emerging resellers market and Levi's, with their Levi's Secondhand initiative, may just have a winner on their hands! This clearly resonates with the Millennial and Gen Z demographics, as they are far more interested in conscious consumption than prior generations. They also enjoy the thrill of the hunt, especially for products that are authentic, and have a story and history to make them truly unique, vs. the over-commercialized and produced products. Bravo to Levi's!

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