Brandon Rael

Director, Alvarez & Marsal

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
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Amazon goes bigger with its cashier-less store concept

    Amazon has a competitive advantage in the convenience space with its Amazon Go convenience-focused prototype. While the company has not scaled the smaller format convenience stores to the thousands of stores level, the 25 or so they have opened have proven that the concept could work for people on the go. The question we all have is "will it scale," and if so how significant could the cashier-less model become? However as Amazon scales up into the larger grocery format stores, with expanded assortments, meats, produce and dairy products, other factors will come into play beyond the speed and convenience of a cashier-less model. The larger Amazon grocery model will be going up against well-established companies such as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Kroger, etc., and other differentiating factors will come into play, including price, quality, assortments, and the overall customer experience. The Amazon Go larger format stores' potential success story is intrinsically tied to execution.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Was Burger King smart to showcase moldy Whoppers?

    Burger King was going for the shock and awe technique in modern advertising. While the company's move to preservative-free foods is commendable, showing a rotting, moldy Whopper has had mixed results -- especially on social media. However the company made a bold statement and, even with mixed reviews, Burger King received quite a bit of publicity both good and bad over the last week. In the age of trust and transparency around sustainable and healthy ingredients, Burger King and other companies have made strides to provide healthier fast food options, however in the age of social media intensity, there are other more effective and less shocking ways to change perceptions.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    Unilever will end marketing to young kids to fight childhood obesity

    Health and wellness, along with moderation, begin at the home and a big part of the process is the habits that kids learn from their parents and immediate family members. Unilever along with several other CPG brands are taking significant steps in offering healthier snack options. However, ultimately, healthy eating and lifestyle choices originate in the home and the parents are a big part of setting the stage for making the right choices. CPG companies do not have a social responsibility for fighting childhood obesity, as they are in the business of selling products to as broad an audience as they can. Unilever and other CPG firms have a significant opportunity to sell more holistic and healthier products that will resonate with the health-conscious generational movement.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    What does private equity ownership hold for Victoria’s Secret?

    Sycamore Partners has built an impressive portfolio of retail brands, and they have historically helped with turnarounds and transformations, There is hope for a Victoria's Secret revival and renaissance. It will all come down not only to execution but also a collaborative comeback backed by both Sycamore Partners and the L Brands team. There is plenty of brand equity to leverage, however, step 1 in parallel with their more inclusive assortment shifts, is to repair the company image and cultivate an environment of inclusivity, openness, and trust. Indeed the marketplace is far more competitive compared to Victoria's Secret's glory days. Building trust, transparency and a brand purpose beyond the supermodel shows and advertisements will be a key first step of the process.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    It all comes down to execution with the self-checkout process. Self-checkouts, in theory, are line-busters and part of removing friction from the checkout process. However as the process matures, more often than not, it's full of friction and challenges and requires intervention from the store associates. If the goal is to remove friction from the checkout process, then there is some work to be done to make the experience more intuitive. Target has made strides by driving innovation in this space with a far more seamless experience. This could become a differentiator, as retailers move to a more self-service checkout model.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Will store associates become the ultimate personalization tool at retail?

    The store associates are the single most critical component of the relationship between the retail store and consumers. They are on the front lines and are the customer-facing representatives of the brands, and a key part of the overall customer experience. Store associates always have been and will continue to be a key part of a retailer's personalization strategy. As Ricardo points out, personalization and satisfying customer experiences are really driven by three major components, people, processes and technology. A retailer could have the most sophisticated mobile app and in-store technology, however, their store associates may not be empowered or trained to help enhance the customer experience. Best Buy is a shining example of a retailer who has undergone its own internal transformation to empower, train and enable its store associates to become true brand ambassadors. That coupled with quality assortments, convenience, and competitive pricing helps to drive outstanding customer experiences.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    How will Jetblack lessons inform Walmart’s conversational commerce efforts?

    There are lessons to be learned from all experiences, and Walmart's Jetblack initiative is no exception. Walmart has made significant strides with its digital portfolio via acquisitions, and they have now either acquired or developed its in-house digital capabilities. Walmart has also demonstrated that they are not unwilling to fail and drive new innovations and services. Jetblack was an ambitious plan, but in a market such as NYC there is an overabundance of choice and Prime along with other competitive shipping solutions are major obstacles. This certainly will not deter Walmart, as we should expect Walmart to reimagine what conversational commerce could be.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?

    There never has been a universal understanding of what omnichannel means. From the customer's perspective, they are simply shopping with a retailer or brand on their own terms and how they wish to engage. Omnichannel is essentially a supply chain and fulfillment strategy in which consultancies partner with retailers to come up with a unified cross channel supply chain approach. However, customers never have cared or will care if their favorite retailer is best-in-class with their omnichannel strategies. Let's please at this point refer to it as "commerce" and leave the unified, omnichannel, harmonized, "phygital" terms out of the mix. The critical pieces and parts of the art and sciences of retail are there with the best-in-class retailers, who offer an integrated digital/physical experience, convenient same-day fulfillment BOPIS services and a multi-faceted loyalty program that incentivizes their customers. In terms of experiences, that is either there or not based on the type of retail segment you are shopping in. Target, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart and others are leading the charge in balancing both convenience and experiences.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2020

    Grocers are given failing marks on food recall transparency

    Trust and transparency have always been front and center in the relationship between consumers and grocery stores/food providers. Food recalls are always unfortunate, however, grocery stores should take a stronger stance on quality control measures to contain and prevent their customers from being impacted. If a food recall occurs once the food is in the marketplace, the PIRG report does raise awareness around the communication strategies that have to be put in place by the grocery stores. Consumers remain loyal to brands and companies when there is open communication and transparency when trouble surfaces. It's ultimately all about trust.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2020

    Will technology even the last-mile playing field with Amazon?

    Digital transformations and supply chain optimizations are critical for retailers not only to even the competitive playing field with Amazon, but also to be more in line with a customer who is shopping, when, where and whatever channel they wish. Deliverr is helping to solve a challenge that both retailers and DTC firms are facing around mitigating the last mile. While some may perceive same-day/next-day shipping as a race to the bottom, it clearly is not as it has become the standard expectations for companies. As retailers firm up their supply chain and logistics infrastructure and capabilities, by using Deliverr they can outsource some of these critical components, leverage the latest algorithmic intelligent technologies, and keep up with the competition.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?

    Companies are now reimagining what the store means as an integral part of the customer experience and gaining consumers' trust. As companies strive to meet the needs of the changing marketplace, rising global anxieties are impacting all generations. There is a growing sense of self, a new individualism and a change in how people define success. This is leading to the rise of purpose-driven consumption, particularly around sustainability, transparency, and wellness. Trust is very hard to earn, very easy to lose and is an important part of the delicate relationship between retailers and brands. Consistency matters, and putting the customer at the forefront of every single retail business strategy is a big part of retaining that trust.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    7-Eleven tries out an Amazon Go-like store

    The convenience store segment is a prime place to experiment with Amazon Go-like stores. While there is significant potential in this space, the cashierless technologies are still relatively in their infancy stages and require a significant upfront investment. There certainly is the "cool factor" of waving your app while you walk in and walking out with the product without having to use your credit card, cash or mobile app to pay. Key to 7-Eleven's strategy is to really qualify and quantify the success measures at this innovation testing ground. Are there truly incremental cost savings, gained efficiencies, increased conversion and increased margins that will come out of this experiment? There ultimately has to be a financial benefit to this innovation lab before scaling this model out beyond its headquarters.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    Will a brand refresh make Shipt a household name?

    Regardless of any brand refreshes, Shipt is well-positioned to experience some significant growth over the next several years, thanks in part to the acquisition by Target, as well as the increasing demand for same-day fresh grocery and produce delivery services. Shipt has seamlessly become part of the Target value proposition, and they have the ability, resources, financial capital, and infrastructure to expand their capabilities and partner with some of the key players in the grocery and produce space. With that said, there is a price to pay for same-day delivery services, and more often than not, this is reflected in annual fees as well as additional fees that are embedded within the grocery store's pricing strategies. Same-day delivery is a valued service, but it is not the only thing customers are seeking. Quality, freshness, pricing and in-store experiences matter as well.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2020

    Will Macy’s cut its way to improved margins and future growth?

    The Macy's transformation plan has been in motion for quite a while now, and while there may be some shock and disappointment with the mass store closures and corporate office staff reductions, this is all a painful but necessary process for the company to go through. Macy's had acquired some of their major competitors, particularly in markets that were not familiar with their brand proposition. As Macy's undergoes this multi-year transformation, let's hope that part of the process is the reimagination of what the department store means in 2020 and beyond. The traditional department store model has worked for well over a century. However, it's time for a change and let's hope that Macy's, one of our iconic retail brands, can lead the charge.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2020

    Is Forever 21 a wise investment for its new mall landlord owners?

    Mall owners such as the Simon Property Group, and Brookfield Partners have a short term challenge on their hands when brands such as Forever 21 enter into bankruptcy. Forever 21's imminent insolvency would have left a short term gaping whole in their mall portfolio. While this makes business sense in the short term for the property groups, there are far more fundamental challenges in play at Forever 21, which have led to years of decline, a lack of customer interest, underperforming stores and assortments that simply didn't resonate. This move is a short term gap fill, yet the longer-term strategy has to address the core retail business misdirections which have led to Forever 21's collapse.

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