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: 12/04/2019

    Will Grinches steal Christmas from America’s front porch?

    Porch piracy has become a thing and, even with preventative measures, it quickly has become one of the biggest friction points of online shopping. However there is a clear silver lining for retailers, as they could leverage their physical stores as same-day fulfillment centers, or with the security and seamlessness of all the BOPIS offerings, including in-store pickup, curbside pickup, or their own version of secure Amazon lockers. While it may take some time to develop law enforcement procedures to mitigate porch piracy, there is a unique opportunity for retailers to capitalize on the moment and establish a low-capital investment in BOPIS that will drive significant fulfillment cost savings, increase online sales, drive impulse shopping, and mitigate last-mile challenges. Retailers: if you aren't in the BOPIS game, then now is the time to ramp things up.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    Reverse logistics, or what is commonly known as returns, are part of the cost of doing business in the digital-first world of retail. It's imperative for retailers and brands to be completely transparent and open about their return policy, and make it as seamless a process they possibly can, as that is the new industry standard. Historically, a negative return experience has been one of the greatest points of friction for customers. One bad experience could lead to customers not only abandoning their carts but taking their business elsewhere. Without the advantages of a try-on room or showroom, e-commerce businesses should expect the rate of returns to be around 40 percent with some ready-to-wear categories, as well as electronics, etc. There are some technologically savvy ways that customers could use mobile apps to get their right sizes. However, as we know, nothing replaces the try-on experiences in-store, and if the products do not fit, the customer has every right to return it to the sender.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Why is Allbirds asking Amazon to do a better job ripping it off?

    Just as Amazon has capitalized on the publicity machine, Allbirds has taken a strong, very creative stance to drive their environmental consciousness and sustainability strategies in light of the copycat controversies. There certainly is an element of Allbirds taking the moral high ground in this situation, especially as Amazon's private-label offerings are so close to their proprietary products. Amazon has routinely expanded its private-label offering, especially as an increasing number of retailers have entered into their marketplace. Customers could take advantage of the choice and lower prices of Amazon's private-label products. However, Allbirds' social and environmental stance matters and this really resonates with today's woke customers.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Mobile jumps out as retailers get a mixed start to the holiday season

    The traditional customer journey and path to purchase has transformed in our mobile-first digital world. Getting the digital experience right and optimized should be a top priority for all retailers and brands. Mobile commerce has evolved to the point where it becomes a ubiquitous part of the discovery, engagement, and conversion in the customer experience journey. If the integrated mobile experience is not a top imperative for your company going into 2020, then it's high time to put it on the top of your list. While approximately 90 percent of all purchases occur in and around the physical store, mobile commerce has matured to the point where customers that are having a positive experience may even convert online, or decide to go the BOPIS route, where retailers then have an opportunity to engage with customers once they go to the store to pick the products up.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Why did’s fresh delivery service go stale in NYC?

    NYC has become the battleground for immediate satisfaction. Between all the grocery and restaurant delivery services, customers have an overabundance of choice. Eventually, consumers will settle on one or two of their favorite grocery delivery providers. Jet was up against an increasingly complex delivery market in NYC, where the astronomical costs of dealing with the traffic, tolls, and regulations simply made it infeasible to continue operating at such a loss. Walmart, taking a similar approach that Amazon takes, will continue to learn and evolve, even when experiments don't turn out as expected.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Will 2020 be the year retailers digitally transform their supply chain ops?

    The single most impactful way retailers could mitigate the last mile of the supply chain is to leverage their physical stores as fulfillment centers. Leveraging the BOPIS value proposition is a key competitive advantage for brick-and-mortar retailers, as they truly become customer-centric across all channels. BOPIS requires a lighter capital investment, yet provides the immediate satisfaction customers are seeking without the significant shipping costs. From a longer-term supply chain transformation perspective, retailers should evolve into more data-centric organizations where they could be more prescriptive, proactively forecast demands and optimize their supply chains. There are advanced technologies such as AI and blockchain which could enhance company insights and help to drive down supply chain costs. With that said, a crawl/walk/run approach is critical for any supply chain transformation.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Chick-fil-A Foundation changes charitable giving and controversy follows

    We need a standing ovation GIF for this comment!
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Chick-fil-A Foundation changes charitable giving and controversy follows

    Our expectations of brands and fast-food restaurants have become outrageous. Once upon a time, customers were happy with a quality sandwich or salad, at convenience, and if it were a good experience they might come back for more. Now companies are expected to being open and transparent about all their policies, have to stand for a greater purpose beyond their brand proposition. Chick-fil-A could support or contribute to whatever charitable organization they choose to. Just as companies have every right to support which charities they want to align with, consumers could absolutely choose which companies they want to remain loyal to. With that said, Chick-fil-A and other companies should be cognizant of any downstream impacts of supporting polarizing charitable organizations.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Are Americans ready for a DTC shopping holiday?

    From the customer's perspective it's simply shopping or commerce as usual, whether or not it's from a retailer or DTC brand. We are witnessing the rise of the DTC movement, especially with global iconic brands such as Nike, Adidas, and others taking control of their brand, their messaging, their go-to-market strategies, and driving the customer experience instead of depending on a third party. DTC brands are in the game, quickly gaining momentum and starting to compete very seriously with the retail establishment. DTC brands do not necessarily need a special holiday or shopping event. Customers appreciate choice, and if DTC brands such as Away, Casper, and Harry's along with the older guard including Nike and Adidas can drive a better overall experience and competitive pricing, along with quality, they can disrupt the model and take back some of the market share from the retailers.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Is ‘OK Boomer’ a merchandising opportunity?

    Everything in our lives could ultimately be merchandised. However the question is, does it really make sense to make such an investment of time, money, and resources in a viral social media phenomenon? With that said "OK Boomer" has become the rallying cry against stagnation, dealing with the status quo, saying that this is impossible and we've always done things this way. As Nike has proven over the past few decades, controversy sells. This fad may just resonate, even if it's for a limited shelf life. The lines between our social, digital and commerce worlds are blurring, and retailers and brands should leap at the opportunity to jump on a viral meme.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    These are spot-on Neil!
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    Amazon confirms it will open a grocery store not named Whole Foods

    This is a no-brainer for Amazon, as they have clearly expressed their intent to grow and compete in the grocery space. The Whole Foods acquisition has started the process with the more luxury end of grocery stores, however there are far more general merchandise and home products available at lower levels of retail which are not featured in the stores. It is also prime time for Amazon to reap the benefits of all the unoccupied big box stores such as the old Toys "R" Us, Sears and J.C. Penney locations. However, as we all can agree, the very tight margin grocery industry is extremely competitive, customers are brand loyal, and there are far more complexities to consider when starting a new chain from scratch, even for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    It's clear that the blurring of lines between the social, digital and commerce worlds will continue to dominate the conversation well into 2020. The smartphone will continue to be at the forefront of our lives and the portal to how we engage, communicate, discover, socialize and interact with brands. The marathon to win the hearts and minds of consumers is ongoing, as brands are taking a very aggressive direct to consumer strategy by engaging with customers on social channels, opening showrooms, and driving new experiences that have been putting more pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers. Amazon will remain the default search, discovery and shopping app, however, their brick-and-mortar ambitions may intensify in both the grocery and convenience space.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Why do digital transformations often fail?

    There are no magic buttons to flip an organization to a digital-first, data-driven, customer-focused model. Digital transformations are one of the more key initiatives that companies need to invest in. However, the 70 percent failure rate outlined by McKinsey speaks to how challenging it is to take these transformations on. Legacy companies all want to act like a startup, take on these digital initiatives, drive personalization, act and move with increased agility and flexibility, but it's simply a difficult operation to take on while keeping the ship afloat. There are no big-bang approaches for digital transformations to succeed. Rather, the most successful transformations are a long term journey, with iterative pilot approaches, where companies can measure and analyze the results for a smaller segment of the company without the risks inherent with a big bang strategy. Digital transformations are truly a marathon and not a sprint simply due to all the organizational impacts and touchpoints.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Kroger to make fresh marketing start with a new logo, tagline and ‘Krojis’

    Change is always a good thing, and long-standing legacy companies such as Kroger periodically need to reinvent themselves. The grocery segment is hyper-competitive, and consumers are always seeking newness and a change of scenery from their usual routines. It will be critical for Kroger to turn their marketing refresh into true operationalized changes, that will be very clear during the customer shopping experience. Marketing and branding changes will need supportive people, processes, and technological investments to properly execute those initiatives at the store level. Kudos go out to the Kroger team for taking this big first step.

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