PROFILE

Brandon Rael

Strategy & Operations Delivery Leader

Brandon Rael is a trusted advisor with significant strategy, operational improvement, profit optimization, organizational change, and technology experience in the retail, wholesale, consumer goods, and consumer-facing industries. Having worked for and in partnership with Fortune 100 companies, Brandon has a deep understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset. He is a valued 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. He has authored industry articles, is a regular podcast and conference presenter, and is a member of the RetailWire Braintrust global community. *

Select prior engagements include:

▪️ Led the global business transformation for a $10B vertically integrated multi-brand apparel company, with a presence in both retail and wholesale, across all elements of growth, including assortment optimization, omnichannel improvements, product development, business processes, pricing, e-commerce, digital and customer experience strategies. The operating model transformations resulted in 150 EBITDA basis points improvements alongside a 3% comp sales increase and $100M in cost savings

▪️ Delivered and defined localized micro-merchandising assortment planning methodologies and processes for a $45B national off-price retailer, which optimized inventories and enhanced the customer experience, contributing to 75 EBITDA basis point improvement and a 2% comp sales increases

▪️ Executed and led the business transformation for a $3B teenage apparel company, empowering a fully integrated merchandising assortment planning solution that increased efficiencies, optimized the supply chain, and led to 100 EBITDA basis points improvements

▪️ Directed an IT infrastructure outsourcing global delivery engagement workstream for a $150B pharmaceutical company to restructure, define and operationalize processes across 140 countries and centralized work-groups across 4 continents, which led to $225M in cost improvements

▪️ Established commerce solutions for an $8B vertically integrated global beauty company that enhanced cross channel customer experiences by executing the future state assortment planning processes and pricing strategies, which contributed to 2% comp sales increases, and 100 EBITDA basis points improvements

* Opinions are my own

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  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    Retail workers want the right to defend themselves

    Retail frontline associates already have enough pressures and responsibilities to keep the operation going. To expect frontline associates to have to defend themselves in the face of violence is a shocking development. They are not trained or prepared to act as the first line of defense when shoplifting or violent acts occur in the stores. Sadly, this is a sobering reflection of our culture and society, where violent acts could happen at any moment. Store associates should feel the safety and security they need to perform their jobs. Retail operations need adequately trained security personnel to handle such incidents, not front-line associates who earn a living and do their jobs.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    What worked at Target didn’t work for Mark Tritton at Bed Bath & Beyond

    The turnaround and transformation strategies necessary at Bed Bath & Beyond required an authentic approach, as opposed to the lift and shift approach leveraged by Mark Tritton put in place from the Target playbook. Every aspect of Bed Bath & Beyond's transformation strategies had to be focused solely on the customer, the customer experience, and competing in the new digital-first landscape. While Bed Bath & Beyond's transformation plans included significant capital investments in the store renovations, a micro-fulfillment strategy including BOPIS and curbside pickup, along with a wider private label assortment, the missing component was paying close attention to the Bed Bath & Beyond core customer. Bed Bath & Beyond is famous for its promotional strategies and couponing approach, which may appear outdated on the surface. However, unlike the Target customer, the Bed Bath & Beyond customer prefers this method of shopping. Some of Bed Bath & Beyond's transformation plans were disrupted by the pandemic. However with comp-store sales falling 24 percent year-over-year in the first quarter ending May 28 and digital sales dropping 21 percent, it speaks to the fact that the core customer is not satisfied with what Bed Bath & Beyond has to offer.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are mall shoppers hungry for in-stock data?

    Trust and transparency are key between the retailer and consumer. All shoppers are becoming accustomed to retailers and brands providing visibility into inventory availability. One of the more friction-filled experiences this may solve is customers going to the store expecting to find their favorite item and leaving empty-handed, or being pushed to buy the item online. It will all come down to execution for this inventory check solution to work between Simon Search and the retailers they serve. Inventory accuracy and providing this visibility to customers has become a key customer experience differentiator. If the information is inaccurate, it will only lead to further frustrations for customers who may have gone out of their way for these items.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are outsized private label gains in grocery a foregone conclusion?

    Store brands and private label assortment offerings are nothing new in the grocery industry. With the relentless inflationary state of our economy, we should expect a more significant proportion and shelf space allocated to private labels. In most circumstances, Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, and other grocery operations' private label quality and product development are nearly at par and comparable to more expensive private brands. Fundamentally, private labels are a force to be reckoned with, and customers gravitate toward these value-centric offerings. It will all come down to execution and consistency. Consistency breeds familiarity, familiarity breeds confidence, and confidence breeds sales.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Is the metaverse opportunity getting any clearer?

    The metaverse offers seemingly unlimited potential and is emerging as another engagement platform between brands and consumers. There are undoubtedly elements of the risk/reward principle at play when engaging and monetizing off of the metaverse. Considering the rapid rate of accelerating innovations, the McKinsey forecasts of annual global spending related to the metaverse reaching $5 trillion by 2030 may become a reality. However while segments of the population engage in this space via gaming and VR experiences, most customers enjoy real-life experiences. The metaverse will become another engagement platform where consumers will engage with brands and retailers. The experiences and relationships formed in that virtual world will translate to influencing in-store and digital purchases.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2022

    Will Deal Days help Target clear its inventory?

    Spot on with this, Liza! The deal days and aggressive promotional strategies may serve as a way to drive revenues and reduce excess inventory. However, as you have stated, the digital and customer-first operating model requires a complete reimagination of merchandising, assortment planning, allocation, replenishment, and supply chain capabilities, to a modern-day, agile operating model. There is a fundamental clash between the old-school ways of over-compensating and over-buying, with more insights and pragmatic practices to merchandise based on fluctuating consumer demand.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2022

    Will Deal Days help Target clear its inventory?

    The timing for both Target's Deal Days and Amazon Prime Day couldn't be more ideal for a society impacted by rising inflation rates, surging gas prices, and the overall anxieties about our economy. Retailers, in general, have over-compensated their inventories to meet consumer demands and mitigate the supply chain disruptions we have been experiencing. An aggressive Deal Days promotional strategy will help Target sell down some of its excess inventory. However in addition to these compelling deals, consumers will look for premium, seasonal and trendy assortments. There is only a limited window for Target and others to stay ahead of the curve before back-to-school season kicks in. Time is of the essence for Target and Amazon.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Uber Eats ships big city meals nationwide

    The "getting far off cravings shipped" Uber Eats business model may be a niche one at best. While people may crave and reminisce about their favorite NYC restaurants once they have migrated to the suburbs, the costs of this service and the execution side make this an unsustainable model. This will not resonate with conscious consumers, who are now aware of their purchases' environmental impacts and carbon footprints. There is no replacing the dining experience that goes along with our old favorite restaurants. By the time the food arrives, what is intended as a transporting experience may be far from that reality. Additionally, the costs associated with this service will make it unprofitable for Uber Eats and its restaurant partners.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Are retailers and consumers misaligned on trust?

    There is a clear paradigm shift in retail, where price-conscious consumers are now evaluating and aligning with companies with similar core values and beliefs. We have witnessed the emergence of the connected consumer and now, even more importantly, the conscious consumer is becoming more of the norm. Retailers and brands must establish a relationship of trust and transparency with consumers, who are now very interested in companies' stances on social, political, sustainability, and ESG initiatives. The conscious consumer is now very mindful of their environmental footprint and carbon impact. So, companies must be fully transparent about their products' sourcing, procurement, manufacturing, supply chain, and other operational aspects. Trust and transparency matter more than ever. The next emerging generation of consumers, Gen Z, will seek brands that not only value the companies that are open and transparent but will also notice how the employees are treated. An outstanding customer experience requires an empowered, incentivized, and motivated workforce. How companies treat their employees provides a good indication of their core values.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Will a U.S. factory transform Lego’s supply chain and eco-footprint?

    There are many positive elements of Lego opening of a domestic manufacturing plant. While at the surface, investing in an onshore manufacturing plant will help to mitigate the significant supply chain challenges, this investment will help drive continued commitment to a sustainability-focused future. By having a supply chain sourcing diversification strategy, Lego will have an on shore presence to help drive inventory availability and a domestic-based workforce in a manufacturing industry that has been ravaged by offshoring. Here are a few more highlights of this welcome development, especially from a sustainability perspective:
    • Lego said it would invest $1 billion and create 1,760 jobs over 10 years with a new factory in Virginia in a bid to shorten its supply chain and avoid problems delivering to the key U.S. market;
    • The new factory will also be carbon neutral, a step toward the company’s recent push to reduce CO2 emissions from the production of its toy bricks;
    • The company has pledged to use only recycled or renewable materials in its packaging by 2025;
    • By the decade's end, it wants to make all its core Lego products from sustainable materials instead of oil-based plastic.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Kroger CEO says customers are ‘rethinking their shopping’ habits

    Look no further than the grocery sector for a good indication of our overall economy and inflation rates. With inflationary pressures in full swing, customers are rethinking their shopping habits, reducing their discretionary spending, and being far more conscious and purpose-driven with their grocery shopping trips. With the emergence of high-quality and value-centered private label grocery options, Kroger, Target, Walmart, and others are well-positioned to capitalize on the price-conscious consumer. We also should expect grocers to provide more incentives in the form of loyalty programs, points, and cross-promotions with gas purchases. There is also an opportunity for grocers to address the growing health and wellness trends with the products and services consumers are willing to invest in.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Ultra-fast delivery may burn out or fade away

    Ultra-fast delivery services have proven to be unprofitable service and have set unrealistic expectations with customers. Almost instant gratification in cities such as NYC is close to reality. However it comes at a cost for the companies and the cities they serve. Speedy delivery became an emerging force at the heart of the pandemic, and customers have become used to this experience, despite all the negative consequences. For the companies it's a zero-sum game, as ultra-fast delivery services are an unsustainable and unprofitable operating model. The costs of speedy delivery capabilities are not passed onto the customer, which eats into the bottom line. For the city dwellers, the streets and sidewalks are a battleground for who could deliver the products faster. This has created another element of congestion and frustration on already packed city streets.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Does Amazon need a great Prime Day now more than ever?

    Considering Amazon's omnipresence in the e-commerce fulfillment space, one could argue that Prime Day is every day. However considering the retail team's leadership shifts, the global supply chain disruptions, rising levels of excess inventory, rising inflationary rates, diminishing consumer confidence, and an overall reduction in customer spending, this year's Amazon Prime Day is becoming increasingly important. It will be interesting to see what aggressive promotional planning will go into this Prime Day to help drive sales. Amazon will have a delicate balancing act to consider, as the rising operational costs and sales promotions will eat into their bottom line. Prime Day may prove to be a loss leader. However the ultimate goal for Amazon is each customer's lifetime value, not what they spend during a single-day sales event.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2022

    Are consumers going to take a vacation from buying things?

    This is brilliant, and you are spot on with this, Paula!
  • Posted on: 06/15/2022

    Retailers applaud as Ocean Shipping Reform Act sails through Congress

    The rise of globalization, offshoring manufacturing, and depending on the seamless operation of the West Coast ports was an operating model that, while imperfect, was adequate for quite a while. With the impacts of the pandemic and the surge of consumer demand, plenty of weaknesses were exposed with the cargo operations, which contributed to the supply chain disruptions that have become too familiar. The Ocean Shipping Reform act is a step in the right direction. However it will all come down to execution, and it's encouraging to see that the federal government has granted investigative authority to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) against any corruptive acts in the U.S. ports. This is an excellent first step, and more regulations will be necessary to help mitigate the supply chain disruptions.

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