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: 05/25/2022

    Nordstrom is staffed, stocked and ready to serve as store traffic increases

    Nordstrom was well-positioned for growth and meeting the needs of the modern digital-first customer well before the pandemic hit. Their assortment curation, appealing in-store experiences, and overall focus on the customer have proven to be a winning strategy for the brand in the department store segment that has been facing challenges. They have pivoted their overall operating model to be customer-first, agile, and flexible, shifting to the latest customer preferences. Another factor that helps drive engagement and growth is the overall investment by Nordstrom in the customer service space, both in the physical stores and digital platforms. Additionally, the Nordstrom customer sits within the area between luxury and the aspirational luxury space. These customer segments are relatively immune to economic factors such as recessions, inflationary periods, and other disruptions.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2022

    Will Apple’s privacy positioning remake digital marketing?

    Apple has made critical investments and has focused on being the market leader in driving privacy and a personalized experience for iPhone users. Their go-to-market strategies are from a customer-first perspective, ensuring that anything related to data, data sharing, and privacy is transparently shared with the customers. There is a sense of comfort knowing that end-users can control and understand our personalized experience and ensure that the brands we engage with and share data with can engage with us safely. This is driving brands and retailers to comply with Apple's very transparent and secure privacy policies and optimize their digital marketing strategies to drive personalized and engaging experiences.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2022

    Robots and drones and Walmart’s supply chain, oh my

    Automation and robotics are an absolute necessity to reduce the cots to serve, reduce inefficiencies, optimize processes, and mitigate the last-mile challenges. Walmart's significant investments in robotics, AI, and automated processes will pay substantial dividends for the fulfillment journey. While automation and robotics are driving economies of scale and efficiency, the drone delivery model will require more work. As drones become more advanced, socially accepted and, most importantly, safe, we should expect this delivery model to scale up and for Walmart and their competitors to invest in this space.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2022

    Will Adidas help Foot Locker get over Nike?

    An assortment and brand diversification strategy are precisely what Foot Locker needs to help offset some of the losses attributed to Nike's reduced allocations. Adidas has a prime opportunity to take advantage of this moment by being a key strategic partner with Foot Locker, capitalize on the distribution capabilities, and compete in a space that Nike has dominated. Foot Locker has been synonymous with basketball shoes for decades, and we shouldn't expect that to change. What will be evolving is their product mix, which will include plenty of more offerings from Adidas, Puma, New Balance, and others. The brand's product diversification strategy has evolved with changing consumer tastes. Foot Locker has stepped up with their apparel, accessories, and seasonal categories. Ultimately, Foot Locker is well-positioned to pivot and adjust around the changing dynamics of its relationship with Nike.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2022

    Amazon tests same-day delivery from malls

    Amazon's scale, reach, and capabilities are unparalleled, and the e-commerce giant has multiple supply chain distribution channels to choose from to fulfill the products as fast as possible. Third-party sellers have always been a part of Amazon's supply chain fulfillment ecosystem. Consumers are conditioned to expect products in one day or two maximum, necessitating mitigating the last mile by distributing the products from the local mall. The last mile is where the hearts and minds of customers are won. If you could combine a good experience, competitive pricing, and fast, reliable fulfillment capabilities, then Amazon is clearly in a win-win situation with the third-party sellers. The last mile and fulfillment battle between Amazon, Walmart, and Target continues.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2022

    Can Old Navy plot a new course and keep its inclusivity pledge?

    Old Navy's stance on inclusivity with their BODEQUALITY initiative is truly commendable. However the merchandising selection and execution must be aligned with the changing consumer preferences and centered around the customer journey. The goal should be to make the in-store experience as seamless as possible so all sizes are easily found, and the store is easy to navigate. There are clear macroeconomic factors at play, including inflation, rising costs, conservative spending habits, rising fuel costs, and other concerns that have influenced consumers to be more conscious of their spending habits. Perhaps it will take more time for this initiative to take off.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2022

    Will smart shopping carts transform the shopping experience at Albertsons?

    There has been a significant focus recently in the grocery industry on the checkout experiences. While the self-checkout, smart carts, and "Just Walk Out" Amazon technology innovations are welcome, there are fundamental and foundational operational industry-wide grocery store elements that need to be improved to drive outstanding customer experiences. In a crawl/walk/run approach to innovation, the smart carts are geared more towards the further end of the innovation curve. The grocery in-store experience is being transformed and has to evolve to the changing consumer behaviors. Consumers are seeking value pricing in our inflation-fueled economy. In addition, with the rise of health and wellness, the conscious consumer is seeking healthy alternatives when they go to their local grocery store.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2022

    Has science-based marketing taken a pandemic hit?

    Leveraging science-based algorithms to drive personalized digital direct marketing campaigns is an enabler and not the end product. The most impactful marketing campaigns are powered by multi-sensory experiences that resonate beyond the product or service. The power of storytelling and social selling relies upon the emotional and psychological connection to the product and how it fits within our lives. The most effective marketing campaigns are authentic, natural, and resonate with our emotional core. Well before any science-based algorithms, those of a particular generation certainly remember the Coke, Life Cereal, and Budweiser commercials that connect with consumers beyond the transactions. The playing space for authentic storytelling marketing is TikTok and other social media platforms. Where user-based content creation dominates and resonates with consumers today.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2022

    Is the retail sky falling?

    The following 12 to 18 months will absolutely be a test for the very resilient retail industry. Resiliency, adaptability, and adjusting to the current economic conditions have been the retail sector's mantra. Those retailers who have invested significantly into customer-first strategies, including digital-first technology architecture, enhanced supply chain and fulfillment capabilities, private-label offerings, sourcing, and a seamless digital/physical experience, are well-positioned to ride out the disruptions to come. The retail apocalypse's false narratives of a couple of years ago will not be repeated. While there will be short-term challenges, it's the more extended-term investments, enhanced capabilities, and a digital-first mindset brought on by the pandemic that great acceleration will help retailers ride out the disruptions. Inflation, supply chain disruptions, and a recessionary fueled economy are not new phenomena, and the retail industry will find a way to get through these challenges.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Walmart and Target report higher sales and lower margins

    Walmart and Target are well-positioned to ride out the inflationary period and supply chain disruptions. Both companies had solid earning reports and reported strong comp and revenue growth. However from an EBITDA perspective, both Walmart and Amazon have been impacted by the rising operational costs, including fuel, cargo, supply chain disruptions, and the overall impact of the record inflationary period we are experiencing. Both firms are resilient and adaptive to ride out this inflationary storm period. It will take collective creativity to determine ways to reduce the costs to serve. Strategically, this may include increased penetration of private label assortments, extending their micro-fulfillment capabilities, and extending more promotional offerings to their most loyal companies. They will find a way to course-correct to maintain their margins and profitability levels. Walmart and Target are built for this and ready for this moment from an operational, organizational, technological, and innovation perspective.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Should Apple have killed the iPod?

    All great innovations have a product lifecycle. Unfortunately for the iPod fans, the momentum around smartphone app-based music streaming services, starting with Pandora and now with Spotify and Apple Music, has made the once-iconic and revolutionary device irrelevant. Music as a service is the current operating model, which replaces the need to store your music collection locally on the iPod's local memory. We should all recognize how truly groundbreaking and transformational the iPod introduction was back in 2001. In a world where we were fumbling with a variety of MP3 players, CD collections in our cars, etc., the arrival of the iPod changed how we listen to music. The emergence of the iPhone, Android devices, etc., was the beginning of the end for the iPod. As a Spotify user, I haven't used an iPod in over ten years. We should all take a few minutes and rewatch Steve Jobs introduce the iPod back in 2001 to gain a perspective on where we were back then and how transformational this device was.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2022

    Does virtual selling make for lonely salespeople?

    The virtual selling model has matured to meet the needs of the digital-first customer. Store associates and fashion brand ambassadors now have the capabilities, tools, training, and expertise necessary to drive a personalized clienteling experience for the customers who want to shop in the physical stores and have an excellent experience via their mobile devices. The customer journey has so many divergent touchpoints, and it's up to the retailers and brands to meet the customers where they are. If they happen to be on the native apps, Instagram, TikTok, and now the metaverse, the brand ambassadors must be empowered with the capacities and tools to drive these experiences. While 85 percent of the retail sales take place in the retail stores, there are far more dynamic digital engagement steps and interactions that require this strategy change.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2022

    Will the lack of skilled people derail retail’s digital supply chain transformation?

    The rate of disruption and digital acceleration we have experienced over the past several years has required retailers and consumer products companies to fast track their supply chain transformation initiatives. The technology solutions enable digital supply chain transformation, re-engineered processes, and enhanced digital and customer-first operating models. However the most critical element of any digital supply chain transformation is the change management and the criticality of enhancing the organizational skill levels to keep up with the accelerated pace of innovation. Technology and processes are the enablers. However the adoption of any transformation is entirely dependent on the organizational readiness, training, expertise, and commitment to the change. The digital supply chain transformation leaders are Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Amazon, Kroger, and others. They have fully committed to investing in their team's capabilities to enable, support, and drive the execution of the digital initiatives forward.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2022

    Is inflation the true cause of recent supermarket closures?

    Inflation and global supply chain disruptions may have accelerated the recent supermarket closures. However there are many reasons outside of the inflationary period we are experiencing that a grocery operation will right-size their store fleets. Grocers continuously evaluate the store-level performances to ensure that each location is profitable, viable, and competitive. As we navigate through a post-COVID-19 global supply chain disruption and inflationary period, grocers have a unique opportunity to:
    • Enhance digital technological capabilities to meet the needs of a competitive landscape;
    • Drive cost improvement opportunities in micro-fulfillment, logistics, and transportation;
    • Rationalize assortments, increase private labels, drive localization and profitability;
    • Optimize procurement processes, resulting in a lower cost of goods.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2022

    Can Starbucks replicate the ‘third place’ in the metaverse?

    The digital-first and mobile-first Starbucks operating model has made the coffee experience in their cafes less about the customer journey and more about their business's transactional and efficiency aspects. The Starbucks cafes have morphed to where only a smaller percentage of loyal customers stay in the cafes for an extended time. However it will all come down to cafe-level execution of the fundamentals and recapturing the magic that made the Starbucks model unique and authentic when it matured 20-plus years ago. There is an opportunity to shift the narrative, invest in the design and architecture of the cafes to make them more welcoming, and find a strategic way to move the mobile orders to a different area of the cafe. The metaverse is another opportunity for Starbucks to extend its brand reach and drive loyalty. Ultimately, Starbucks would benefit by attracting customers to their cafes. An engaging and authentic metaverse experience may attract the right amount of interest through gamification and other loyalty strategy integrations.

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