Katie Thomas

Lead, Kearney Consumer Institute

Katie Thomas has built her career around understanding consumers — what makes them tick, how to meet their needs, and why they are so fiercely loyal to Heinz ketchup.  As lead of the Kearney Consumer Institute (KCI), Katie is advocate for and expert on all things consumer, identifying provocative insights, authoring opinion pieces, and interfacing with Kearney clients.

Katie’s career began in management consulting at Kearney, working on projects across Fortune 500 consumer goods, retail, and media clients to build strategies, conduct market analyses, and identify operational efficiencies.  Katie shifted gears post-MBA, moving into brand management for beloved brands from Heinz to Aidells chicken sausage.  Katie’s obsession with the consumer only deepened through consumer ethnographies and new product launches. Returning to Kearney to lead the KCI, Katie challenges existing assumptions and reframes questions with a consumer-centric perspective.

To learn more, visit:


  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Walmart and Target report higher sales and lower margins

    Given the press that certain companies may be padding their margin by raising prices unnecessarily, I think this is good news for all of us as consumers that two leading retailers don't seem to be doing this.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2022

    Nordstrom Local is summering in the Hamptons

    While the Hamptons is seemingly a consumer fit, it also seems like a very popular location for these types of pop-ups. I know it's hard to believe, but there's buying power not on the coast and in big cities. :)
  • Posted on: 05/16/2022

    Should Zara (and other retailers) be charging for online returns?

    Agreed - I think there's more opportunity for retailers to consider what they could control to reduce returns. Whether it's relationship with the stores, most consistent quality and sizing that eliminates a consumers' need to order multiple, or engaging with consumers through virtual fitting rooms.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2022

    Do Netflix subscriber headwinds hold lessons for retailers?

    Yes, we've gone subscription crazy and many are not consumer-friendly, instead designed to "set it and forget it" as a somewhat sneaky revenue stream for brands. Consumers are not asking for everything to be a subscription or be automated. The numbers are quickly adding up, and consumers will be simplifying as a result of inflation. It's worth noting that in the UK, they are evaluating regulations around being more transparent with subscriptions, particularly monthly/auto renews, as a form of consumer protection.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2022

    Macy’s goes small outside the mall

    One of the biggest potential misses here is the obvious "by Macy's" branding. If they are attempting to attract new consumers (which I presume they are), those said consumers may still walk right by the store once they see Macy's in the name. If they are trying to grow with current consumers, this new store concept may work if they can deliver on the boutique-like experience.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2022

    Will Amazon’s Pet Day take a bite out of Chewy?

    Our research has shown that pet food is one of the most popular products to have delivered because the demand is consistent and it's heavy to carry home from the store. Makes it a great fit for Amazon. That said, Chewy has done a nice job finding ways to enhance and expand its offering, including a pharmacy, connection to pet adoptions, and great customer service. Amazon may be a tactical choice, but Chewy's relationship will be harder to compete with.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2022

    Does resale make sense for Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    Agreed. In the simplest form, it's a great test. They may come to find that they only find value in accepting back gear and equipment rather than apparel, but it will still provide great learning about both their consumers and their businesses.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2022

    Will workouts drive loyalty for Lululemon?

    I like that Lululemon's program isn't discount-driven, which is where many subscription and loyalty programs fall flat - they are simply trying to incentivize purchase, not build true loyalty or community. I agree with Dave's comment re: subscription fatigue. There's some risk here - we see consumers leaving Netflix and other streamers because there's too many offerings without the additive content. I'm not sure there is a specific risk here because there aren't as many equivalent fitness programs, but Lulu will need to continue to keep consumers engaged over time.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2022

    Are price freezes and pledges worthwhile in inflationary climates?

    It's a great message to consumers around price. That said, it shouldn't force consumers to make quality tradeoffs with the low price items being lower quality. It concerns me when I see the word "basics" - hopefully that just means light design, etc. Consumers, even in inflationary times, make tradeoffs - they don't just trade down across the board. In fact, quality and "bang for your buck" is even more important.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2022

    Champs Sports seeks ‘Homefield’ advantage with new concept store

    This feels like a "me too" to some of Dick's Sporting Goods' newest concepts mixed with a panicked reaction to the Nike move. It's an interesting test, but Champs needs to be laser focused on understanding what the consumer draw will be to Homefield (if there is one).
  • Posted on: 04/20/2022

    Has Barnes & Noble turned the page?

    Empowering employees is a game changer - his philosophy to decentralize and get out of the way is a great one, when I'm sure many managers at B&N are book lovers themselves. 73 percent of consumers, including Gen Z, still prefer to discover products in-store. Gone are the days where every store within a national organization should look exactly the same and carry the same assortment - that's part of the problem. Many companies got efficient to a fault and the pandemic blew that up. Mall retailers should take note. Last but not least, I'm simply thrilled about #booktok and the power of younger consumers reading.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2022

    Are fuel-driven deals worth pumping?

    This is a win-win for both consumer and brand, which can be a hard balance to strike. Consumers get the deal, the retailer gets their business. I love that brands were willing to act fast and directly address a major, current consumer concern.
  • Posted on: 04/14/2022

    Are tattoos no longer taboo on retail selling floors?

    Agreed. For many consumers, the top priority is going to be good service, not employee tattoos. And in the name of the inclusivity messages that brands preach today, it would also seem pretty hypocritical to me to be against tattoos.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2022

    Will Fresh Market’s ‘club hub’ frequent purchase program drive loyalty?

    Points for purchase loyalty programs are fine. But if they were that effective, I presume that's all anyone would do. Also, points programs don't drive any real loyalty. Just repeat purchase. Good to see some testing and learning. My favorite line of the overview is "The current Club deals run through June 30. Afterwards, some offers may change based on interest and input from customers." I hope they follow through on that - engage with consumers to understand what they do and don't like about this new structure.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2022

    Are jingles ready to make a comeback?

    An enthusiastic yes for jingles. They show incredible brand awareness and retention for consumers. Jingles provide broader longer-term benefits, including building nostalgia and connection with a brand. While there are many more media options these days and consumers consume media differently, the advent of social platforms such as TikTok make this a prime time for a comeback of the jingle.

Contact Katie


  • Apply to be a BrainTrust Panelist

  • Please briefly describe your qualifications — specifically, your expertise and experience in the retail industry.
  • By submitting this form, I give you permission to forward my contact information to designated members of the RetailWire staff.

    See RetailWire's privacy policy for more information about what data we collect and how it is used.