Lee Peterson

EVP Thought Leadership, Marketing, WD Partners

After over 30 years as a merchant at Limited Brands, a retailer and a retail consultant, Lee brings an innovative approach to strategic assessment and brand development across diverse industries. He is particularly in tune with cultural trends, consumer demographics, and buying behavior. This experience gives Lee a well-rounded and informed approach to brand development and designing customer-focused retail and restaurant experiences. Lee wholeheartedly believes that stores must perform for the retailers, as well as consumers.

At WD Partners, he leads an experienced group of creative retail designers and strategists working on brand and prototype development for such clients as Wal-Mart, The North Face, Starbucks, Gatorade, Red Bull, Best Buy, New Balance, Safeway, Home Depot, Culver’s, Bob Evans, Whole Foods Market, eMart, Co-op Mart, Mimi’s Cafe and LensCrafters. Lee also leads WD’s marketing team which produces their web site, white papers and all marketing communications.

His comments have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, and on American Public Media’s Marketplace, as well as in industry magazines such as VM+SD, Brandweek, Chain Leader, QSR, Restaurants & Institutions, Nation’s Restaurant News, and Chain Store Age. Lee is also a frequent speaker on retail issues and trends. He is currently serving on the editorial board of VM+SD, a retail design trade magazine.  He is also an avid cyclist, outdoor enthusiast and lover of Nantucket Island.

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Chicago born, globally educated, 30+ years as a retailer and retail consultant, hammerhead cyclist
  • Posted on: 01/15/2021

    NRF 2021: Retailers make an appointment with the future

    Apple's been doing appointments at the Genius Bar for decades so, in instances like that, where you need one-on-one service or advice/repairs, it makes a lot of sense. But if I want to go try on a shirt, it can quickly become untenable in terms of cost for retailers. I think pieces of the appointment M.O. will stay, but it won't ever be as ubiquitous as BOPIS/curbside, or e-commerce for that matter.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2021

    Will paying associates to get COVID-19 vaccines work for Dollar General and Trader Joe’s?

    Really? Wow. As a business owner, if I can say "I won't wait on certain customers because of my beliefs" (a SCOTUS ruling), can't I say, "i believe I don't want any of my employees or my customers to get sick so, in order to work here, you HAVE to get vaccinated"? Seems fair.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2021

    Retailers give customers refunds and tell them to keep items

    The proof of this concept is that Amazon has been doing this for years. From my personal experience, it seems they have a cut off in terms of the value of shipping cost being implemented three times vs. once, and if it doesn't make the cost factor cut, they'll just let you have it. This is another idea that is "shocking" to traditional retailers but I'd be willing to bet, since it's been happening for years and now and is being copied, that the financials work out once you understand that shipping cost/profitability quotient is per product. Pretty brilliant IMO, and I doubt that you'd ever see traditional retailers try something like this were it not for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2021

    Retailers call on Trump to end the national chaos he created

    The most appalling thing about all of this to me is the naivete. Where did we think this was all going when the Michigan State House was assaulted, or when 30 gun-racked pick up trucks with huge flags ran through your neighborhood at high speeds? Or when lie after lie after lie was perpetrated, just begging for "action"? Sometimes I think (know?) media, politicians and yes, retailers, are living in a bubble of denial -- that couldn't happen here! Welp, wake up call. We have a problem that must be fixed by the adults in the room, no joke. And for retailers: do we think that the vandalism and misinformation won't include us at some point? When a leader with millions of followers, based on lies, is stoking the flames, we're all going to feel it at some point. We should've been much more vocal about putting an end to it (hello, NRF). And in terms of culpability, we need to look at the social platforms as media and subsequently hold them accountable to the same standards that the rest of the media is held to. And retailers, as partners now with these platforms, should demand that an integral part of the relationship, messaging and brands themselves, has to be truth.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2021

    How did QR codes go from DOA to killer app?

    Remember the old mantra, "high tech, high touch"? Well, we just reached that equilibrium. Oh, and also, our phones now read them without downloading something. That helps, duh. It's a great technology, always has been, just needed to be easier, more familiar and, like it is now, ubiquitous. You know, consumer friendly. Duh 2.0.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Are local retailers ready to flex their omnichannel muscles?

    Depends on the mindset. OK, this anecdote is about restaurants but it translates to the rest of retail. One local restaurant shifted immediately when COVID-19 hit with a new app, upgraded website, safe BOPIS, improved social media, etc., and their business is rockin' -- I mean rockin'. Another waited for the bailout, complained to Washington but did nothing on the ground. They're still recovering and closing some units. To me, therein lies the story. If retailers move fast and invest no matter how much it hurts initially, they're going to be in a great position not only in the moment, but for a long time to come. This unique period in retail history is not even about "fail fast" anymore. We all know what needs to be done. It's about FAST. Period.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    Will store closings in 2021 beat last year’s record total?

    First, let's agree that we're not going to count the various dollar store companies or QSR restaurants. Every time I have heard that "more stores are opening than closing" over the last two years, it was because of them. So taking them out of the equation, the answer is unequivocally YES. Our studies show that over 50 percent of shoppers say they'll use online shopping as their primary method of buying goods going forward, including groceries. That hard number is up 100 percent from 2019. Yes COVID-19 accelerated that, but now it's a factor that just got zipped into real time and there's no going back. Many retail prognosticators are saying that over 100,000 stores will close by 2025. I don't know if that number is correct, but I believe it'll be close to that. The convenience, speed, selection and easy return factors (don't forget BOPIS!) of online shopping are just too much for the boring in-store experience provided by most retailers to handle. Had retailers had the foresight and/or wherewithal to provide exciting, interesting AND operationally competitive scenarios physically, it might be different. But the delta is now exposed, and the right-sizing of physical retail is fully underway.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2020

    Are the benefits of ghost kitchens more spectral than real?

    Funny question because, in essence, fast food restaurants have already proved the model out -- most of them were doing anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of their business outside of the dining room pre-COVID-19, so they just have to figure out how to pick up that 15 percent or so (with delivery?). P.S.: The movement by large brands to dark stores (ghost stores, whatever) is already underway, especially by QSRs. And anyone who doesn't follow will travel the road of the retail brands that kept believing in stores as the primary point of sale during the beginning of the century; a truly dark road.
  • Posted on: 12/23/2020

    Was Walmart responsible for vetting opioid prescriptions?

    Seems more feasible that an independent druggist might fall into a pay-for-paper trap, but Walmart? I don't know, this feels more like unintentional incompetence or isolated evil than corporate malevolence to me. Besides, the "Trump legal team"? I mean, who would you bet on, those guys or the Walmart legal team? I rest my case, your honor.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    How is Nike excelling at driving loyalty with digital?

    Nike is the master of DTC at this moment. Top shelf, IMO. Great digital workout apps, use of marketplace (Walmart), social media and yes, physical stores (all with BOPIS) as well as a fantastic web site. They also made some critical moves this past year in terms of eliminating "fringe" vendors to narrow access, which is something huge brands (Under Armour) have had a hard time doing over the years. A+ all the way around and a role model/road map for all other brands going forward.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is the pandemic pushing livestream shopping into the mainstream?

    Alibaba did $44 billion in live-streaming sales last year (LAST year). It's hard to fathom why that hasn't caught on here, especially when everything was shut down. Plus, when China/Alibaba went through Covid restrictions but did live streaming during them, in-store traffic came back at an 80% clip right away, which has obviously not been the case here. So again, let's get it going, there's gold in them thar hills!
  • Posted on: 12/16/2020

    Are retailers facing a no-win decision in mandating vaccines for workers?

    Really? I'd pull a Tom Cruise and make sure everyone got inoculated or worked somewhere else. If you want to get sick that's your business, but since customers are the life blood of retail, potentially exposing them is not an option -- and that's my business. I just read that the disinformation machine has quickly shifted from election fraud to vaccine horror stories. Excellent. But if you roll with all that stuff, I'd suggest you don't work somewhere where your beliefs can potentially harm the public and the business you're hopefully trying to progress. Just stay home.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2020

    Starbucks sees even more stores in its future

    Starbucks is one of the pandemic winners for exactly the reasons outlined in this piece: they just leapt ahead to figure out and accelerate pickup/delivery and touchless, which was going to happen anyway. Talk about world domination. Twenty-two thousand more stores, by the way, is about 50 a week for nine years --- they better get going!
  • Posted on: 12/14/2020

    Is retail ready to distribute the COVID- 19 vaccine?

    One of the unsung challenges about this is weather -- temp spaces should be outside, given the way the bug easily spreads inside so, throw a snowstorm or sub zero day in there and the fun will begin! Not insurmountable of course, just another bump in the road to scale.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2020

    Stores move to the front and center fulfilling customers’ expectations

    The operative term here is "most." Many retailers just don't have the wherewithal to pull off using stores as fulfillment centers the way Target now does. Having said that, there is no doubt that many smart brands will figure out that one of the few advantages they have over the behemoth Amazon is, in fact, physical locations -- that is, IF they can keep them open at all. The recent foot traffic numbers are, without a doubt, a sign of things to come. Still, stores as fulfillment centers should be top of mind for those that can do it going forward. Hopefully you're not going to close them all!

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