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By: RETHINK Retail

Meet the TRI Q&A: Carol Spieckerman

Get to know RETHINK Retail’s Top Retail Influencers through the “Meet the TRI” Q&A series! Dive in to learn about a member of the thought leader community and follow their work and insights across our content and their social channels.

Hi, I’m Carol Spieckerman, President of Spiekerman Retail.

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

“Tell us about your background.”

I started my retail career on the wholesale side of the business as a showroom manager at the Dallas Apparel Mart. I lobbied hard for a sales territory and finally landed my dream road warrior job. In my first sales territory, I spent most days and weekends traveling hundreds of miles in a rented cargo van packed tight with order pads, over 20 massive rolling cases filled with hundreds of clothing samples, and racks that I set up in my hotel room. My boom box kept me company on the road. I managed over 300 specialty accounts and a couple of regional department stores. I loved my work and learned so much from my customers. I took a promotion, relocating to Los Angeles to assume responsibility for multiple major west coast and Hawaiian department stores, lugging those same cases to Honolulu and San Francisco on planes. I went on to become a specialist in building multi-million-dollar businesses from the ground up for multi-brand portfolio companies, working with retailers that were taking physical and digital scale to a new level. From there, I served in executive roles managing sales and marketing teams across all kinds of categories. This progressive, well-rounded view of retail formed the foundation of the B2B consulting business I launched in 2001. From that experience, I distilled best practices and universal principles that transcend product, category, channel, and geographic silos.

“Can you give a brief description of your current role and your space in the industry.”

I’m a B2B retail advisor, strategist, speaker, and media contributor who helps a crazy diverse group of retail stakeholders get credit for the great things they’re already doing and navigate to what’s next in retail. I conduct platform positioning strategy workshops under the premise that the best opportunities in retail going forward will revolve around platform building, platform partnerships, and platform monetization. I also speak at corporate and industry events on my latest Retail Trajectories – themes that I continually create, track, and map across categories, borders, business models, and touchpoints.

“What challenges/opportunities are currently facing retailers?”

Retailers are being bombarded with micro-challenges including inventory pileups, retail crime, labor shortages and more. I’ll sum it up with one of my top trajectories – from possibilities to priorities. The past few years have found retailers and others in the retail space focusing on what was even possible, which capabilities were out there and how to harness them. Now, with so many capabilities available to retailers and others in the retail space, the focus must shift to assigning clear priorities to mitigate the trials and maximize the advantages. There are no templates, retail stakeholders have to carve a bold path.

Another trajectory, buy, build, or bridge? defines the opportunities to transcend many of these challenges. Retailers are having to decide when it makes more sense to make outright acquisitions, to build solutions internally, or lean into platform partnerships to bridge new capabilities. Diversification is the growth engine of retail’s future, particularly business model diversification into solutions and services, and the most successful retailers are buying, building, and bridging simultaneously to get there. The great news is that retailers have never been more open to outside partnerships, that bridge side of the equation, and that is accelerating innovation and providing tremendous opportunities for brands and solution providers. Either way, diversify or die is the opportunity mantra.

“What hot topics or trends have you been seeing in the retail space? How do you support these hot topics?”

Years ago, I made a controversial prediction that every retailer would become a media company. Now, the rise in retail media is on fire and the creation of media networks has quickly become the rule rather than the exception. This isn’t a singular event, though. It has far-reaching implications that will ripple across retail. As the digital rethinking of brick & mortar accelerates, more in-store activity will be quantifiable, adding value to retailers’ media networks. The ad world is already quaking as retailers are now in direct competition with traditional agencies and using their bully pulpit to promote in-house media networks to brands. Going forward, retailers will be in fierce competition with one another, and brands will have some decisions to make. Non-endemic media opportunities will lead the next growth wave as companies outside of retail seek to tap into retailers’ direct access to shopper insights and first-party data. All of it will serve as a powerful hedge against the product-based headwinds that have challenged retailers including inflation, margin misses, inventory pileups and more. It’s a great example of how one hot topic can radiate and transform the mandates for multiple stakeholders, including consumers. This is what I always find most interesting.

“How do you support these hot topics?”

Hopefully I make them easier to grasp and act upon through my Retail Trajectories presentations and platform positioning workshops and consulting. My goal is to distill common themes and calls to action and to help companies easily and confidently position platform-to-platform as they pursue B2B retail opportunities. I coach companies on using a five-point platform positioning process that is a radical departure from traditional features-and-benefits market positioning and sales pitches. It’s designed to resonate with the new wave of retail decision-makers and influencers that now impact my clients’ destinies, regardless of the category, product, service, or channel they are pursuing.

“Do you have any interesting projects coming up?”

Yes! I’m developing a new series for my podcast, Spieckerman Speaks Retail. I’m zooming in on a controversial hot topic and exploring it from multiple points of view to present a comprehensive and hopefully compelling take on it. I won’t reveal more for now but stay tuned!

“Which resources do you use to keep up with industry news?”

When my clients ask this question, I always say that the source often matters more than the story. It’s one thing to catch a hot headline or read a quick blurb on a retail happening, but it’s not the same as understanding it in a larger context. I like to get information from multiple sources because the more input I have, the more clearly I see the patterns that help me demystify it for my clients and media contributions. I like to mix opinion forums such as Retail Wire, where I am a panelist, with hard news from major news sources. I also dig into press releases, category-specific publications, and earnings transcripts. Platforms like RETHINK Retail that cover retail broadly and employ a multi-media/multi-format approach help me take in information based on where I am and what I’m looking for at any given time.

“How do you continue to grow and develop as an influencer in the retail industry?”

By getting out and experiencing retail first-hand, staying curious, focusing on providing value first, and not holding anything back. I’ve found that clients, reporters, event planners, audiences, and other collaborators know and appreciate when you do the work and come from a position of genuinely trying to help. I’m proud of the long-term relationships I’ve developed across the industry and love promoting and encouraging others’ work.

“What advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?”

My best advice is to stay curious, do your research, and enjoy changing your mind. Also know that most people are seeking a point of view, not just an opinion. The former requires more work, but the results are always better.

What is the best resource for those who want to dive in deeper?

Visit my website spieckermanretail.com to learn more about my work, podcast, and other media contributions.