Neil Saunders

Managing Director, GlobalData
Neil is Managing Director of GlobalData’s retail division.

In this role he oversees the development of the company’s retail proposition and its research output. He also works with clients to help them understand the retail, shopper and market landscape – advising them on how best to develop, evolve and implement business strategies.

Prior to GlobalData, Neil worked at retail research firm Verdict for ten years. He latterly held the post of board director with responsibility for Consulting, Corporate Development and Planning.

Before Verdict, Neil worked for the John Lewis Partnership where he was involved, among other things, in the planning and relocation of new stores, the development of the ecommerce business, and the creation of technical and information systems.

Before moving to the United States, Neil served as a non-executive board director for the Great Western Railway – a role he held for just under 11 years. He currently serves as an advisory board member for the faculty of business and law at the University of Southampton, as an Honorary Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, and as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Surrey.

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  • Posted on: 02/15/2018

    Sam’s Club takes on Costco and Amazon with a new strategy

    Costco has always had the edge on Sam's Club and I don't see how this latest move will change that. The same applies to Amazon, which is such an integral part of some consumers' lives that it will take more than this to steal its share. This seems more like a defensive move to bolster sales and loyalty from existing members. It's a good start but Sam's will need to do a lot more if it is to boost growth.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2018

    Can Circuit City come back from the dead?

    Good luck to Shmoel. With the wafer-thin margins in electricals, the extensive competition and the relatively slow growth, he's sure gonna need it!
  • Posted on: 02/15/2018

    Grocers hit restaurants in the gut with hot bars

    There is most certainly an opportunity here -- and it's one that most grocers are missing out on. Though there are some exceptions. Wegmans is one of them. It has an extensive selection of prepared foods -- from food bars with a range of cuisines to counters preparing foods to-go and off-shelf ready prepared meals. Price Chopper's Market 32 format is another. Here the food counters are always busy and are one of the focal points of the store. Whole Foods does a good job with its food counters. However its hot food bar is below par. Very expensive for tasteless bits of rubbery food that has been sitting there for hours on end!
  • Posted on: 02/13/2018

    Why are customers willing to pay for product samples from Sephora?

    I think there are a couple of reasons people are willing to pay for this. Firstly, it's the convenience of having it delivered. People are time-pressed and will pay to make life easier. Secondly, people like the element of surprise; they enjoy getting a "gift" through the mail, never knowing what will be inside. Thirdly, for many of Sephora's customers, beauty is a passion. Samples can be obtained for free, but they will happily pay for a curated selection of products that they can try and test out.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2018

    Macy’s new Muslim clothing line launches to accolades and anger

    This is very simple. This country is based on freedom. That includes the freedom to dress as we please. If some women wish to voluntarily wear modest clothing, then so be it. If Macy's wants to cater to that demand, then so be it. However, at the self-same time, we must be clear that freedom gives all of us - regardless of gender or religion - the right to make our own choices. No women should be forced into wearing modest garments against their will, nor should they feel oppressed.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2018

    L.L.Bean ends its famous ‘lifetime replacement’ guarantee

    It is unfortunate that a dishonest minority of customers have chosen to abuse this generous policy. However in the face of this L.L.Bean had little choice but to end the guarantee. Will it generate press coverage? Sure. Will it deter loyal L.L.Bean shoppers? Unlikely. Loyalty to the company is based on more than the guarantee. Moreover, the replacement policy is both fair and reasonable. Most honest people will understand the need for change.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2018

    Amazon moves closer to FedEx and UPS’s turf

    This trial makes sense as there are many urban locations where Amazon's order volume is so great it justifies taking fulfillment in-house. In such areas, cutting out the middle-man is likely to save money and give Amazon more flexibility over schedules and delivery options. However, this benefit will only accrue over time and as part of a broader strategy to integrate the delivery of food and non-food. As much as it makes sense to do this in urban areas, it is unlikely that Amazon will make a move on trying to service the American hinterland. Order densities and volumes, along with long travel times between deliveries, in many parts of the country do not justify such an investment.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2018

    Will Office Depot’s BizBox become the go-to place for SMBs?

    Pivoting from office supplies to solutions for small businesses is sensible. What I like about this concept is that it addresses the need for people who work from home or run small businesses to have access to certain services. It also fits in with current trends as more of us are working flexibly and there are more people working independently. Whether the concept works or not will come down to execution and marketing. But it stands a much better chance than trying to make a living selling paper and pens from a big-box store!
  • Posted on: 02/08/2018

    What legacy did IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad leave to retail?

    Few people can claim to have genuinely revolutionized retail. Ingvar Kamprad did. When he founded it, IKEA was markedly different than anything that had existed in retail. Much of this difference was down to Ingvar's Swedish heritage and instincts. He believed that home furnishings should be democratic; that people of all income levels should be able to afford to decorate and furnish their homes stylishly and comfortably. He also believed in thrift, efficiency and hard work. Putting these two concepts together, gave rise to the revolutionary idea of flat-pack furniture. Distributing flat-pack was much more efficient and economical than shipping fully made items. It also divided the effort - prices were lower because the customer had to assemble the product; that was the trade-off or compromise.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    What’s holding retailers back from making workforce investments?

    This all stems from the short-termism which is demanded by Wall Street. Investing in people is a long-term process which carries immediate cost but does not always deliver fast returns. It is understandably difficult for many retailers to square the circle. However, returns do eventually arrive. They get there in the form of better customer service, lower employee turnover, a more engaged workforce which helps grow and protect the business and a host of other ways. Ultimately, that delivers better performance than would otherwise be the case. If you doubt it, look at businesses that do invest in staff. The U.K.'s John Lewis Partnership. Market Basket. Container Store. Sure, they have their challenges and difficulties -- but on a long-term trajectory, they perform well. All that said, while investment of money is critical, so is an investment of time. How many CEOs or managers go out and regularly listen to the shop floor staff? Not nearly enough. Doing so is critical as Marvin Ellison of J.C. Penney has proved. His regular contact with those at the "coal face" has helped him make some smart decisions and has improved morale among a previously depressed and dispirited workforce. In short, investment and leadership are both essential.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Macy’s launches in-store pop-up concept for brands

    This is a sensible idea as it allows Macy's both to make good use of excess space and to create a regularly changing point of difference in its stores. That said, I doubt this will be sufficient to drive sales or traffic on its own. Macy's needs to fix its core proposition to do that.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2018

    Will a CEO without department store experience transform Hudson’s Bay business?

    No disrespect to Ms. Foulkes, but CVS's retail standards and prowess are poor. The move into health services was smart, but the company's failure to create a compelling proposition in growth areas like beauty and its lackluster approach to many other categories is lamentable. Even new CVS stores show very little imagination or flair. Admittedly, CVS gets away with this because much of its business sits outside of traditional retail. It can also rely on essential purchases and prescriptions to drive footfall. Neither of these things is true at HBC. HBC needs core retail skills to thrive, and it needs them urgently.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2018

    H&M hopes ‘Afound’ will bring a rebound

    Afound is an interesting concept. However, it does not address the causes of H&M's slide - it merely provides some relief from the symptoms. And that relief may well be temporary if Afound cannibalizes sales from H&M and its other brands. The biggest problem for H&M is that it has overexpanded into saturated markets at a time when the fast fashion model is starting to unravel. H&M exacerbates this issue by having stores that are often too large and where stock changes too infrequently. This makes it very difficult for customers to identify the latest trends or additions which dissuades them from visiting and buying more frequently. In terms of design, recent collections have also been less than compelling. On top of this, H&M has been slow with e-commerce and has a proposition that is less than compelling across many of the markets in which it operates. That means it misses out on an area of significant growth. Without addressing these core issues, H&M will struggle to get back on track, no matter how many new concepts it launches.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2018

    Is digital performance getting too cloudy?

    The quote in the final paragraph is gobblygook! With statements like that, no wonder IT is a quagmire of complexity! But seriously, one of the issues is that retailers -- largely because of operational and financial necessity -- tend to upgrade and invest in different systems at different times. This piecemeal approach does create complexity and challenges, especially when going in a new direction by using cloud native architecture. The challenge is not just technical; it's also cultural. Most retail IT teams are used to working traditionally -- a single block of executable code which they can monitor and update. Newer ways of operating change that culture. For example, more people are needed to check code earlier in the process, and working is more fragmented as different blocks of code can be updated independently. These are traditional retailers will make, mainly because these new ecosystems are much more flexible and advantageous. However, most retailers are still in the transition phase, which is painful.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2018

    U.K. group has big plans for U.S. after buying Kroger’s c-stores

    The benefit for Kroger is obvious: it gives the company capital to invest in the core business, including revamping stores and improving technology. Part of the windfall will also be used to buy back shares; this will keep investors happy, though I can think it would be more prudent to invest such money in the long-term future of the business. Since being acquired by TDR Capital, EG Group has been expanding rapidly, both in the U.K. and Europe. For them, this acquisition is an entry point to the U.S. market. EG has done some innovative things in the U.K. and has upped the standards of convenience retail at gas stations. It has been particularly successful in partnering with third-party retail and foodservice brands to create compelling offers. The U.K. market is extremely tough, so EG's success suggests it has both retail and operational expertise. My reservation is that dynamics and consumer demands are somewhat different in the U.S.; so EG Group will need to adapt its model slightly.

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