PROFILE

Andrew Blatherwick

Chairman Emeritus, Relex Solutions
Andrew Blatherwick joined leading UK and International retailer Boots in 1977 rising to become Group Product Manager Foods before moving on to frozen foods retailer Iceland where he spent ten years, the last five years as Supply Chain Director. He joined inventory management systems company E3 Corporation as International President in 1995 and drove the business forward so that at the time of its acquisition in 2001 it had more than 500 retail and wholesale customers in 20 different countries. Andrew served as President of JDA International before joining Manchester-based Alphameric Retail as Managing Director where he helped reverse the business’s decline. He’s since brought his business development expertise to CoreProcess International (as Group CEO), Argility (as Executive Director – International Business Development), Manthan Systems (as President of Manthan Systems Europe) and is currently CEO at business consultancy A2B4P. He advises a select stable of companies in a non executive capacity focusing on business development and change management.
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  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    What makes great retail leaders?

    The attributes of great retail leaders can be applied to all industries and all good leaders, however some of them are particularly important in the retail environment. Great communicators, positive culture creators and nurturers of other great leaders would be applicable everywhere. The strength of flexible working practices, teamwork - especially of the sales team - and understanding of marketing dynamics are particularly important in a retail environment. Staff in retail are so often undervalued. They are expected to transition and move on frequently with little loyalty. This can make the retail operations very expensive and ineffective as the company is constantly having to train new staff and build the culture they want in their business. If staff are well looked after from the start, you can make a difference and break the cycle of retail staff constantly moving on. Yes, you will always get the students and holiday cover staff who are transitory, but the core staff can be retained which really delivers benefits for the company. So why do so many retail CEOs undervalue their store staff? They do not spend enough time with them, thinking that if they get the rest of the business right the staff are incidental. Well, ask customers if that is the case. How often do you walk away from a retail store because the staff are not happy, helpful and enthusiastic? This survey should be read and valued by all CEOs and they must take notice of what makes staff happy.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    Crate and Barrel takes the feed them and they will come approach

    This is yet another example of creating an experience within the shop to increase or hold customer numbers. In Crate & Barrel's case, it makes perfect sense as they can showcase their products at the same time as providing that experience. However, retail brands do need to be sure that their offering reflects and supports the brand image they wish to portray. The quality has to match the customer aspirations or exceed it. The cleanliness and presentation similarly has to represent the brand and the value or price needs to be in line with the brand or people will feel ripped off. If a retailer can get all these things right, then this is a great move and can help them survive and prosper. It’s not easy to move into a space that you do not understand and make it work. A key question is how will the foodservice industry react to all these new competitors? Online hits retailers, retailers hit restaurants, what comes next?
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Will a worker walkout put a kink in Amazon’s Prime Day results?

    When any business gets to a certain size, they are at risk of organized industrial action if they do not treat their staff correctly. Employees naturally see Amazon making huge profits and growing thanks to their efforts and they want a part of the success story. This is compounded if the company does not respect their workers and listen to them, work with them and manage them correctly. In a highly automated environment like a semi-automated DC, a relatively small number of key workers can bring a site to a standstill and those workers are not always easy to replace. Amazon is very open about their success and how they are changing the way we live. They put themselves up to be a target and some of their workforce are not content and ready to show how much they can cost the business. Losing touch with reality and staff can often happen when a company grows exponentially and it often comes back to bite when you least need it.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2019

    Will a new BOPIS option boost Amazon’s results?

    For consumers, Amazon and even the retailers concerned, this is a positive move. Not everyone lives near or has access to the lockers and many do not like them anyway. For Amazon, it gives better service options to customers. For customers, it provides more convenience. For the retailers, it will certainly increase traffic flow, which in today’s economy and retail climate is so important. However, it is also a double-edged sword for the retailer. Do they really want to encourage and make it easier for their biggest and most dangerous competitor to thrive? This is particularly true in the case of Rite Aid. Amazon is committed to cracking the pharmacy market, which will undoubtedly hurt Rite Aid significantly. So why are they looking to help Amazon? Are they so desperate for traffic? Do they believe that they can beat Amazon if they have this traffic? I really do not understand the thinking. Where I can understand this is for retailers that are not directly competing with Amazon, if you can think of one! Or smaller local chains who can benefit from that traffic building.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2019

    The data and analytics talk that must stop

    This problem in retail is not limited to the customer experience. That may be the most important and ultimately the differentiator between winners and losers, but it is not isolated to customer experience. Most retailers are still operating in silos and the departments do not communicate well and do not appreciate each other’s operations and drivers, resulting in inefficiencies and sub optimal performance. The supply chain should, after all these years, be one area that has become totally integrated, but it has not. You will get the same reaction that managers do not appreciate the impact their area of the business is having on other areas. If you ask supply chain execs how they impact the stores, very few will know or care. If you ask store execs the impact they are having on the supply chain you will get the same reaction. This systemic failure has to come down to the way the very top management structure the business, target individuals and manage them. You get the behavior you drive. If you don’t drive an integrated approach with targets and objectives set to deliver this, it won’t happen.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2019

    What should retailers and brands do now about a possible coming recession?

    Downturns in business usually sort out the good from the bad. It’s like natural selection, the strong get stronger and the bad are eliminated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except for the employees who will suffer from poor management, as when things pick up again the strongest and best are in position to benefit from it and new players will then come into the market. In recessionary times, good retailers are efficient, smart and continue to invest in technology and developments that make sure they are the ones that survive. Tightening up on inventory and improving your supply chain is an easy way to generate savings in costs and improve sales through better availability. The statistics in this article show that empty shelves and poor selection are key to customers going elsewhere and eventually a company’s demise. This is not limited to brick & mortar retailers -- it is the same impact for all retailers online and at store, customers will vote with their feet if they cannot get what they want. This does not mean increasing inventory but rather having a modern efficient supply chain/inventory solution that can deliver lower stocks, higher availability and greater supply chain optimization to reduce costs. Many retailers cut costs at these times and that gets translated as cutting investment, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Modern supply chain solutions can make a huge difference to a retailer and can make the difference between survival and demise.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2019

    Where are the pain points for suppliers engaged in drop shipping?

    The development of drop shipping doesn’t make sense for all supplier-retailer relationships. The costs of having drop ship operations is too high and frankly someone needs to also look at the environmental costs. Retailers have the upper hand as long as they own the customer. We have all seen on these screens over the past few months many articles about brands creating their own go-to-market direct to consumer routes. This is now more possible than before but not as easy as suppliers think. The retailers have a function and it also has a cost to use that route. The balance for drop shipments will be found by both parties over a period of time driven by what is economical and what isn’t. The winners will be the ones that remove cost out of the supply chain rather than simply moving it from one place to another. The argument that retailers are reducing their cost of inventory presupposes they are higher than the cost of logistics, which is often not the case. Good retailers can be very efficient at managing inventory and making this work for them so drop ship orders do not necessarily make economic sense.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2019

    Do direct-to-consumer digital brands have advantages over traditional retailers?

    We should remember that many of the direct-to-consumer businesses are still relatively small and young. While it is easy to manage a retail organization in growth when you are new and exciting, it is significantly harder to maintain that growth when investors and financiers are pushing hard. The beauty of online is that the costs of set up are lower and you can become national and even international very quickly, so you have a larger market to go for very early on. Maintaining that growth is significantly more difficult and we have already seen many direct-to-consumer retailers fail to make any money and go out of business. AI is something that all retailers are interested in and hopefully using, but it is not a universal panacea to solve all issues. It still takes intelligence and retail know-how to interpret and exploit the findings.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2019

    Will delivering online orders seven days a week further transform retail ops?

    Spreading the delivery of online orders makes a lot of sense. It improves the utilization of resources and reduces the congestion in and around urban and city areas. Whether it will increase the move to same day and next day delivery is more about the marketing departments of the major players than the logistics companies. Walmart has already stated they will extend next day deliveries. Amazon is also doing so but the move to seven day deliveries does not impact this. Eventually, large retail companies will understand that the additional cost of shortening the delivery lead time is very high and, if it does not deliver customer benefits or bigger business, then they may back off from that strategy.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2019

    What if unwanted online purchases didn’t have to be returned?

    This company obviously has more faith in human kind than I do. Surely people will quite quickly catch onto the fact that all they have to do is make a purchase, ask for a return, get your money back and keep your item. With the speed of social media this will get around so quickly that it could become a massive cost to online retailers very quickly.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2019

    How can retailers help employees improve? (Hint: Not by criticizing them)

    Retail has long been an industry that suffers from short tenure in the job, particularly in the store environment. You can always tell a good store manager from a poor one not only from the sales but also from the atmosphere and morale of the staff. Unsurprisingly, these two things go hand in hand. Good leadership skills are typified by managers who know how to get the best out of people. A mix of carrot and stick is usually necessary but in that order and with the weighting on carrot. Good managers know this. However you do need to point out weaknesses, not as criticism but as a development opportunity. Retailers need to help managers with as much information as possible to support them in their staff management, but the good ones will always shine through. Retail is a very fast moving, unforgiving environment. We have all seen macho management culture in retail where managers think to be positive is weak. If this culture pervades through the organization then the good managers find it hard to thrive, and they will usually move on to somewhere where they are appreciated.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Growing demand for local products leads to out-of-stocks

    There is absolutely no reason for localization to drive higher out-of-stocks at the store level. The ability to forecast accurately all items at store/SKU level enable retailers to control their inventory, make intelligent replenishment decisions taking into account the cost and timescale of the supply chain whether direct store delivery or through central warehousing. Any retailer wanting to increase their localization should also look at store-specific planograms that take into account the supply chain to ensure sufficient space is allocated to the items dependent on sales and other constraints. Localization is a very successful strategy for retailers to counter online competition and become more successful and relevant to their local markets, but you do not need to compromise efficiency to make this to happen. Many retailers in the U.K. and Europe are managing this very efficiently and without any detriment to their availability, stock holding or profitability.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Is Crazy Cazboy’s pricing too crazy or just crazy enough?

    I can understand a pricing mechanism that changes its prices each day to make it a fun experience and create a bazaar type atmosphere. You never know what price you are going to get. But to reduce prices each day across the week in the same pattern each week does not make much sense. Surely, if you want to keep people coming to your store it would be better to change the price charged each day randomly. That way people have to come to see what price it is today. The challenge is that with social media, the word will get out very quickly. Interesting to keep a watch on this one. It is really is totally crazy Cazboy's!
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Why is Amazon paying employees to quit their jobs?

    While this may seem like a great initiative and one designed to help employees achieve their goals, it could be a high risk for Amazon. Ultimately Amazon must have its own agenda looking to reduce its distribution costs. There are hundreds even thousands of professional companies out there that have been running distribution companies for years. How many of these Amazon employees are going to be able to manage to compete with them and make a profit as Amazon tries to drive down delivery costs? The risk to Amazon comes from having large numbers of drivers, vehicles and operators out there that are not experienced with the Amazon name on their vehicles. This is their brand and they are putting it at risk if customers have a bad experience.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    Why is Party City closing profitable stores?

    How refreshing to hear a CEO talking about maximizing their operating model rather than just going for coverage. We hear of so many retailers complaining that they are having to close stores because of the online assault. This is being proactive, understanding the density required for their market and closing stores where they have greater than that density to be able to fund stores where they do not have that density. Congratulations to a retailer that is truly in control of their business.

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