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.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2021

    Will closing stores on Thanksgiving become the new retail tradition?

    Sam Walton was quite right and it is good to see today’s management supporting his philosophy. In retail, people do make the difference and COVID-19 has shown that those people need respect and help to perform at their best. Given the amount of online trade today, if someone has to shop then they can do so and for many retailers they will not lose out providing they have their online strategy in place. To reward store staff by closing is a great benefit and if they are not losing out then why not? The problem will come if a large number of retailers do not follow this trend and the ones who do find they are losing business. We will have to wait and see if it becomes a permanent thing. We should remember that it is not only store staff that have felt the pressure over the last 15 months. Supply chain staff have also carried a heavy burden and would appreciate getting the day off as well.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2021

    Does every online retailer need to have a third-party marketplace?

    A marketplace is just an extension to the range of the retailer, rather like the idea of endless aisles. However, one big difference is that with a marketplace, some of the elements are out of the retailer’s control. That is where the dangers lie. If you are protective about your brand, do you really want someone else to be able to damage that brand by not representing the same brand values as yourself? You can, of course, police that through quality control, customer feedback and a careful selection policy to ensure that your brand is protected but not completely. The retailer also needs to ensure that they do not confuse the customer. If they stray too far away from their focus range, they will cause customers to question what they are doing and if they really are a specialty retailer at all. It seems like easy money -- if you already have the e-commerce processes and technology in place, why not simply extend its usage? But beware, there are dangers and you have to know that is not just a case of signing up as many vendors as possible. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort building your brand. You can destroy it very quickly if you get this strategy wrong.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2021

    Do micro distribution points (AKA stores) give Petco an edge over Chewy and Amazon?

    Petco has a winning strategy here. They absolutely have an advantage with their "micro distribution centers." The pure-play competition either have to create them, which is not easy to do and gain national coverage, or if they already have them, like Amazon, they typically don’t have the ability to handle fresh or short shelf life product. The biggest advantage this gives Petco is the cost of their supply chain. They do not have the expensive mileage to cover, they do not have the packaging costs and they already have the locations staff and, very importantly, the product to carry out the fulfillment. They already operate profitably as a traditional retailer so adding online through their stores just spreads the costs and makes them more efficient. The cost of inventory alone will make a huge difference to the bottom line - the staffing and capital costs of building distribution centers all adds up. Traditional retailers have always had this advantage, they just needed to catch up with the online strategy and mechanics, which Petco have done. This makes it very difficult for pure-play online to really challenge them on a national basis across the whole range. Great strategy and great execution.
  • Posted on: 05/19/2021

    Smart & Final swaps private equity owner for largest U.S. Hispanic grocer

    Smart & Final has a niche position in the market and the additional buying power and possible slight shift in range could work really well for them. Price is the key element of their competitive strategy so anything that improves buying power will help. Their locations are aligned to their new owner’s market and will enable them to quickly add some additional variety in range, which could see a good result. Having a retail owner rather than PE will also make their life easier as they now have a joint and well-focused business direction with a parent that understands how retailers operate and the pressures they face.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2021

    Neighborhood Goods puts CPG brands on the menu

    Many retailers do tastings of CPG products using the store as a promotional space. It is a way of bringing a bit of theater into the store and provides some interest to the consumer. It’s not a major revenue earner but can lift sales during the time of the promotion. To simply have a display of CPG products is nothing more than using gondola ends to promote products "off-shelf" and is not exactly revolutionary.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2021

    Whole Foods goes all-in on centralized buying

    It is entirely possible to centralize buying and still have a strong local assortment. In fact, it makes the management of the buying processes and supply chain easier and usually results in better buying prices and margins. The structuring of the buying operation is important to have control over space in stores and get the right assortment in each store. Good technology can really help here and the linking of supply chain and store space solutions makes for a very efficient operation. Why do it? Profitability and margin are the major drivers. It is much easier to control and drive better negotiation in a centralized team than with regional buying operations. If Whole Foods manage it properly, there is little downside. Good communications with store operations and the use of modern technology will help deliver success.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2021

    Kroger takes flight with drone delivery test

    This is a great publicity story and shows how Kroger is totally customer focused. Is it a serious proposition for volume delivery of groceries? NO. The weight limit is a major factor but so too will be regulation. If all retailers took to the air there would be congestion and accidents all over the place. Not to mention that fact that you would need an army of pilots to guide them, which is hardly cost effective. Nice story, but reality is drones are still a long way from being a serious business for retail home delivery.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2021

    What will greater access to Amazon’s customers mean for marketplace sellers?

    This looks like Amazon has started to realize they need to protect their marketplace from other major operators opening up similar marketplaces and also larger sellers setting up their own sites. This is a major change for Amazon and was not a decision taken lightly, competition is making them understand they do not have it all their own way and need to treat their partners with respect.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2021

    Say goodbye to Walmart’s robotic towers

    It is very refreshing and honest of Walmart to admit when they get things wrong or make changes, especially when driven by customer comment and sentiment. It is great that they listen to their customers and make changes where necessary. This does not mean that all robotics technology is wrong or that Walmart has wasted their time trialing these things. If they had not done so they would not have learned and been able to move on. Better to try, monitor and change than not try at all. Very large retailers like Walmart can afford this sort of experimentation. It helps the whole industry, as smaller players could not stand the cost or the loss of trying and having to change. All retail benefits from this sort of forward thinking, so long may they continue to push the boundaries.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2021

    Can omnichannel be as profitable for retailers as in-store sales?

    Target have it right. It is not just about margins and if retailers back off from omnichannel activity to protect margins, they will end up with a good margin of nothing. It is about understanding the mix and making sure that each element of the operation is as profitable as it can be. Yes, online delivered to the home is less profitable than selling in-store and BOPIS is somewhere in the middle with curbside just behind. Retailers can look at how they use the various channels and promote them to their customers accordingly. Is same-day or next-day delivery free of charge necessary? Can they cross promote to drive slightly more traffic in one direction or the other without losing sales? Quite possibly. Do they need to run the same promotions online and in-store? These are all parts of the retail strategy that will need to be considered but do not use margin as a reason for not fully engaging in omnichannel activities. That is the short road to going out of business.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2021

    Amazon’s Prime Day is coming earlier and possibly twice

    Of course it makes sense for Amazon to run Prime Day in June, just when retailers are getting back up and running and then to run it again in the fall. Let’s face it, it does not cost Amazon anything to do this. It is the traders who carry the cost!
  • Posted on: 04/09/2021

    Is Levi’s poised to become a consumer-direct powerhouse?

    Levi's is one of those rare brands that have the brand strength and loyalty to go down this route. They are being smart by covering online, owned stores and third-party stores so they can get the best coverage by using technology and their brand to build the connection with the consumer in store and online together. Not many brands have this strength, which makes this something for the few and not the many. It will not become a major trend and will not threaten the traditional retail operations. If weaker brands tried to do this, retailers may well make the decision to delist them and take away their distribution, which would be catastrophic for most brands. The retailer brand war has always been there. Now that retailers own brands and brands own retail, it is part of the dynamic of retailing and is good for the consumer and the industry.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2021

    Walmart uses brutal self-assessment in omnichannel turnaround strategy

    You have to be big enough to ask the hard questions, humble enough to listen to the output and smart enough to come up with the answers. Walmart has been very open about their failings, which in itself is clever because they are saying to their lapsed customers "we are changing, we are listening and we are improving," but they are also intent on putting things right. Will they come up with the answers? Only time will tell, but they have succeeded in the first two parts of the equation.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2021

    Is AI adoption moving too fast?

    The results of this research are conflicting and confusing, which is not surprising when the term AI is used in such an all-encompassing manner. As with all technology, there are good safe and efficient uses of AI and there are also uses that are more questionable. The concern about data security is true of any retail IT and companies need robust security management to protect themselves. If their data is vulnerable, AI will not change that. To say it is moving too fast begs the question "what parts of AI technology are moving too fast?" If they are delivering true value to the retailer and not using or abusing personal data, then the answer is no. If they are abusing personal data the answer is probably yes.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2021

    How to save today’s mall

    The biggest change that the pandemic has delivered is the break in shopping habits and the obvious increase in online retail. However, as part of that, BOPIS and curbside concepts have really taken off, which could be a lifeline to malls. Malls need to find ways of re-engaging with consumers, giving them an experience and a destination worth leaving home for. As many consumers have been experimenting with cooking at home plus the drive to buy more local, it makes a lot of sense that they would be looking for different food concepts, farmers markets and specialist food outlets. The old fast food businesses are really going to have to look at their offering to stay relevant. Malls also need to consider what else will make up that destination visit. Whether that’s gaming, health and fitness, cinemas or community projects, it will certainly not work just to offer retail outlets even if there were enough retailers to take all the space, which there is unlikely to be. Apple in particular followed by Samsung, Nike and others have elevated retail to a new theatrical level, and all other retailers have to consider where they take their stores now.

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