Andrew Blatherwick

Chairman, 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: 09/10/2018

    Grab and go and yadda-yadda

    It is amazing that when so many retailers are complaining about how hard it is to compete with online retailers, they do not get the basics of retail right. Good in-store availability is key and Grab and Go meal kits are hot at the moment, so you need to ensure that you have the product on the shelf to build loyalty and customer traffic on a regular repeat basis. One of the main problems with staying in-stock with these types of items is the fear of high shrinkage. Also the age of many retailers supply chain and inventory management solutions mean they lack the capability to deal with this category. Most of the older solutions can’t do forecasting at item and store level but look at store order history and use this to forecast future demand. This is useless in a fast moving environment like food and particularly so in an new growth area like Grab and Go meal kits. Every store will have a different ethnic, socio-economic, age and weather profile so one size does not fit all, you simply have to have the ability to forecast at Store SKU level and be able to use supply chain optimization to respond to the trends quickly and efficiently and maximize this business. These solutions are available and grocery retailers need to understand that to hang on to your legacy or sub optimal ERP inventory management module is not good enough if you are going to fight back and win this battle.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2018

    Walmart’s two-day shipping pledge comes with a caveat

    Once again, we see the supply chain is central and core to the success or otherwise of retailers both online and at store. It is interesting that customer expectation is more than four days for delivery, but retailers are promising two days, and if they cannot deliver that promise they "out of stock" to contain costs. Why not just deliver to the customer expectation and give them what they want? The "out of stock" policy must detract from customer satisfaction and eventually lead to a loss of business, particularly if competitors can deliver in full, even if slower. The game is changing as retailers find that their marketing message is becoming unprofitable or undeliverable, customers will vote with their feet if they constantly get shorted on items they ordered. Getting the right stock in the right geographic locations to profitably deliver in full is central to the offering and the optimization of the supply chain. As online retail matures, this is going to become the same battle ground as it has been for some time in traditional retail. Is the tail wagging the dog as in marketing people setting the impossible agenda finally beginning to change?
  • Posted on: 08/20/2018

    Are stock-up grocery trips becoming a thing of the past?

    Over recent weeks these columns have been full of grocery retailers improving their online offering and today we see that latest, and possibly most significant, move of online retailers opening stores. People are becoming ever-more savvy in the way they shop, whether it be Millennials or the Grey Dollar. All consumers are mixing and matching their shopping habits to suit their lifestyle. Most people today do not bulk buy as convenience has taken over as the prime driver. That convenience could come from online and home delivery or click and collect, or it could come from community stores. What is becoming ever more apparent is that to be successful a retailer needs to cover these forms of shopping behavior in its strategy. This is difficult for the clubs, which built their business on major shopping trips. There may be some comfort, however, as Walmart posted great results last week and a major part of their improvement came down to price. This is still a major driver and whatever other strategy and channel you operate you will ignore this at your peril.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2018

    Walmart posts strongest U.S. comps in more than a decade

    What is the issue with online retail taking all the sales from brick-and-mortar? Clearly in food this is not the case and, as reported yesterday, customers are not turned on by online grocery shopping, reflected by the strength of Walmart's fresh and meat categories. If you get your pricing right and offer right, you can still trade well in grocery stores. If you can then successfully merge that with a credible online offering, you can do very well. This may not be true in all sections of retail, clothing particularly is having a very tough time, but those who ring the death bell for retail are way off the mark. Don't let retailers use it as an excuse for poor management. Technology can help retailers get it right -- the poor ones have stopped investing and that will eventually bring them down.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2018

    Gallup poll says consumers prefer to shop for their own groceries

    It is not surprising that the majority of consumers do not use online grocery. The food they eat is so important to them, it is something that all people will take more care over. This is especially true when looking at fresh groceries, fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. Yes shoppers may still use online once a month to have home delivered bulky and heavy dry goods, as these are not susceptible to variation in quality. That part of the shopping experience can be seen as drudgery, but when it comes to fresh items that can vary considerably from day to day, they want to quality control it themselves and not have someone else or even worse a robot select items for them. If they are going to the grocery store anyway then they may as well do other shopping whilst there, either to top up what they need or to look for something for that special meal on the weekend. So why are grocery retailers spending so much time investing in online services? It is a very competitive environment. If you don’t offer that service and someone else does then your customers may just move across to the competition because they can then avail themselves of the service when it suits them. As stated above a large number of customers will use online from time to time for day-to-day bulky items that they know they will always need. No grocer can afford to turn their back on 10 percent or 11 percent of their volume that is currently going through online channels. Whether they need to offer same-day delivery for this type of shopping is questionable and grocers may, as the market matures, offer different services at a different price for the consumer who wants something urgently compared to one who orders once a month and does not care when it arrives within reason. That would be smart retailing and give the customers better choices. The really good retailers will also link the online with in-store purchases and make the customer feel special, using the store visits to reward them for their loyalty. The market is still very young and retailers are finding their way. As they develop further we will see a lot of new thinking and research to understand more about customers desired behavior to which the retailers will respond.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Kroger Ship to take on Amazon’s Prime Pantry

    It is interesting that so much attention is being paid to creating new innovative home delivery options for all the major grocery chains, yet they seem to be doing only half the job. If the home delivery options only offer shelf-stable grocery products, the customer will still have to visit the store or, more dangerously, another store to get their fresh, chilled and frozen products. This does not offer a compelling story to the consumer and as stated could provide a risk to the retailer that the customer visits another more local store for the non shelf-stable items and finds it a better alternative. This does not happen with Tesco, Sainsbury's or other U.K. retailers and if it is properly organized the delivery of these items is achievable. All retailers offering this half measure leave themselves open to being beaten by a competitor who does have the ability to do the job properly.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    Can Tesco beat Aldi and Lidl at their own game?

    I presume that the Jack's name for this new concept comes from Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco and a revolutionary in food retail in the U.K. The big difference is that Jack really understood his philosophy of "Pile it high and watch it fly," something that had not been seen before and had an immediate impact. Today, Tesco is a long way from a limited range discount retailer and the whole cost structure discipline and operation is very different from the way they operate today. People think that having a smaller range with no frills is an easy concept -- it is not. The level of control has to be very sharp. I am sure that Tesco could cross-fund a discount operation and make it work on the surface, but if this starts to cannibalize its current store sales and takes away the focus from their core business, it is a slippery slope. Will they build a completely new organization or ride on the back of Tesco? If the latter, they endanger the brand. If the former, they are unlikely to be able to control the cost structure. Booker was not a low-cost operator so they cannot use that as a model -- they supplied a wholesale operation to smaller stores and foodservice. The bottom line is that they have a very steep learning curve with a lot to lose.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    Walmart still trying to figure out home delivery

    It is amazing that the largest grocery retailer in the world would try to take an amateurish approach to online food retail. I can see where the thinking came from but home delivery of groceries is a serious and professional business, not something you can ask your store employees to do as a part time task. Customer expectations are very high and the standard, speed and quality of the delivery represents your brand. If it goes wrong your brand is tarnished and customers will be unhappy with the brand and not just that one delivery. Retailers around the world have grappled with the problem of whether to service online from stores or from offsite locations and there is still no definitive right way to go. When you have the store coverage that Walmart does, then this has to be an attractive route. However, retailers also need to understand the impact that the new service will have on staff, customer service and most particularly the supply chain pressures and getting the right inventory so that the online service does not seriously damage in-store and online availability and customer satisfaction. This is often underestimated and can be devastating if it goes wrong. The cost element of home delivery is another factor -- it is obviously cheaper to sweat the retail asset rather than to set up dedicated off-site picking locations. However, the home delivery part of the chain then needs to be managed carefully to ensure that they do not disrupt the retail store operation. The volume can be very significant and can have quite an impact. Similarly, if they increase the volume of stock throughput without the analysis of what, when and how much of each item is likely to be required, they will mess up big time. Get it right and you can make a huge success, get it wrong and you could seriously damage your whole brand.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2018

    Walmart and Microsoft team up to slow Amazon’s roll

    It seems that Amazon is driving major retailers to find new partners that can help them to stay competitive. Why would any retailer want to work with Amazon who are becoming their major competitor? It would be like feeding the hand that bites you. This five year agreement therefore makes perfect sense for both companies, and I would have to say all retailers, as it will provide more competition to Amazon, deliver benefits to the whole retail sector over time and hopefully drive faster change in retail technology. What it does show is that retailers like Walmart have realized that they have to embrace technology and change to be able to keep up the fight. Amazon is a technology company and is gaining significant advantage by being at the forefront of technology development. Retailers have to spend more in this area to survive and prosper, not bunker down in the hope that reducing costs will enable them to survive. Is Microsoft the complete answer? No it is not, Walmart knows that it is one part of the answer around which they can build expert solutions that will enable them to be more efficient, intelligent and customer focused which ultimately will lead to being more competitive. If other retailers look at this as a risk then they are right -- if they do not respond and understand why Walmart are making this move. Technology will provide them with a more even playing field and one that if embraced fully could just save their business.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2018

    Is real-time order tracking becoming table stakes for e-tailers?

    The supply chain has long been a competitive landscape and with ever-increasing online sales it has taken on a new dimension. Customers do want good quality reliable service first. Even though we are a "now" society they would prefer quality rather than speed. Yes, everyone likes the convenience of same-day or next-day delivery but not if the cost of that is lost or damaged deliveries. The cost of providing a very fast service is high, to keep prices low or even offer free delivery companies will squeeze the delivery company on cost and that will inevitably lead to quality issues. This is still an immature market and companies are all trying to find the best way to deliver on their promise and offer the best options for customers. I have argued in the past that much of the problem lies with marketing people dreaming up ever faster, cheaper or more intricate delivery promises for the consumer, much of which is not really wanted until it is offered. Tracking of deliveries will fall into the same arena -- very few people care where their purchase is located on a truck, what they want to know is where it is and when will it be delivered to the right house at the right time. Anything beyond this for all but a very few special items is irrelevant and will be just another marketing trend rather than adding value to the customer experience. That said, tracking of deliveries will become the norm and retailers or delivery companies not able to offer this service will lose out. Until the revolution when price starts to rear its ugly head again and some online value operators start to fight back with no-frills low price offerings; then the fun starts!
  • Posted on: 06/29/2018

    Kroger to deliver groceries using driverless cars

    The thought of driverless delivery vehicles charging all over our overcrowded streets is not only frightening, it could create a backlash from consumers. Technologically this is very smart, and I am sure that you can build a business case for the development. However, when those consumers start to lose their jobs because of this sort of technology they will realize that this is not great for everyone. People need jobs to be able to afford to live and taking away even these types of jobs will ultimately impact the population's ability to shop and buy from the retailers online or at the store. As the first in the market you could be faced with the prospect of consumers campaigning against your business, particularly if, as expected, the robotics industry drives to replace warehouse workers, factory workers and who knows who else. How far are we from social reaction to these developments? In RetailWire again today there is talk of robots flipping burgers, just another in a long line of developments that is growing in speed and in the impact it has on the human population.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2018

    Analyst: Prime perk could eventually double customers at Whole Foods

    I am sure with the number of customers on Amazon Prime they are a Prime target for Whole Foods to increase their customer base. However, is offering further discount on sale items the right strategy? Surely if the offers they have on sale items are appealing enough to get people to buy more of those, items they do not need to give further discounts on these items. They would be more productive offering special discounts on none sale items that are not available to other customers to drive traffic. This would be a bigger benefit to customers, safeguard Whole Foods's margins on sale items and provide an additional reason to visit a Whole Foods store.
  • Posted on: 06/25/2018

    Dollar General pilots scan & go tech

    The scan & go terminals are great for customers and lower the cost of cashiers for retailers. It’s a great idea until some savvy shoppers catch onto the fact that they can scan cheaper items and take more expensive ones home provided they are same weight. In recent months, U.K. supermarkets using these systems have found that they are selling massive quantities of carrots, in fact more than they have ever bought, while avocados are not selling so well yet they never have enough and certainly none left at the end of the day. Scan the carrot and take home the way more expensive avocado, seems like a great deal for the shopper but not for the supermarket. It certainly makes a mess of store inventory, forecasting and replenishment! There have to be built-in checks to ensure that customers do not gain an upper hand and eventually this becomes an epidemic. Most customers are loyal and honest but it only takes a small percentage to damage profitability and if others see they are being affected they may also stray from the path! The rush of retailers down this road could cost the unwary very dearly.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2018

    Study: Customization becoming more commonplace

    Customization used to be the domain of the rich; handmade bespoke tailoring for suits, designer dresses and then, of course, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and other millionaires' toys. However, technology has brought about more mass-market customization which is fun, creative and makes the customer feel good. This is something that can only grow and retailers online and in-store can offer customers something different, gain closer relationships with them and therefore build loyalty. From a supply chain point of view, this can create some headaches and increase costs but if this is built into the offering then it is a great challenge to have. It could make it very difficult to manage if mass customization results in very significant volumes of customized products in the chain. Technology in the supply chain will need to develop rapidly to cope with this. 3-D printing is one way of managing the production and will add a new dimension to getting the right product in the right place at the right time! This is a premium offering and will carry a premium price as it adds complexity and cost to the operation, but the level of price premium is falling and will continue to do so resulting in higher volumes and more customers demanding this sort of service. Will it ever replace value mass production and movement? Unlikely but watch this space as technology is moving fast.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Too many meetings and reports undercut promos

    This is a sign of retailers stopping their investments in modern software solutions which easily remove many of the complaints of retail workers and executives. There is no need for lots of manual entry, high levels of administration and manual reporting. The statement that "tools have not evolved since the 1990s” is only true of retailers that have under-invested resulting in their staff being less efficient, less happy and certainly less competitive than the ones who have invested. These complaints read like something from years ago when I was a buyer in retail. They are certainly not heard in companies I work with today. The retail environment has been tough for a long time now and it is not getting any easier as all retailers are fighting each other and online retailers. They need the best solutions to help them stay ahead and unfortunately all too often stopping investment is not the answer, is it is the cause of the problems. When times are tough you need to be at your most efficient and most competitive and the only way to achieve this is to get the best solutions to help your staff operate smartly. Senior executives in retail should understand this and listen to what their staff are telling them -- the pressure of maintaining profit is one thing but it drives them out of business in the long term. It is a very dangerous route to take.

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