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: 09/08/2021

    Higher wages can boost retailers’ bottom lines

    If staff are happier and well paid they are likely to be more motivated and productive. They will certainly be more responsive and polite to their customers. But the main benefit is that they are likely to stay longer and be more loyal to the retailer or restaurant, the result of which is less cost of recruiting, training and management of staff which impacts the bottom line considerably, especially if staff turnover has previously been high which is the old norm in retail and hospitality. Customer wins, company wins and staff win -- what could be better? The long term benefits of higher wages is that these jobs are seen as longer term "professions" rather than transient jobs that people do while they are looking for their career job and that has to be a good thing. It enables retailers to properly train staff in the knowledge that the investment is not wasted and that customer service would continue to improve over time. Wages will become a battleground as retailers realize that their staff are not only important, as discovered during the pandemic, but also loyal and valued members of their company.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2021

    Why can’t CMOs And CIOs just get along?

    Why focus on just the CMO/CIO relationship? What about the CIO/every other department relationship? If a company prioritizes marketing's relationship with IT they will ignore the rest of the business, be less efficient and probably unable to deliver on whatever promises the marketers make anyway. CIOs need to be able to listen to and understand the needs of all parts of the business then work with the leadership team to set priorities. There is no point having an amazing tech-led marketing offering if you are not able to execute against it.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2021

    California aims to mandate gender-neutral toy sections

    If the California legislature have nothing better to do with their time then it is a very sad day.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    What’s the formula for e-commerce profitability?

    Retailers can use their figures to prove whatever they wish and can try to fool investors into believing that the online business is as profitable as traditional retail. If you use marginal costing and do not amortize the cost of stores across all channels then, yes, online, BOPIS and curbside can be profitable parts of the business. In reality, they are a necessary evil but not as profitable as traditional retail. The statement that online retail can, with the use of AI, be more profitable than traditional retail is promising more than even AI could deliver. It may be a huge help in running a retailer efficiently but it is not black magic.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely

    If retailers trained all their store staff, they would provide a significantly better customer experience. This is a way of providing that without having all store staff trained. It also enables them to provide the same experience for the online customer. However unless they have large numbers of these then it may cause frustration for customers having to wait to get their time with the virtual staff. Surely this is no substitute for training all your staff correctly.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2021

    Are Home Depot and Lowe’s about to hit a sales wall?

    The fact that these companies missed the very ambitious analysts forecasts does not mean they are about to see a major downturn in sales. Just possibly the analysts did not understand the market and got it wrong! It would be impossible for the growth seen during the pandemic to continue as people go back to work and are released from lockdown. The rest of the indicators are still very positive and the ongoing pressure on housing stock means that people will continue to improve their homes and spend money at these retailers for some time to come. Getting carried away on a tide of growth and predicting it to continue is the problem not the underlying strength of the market.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2021

    Canadian Tire buys part of a shipping port in move to upgrade its supply chain

    The strategic value of this type of development could be huge for Canadian Tire. They have always been innovative in their view and operation of their supply chain and this is just another example. We know from the last two years that the supply chain is absolutely central to the success of retailers. The ability to secure inventory and move it efficiently to the right locations can make or break a retailer’s performance. The long term value is the ability to be more in control of that process, having the ability to control the efficient movement of inventory plus be more sustainable as pressure from the environmental issues intensify. This is very clear strategic thinking on the part of their management and they should be applauded. Some will argue that they are retailers and not a transport company and they are not taking over the business just making sure they have some element of control. The additional benefit, which would be a part of the thinking, is that other retailers will have to make greater use of rail as that environmental pressure increases and Canadian Tire is now in a position to profit from that as well.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2021

    Will the latest Amazon and DoorDash delivery moves give each a leg up on rivals?

    On Monday of this week we read that all online companies and retailers in general were struggling to find warehouse operatives, store staff and drivers. Now Amazon and DoorDash create an even more onerous delivery promise to their customers. At what point will the marketing team listen to the pressure the operators are under and come up with other ideas instead of the lazy and easy picking option of ever faster delivery?
  • Posted on: 08/09/2021

    The hunt for warehouse help heats up

    The shortage of warehouse operatives and drivers has brought home that fact that these, along with shop workers, have been undervalued and under paid for a very long time. These jobs have all been seen as transient jobs, ones young people do before getting a "proper job" or that people do when they retire. The demand for them now shows that retailers have to value them correctly and compensate them appropriately. What it also shows is the additional cost of operating with increased online sales as compared with store sales. Many retailers are finding their profitability hit by the significant shift toward online business as the costs are much higher, especially with the ever increasing competition on speed of delivery. Over a period of time, more automation will help reduce the number of people required in the back of the shop, warehouse and even driving roles. But front of shop will continue to be needed and retailers need to value these people appropriately.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2021

    Amazon still playing COVID catch-up on fulfillment centers and staff

    It is much easier to manage a business in growth than it is one in decline. However when you get the sort of growth that Amazon has seen since the start of the pandemic, there are major challenges. Capacity and labor are two of the biggest ones. These are still easier problems to deal with than a business in decline that has excess capacity but no sales so most retailers will not be losing sleep over Amazon's problems. This could certainly bring about more unhappy customers who do not get the service they desire and have paid for. If they start to switch off in large numbers, Amazon could be heading in the wrong direction, adding capacity when sales start to slow. Then we will see how good they are as a management team. Similarly, if they are not able to fulfill third-party seller demand they will start to lose them to other platforms and there are some big players like Walmart and Target capable of picking them up. Massive growth can be great but it brings problems with it.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2021

    Will throwing money at drivers solve the trucker shortage problem?

    Throwing money at this problem may give some short term benefits but longer term, truck driving needs to be seen as more of a profession to encourage younger people to work in it. Let’s face it, driving a very large truck, maneuvering it in tight spaces is not easy and is a very highly skilled job, it’s just not seen as one. The long hours away from home on the road is not a very exciting prospect for a young person with a family. If they can earn more money, then that makes it easier to put up with, but will not generate the number of drivers needed in the industry. In the UK, they have relaxed the working hours and that’s not necessarily a good thing. All it will take is an increase in accidents and there will be a huge cry to reverse it. We need to start to look at this as a supply chain problem and not just a "driver" problem. How can we move product in different ways, perhaps coordinated rail and road transport hubs could be a way of reducing the long haul requirement. Maybe it’s larger vehicles for long haul with break down hubs near towns and cities. The problem is not all about drivers and given the urgent need to solve the ecological impact of trucks and cars on our roads, we have to think more broadly to find answers to this problem.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2021

    Is the Walmart/Justice tie-up a harbinger of more retailer brand partnerships?

    This makes perfect sense for both retailers. Walmart is better at utilizing their space and will bring in large numbers of people looking for the Justice brand. For Justice it gives them 2,400 outlets for their brand to back up their online business. Retailers that create strong brands can always gain from this sort of collaboration provided they are not in direct competition. The retailers need to ensure that they do not harm their margins too much but it will almost certainly give them a higher return in gross sales on their marketing investments. Retail will always stay dynamic and come up with innovative ways of operating efficiently -- this is just another great example.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    When will predictive models become more predictable?

    The pandemic did make forecasting more complex but it did not make it valueless. In fact, the use of more granular data has helped several retailers get through this very difficult time. It is true that typical demand forecasting using only recent sales data is not going to deliver but more comprehensive forecasting that looks at longer time spans, uses different data inputs like website hits and local data at store level can provide invaluable insights even in times of high volatility. What is most important is that the forecast is not used in isolation. It needs to be incorporated into a full supply chain optimization solution that looks at forecasts, supplier performance, customer behavior and data sets as outlined above at the lowest granular local level. Where to hold safety stock and what to hold will be decided using many inputs and factors. How to flow inventory through the different channels of the supply chain efficiently is paramount in these times and intelligent solutions are the best place to evaluate and manage that process. Using manual processes and yesterday’s sales will only lead to massive swings in the supply chain, out-of-stocks and overstocks and very inefficient supply chains. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater -- panic is no way to run a modern retail business.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2021

    Can a Tesco exec school Amazon on physical retail?

    The move of Tony Hoggett to Amazon is exciting and scary at the same time. First, for someone who has been with one business all his career, he will find a massive cultural difference entering Amazon and it will take some time to adjust to his way of working. Tony only knows Tesco and while they have changed CEOs a few times in his 30 years there, they are still ostensibly the same business. Amazon is a tech business moving into retail and there will be some very different views on how this should happen -- old school meets new boys! The Tesco culture is very different from the Amazon culture and this will also take time to adjust to. He can’t expect to change Amazon so he will need to be flexible in his approach. Tony will undoubtedly bring great experience of running a huge physical retail business to Amazon, but one man does not make a business and certainly Tony did not run Tesco alone. He had a massive team behind him, some of the best operators and execs in retail, so he will have a lot of building to do to replicate what he had at Tesco. What will be interesting is to see how many other Tesco execs he now takes with him to build that team.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2021

    Are independent grocers thriving?

    People certainly moved to support their local shops more during the pandemic and this has been to the benefit of local grocers. However even before that, people had started to look for more local products and if they could not find them in the chains they looked to the local stores. Many large chains started to appreciate this and to carry more local products, moving away from the one range fits all to a mix of economies of scale for the vast majority of products but with special products from the local area. With more sophisticated software today, national retailers can understand these local requirements and trends, and ensure they include them in their assortment. The ones doing so have performed better than those that ignore this trend. The pandemic may have given additional impetus to the local trend but it is certainly not new. It is an opportunity for local independents to stay relevant but big chains are working it out so they have to be even more creative to maintain their market share.

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