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: 03/21/2019

    Do furniture retailers need a new approach in the digital age?

    Household goods, and furniture in particular, are one of the hardest categories in which to master the last mile in a mass online manner. Most furniture stores are showrooms rather than sales floors in that people go, sit on the furniture, lay on it, whatever they need to do to decide that they like the item, but very few will then leave with that item. Often they are made to order with specific fabric choices or maybe it is just the bulk that makes it impossible to "carry home." The furniture retail supply chain has long been built around this style of operation -- they have fleets of home delivery vans, staff that are customer-facing either to assemble the furniture on-site or just deliver it and place it in the location. Very few mass online categories have delivery staff that actually enter the home, so furniture has a different dynamic where the delivery absolutely represents the brand. Also, as returning an item is so difficult, a whole reverse logistics process needs to be in place that is more complex that just using couriers or FedEx to collect at the door. From a supply chain point of view, the fact that much of the merchandise is made to order also changes the dynamic. You may hold stock of component parts but not of finished items, the time to delivery is typically longer, customers typically do not look for same-day delivery on a new suite or bed and don't expect it. We seem to want to push every sector to be more and more online, but there are some that just don't fit that well.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Will Dollar General harvest big returns by taking perishables in-house?

    The management of fresh and short-life foods is significantly more difficult than ambient foods or general merchandise. The rewards are also bigger, as stated it is an excellent traffic driver and can also create great loyalty with customers. The supply chain is difficult and getting the balance right between availability, on-shelf display and wastage is critical to being able to make money in this category. Investing in the right software solutions to get it right and make it a winner in your business is so important, many supply chain solutions will claim to manage short-life but don't. If it goes wrong it can be very expensive and also damage your brand very significantly, so go for the best and make sure you get it right.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Do retailers need to reevaluate their omnichannel strategies and tactics?

    The retail world is definitely converging and when people said the High Street was dead, many of us said wait and see because digital retailers will need to show a presence. That is happening now. As traditional retailers go online, and digital retail goes to stores, which is the easier move? I am sure each will claim they have the harder task as they struggle to take on the demands of the other side. In truth, both are hard because the two types of retailers are coming from such opposite sides of business. Online retailers are more like software companies than traders, they created their business because they understood and liked the technology not because they were retailers at heart. Traditional retailers are traders who do not really like technology, though they accept they have to have it. Online retailers have created an opportunity for a large number of people who did not want to be retailers but had an interest in a particular area of merchandise. These specialists are still more technology than trader but it does create a whole new group of specialists that are threatening the major department stores and supermarkets. Remember when the High Street was full of small specialist retailers? Well that is just the same and we are moving back to that situation. Whether you come from a trading background or a technology background you need to get the supply chain right and understand your customers. Understanding that is imperative whichever side you come from. After that, the new things you will have to learn about the "other side" may take a while.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Where are grocers failing on in-store experience?

    Over the past few days, we have seen reports on this site about Target outperforming its competitors and the market by having good staff who engage with their "guests." We have also read how grocery retailers undervalue shelf management and getting the right products in front of the customers. Now here we see what customers are saying in research, not surprisingly, that they want more interaction with staff -- and friendly staff, not rushed and harassed staff who do not have time to interface with customers. That customers are not getting what they want in areas of food that are trending upwards and finally that food retailers are just not getting staffing right at the peak times. The three key areas of good retailing are all here and it’s obvious why so many retailers are failing and some are winning - supply chain, space and staff. Get the right products on the shelves, have staff to help and serve them with a smile, and also have the right number of staff at the busy times. It is not rocket science yet so many retailers are focused on reducing staff in order to cut costs that they miss the opportunity to really perform.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2019

    Target crushes it with strongest holiday results in years

    Isn't it refreshing to hear a major retail CEO talking about investing in stores and not looking to cut costs. Target deserve all the success they get because they have taken on the challenges facing retailers and worked at ways to still perform, and they are showing it with these results. The very fact they refer to customers as guests shows the way they think, encouraging store staff to treat them like human being and helping them. If you cut store staff and expect them to still be nice to customers, you will fail because they do not have the time. Take note other retailers out there - it is possible to perform in today's environment if you work at it and invest in your future!!
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    What’s holding back end-to-end inventory visibility?

    One of the main issues here may be the word digitization! Do the retailers know what they are talking about when they talk about digitization? If they do, then this is not what is generally being said in the retail industry. Supply chain improvement and efficiency is still seen as the largest single benefit and ROI generator in their business. Improved customer service levels, reduced inventory and increased sales are all vital to the survival of retailers. If they are quoting costs as the biggest hurdle then they are not understanding the equation. To be able to make the most out of the supply chain, and let’s face it, very large retailers talk about competitive edge through their supply chain, you need end-to-end visibility. This is not rocket science. The capability has been around for a long time. I can only believe that they do not understand the term digitization as the industry has moved on from asking if end-to-end visibility is necessary and if nearly 50% do not see this as a good investment then I am really not sure where those dinosaurs are in the organization.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Why is shelf management getting short shrift in supermarkets?

    It is true that shelf management is not one of the sexy areas of retail technology, but it certainly does deliver. However, this article is only part of the story and it’s time for grocery retailers to take the next step, which will make shelf management both sexy and productive. By linking shelf management to supply chain, retailers can significantly improve the efficiency of their operations as well as sales and profitability. Unified retail or space-aware supply chain is the next major development in retail efficiency and will enable retailers to make their traditional store retail outlets more productive, efficient and profitable. This in turn enables competition with online, happier customers, less waste and happy management. Imagine if the supply chain knew what is on shelf, what the rate of sale is and therefore when stock of each item needs delivering and in the right mix and sequence to be efficiently stacked on shelf? The saving in staff time is enormous, the disruption to customers is significantly reduced and service levels increase resulting in better sales. Using the single forecast to run both supply chain and shelf management is one thing. The exciting results and massive return on investment from linking it all together gives retailers the incentive they need to boost their shelf management processes.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2019

    Will robotic fulfillment centers reshape Kroger’s business?

    I have seen many automated warehouses, installed and ran one and reviewed many others. To date they all have the problem of being too inflexible to cope with the ever changing customer demands. True technology is moving at a fast pace and we have to keep pushing the boundaries, but can Kroger afford to risk its business by pushing along this road too fast?
  • Posted on: 02/20/2019

    What will it take to transform BOPIS ops from just okay to great?

    BOPIS, or as we call it “Click and Collect,” has been in Europe longer than in the US, but that is not to say that retailers are any better at it or customer satisfaction is any higher. There have been so many bad stories as retailers have struggled to get to grips with it. Waitrose had so many click and collect deliveries for John Lewis customers that they had difficulty running the back shop of their food stores. Poor delivery of the right items, items not ready when customers arrive, the list goes on. Two things need to change to make this really work well. First, retailers need to staff appropriately for the volume of collections that are taking place, to expect stores to absorb this additional workload is unrealistic. Second, the solutions retailers are running need to coordinate so much better, what time will the order be ready, what time will the customer be expected it is all about communication so that retailer and customer do not get surprises. Interestingly, online order delivery to the home has improved and consumers now get lost of notice, communication and advice as to where an order is and when it will be delivered, why can this not be utilized for BOPIS. The rest of it is just getting the supply chain right and doing the correct planning. It is now a large part of many retailers operation so let’s make it professional and not just and add on that is not included in the planning and running of the retail operation.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2019

    Are disappointing holiday sales numbers a harbinger of things to come?

    It is hardly surprising that consumer confidence is low. The threat of trade wars, government shut down and an impasse in the two sides of government hardly signal a time to go out and spend as if everything is rosy. It is no better in Europe with Brexit, Italy almost bankrupt, France with riots on the streets and the rest of Europe trading very badly the outlook is not great, in fact if it were not for Brexit the focus on the European economy would be more critical and we would be hearing horror stories from most countries. Then we move to China where it is believed that a slowdown is well under way, trade wars with America just making the whole thing worse. So what good news is there around the globe to drive consumers to think positively? Not very much. Retail will always be at the mercy of human sentiment and when there is little good news consumers cut down on spending go into survival mode. You would think that politicians and governments might appreciate this and not cause so many problems. Unfortunately, most politicians are only interested in themselves and not the wider aspects of their actions.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Shopper technology opportunities are the focus of FMI Midwinter

    There is no doubt about the fact that grocery retail is going through the biggest change it has for a very long time, probably since the growth of the supermarket taking business from the corner shop and High Street specialist. However, it is not only online that us creating that change, the rise of discounters is also having a big impact so traditional grocers are fighting on all fronts. Getting the right offering as fresh as possible at the best price is still a very strong message to shoppers and certainly technology can play its part in delivering that. It is hard for online retailers to compete in fresh foods in a major way and consumers still prefer to select their own produce. What retailers have to make sure is that they make the most of the opportunity they have when they get those customers into the store. They have to engage and find ways to keep that engagement with the consumer. Technology can also play a big part in achieving this. What it needs is for retailers to get up to speed, move rather than procrastinate and protect themselves. They need to understand what technology can do for them and invest in a way that online retailers are doing.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    What will it take to dramatically reduce risk in the retail supply chains?

    The supply chain has always been central to the success of any retail operation, however the importance has increased dramatically over the last 10 years as pressures on retailers from online and socio-economic factors have increased the need to make it as efficient as possible. The good news is that supply chain solutions are now significantly more sophisticated and capable of managing this pressure and providing the ability to understand what is actually happening, react to it quickly and maintain efficiency while improving customer availability and visibility. The ability to run "what-if" scenarios helps retailers understand the impact and how best to react to changes such as volatility, supplier issues, weather, promotional activity and international political changes. This is invaluable to ensuring the retailer stays on track. For drugs and short life products, special features are available to track and trace, forecast and manage within day deliveries down to individual ranges in each store. Retailers need to invest in the latest technology, especially now with a downturn possible. Most are still running old technology that does not allow any of these features. The ones that do invest will succeed; the ones who try to reduce investment and sweat their IT assets will lose and it will cost them dearly.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Can grocers sell produce without plastic bags and boxes?

    Is this really a question? Have Millennials never seen a grocer on the High Street? It was the retail chains which put the produce into plastic in the first place to make it easier for their supply chain and store staff. Customers trust retailers like Marks and Spencer not to display out of date or poor quality produce, other retailers will have to get their act together and make their supply chain capable of handling these items correctly. This is not a consumer problem.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did regional constraints doom Shopko?

    As a regional retailer, you have to look at your strengths and how you can compete against other national retailers and online. To just say that you failed because of e-commerce reducing traffic and national retailers getting better prices shows you did not manage your business that well. However, in this case, there is one justifiable additional problem -- lack of investment by the private equity company. To really compete, regional retailers must be very efficient, have great supply chains, knowledge of what sells and how local items can differentiate the stores. The lack of investment in modern IT solutions that can help the retailer be more focused, smarter and efficient allowing them to mitigate the advantages held by national retailers will bring the regional retailer down every time.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2019

    What can IoT really do for retailers?

    I am really surprised that the research shows retailers looking for IoT to solve their problems with visibility, accuracy of inventory and with customer service. Is this a lack of understanding of the IoT or just retailers hoping that some magic will happen to solve their problems? There are IT solutions today that can solve these problems for all retailers and many of the “Winners” either have or are in the process of implementing the latest state of the art solutions to achieve this. It does not require some magic IoT development, just the simple investment in IT.

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