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: 01/28/2022

    Should retailers add RFID to their marketing toolbox?

    For nearly 30 years, we have been excited about RFID and how it could transform retail and improve efficiency. Over that time, more and more uses have been identified helping to improve the return on investment, but it is still a difficult one to justify until the cost of the technology falls further. As more retailers take up RFID the price of the tags will fall further. The technology around the accuracy of reads has improved markedly and is now in the very high 90s, making it a realistic proposition. The use of this technology for marketing can only improve its ROI and as usual marketing seem to have greater influence in technology spending so it is likely that this may make the critical difference. There is no argument from people in supply chain if marketing generate the demand for RFID as supply chain will really be the big beneficiaries with greater inventory accuracy and information on shopper behaviour and movement. Could it be that we are finally close to RFID delivering its full potential?
  • Posted on: 01/27/2022

    Retailers need to prove their sustainability cred to grow sales

    There is increasing pressure on retailers from consumers to be more sustainable. During the pandemic we saw consumers buying local and understanding that this helps the environment, possibly at the expense of cheaper imports. There has long been a drive to reduce packaging, much of which can be done without impacting shelf life and increasing wastage, which is a growing priority for customers. Food wastage in particular has multiple impacts on the environment -- the cost of production, distribution is all wasted and then the cost of disposing of wasted food has a huge impact on the environment. Technology has moved on considerably to enable retailers to manage inventory better and help reduce waste. It also helps in developing new ways of keeping food fresh without excess packaging. Cheap one-use clothing is now seen negatively and the growth of rental and second use clothing will only increase. It has to become a focus for retailers and increasing pressure on their strategy and policy will push them towards greater sustainability.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Will private labels help rapid delivery firms reach profitability?

    Private label may be able to help cut the losses of the rapid delivery companies. Making them profitable is another matter. These companies are fueled by cash by VCs and the investor community, but will they ever be able to make money or will the whole sector crash and burn? Private label will not on its own solve that issue. Investors get so excited about this new world that has seen growth during the pandemic and people staying at home rather than going out? We’ll have to see if this is something that can pass the test of time. In the past, we have seen dotcom bubbles burst and it is quite possible that this will be just another example. Private label is a very valuable tool in positioning your brand, enabling great value merchandise and building brand loyalty, but these companies are known for speed and not those qualities.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2022

    NRF 2022: Grocers stay prepared for tomorrow’s new and unexpected challenges

    Whilst it is true that eating in massively increased during the pandemic, that is not exactly an earth shattering discovery as people were not allowed to eat out. Will it continue or more importantly, how long will it take for the balance to return is a different matter. People have found a new interest in cooking and that is good for grocers as not only will it maintain the ground they gained in lockdown it is likely to also increase the average spend as consumers take more interest in what they buy and more variety. However, shopping local and consumers wanting to be more aware of where their food comes from is likely to have just as big an impact on grocers as they need to consider local sourcing and meeting the customer drive for more local product. There is also a greater interest in the reduction of food waste, vegetarianism and vegan diets, which will further change the landscape of ranging at grocers. Numbers may still be relatively small but more people are reducing their dependence on meat at least in part and are looking to reduce their food waste. Retailing has never been static and be very sure that the next few years will have so much going on it is going to be a very exciting time.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2022

    Why is user generated content missing from physical retail?

    We have talked so much about the multi-channel experience for customers, but the bottom line is that they do not see physical and online as two separate identities and operations. Case in point is that customers are learning to use online media to consider their purchases whilst in-store and that includes user generated content. Retailers are going to get more switched on to this and develop their consumer contact strategies further. If they don't, they will be left behind and consumers will see them as dinosaurs. However, customers also want clear signage when shopping, so let’s not go down the line of trying to include all sorts of comment on the shelf edge. That would be a real backwards step. Use technology to answer this demand, which is clearly there from the research.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    NRF 2022: Nordstrom finds freedom in alternative wholesale pacts

    Way back in the 1990s, Barry J. Nalebuff and Adam M. Brandenburger coined the term coopetition. In their book of the same name, the two business school professors explain the benefits of working in a collaborative manner with your competitors for the good of everyone. It still makes sense today. In fact more so because with pure play online retailers wanting outlets for their products and traditional retailers looking to compete in the online channel, they can both benefit from coopetition. It really is a win-win-win, as the customer also gets the benefit of being able to have a sociable shopping experience while shopping for their favorite online brands alongside their favorite store brands.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2022

    NRF 2022: Albertsons’ CEO sees frequency driving grocery loyalty

    People are creatures of habit so, yes, if they visit a store frequently they will become loyal and continue to shop there. That is not something that is unique to grocery shopping, it’s just that you visit a grocery store more frequently than other stores. What is very important in what Mr. Sankaran says is the experience he had with his produce manager. Shopping is also a social event and people like to feel they associate with the store and, more importantly, its people. This is one of the reasons why physical shopping will continue to be the primary channel. If retailers forget this, they do so at their peril. Replacing all the tasks currently undertaken by people will result in a soulless store environment people will not enjoy and will not want to visit repeatedly.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2022

    Are retailers getting closer to nailing last-mile delivery?

    It is interesting that these surveys give one answer as a top line but a more detailed investigation shows a different picture. Cost shows as only 6% reason for not already doing same day deliveries, which grows to 42% on further investigation. It is even higher than that if retailers are honest -- they do not want to admit to customers that they do not value them. Within the next three years, there will be many changes in technology and public perception. By 2025, the impact of same day deliveries on the environment will become a major issue and the whole speed of delivery will go into reverse. Consumers do not need same day delivery so it is a marketing led initiative, and will reverse very quickly once people realise the impact it is having. People do not want to destroy the environment at the cost of their own convenience, especially when they do not even need it!
  • Posted on: 01/14/2022

    Can the metaverse solve retail’s returns challenges?

    There is a long way to go to prove if this will be the technology that finally helps reduce returns. That is at least for the sizing element of returns. I’m not too sure about the rest as a lot of people still like to order different styles, colors, etc., and send back what they do not like, if not the entire purchase. What is for sure is that retailers need to find some way of solving this problem as it is both economically and environmentally a major issue. When such a large proportion of ship-to-home purchases, which is already the most expensive channel, are returned, it is a major problem operationally, economically and environmentally. Will the environmental lobby get to this before technology does? We will have to wait and see but the next generation to come into major purchasing power seems to be much more aware than their predecessors and may just turn their back on this way of shopping given its very high cost to the environment.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2022

    Has ‘just-in-case’ replaced ‘just-in-time’ inventory management?

    It would be wrong to read into what people are saying as "Build inventory and hold just-in-case stock." That would be a major retrograde step and would not help retailers at all. The pandemic saw product shortages that are unlikely to be the case going forward. Holding additional just-in-case stock not only ties up capital and warehouse space, it most definitely also reduces a retailer's operational flexibility and leads to redundant stock, markdowns and write offs as stock goes out of date. Holding an appropriate amount of safety stock is what is required and, as Mr. Kra states, adding flexibility with alternate sourcing is very sensible but holding excessive just-in-case stock is not and we must be very careful not to take a step backwards. Modern supply chain technology really helps retailers understand what is required and how to maintain efficiency and the right inventory. The idea of people overriding intelligent solutions is a fast way to Chapter 11.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    BOPIS remains an important part of the retail mix alongside home delivery and shopping in-store. The fact that it has fallen back as a percentage of the total is not surprising. In fact you could say the same about online for home delivery but nobody seems to want to hear that. The reasons given for people not liking BOPIS are the same as for home delivery, which again is no surprise. We should not expect any of the channels to be the only channel. They are all important and add to the retail offering. It would be dangerous for any retailer to stop operating BOPIS as a significant percentage of shoppers still like it and for the retailer it is still much cheaper than free home delivery!
  • Posted on: 01/07/2022

    Supply chain woes just cost Bed Bath & Beyond $100M in sales

    Why is it still a surprise to some retailers that if you get the supply chain wrong it costs you millions of dollars? Yes, there have been difficulties with COVID-19 and supply but the vast majority of that could be managed out by good inventory management and supply chain practices. Yet companies still see supply chain solutions as a lower priority to online channel development, website or other vanity projects. Get the core business sorted and running well, and then you can generate the revenue to look at the other stuff. Get the core wrong and you are lost.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2022

    Is retail ready for the phygital future?

    This is missing the point of why people go into retail stores. It is a social experience and one where touching, feeling and trying products is the core engagement shoppers are searching for. This is just the next phase of online retail. It’s better and there will undoubtedly continue to be an increase in the level of retail that moves online, but it will not replace the physical retail experience.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2021

    Is showrooming still a concern?

    If people are going into the store to "showroom" then the retailer has an opportunity to sell them something. If they were not going in at all, that would be a much bigger problem. Retailers have to compete on price, on convenience and on the ability to convert footfall into customers. The whole mix comes into play when a customer crosses the threshold of a store. It is up the retailer to make their offering compelling. Don't stop them coming to the store or you have no chance!
  • Posted on: 12/20/2021

    What happens when D2C brands diversify product lines?

    There has always been a natural evolution of retail, wholesale and brands blurring the edges. Retailer own-label products and brands going online are both part of the dynamics of this business. However when brands start to move into areas they are not specialists at, they are entering dangerous ground as it could harm their brand equity if they get it wrong. Having the structure, skills and capability to buy in products that are not completely under your control requires a different expertise and business structure. If you have spent years building a strong brand you can very quickly destroy the brand value if you are seen as not delivering in those new areas.

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