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: 05/16/2018

    Will Target Restock undercut Amazon’s Prime Pantry?

    Amazon and now Target are using their muscle to try and gain share in the huge food home delivery market. Only massive operations like these two can carry the added cost and risk of offering a service of this nature. In Target's case this is probably defensive, in Amazon's it is offering a level of service that most competitors will not be able to live with -- the cost of delivering grocery products for $5 per month no matter how many orders you place would be commercial suicide for most grocery retailers. Is this just a part of Amazon buying the market to then increase the price of the monthly fee in the future once they have control of the market? Most likely, as it is difficult to see how this could be maintained at the current pricing level. Target's response of free delivery takes us one step closer to the bottom, their supply chain costs must rise sharply if this is taken up by many of their customers. If this does not generate increased or new customers their profitability will fall just as sharply. Where do they go from here? The retailer paying customers to take deliveries?
  • Posted on: 05/16/2018

    Amazon plans to become the fresh food safety leader

    I am sure that Amazon are genuine in their drive to improve safety in fresh foods and there are some great aspects to their work in using Big Data to identify issues faster and therefore drive quicker recalls. However, the biggest issue with fresh foods is still the control of inventory, shelf life and the maintenance of temperature within the supply chain. This may lead to widespread issues but more often results from small local issues of poor operational standard and inventory management. Getting this aspect right is vital to not only safety but also efficiency and profitability of the retailer. Too often retailers look at their short life products as impossible to manage by automated systems and leave this task to their local management, busy people who are not experts in inventory management and not the ideal people to be doing this role. Centralizing this operation can save the company in inventory, wastage and improve customer service all of which improve the bottom line. What it also does is help to ensure that freshness is maintained leading to safer product on shelf or delivered to your door. Amazon should be congratulated for their initiative but let's not believe this is going to solve the problem.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2018

    Is an on-demand workforce heading to retail’s selling floors?

    While it is often seen as bad news for employees, more and more people are looking at working in the gig economy and filling their time with several jobs at a variety of companies. It has been in use in the supply chain with warehouse employees and certainly delivery drivers and others. In some countries, retail already uses part-time workers very efficiently, though these tend to be employed by the company without fixed contracted hours. This is undoubtedly the most efficient way to run a retail business as it provides the flexibility to bring in staff required based on the level of business at any particular time. Fixed hour contracts can make it difficult for a retailer to run as efficiently. What needs to happen is to work out ways of making this practice effective for the employees as well as the employers. In many cases it does and a lot of Uber drivers would argue they do not want fixed contracts. However, it also fails to work for a large number of employees who are not given the option. There are commercial gains to be had so it just needs to be worked out to make this equitable on both sides.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2018

    Etsy succeeds with its Amazon-opposite approach

    It is great to see that Etsy is doing so well and shows what retailers, either online or bricks & mortar stores, can do in the face of Amazon. The hype that Amazon will rule the world is way off the mark. Retailers are smart creative and very agile -- they will be able to survive and prosper in the Amazon world. As Josh Silverman says, you just have to find a different model to that of Amazon and not take them head on. When the Hypermarkets first came along, everyone said the high street would die. It did not and in Europe is actually on the increase again because convenience has become more important, similarly choice, design and quality will provide plenty of opportunity for smart retailers to compete successfully with Amazon. This is just the start of the response and over time we will see a growth in alternatives to the mighty Amazon. People are not devoted to Amazon and their recent increase in price for Prime has shown them for what they are- take a large share of the market and then milk it. This will not be missed by consumers who will vote with their feet and fingers on mouses.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2018

    What’s holding back data-driven supply chains?

    Data analytics is the key to improving performance and more accurately forecasting demand, which is the main driver for a smart and efficient supply chain. The use of Big Data getting as close as possible to the customer is the best way to understand what the impacts are on a local level. The supply chain today is too complex to look at warehouse demand in its simple aggregated form and forecast from there. By understanding the data at the lowest level, breaking out the impacts of weather, specified demand channels and promotions you start to understand the drivers and enable more accurate forecasting that leads to better supply chain optimization. Moving on to the next level of mastering the supply chain, we bring in the store operations, the store layout, displays and inventory on shelf. Now we really begin to understand the physical and online channels we can start to build a better picture of the demand and future forecast. To say that availability and optimization are less important or are taken as given is to fail to understand how the elements of the supply chain work together. The supply chain is all about getting the elements in balance -- throwing stock at a problem is not the answer -- that is why sophisticated supply chain solutions are vital to maintain the competitive edge needed when the pressure really mounts. If you ignore availability, customers satisfaction falls very quickly and inventory, if it is in the wrong place, is of no help. Supply chains are becoming more complex but the solutions to understand the data needed to solve the equation are now available along with the ability to understand, react quickly and work with your supplier base to optimize the supply chain, deliver great results and have a positive impact on the bottom line.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2018

    Sainsbury and Walmart’s Asda to create grocery powerhouse

    This proposal will undoubtedly be placed in front of the mergers and monopolies commission and if allowed to go through will almost certainly have several constraints attached possibly closing some stores to reduce their power. A merger of this sort will certainly bring with it some cost saving benefits in supply chain, supplier negotiations, senior management costs and even buying and marketing admin costs. However, if the proposal is to maintain the two brands then this will limit the benefits that could be made in the field and also much of the supply chain benefits and suppliers of own label items and the none core ranges. The logic of the merger is to fight the discounters Aldi and Lidl, which have hit all the major supermarkets hard and in particular Asda who previously were the cut-price kings. Will the savings be enough to enable Asda to once again take on these operators or is the fact that Asda still operates out of large out of town stores still be the main issue as customers want to shop in more convenient local stores where Aldi and Lidl are based? The nonfoods area offers a better opportunity as the buying power of Walmart combined with the Argos side of Sainsbury's does give some real saving potential. This could be the answer to the large out of town stores, taking on the likes of John Lewis, B&Q and even Primark in the discounted clothing and nonfoods markets.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2018

    Why brands need to use Amazon to acquire customers

    It is true that Amazon has become a standard for the Internet shopping generation and the research clearly shows how important it is. However, brands must be careful that they do not feed the competitor most likely to drive them out of business. Retailers moving to omnichannel operations looking at Amazon as a possible outlet must consider how this is going to impact their overall brand and their competitive situation. Their responsibility is to build their own business and develop their own brand to become the destination of choice for whatever area of business they are focused on. To encourage people to use Amazon as the destination of choice for all things would be feeding their main competitor. Amazon certainly opens a huge opportunity for startup and mid-size businesses to grow and gain market share through the huge audience and customer base that use Amazon today. Consumer brands can also create a direct-to-consumer presence to compete with normal channels to market. All this will be the new dynamic marketplace that retail and manufacturers have to contemplate when building their strategy.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2018

    Apocalypse? No. Retail faces a reset

    It is very true that retail is going through a major change now, but that has happened before and will no doubt happen again. Recall when the hypermarkets were going to take over the world and local specialist shops were all going out of business. Now we’re seeing the reverse trend of hypermarkets being too large and consumers wanting to shop more locally and conveniently. The specialist is back on the rise with innovative new offerings that are making shopping fun again. This last point reflects the thought that shopping must become more of an experience; theater, really. Customer-centricity and using the retail location to maximize engagement with customers is vital. This does not mean that “retail is dead” or that stores' numbers are going to continue to decline. We are now seeing pure-play online retailers opening stores. Why? Because they want to connect and communicate with customers. Retail has always been a dynamic evolutionary industry and today is no different. All this talk of how Amazon is taking over retail shows a lack of understanding of this industry and how resilient, innovative and creative it can be.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Brands find unexpected opportunities to reach next-gen customers

    The retail world is moving ever faster with innovations coming from both online and new niche brands. Large retailers are finding it tough to keep up with the speed of change. Why? Because they have too much invested in running efficient operations with no vision and because the risk is too high if they get it wrong. The cost of retail space is falling as more space is empty. Unfortunately, that has not yet translated into the cost of space in malls and high streets. Once it does there will be more and more innovative startups. Millennials do not like corporate business and large retail to them is just that dumb fat and happy. They want their own generation of how to shop and what to buy that was not dictated by their parents and past generations. That generation also has a belief of entitlement, they can research and communicate far easier than ever before which increases their expectation and demand for fulfillment. Today’s retailers are going to have work very hard if they wish to stay relevant. If not, then we could see smaller faster more agile business start to take the shine off their business.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    This trend certainly fits on well with the concept that retail needs to become entertainment if it is to survive the constant pressure from online retail. The retailers that remain in the malls can only benefit from the injection of "theatre" that these new food vendors bring and make the mall so much more relevant for the Millennial generation. There is now space in malls for these local artisan foodies and they in turn can save the other retailers in the mall. This trend could eventually work its way into the very large hypermarkets that are also way too big -- they rent space to artisans and help regenerate those stores and attract the younger consumer who is disenfranchised by big business.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Is product discovery now the biggest pain point for mobile buys?

    The use of mobile apps is significantly higher amongst younger people and Generation Z users will be brought up on mobile shopping. In traditional retailing it is desirable to get customers to "walk the shop" and not just go in and buy the exact items they want; this increases sales. With mobile and online shopping, the suggested items can give the same ability. Will we start to see online retail follow a similar pattern to traditional retail where huge superstores with thousands of items become too time consuming, confusing and inconvenient for consumers and specialists with a smaller more focused range start to gain traction? AI will undoubtedly improve this performance providing users with an easier experience and the retailer with increased sales per visit. What has to be cautioned against is using AI to pre-judge customer desires, which could alienate the customers if they think they are being manipulated. However, this technology can be used very effectively to manage not only sales of particular lines, if overstocked, but also the margin mix by more prominently featuring higher margin items.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Thrive Market wants to change the world with new organic meat and seafood line

    It is great that Thrive has the high ideals of quality, sustainability and animal welfare at the heart of its operation. The fact that the produce is frozen makes their supply chain significantly easier provided they can manage and control the temperature and quality of the last mile delivering into the home. With meat and fish any loss (or rise) of temperature can be very dangerous for the end-consumer. From a pure supply chain point of view they will maintain healthy sell-by restrictions that will enable them to handle the new lines pretty much as they do the dry grocery products, their only constraints will be the frozen capacity at their central warehouse and packing facility. The difficulty is getting people to work in sub-zero temperatures for any length of time and the accuracy of picking does deteriorate under these conditions. Frozen food generally has a connotation of being of lower quality and hence expectations of lower prices. Thrive is trying to turn this perception on its head with better quality and certainly better animal welfare, both of which are normally the domain of the fresh produce buy-at-the-source/farm type operations. It may take some work to get consumers to buy this concept.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2018

    Should retailers lower expectations around last-mile delivery?

    Retailers have fallen into the trap of setting very high expectations for delivery of online purchases. Customers do not always need to have their purchase delivered the same day, within the hour or next day, but it has become a battle ground for etailers and multi-channel retailers. It is certainly not supply chain professionals who have created this problem but marketing men wanting to be state-of-the-art and gain a competitive advantage. The added cost that this drives into a business is enormous and to make it even worse, marketers include these crazy delivery promises for free! There are very few online retailers who make a profit and at some point there will be a realization that customer expectations will have to be changed. It is always difficult to get the genie back in the bottle but for economic and environmental reasons, this is one time when it really must be addressed.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2018

    Whole Foods cuts local marketing staff

    The move to centralize and standardize at Whole Foods is typical of the Amazon model that one size fits all. This will inevitably remove the local and specialist food retail USP upon which they have built this business. There are hundreds of food retailers that operate in a centralized manner who are significantly better placed to trade on price than Whole Foods -- this is not their market. They have created a unique position by offering quality, specialty and local produce. If this is lost they will also become lost in the sea of the normal or average.

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