PROFILE

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.
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  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Growing demand for local products leads to out-of-stocks

    There is absolutely no reason for localization to drive higher out-of-stocks at the store level. The ability to forecast accurately all items at store/SKU level enable retailers to control their inventory, make intelligent replenishment decisions taking into account the cost and timescale of the supply chain whether direct store delivery or through central warehousing. Any retailer wanting to increase their localization should also look at store-specific planograms that take into account the supply chain to ensure sufficient space is allocated to the items dependent on sales and other constraints. Localization is a very successful strategy for retailers to counter online competition and become more successful and relevant to their local markets, but you do not need to compromise efficiency to make this to happen. Many retailers in the U.K. and Europe are managing this very efficiently and without any detriment to their availability, stock holding or profitability.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Is Crazy Cazboy’s pricing too crazy or just crazy enough?

    I can understand a pricing mechanism that changes its prices each day to make it a fun experience and create a bazaar type atmosphere. You never know what price you are going to get. But to reduce prices each day across the week in the same pattern each week does not make much sense. Surely, if you want to keep people coming to your store it would be better to change the price charged each day randomly. That way people have to come to see what price it is today. The challenge is that with social media, the word will get out very quickly. Interesting to keep a watch on this one. It is really is totally crazy Cazboy's!
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Why is Amazon paying employees to quit their jobs?

    While this may seem like a great initiative and one designed to help employees achieve their goals, it could be a high risk for Amazon. Ultimately Amazon must have its own agenda looking to reduce its distribution costs. There are hundreds even thousands of professional companies out there that have been running distribution companies for years. How many of these Amazon employees are going to be able to manage to compete with them and make a profit as Amazon tries to drive down delivery costs? The risk to Amazon comes from having large numbers of drivers, vehicles and operators out there that are not experienced with the Amazon name on their vehicles. This is their brand and they are putting it at risk if customers have a bad experience.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    Why is Party City closing profitable stores?

    How refreshing to hear a CEO talking about maximizing their operating model rather than just going for coverage. We hear of so many retailers complaining that they are having to close stores because of the online assault. This is being proactive, understanding the density required for their market and closing stores where they have greater than that density to be able to fund stores where they do not have that density. Congratulations to a retailer that is truly in control of their business.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Sainsbury’s plans Amazon-style online grocery marketplace

    There are now several traditional retailers looking at a marketplace approach. This could start to really impact Amazon and start the fight back from other retailers. The advantage for traditional retailers is that they already have the brick and mortar presence to offer easy collections and returns, and they have a quality brand presence, particularly in the case of Sainsbury's. It’s funny that people assume that they will struggle against Amazon. We could start to see a change that will challenge Amazon and start to hurt it. However, many retailers will not be able to move in this direction as it takes scale and resources, but the larger ones can certainly fight back.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2019

    Should (can) rivals meet the free one-day delivery bar being set by Amazon?

    Amazon is driving the trend for shorter delivery lead time for consumers, but at what point is this self-defeating? The customers they are doing this for are already Prime customers so they are loyal. Do they really need to reduce delivery from two days to one day to keep them happy or is this just an Amazon marketing man’s dream? At what point does the cost of servicing this change outweigh the benefits? The cost of a time reduction of this sort is very high and if this can be done out of operating efficiencies then great, but I doubt this will cover the total cost increase. We have also heard in the past that as the delivery time reduces the out-of-stocks increase and if this is the result then customers will very quickly see through this and reject it. I am not convinced this is a customer-driven initiative but rather it is a marketing play. Do other retailers respond to this or simply accept that the service they offer is acceptable to their customers? Amazon has the scale to see this through, while most other retailers will not be able to carry the additional cost and so will not have the luxury of responding. At some point prices will be driven up by this effort for faster delivery and then the customers will have to make their choice.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    With 1,150 stores across America this is a great result for customers, Amazon and yes, Kohl's as well. It overcomes one of the biggest negatives to shopping online -- the hassle of returning goods. It also drives large numbers of potential customers to Kohl's stores and is even environmentally friendly if it reduces the number of delivery vehicles in residential areas. The interesting thing in this article is the statement from Ms. Gass: "The big question is, how we go forward." This should be a big alarm bell to many traditional and online retailers as the two mammoths working together could cause major problems for many of their competitors.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2019

    Giant Food to fill prescriptions for fruits and veggies

    What a great idea and a perfect place to make it work! Giant Food is the right place for this initiative, having the pharmacy and the fresh foods they are ideally placed to get people to partake in healthy eating as part of their medication. A lot of retailers would have been concerned about the impact on their sales but this initiative shows a community spirit and ultimately will work in their favor as people support companies that show compassion. The whole promotion of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables is in itself a plus for Giant. The message will resonate with all customer groups making Giant Food a destination shop for health minded consumers.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Why is Five Below a step above?

    It is so refreshing to hear that a discounter is not just relying on price to drive their business but realizing that store experience is also vitally important if they are going to attract customers. Loud music may not be everyone’s idea of a pleasant shopping experience but again Five Below know their target customer and what they do want. So often discount stores are drab places with very little in the way of experience, which is wide open for larger retailers to match them with lower prices. Bottom line - if there is nothing extra to offer then price is a very singular reason to shop.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Autonomous vehicles take test drives around distribution centers

    Michael Field makes a very sensible summing up of the autonomous vehicle market in the warehouse environment. They are great if the tasks are simple repetitive and especially if they are in environments that are not conducive to human work such as freezer units. However, one vital aspect of an investment in this area is to ensure that the automation does not reduce flexibility. I have seen many automated warehouses that are simply not fit for purpose because they are too rigid and inflexible, especially in a retail environment where nothing is rigid. If automation can efficiently replace human endeavor in as flexible a manner then this has to be a good thing, but make sure you know what you are getting into before committing to a large spend.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    What does it take to produce promos that pop?

    Whatever the type or scale of a promotion, one of the most important factors is getting the product to the store in time for the promotion to start and keeping it in stock during the promotion. Nothing annoys customers more than going to a store for a promoted item and not being able to buy it. It’s not only a waste of resources, it also lowers credibility for your brand and drives customers away, which is the counter reaction to why you promoted in the first place. Yet how often does this happen? Lots! Marketing departments create the promotion, buyers negotiate the promotion and then the communication goes out of the window and the product is either late or out of stock on the first day. Getting the timing, forecasting and supply chain right is key to a successful promotion strategy, whatever that strategy be.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?

    It is a very laudable aim to use technology and robots that create more time for employees to spend time helping customers. Anything that increases customer-facing time has to improve the offering. However, one has to wonder if this is the long-term aim or if it will lead to less staff in stores and eventually less customer facing staff. Staff and customers will react if they see numbers of people in employment suffer as a result of robotics. In other areas that are not customer-facing like warehouses, online picking, etc., robots can improve efficiency and add value, and they are less visible therefore less contentious. The use of data and automation to get stock off vehicles and on to the shelf faster has to be a good thing, provided you do not spend more time searching for the item on the vehicle!
  • Posted on: 03/28/2019

    Is Dick’s making the right move by bringing its software development in-house?

    Many online retailers see themselves as tech companies first and hence do much of their development in-house until they realize there are significant disadvantages to doing so. The argument that they get "just what the business wants" also means they are limited to the knowledge within that business. The fact that it is slower and unless he builds a huge empire will create a big backlog of projects and the projects delivered get out of date very quickly are just a few reasons why this is a flawed strategy. It is a brave or foolish man that believes he knows better than everyone else. I thought most retailers had grown out of this some years ago. Technology moves too fast, especially in the dynamic world of retail.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Wait … did Whole Foods just open a bodega on Manhattan’s Westside?

    Running small convenience stores is a difficult business and requires different skills than running full size and full range stores. Getting the right mix of items and what to stock at different times of the day can be tough but also the supply chain implications of little space, regular deliveries into the central locations that often have restrictions on size of vehicle can be tricky. Whole Foods is in a great position to make this work from a customer facing point of view. Office workers who have a higher average income and are health conscious will frequent a local Whole Foods and not need a full range store. They are snacking, picking for today’s meal and not looking for a big shop. In fact, I was in the Whole Foods near Piccadilly Circus in London last weekend and could not work out why they were selling ice cream and frozen foods. There are very few people who live close enough to Piccadilly Circus to get frozen items home in time to make this viable. This is the problem - getting the ranging right. What these focused consumers want has to be understood to make this concept work. If they view this as a mini-Whole Foods, they will struggle. If they try to understand the consumer and be selective then it could be a great success in a few locations. Getting the supply chain right is another matter, that takes great technology and good management if you are not going to have huge waste and poor service levels for customers.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Will retailers be ready when AR adoption takes hold?

    The speed of change and adoption of technology by the general public continues to increase and retailers have to keep up with the demand, even though that demand is driven by some retailers, gaming companies or even social media. The newer generations are already at home with AR. The problem is that most retailers are run by older people who are slower to adopt. However, that does not mean that online retailers are ahead of traditional retail in this space. They potentially have more to gain but all retailers need to embrace technology to see how it can benefit them and make sure that they are not left behind. Technology is a major competitive weapon and speed to market can make or break a retailer. The days when we feared that new technologies might bring down the old world order have passed and acceptance is now common place. We cannot ignore it and the faster we embrace it the better.

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