Neil Saunders

Managing Director, GlobalData
Neil is Managing Director of GlobalData’s retail division. In this role he oversees the development of the company’s retail proposition and its research output. He also works with clients to help them understand the retail, shopper and market landscape – advising them on how best to develop, evolve and implement business strategies. Prior to GlobalData, Neil worked at retail research firm Verdict for ten years. He latterly held the post of board director with responsibility for Consulting, Corporate Development and Planning. Before Verdict, Neil worked for the John Lewis Partnership where he was involved, among other things, in the planning and relocation of new stores, the development of the ecommerce business, and the creation of technical and information systems. Before moving to the United States, Neil served as a non-executive board director for the Great Western Railway – a role he held for just under 11 years. He currently serves as an advisory board member for the faculty of business and law at the University of Southampton, as an Honorary Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, and as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Surrey. For more information, visit:
  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    Will a different kind of ‘innovation hub’ open the future to food growth opportunities?

    From all my discussions with CPG firms large and small, the biggest issue always comes down to culture. Many small firms are open, innovative, responsive and fast moving - mainly because they don't have the scale or complexity of bigger organizations. The large CPG firms, by contrast, can be very sclerotic and out of touch with consumers. It will be interesting to see how Mondelēz's plans develop. Bringing innovation into the heart of the business is a bold move and it will only succeed if there is a willingness to engage across all parts of the business.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    Lowe’s kicks off NFL deal in the biggest game of all

    I honestly can't see this making much difference at all. Lowe's does not have an awareness issue: all of our surveys indicate that it is a well known brand that reaches all the key demographics. The problem is that, across many measures, Home Depot is better and is, therefore, the destination of choice for those undertaking home improvement. Advertising and sponsorship won't change that - only improvements to the proposition and creating clear points of differentiation from Home Depot will drive trade.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Will Amazon succeed with brand sampling rooted in machine learning?

    This is really advertising taken to the next level and is, essentially, another way for Amazon to make money by leveraging its vast logistics capability and its massive network of shoppers. I guess if customers are already using Amazon to purchase CPG products there is little harm in exposing them to samples of national brands. However, for general Amazon customers not buying CPG online there is some danger in bringing them into Amazon's web. Once they're there, Amazon can target them to switch to its own or other brands as best suits. It's the age old dilemma. Amazon brings great benefits, but there are also great dangers in becoming too reliant on it as a sales channel.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Tech lets shoppers say ‘Optimize Me’ when ordering groceries

    I am a bit torn on this. I like the technology and think optimization is smart. However, it seems like a bit of a hassle. I am still having to go to the store, walk around for items, then pick up my other items, then pay for them. And of course, there will inevitably be out-of-stocks and substitutions to deal with. On top of this, you won't be able to see all the offers and deals on everyday items - which remains an important consideration for many shoppers when buying staples. I also wonder how this will impact margins. If it took off, stores would have to do a lot more work to fulfill customer needs. They would also, by default, discourage visits to the center of the store where most staples are stocked. I'm interested to see where this goes, but I am yet to be sold on the idea.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Can grocers sell produce without plastic bags and boxes?

    Most grocers already sell loose fruit and vegetables, albeit often with small plastic bags available for those who want to package them. I don't see any real problem in using paper alternatives or no bags at all. Indeed, a lot of people already don't bag items like bananas, oranges or lemons as it just seems wasteful. Items like mushrooms can easily be put in small paper bags. As for best before dates, who really needs these on fresh fruits and vegetables? You can judge freshness and quality for yourself by touch and smell. Having in-store experts to explain what to look for will help.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did regional constraints doom Shopko?

    While I have some sympathy with the reasons given, they are all dynamics which have been in play for a very long time. Shopko should have found ways of mitigating or negating them. If you don't have pricing power on your side, you better make sure that other aspects of the proposition - like store environment, range, service, etc. - are compelling. The blunt truth is that Shopko did not make an enormous effort on any of these things, nor did it push online when it should have. That's why it is in difficulty.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did Gillette’s rant against toxic masculinity go too far?

    There's nothing offensive at all about the advertisement. It's just calling on men (and by extension all people) to be decent and to treat others with consideration. This should be the norm.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2019

    NRF: Attendees show performance anxiety for 2019

    2019 will not be an easy ride. For a start, a strong 2018 makes comparatives much tougher. The year is also starting on a down note with many federal employees not being paid, tariff pressures and a cocktail of other economic uncertainties. On top of all of this, the cost picture is poor. Retailers are having to invest and spend more and face rising overheads. So the outlook for the top line is weaker and the outlook for the bottom line weaker still.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2019

    NRF: Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly talks about what it takes to ‘be’ a great leader

    I agree with Mr. Joly - retail is a people business and being able to connect with other human beings is vital. As part of this, empathy is vital - both in terms of being able to put yourself in your the shoes of your staff and your shoppers. I don't think those skills have changed over time; they are enduring.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2019

    Are department stores seeing the Ghost of Christmas Future in bleak holiday results?

    I would not classify this as a department store problem, it's a poor retailer problem. Both Macy's and J.C. Penney were on the backfoot over this holiday season. Dreary stores, poor merchandising, a lack of gifting ideas, weak customer service, a lack of exclusive product, and so on and so forth. It's not the format that's the problem -- after all, Target is arguably a department store of sorts -- it's the attitude and approach to retailing.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Is it now or never for J.C. Penney?

    Let's begin by saying that the dire holiday numbers are no reflection on Jill Soltau. She joined the company too late in the year to have any tangible impact on festive trading. However, the steep decline does underline the fact that J.C. Penney needs to move quickly to save the business. Cleaning down inventory is vital. Stores are packed full of poor product, especially in apparel. It needs to go and make way for new and better lines -- preferably good own ranges focused on a clear target market. Determining that focus is still on the "to-do" list for J.C. Penney. Getting people into stores and online is then key. Incentives, similar to Kohl's Cash may help generate interest in the short-term, as will better marketing. And this is just a fraction of the things that need to happen.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Is Lowe’s doing it right with its new tagline?

    There is nothing wrong with the new tagline, but it does not differentiate Lowe's in any way - indeed, it's very much in line with Home Depot. What's needed is real change on the shop floor - better stock levels, more focus on inspiration and projects, and better seasonal assortments. If Lowe's gets the basics right it will perform better, it then has a platform on which to build some sustainable points of difference from its larger rival.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2019

    Should Dollar Tree sell Family Dollar?

    While I agree that Dollar Tree has a lot of work to do in reviving Family Dollar, I do not see much merit in selling off the chain. This may raise some cash that could, presumably, be returned to investors, but this is a very short-term vision that would leave Dollar Tree in a weaker position over the longer term as it would erode economies of scale, diminish the potential for future growth, and put part of the business in the hands of a rival. That said, I agree that a more aggressive transformation of the Family Dollar Chain is required. I am also sympathetic to the view that Dollar Tree should test a multi-price point model, similar to that used by Dollar General. If rolled out, this would facilitate the rebranding of Family Dollar to the Dollar Tree fascia, which may be more efficient.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    The new boss is different than the old boss at Starbucks

    Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson has taken up the reigns at a time when Starbucks' physical expansion has peaked, at least in its core markets. That necessitates a different approach. It is less about empire building and more about streamlining operations for financial gains and exploring ways to improve the productivity of different stores. Mr. Johnson's different approach may, ultimately, prove beneficial in delivering this focus.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    Sears likely headed for liquidation

    At this stage, the death of Sears is little more than a formality. Arguably, the company has been dead for years, kept alive by only the continuous financial machinations of Lampert. However time has now run out, as has Lampert's credibility. There are so many lessons from Sears. I suspect it will be a business school case study for many years to come. However, the key ones are: don't starve business of investment, aim to create financial stability not play financial games, create a sound internal organization with common and not competing goals, have a clear point of differentiation and reason for existence, and evolve with the times. Lampert followed none of those principles, which is how Sears has ended up in this position.

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