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: 03/19/2019

    Are Amazon’s private labels falling short or just getting started?

    Fashion is a very difficult market to crack - crowded and competitive with a lot of fickle consumers. Amazon has simply not put enough effort into developing a coherent and compelling fashion offer that stands out. Given the sales volumes on fashion, this is a real barrier to own-label growth. In other areas, own label development is stronger. Some of the food lines - such as meal kits and snacks - are very well rounded. However, more effort is required to market and push these to consumers.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Burger King launches $5-a-month coffee subscription service

    This is a great way for BK to push its breakfast offer as it plays catch-up with McDonald’s. The company has already received a mountain of press coverage, which is a win in itself. I don’t suppose everyone will be interested, but BK will definitely secure some new customers from this.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Can location intelligence provide a lifeline for retailers?

    The first issue here is whether consumers will want retailers to access this kind of information. Many don’t and if that continues, the technology is dead in the water. The second issue is what is the point of this technology? What problem is it solving? Most supermarkets, for example, fail to improve traffic and sales because their stores and underinvested in and their product innovation is weak. This doesn’t solve that.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

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

    Dollar General has been ramping up its perishable offer for some time now. The results have been good with increased sales coming from higher traffic and better basket sizes. However, margins on fresh food are weak and need to be improved. Now that Dollar General has scaled up that part of the business, bringing distribution in house will help achieve this.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2019

    Will 5G bring the tech benefits that consumers and marketers expect?

    There’s no doubt that a faster connection will make functions like augmented reality more feasible. However, my suspicion is that a lot of advertisers and retailers will jump on the bandwagon without looking at how relevant their marketing or services are. Consumers are already bombarded with meaningless and pointless functions, having more of the same - albeit in a more immersive format - isn’t going to move the dial.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2019

    Will Walmart’s new tablet burn into Amazon Fire’s market share?

    I can’t see this having much of an impact. The tablet market is now mature and sales growth has really slowed down over the past few years. Aiming at the market for kids is sensible in that there’s slightly better growth, but it also limits how much the tablet can be commercialized via links to Walmart’s selling functions. Maybe this is a test for bigger things, but my view is Walmart is late to the party on this.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2019

    Will customer hosts raise the shopping experience bar at Walmart?

    This makes a lot of sense. The greeter role was never particularly productive and eliminating it in favor of this new multi-tasking position is sensible. Taking the friction out of making returns is a real benefit. This and the other services provided by the host should increase convenience for the shopper and will help make shopping at Walmart more efficient.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2019

    Will an IPO help Levi’s conquer the world?

    After a lot of work over recent years to rebuild the brand and its sales, this is arguably the right time for Levi’s to go public. The general view is that Levi’s is now on an upward trajectory and that means it has an opportunity to maximize the stock value over the next few years. That said, Levi's will have to be careful not to trade in its long-term vision for the short-termism of the markets. That's the real danger of being a public company.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Will ending its price parity rule take the antitrust heat off Amazon?

    Access is about property rights. Should Amazon, which created and built its platform through its own efforts, be forced to bring any brand or product onto the site that wants access? In my view, the answer is a clear no. Most of Senator Warren's arguments are nonsense. She claims Amazon is a monopoly when it is nowhere near monopoly status. She objects to Amazon's low pricing but presumably would also object to it hiking prices (which it could do if it were a monopoly). She even called for the merger with Whole Foods to be undone, as if that had somehow harmed consumers. The only thing that needs updating is Senator Warren's understanding of how markets actually work.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    Stage Stores converts to an off-price future

    A lot of Stage's stores already resemble an off-price format in that they offer a messy jumble of product. However, unlike off-price, this position is not deliberate and is usually accompanied by a down-at-heel store environment. Frankly, there is no future for some of these outlets so a switch to off-price makes sense. My concern is that off-price is now a very crowded segment of the market. What is Stage doing to differentiate Gordmans from rivals? I am not sure there is a clear and compelling answer, and therein lies a problem.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    What will it take to make department stores relevant again?

    It's good to see Macy's talking a good game, but the reality on the ground in most stores is entirely different: they are dull, uninspiring, uncared for and a mess. That's just not going to cut it. Nordstrom is in a different place. It suffers from the structural change in the sector but, by and large, it still gets the basics right and has successfully moved into off-price and is trying new formats. In my view, for department stores to survive they need to be radical. They need to completely reinvent the shopping experience, including adding more services alongside their goods, especially in foodservice. They need to develop their own exclusive brands - and these need to be compelling. They need to partner with niche players to create unique experiences. And they need to right-size the amount of space they have, which includes developing a more flexible store format model so they can operate smaller stores in locations that don't justify a full-line outlet. Most of all they need to invest in stores, customer service, and the general proposition. There is a lot on the to-do list, but all of it is necessary to ensure long-term survival!
  • Posted on: 03/08/2019

    Has Dollar Tree gotten Family Dollar turned around?

    Both Dollar General and Dollar Tree did battle over the acquisition of Family Dollar and it is now clear that Dollar General's loss was a blessing in disguise. While Dollar Tree has been able to extract some savings from the Family Dollar business, it has not been able to refine and streamline the proposition. Many stores are in the wrong locations, most are not up to scratch in terms of the product mix or ambiance, and competition from other low-price rivals is increasing. In other words, a lot of work is needed to turn this around. Now that Dollar Tree has finally recognized this there is a chance that the division can be turned around. In particular, the new format seems to work well in driving higher sales. However, this turnaround will come at a cost - a cost on top of the already high acquisition costs. That's why many question the value of the deal.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Amazon puts a pin in its pop-ups to focus on permanent stores

    The pop-up shops were partly to educate and inform shoppers about the products Amazon offered. Arguably with device penetration now much higher than it was and awareness much stronger than a few years ago, the need for these pop-ups is redundant. Add to this the new channels Amazon has to sell devices - including Whole Foods and third parties like Best Buy, and you see the reason for shutting down this early attempt at physical retail. Does this mean Amazon is forgetting physical? No! Quite the opposite: the next step will be to open bigger stores that are more experiential and where Amazon can offer more services like classes, demonstrations, and perhaps undertake fulfillment of online orders. The closures show Amazon is evolving and growing, not regressing!
  • Posted on: 03/07/2019

    Where are grocers failing on in-store experience?

    In my personal opinion, I think many U.S. grocers leave a lot to be desired. The whole store experience feels tired and dated. There is too much product, usually merchandised in the most uninspiring of ways. There are exceptions - Publix, Wegmans, Market 32 by Price Chopper, AJ's, and so on. But the big boys are pretty shabby in their approach! Food and grocery is a very visual category, but I am not seeing many capitalize on that.
  • Posted on: 03/06/2019

    Will Kohl’s deal with Planet Fitness make its rivals sweat?

    Given Kohl's locations, which tend to be outside of malls, I see this as a smart way to use excess space. However, it's not a game-changer nor does it reduce the need for Kohl's to create a compelling retail destination that converts traffic into purchases. I see it as something of a side-show to the main event.

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