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: 10/16/2019

    UK’s largest sporting goods chain calls for probe of Nike-Adidas dominance

    Nike and Adidas are entitled to supply as they see fit. Sports Direct is likely afraid of this move because it represents another step towards direct distribution which could potentially harm its own business. That's unfortunate, but that's just how the market works. I didn't see Sports Direct complaining or championing small sports retailers when its own competitive pricing undercut them and harmed their sales.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    Does Target need to address its associate morale problem?

    Target is investing a lot of money into the business and it is trying to balance the drive to more complex and costly online sales. Against that backdrop there is clearly a need to review costs elsewhere; some of that will be in staffing. As regrettable as the changes may be for those involved, that doesn't mean they should not be made. Overall, from my (admittedly unscientific and unrepresentative) discussions in stores most Target associates seem generally content and like working for the company. Does management need to review some things? Sure. Is Target a bad employer? No, I don't believe it is.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2019

    Amazon makes its social positions public

    Because of its size and success, Amazon comes under a lot of fire. As such, it makes sense to have a clear list of positions on key social and economic issues. In most cases, Amazon is clearly on the right side of history. That said, I don't expect this to completely calm scrutiny or discontent: there will always be areas where people are dissatisfied with Amazon's stance on various matters.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2019

    Will customers give Walmart the keys to their homes?

    Personally, I would not like someone to access my home in this way. Others will take the opposing view. The success of this scheme will depend on the balance between the two groups. The cost to Walmart will also be a factor in how far and fast this is rolled out. My analytical view is that this kind of service will grow, but will remain fairly niche over the medium-term.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2019

    Why are grocers still missing the mark with small food brands?

    I think this really depends on the grocer. AJ's here in Arizona carries a lot of smaller, niche brands and this is part of its appeal. Waitrose in the U.K. also has a mix of big and smaller brands, including niche local offerings. It is not a coincidence that both players are more expensive, upmarket grocers: their customer base and price structure probably allow them to be more flexible when it comes to brand selection. In bigger grocers, small brands can be - but are not always - overlooked. Resolving barriers is important, however, as small brands can drive growth and create interest and traction with shoppers.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    REI ventures into drop shipping

    For a retailer like REI, which operates in categories with an enormous amount of choice, drop shipping makes sense. There is little point holding inventory of every outdoor gadget and widget under the sun - especially as many will be low-volume sellers - when they can be shipped direct.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    Will Best Buy wrap up Black Friday sales with a price match guarantee in October?

    Potentially this could help smooth demand as it will give customers the confidence to purchase now rather than waiting until the Black Friday deals hit. That may give Best Buy an edge over rivals as it can lock in spend now, ahead of all the other promotions.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    Is BOPIS a good fit for Dollar General?

    If Dollar General wants to be in e-commerce then BOPIS makes more sense than delivery, which just wouldn’t be economical for a dollar store. However if this takes off in a serious way, then Dollar General might need to review staffing as this will take a toll on associates’ time - which is already fairly tight across the chain.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Will becoming a UPS pickup/drop off point drive craft sales at Michaels?

    This helps drive footfall and that can't be a bad thing. But it's not a silver bullet - especially now that more and more retailers seem to be adding this as a solution. Getting the core business to work is what counts and on that front Michaels, while in reasonable shape, still has more work to do.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Can Target’s chief merchandising officer turn Bed Bath & Beyond around?

    Most of Bed Bath & Beyond’s problems are at the front end of the business. Stores are badly merchandised, poorly ranged and offer little in the way of excitement or inspiration. Appointing Mark Tritton – who has a background in merchandising and successfully helped reinvigorate Target – is just what the company needs. Essentially, the skills needed to turn around the business will reside in the CEO’s office. That said, creating change at Bed Bath & Beyond will not be easy. The problems are deep-rooted and, among consumers, views about the chain are entrenched. A lot of work is needed to transform stores, develop better products and drive sales across the digital and physical channels. Fortunately, Mark Tritton implemented similar programs while at Target, so he will bring the benefit of this experience to Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2019

    Will part-timers flock to Lidl after grocer offers health insurance for all?

    This is a differentiator and helps raise the bar in a tight labor market. Lidl can likely afford this as it is both investing in the U.S. market and has a pretty efficient model that drives profit. That said, it needs to drive volume through the business to make the economics work. At present, it is not doing as well in the U.S. as anticipated; correcting this is critical if benefits like healthcare are to be sustainable.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2019

    REI opens outdoor adventure gateway concept

    This is a great new concept for REI. The White Mountains are a popular tourist destination for summer and winter activities. However, while there are many things to do up there, with the notable exception of the skiing at Mount Washington, formal activities and commercial ventures are few and far between. REI has an opportunity to capitalize on this by both offering adventures and the equipment needed to undertake them.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2019

    Why is Target helping Toys “R” Us get back online?

    This is great for Target: they get the sales from the online part of Toys "R" Us and also pick up some sales for products ordered in store. They will also likely pick up some new customers and the data on them. Given that Target is already doing well with kids categories, this will just help boost their credentials and market share further. It is very low risk too; the only downside being if Toys "R" Us subsequently wants to go it alone - but I would assume this is addressed within the agreement between the two companies. For Toys "R" Us, this partnership is probably the simplest route to market. They are able to piggyback on another retailer's online systems, its inventory and its logistics. To reinvent all of that themselves would have been expensive. It does make them reliant on Target, which is never a conformable position to be in. However, this is a shortcut to market that allowed them to make a quick comeback.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Walmart sells ModCloth, seeks Jetblack spinoff and cuts Bonobos jobs

    All of these brands were acquired at a time when Walmart was initially trying to accelerate its e-commerce business. Having sucked some expertise from them, I think Walmart is now much more confident about its core asset and wants to devote most of the time to developing this. That makes sense and any sale will help raise capital and potentially reduce losses for the online division. Incidentally, I don't think the acquisitions were a mistake. They were part of the growth program as Walmart tried to experiment and learn.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Will Erewhon become the next Whole Foods?

    Erewhon has a great proportion and is a trusted brand among consumers that use it. In my view, it is a cut above Whole Foods. I think there is potential for national expansion, however, I would sound two notes of caution. The first is that grocery is cutthroat. Even in a "premium" segment, margins are still under pressure and competition is intense. I think Erewhon has strong points of differentiation, but return on investment will be challenging. The second is that the rest of the country is not California. This sounds flippant, but California is a very distinct market with some specific consumer needs and behaviors. There are undoubtedly pockets of similarity elsewhere, but Erewhon will need to find them with its location strategies.

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