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: 07/16/2019

    Can GameStop become the go-to place for the gaming lifestyle?

    With faster connection speeds, especially with the rollout of 5G, downloading games or the direct streaming of games is going to become much more common. That's a major threat to GameStop and completely disrupts its core business in the same way Blockbuster was disrupted by the advent of online movies. There is a gaming community and making stores a focal point for them may work, especially if there are social aspects and game-related merchandise they can buy. However, I still have my doubts: many in the gaming community prefer interacting virtually rather than in person. That makes the business very reliant on game-related merchandise and I wonder if there is enough demand here to sustain a chain like GameStop. In my view, GameStop is on a slippery slope and I only see a downward slide for the business, even if it does manage to survive in some form.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2019

    CEO says Walmart’s stores are the answer to Amazon – at least for groceries

    From a profitability perspective, making online grocery work is extremely difficult. With stores it is somewhat easier; without them it is almost impossible - at least if executed on anything near a national basis. Automation may shift the dynamics slightly, but not by much. As such, I believe Walmart has a key advantage in online grocery that Amazon does not yet possess (or only partly possesses with Whole Foods). However, while online grocery is clearly a key battleground, I think it will damage margins and profitability for all players in the sector: in some ways, this is a race to the bottom and only the retailers with the most firepower and resources will be able to compete over the long term. Walmart will be one of them. Amazon will be another.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    What makes great retail leaders?

    I think a lot of this comes down to fairness. People like to be treated fairly and admire leaders who inject that ethos into an organization. Inspiration is also important: leaders must have a clear vision for the company and be able to communicate that clearly - and that means listening as well as talking!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2019

    Lululemon takes experiential retailing to 20,000 square feet

    With an army of loyal fans, there is a great opportunity for Lululemon to offer experiences and services. These things must be done in a way that complements the brand and, in the case of the new Chicago store, this appears to have been well executed. Classes are an obvious one as most of Lululemon’s customers buy their products to use, usually for yoga practice. Ten restaurant is also relevant as it connects with the wellness theme on which Lululemon has been focused. The company clearly isn’t going to build this concept in every location - not at this scale. But it is a great template for what good retailing should look like.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2019

    Will free, same-day pickup give Sam’s Club the edge it has been looking for over Costco?

    Bluntly, no. The appeal of Costco is multifaceted, and has little to do with digital. So Sam’s Club focusing on pickup, while worthy, isn’t going to give them an edge. Now if they developed own-label products half has good as Costco’s Kirkland, they might be on to something...
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    What’s the story behind Macy’s partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    Personally, I like this theme: it is vibrant and resonates with the "natural world" and "wellness" which are important consumer themes. I also like the fact Macy's has partnered with Dick's, even though it was initially skeptical of the move. It shows a willingness to be open and experimental, which is what Macy's needs. I agree that collaboration is playing a much bigger role in retail than it used to. And for short term pop-ups such as STORY, that's a good thing. However, Macy's still needs to develop more proprietary labels, products, and lines that it can own and use to differentiate.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    Is Nordstrom staring at a ‘no-growth’ retail future?

    I agree with the conclusion of the report. It will be very challenging for Nordstrom to engineer growth in the near term. However, I do not entirely concur with the report's rationale for this; I think it misses some nuances. The main issue Nordstrom faces is a disparity in performance by location. In big, urban markets Nordstrom’s full-price stores are performing better. The concentration of more affluent consumers and higher demand for modern, fashionable apparel helps the business achieve solid numbers. However, in smaller urban areas and suburban malls, the business performs less well and is increasingly struggling to connect with shoppers who don’t want to pay Nordstrom prices or are deterred by assortments that they see as too contemporary. This doesn’t mean Nordstrom has no customers, but the customer numbers required to support the economics of a big department store business are weakening and the decline in shoppers is getting progressively worse. There is a question mark over how Nordstrom can turn around performance in stores outside of the big cities. More localized ranging with greater sensitivity to the needs of particular demographics is prudent, but in some areas that may not be enough to revive performance.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    Mom-and-pop grocer gives SNAP recipients an organic foods discount

    This is a lovely initiative and one that is so typical of independent retailers in small towns up and down the country. It makes a real difference to families and communities and is one of the reasons good independents survive. In all honesty, however, I don't think this will change how big grocers sell products to those on government assistance.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2019

    Will Amazon Live video light up sales for Lamps Plus on Prime Day?

    I think this is smart. There are quite a few Lamps Plus stores near us and, other than for research, I have never visited them to buy things. Despite the name, I just don't think of them when buying lighting - we'll go to Crate & Barrel or a furnishings specialist for that as we will likely be buying other home products as well. As such, any initiative to increase visibility and brand knowledge of Lamps Plus is useful.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Will a worker walkout put a kink in Amazon’s Prime Day results?

    I don't think this will impact Prime Day too much. However, having good and stable labor relations is vital for any retailer and especially important for a nimble player like Amazon. Personally, I do not think Amazon is a bad employer. However, it is an embracer of flexible labor models and that causes some resistance from those who want more stability. It's a balancing act and one I suspect Amazon will manage to navigate.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2019

    Is Primark ready to bust out in the USA?

    While Primark has been a very disruptive force in the U.K. and European markets, its impact on the U.S. has been less than impressive. Part of this comes down to the small scale which is, in turn, a function of a very limited expansion plan. None of this is to say that Primark can't become more significant in the U.S., just that there are more dynamics here that are unfavorable to its business model. The first is that the market for apparel is really, really saturated. Any new player needs to bring something very distinct to market. Primark's claim to fame is that it offers the cheapest fashion in the market. In Europe this largely holds true; in the U.S., it is not always the case as there are a lot of value-focused retailers. The second issue is that Primark is focused on everyday low pricing. However, that is not always what activates U.S. shoppers in apparel. Many want discounts and bargains: getting a $50 item for $25 can be more compelling than getting a $20 item for $20. Primark has struggled with this subtle difference. Primark has been cautious and careful in its expansion which is a credit to the company, but it also signals how tough a nut to crack the U.S. market is!
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Target expands its college tour

    Campuses are great marketplaces for retailers, provided they understand the audience and tailor their offers accordingly. Moreover, if retailers do a good job they can capture the attention and loyalty of new consumers early on in their lifecycle. I also hope retailers like Target will put an end to the discriminatory pricing that can exist in stores near colleges. Hannaford, for example, inflates its prices in the store near the University of New Hampshire as it's the only supermarket on campus and assumes it has a captive audience. That's not the way to stimulate shopper loyalty!
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Is Walmart at an online crossroads?

    Online retail has never been a particularly profitable business, mainly because consumers do not bear the full costs of the service. And with a push on fast, low- or no-cost delivery, things are arguably getting worse. That said, it is a necessary evil for retailers: if they don't engage with online they risk losing sales and market share. Walmart is in a challenging position as it is a business that operates at an enormous scale and has a big grocery operation - a sector where online makes virtually no money. As such, losses for its online operation are amplified. In my view, Walmart's push into e-commerce has not been wrong. However, it is right to consolidate its various digital assets and to try and find ways of streamlining the operation. If it uses its store base and existing logistics correctly, it should have an advantage over other players, including Amazon.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    Are ‘veggie burgers’ and ‘oat milk’ confusing to consumers?

    I have no problem with the use of terms like "meatless meat" or "almond milk." I think those lobbying against such terms are vested interests, such as the farming industry - or people with far too much time on their hands. As far as I am concerned, so long as something is very clearly labeled it's fine. And manufacturers and retailers generally do a good job of labeling and defining products. Bottom line: the increase in choice is good for everyone, even it means more competition for traditional products.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    NRF study says customers dig retail tech

    I think we need to be careful here. I have no doubt that some technologies have made shopping easier; but many of these are basic and perform much-needed functions such as stock checking, price checking, reserve and collect, and finding things in store. Retailers should not take these findings to mean that consumers like any bit of technology. They don't! There is a lot of technology that is gimmicky, glitchy and doesn't really solve a problem. And retailers need to think through what is needed and focus on executing the essentials well. Technology is also no replacement for getting the everyday basics of retail right. Stores, products, human customer service, pricing - none of those things has diminished in importance as technology has become more significant.

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