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.

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  • Posted on: 05/24/2018

    Is excess space behind retail’s shrink and customer experience problems?

    I think these are PWC numbers! Unfortunately, they are highly inaccurate. Based on 4.6 square feet per capita (which was the PWC number for the U.K.), in 2015 total floor space would be 302 million square feet. Yet the top 20 U.K. retailers have 229 million of space between them. The grocery players alone have 122 million! In short, the U.K.'s figure is a lot, lot higher than suggested. Plus raw numbers do not take account of geographic differences. The U.K. is a small, crowded island with high population density and low drive times. The U.S. is the complete opposite. More stores/space are needed to cover the population. I am not saying there are no issues with space/capacity in the U.S., but some of these numbers (put out by firms that are supposed to be good with numbers) are just wrong!
  • Posted on: 05/24/2018

    AriZona Iced Tea taps ’90s nostalgia with pop-up

    This looks like a fun concept that plays on people's retrophilia. It also provides an experience. In short, it's a smart way of connecting with consumers in an era that is so crowded with marketing messages.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2018

    Kroger to become meal kit force with Home Chef deal

    This is a smart decision. The meal kit market is growing rapidly and it is taking share from both CPG firms and supermarkets. Kroger needed a response to that, and Home Chef is a sensible great company and a good choice. It will be exciting to see how Kroger can use its channels and distribution to expand the business. Overall, Kroger now seems to be coming to grips with many of the disruptions in the marketplace. That bodes well for the future of the business.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2018

    Is excess space behind retail’s shrink and customer experience problems?

    I think the over-spaced narrative is overdone! It is certainly true that in some sectors there is too much space, but metrics that look at space on an overall basis are often very misleading. For example, the average American will not travel too far for certain products; combine this with the low population density across many parts of the U.S. and you have a situation where you need a lot of stores to generate sales and share. That's unfortunate, but it's a function of the market. Some stores could do to be downsized, I agree. However, those that are downsizing are often those with failed retail propositions. Many Macy's stores are too large because their retail and product strategy is lacking. IKEA and Home Depot have huge stores, but their strategy is on point. I think a more balanced truth is that we have too much poor retail space in the U.S. And it's not going to survive in an increasingly competitive era.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Lessons in goodwill and the power of feelings

    Goodwill is about treating customers fairly and as human beings. It is saying sorry when you mess up. It is correcting errors quickly. It is having the flexibility to go beyond the systems and rules when needed. It is, in essence, making customers feel good and have goodwill towards the brand. The U.K. retailer John Lewis has an accounting and register code 904. This goes to a department called Goodwill. It is used to do things like give questionable refunds, give customers who have been inconvenienced vouchers or gifts like flowers or chocolate, refund parking or travel where a customer has had to come back to the store because of a company error, and so forth. The view has always been that this is not a cost. It is a marketing expense that helps people to feel good about the brand. And by and large, it works!
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    New organic grocery concept is an educational experience

    All retailers need to ask themselves what value they are adding to the consumer. If they can't answer this clearly, then they have a problem! Initiatives like this are an example of adding value. Consumers have a lot of questions and concerns when it comes to food and nutrition, so providing education to help guide them is useful.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Amazon bans chronic returners

    Generous return policies are there to make life easier for genuine customers. They are not there for the benefit of fraudsters or serial abusers. As such, retailers have a right to review returns levels and ban those who they believe are taking advantage of the system. However, care needs to be taken in doing this and common sense applied. I have seen rather a lot of cases (especially at Best Buy) where algorithms have banned or restricted returns from customers who are using the system in a reasonable way.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Ellison leaves Penney, further fueling doubts

    Let's be honest, the departure of Marvin Ellison from J.C. Penney could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered department store! The turnaround program that Ellison put in place has partly delivered but is still far from complete. There is now a question mark over how this plan will proceed. Ellison's exit will also raise speculation that he is not particularly optimistic about the future prospects of J.C. Penney and sees the grass as being greener at Lowe's. Indeed, exiting before his plan is complete is perhaps a tacit admission that he may not be able to deliver what investors are looking for.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2018

    Will American consumers go for ‘When Harry Married Meghan’ promos?

    The royal wedding is a fun, short-term opportunity for some creative marketing and promotion. There's a lot of cynicism around it - especially on social media, but I think most people like seeing the interesting ways brands are participating just as they welcome some celebratory, optimistic news!
  • Posted on: 05/18/2018

    BJ’s Wholesale Club is going back to Wall Street

    This is cashing out, plain and simple. And with market sentiment around retail much stronger than it has been, now is the right time to do it. I am not sure I see the benefits of being public. In fact, given the short-termism of Wall Street and their general lack of retail knowledge, I think being public could be a bad thing for BJ's!
  • Posted on: 05/17/2018

    Ocado to automate Kroger warehouses in exclusive U.S. deal

    I can see this being beneficial for general warehouse technology, but it will be fascinating to see how it works for home delivery. Ocado's model kind of works in the U.K. because the U.K. is a relatively small island with high population density. As such, the catchment area of one warehouse contains many households. However, even here Ocado is not particularly profitable! The U.S. is not like that. There are urban areas where the model will be similar, but most grocery fulfillment in other locations can only really be done from stores. I applaud Kroger for testing new things -- but while I believe grocery fulfillment is a necessity for driving sales, it is damaging to profits. The Ocado model does little to change that.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2018

    Managing the dark side of workplace friendships

    We're humans. We're sociable. Throw any group of people together and relationships will form, some of which will be complex and problematic. There's really no way to avoid this. As long as organizations apply common sense and fairness to rules and decisions, I don't see much of an issue here.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2018

    Target sees stores as key to meeting its distribution challenges

    There is no doubt that this is sensible. Fulfillment from stores is often more efficient and profitable, plus it leverages existing assets. That said, if not properly managed it can also disrupt store stock levels. Target's performance on out-of-stocks and general inventory control is poor. It needs to fix its systems and distribution otherwise this could exacerbate the problem still further.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2018

    Retail loyalty programs are no longer in the cards

    In retail, loyalty has rarely been driven by loyalty schemes. The fact that most people have more than one loyalty card tells you exactly how loyal they are! That said, these schemes are good for data collection, marketing, activating customers on specific campaigns and so forth. I don't see them as going away, but neither do I see them as prime drivers of loyalty.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2018

    Should Starbucks acquire Blue Apron?

    Starbucks needs to develop a much better food proposition. Customer ratings for its current offer are poor and while it does OK at breakfast, it is really underperforming at lunch and dinner. This is a massive lost opportunity, especially at a time when growth from coffee sales is slowing. Some sort of partnership with Blue Apron could be interesting, especially if Starbucks used its stores as places where consumers could collect meal solutions on the way home from work. Of course, this would require a change in store format, marketing and many other aspects of the proposition. However, it is definitely something worthy of exploration.

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