PROFILE

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: www.globaldata.com/
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  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Walgreens does its own pivot toward healthcare

    There is a major opportunity for both Walgreens and CVS in primary care - especially making it more accessible. It is sensible for both retailers to grow this area of their business. However they need to do this at the same time as investing in retail, which both are largely failing to do. What happens on the shop floor – what it looks and feels like and how easy and compelling it is to shop – also matters and has an impact on how people perceive healthcare services. It is on this front that most drugstore are found wanting.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Is Amazon 4-Star a winner?

    Amazon 4-Star is not revolutionary. However it is solid. The stores are pleasant, the product mix is interesting, service is pretty good, and the concept is very easy to shop. Given so many traditional retailers have become bad at retail basics, it is hardly surprising that Amazon is seeing some success with its physical retail formats.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2021

    Can 24/7 supply chain operations save Christmas?

    Longer hours are part of the solution. However given that the crunch is happening at all points of the supply chain - from overseas manufacturing to shopping to logistics - it is unlikely we can avoid disruption entirely. While investment is very welcome and prudent, we also need to recognize that part of this is down to the exceptional demand for products as we have bounced back from the pandemic. I have heard from many retailers and manufacturers that they are reluctant to invest too much in additional capacity until they understand how permanent this elevated demand is.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2021

    Are brands about to take over the produce department?

    Brands certainly play something of a role in prepared, packaged produce such as salad bags and pre-cut fruit and vegetables. However when it comes to loose produce they play virtually no role at all. Even in prepared the impact is variable. A brand like Love Beets adds flavor (like honey and ginger) to its beets so there is a real point of differentiation. However many standard salad bags and cut fruit are not particularly differentiated so it's very easy to swap from one brand to another.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2021

    Just how casual will wardrobes become?

    There is a distinct trend towards casual, but it's not all about looking totally informal and wearing sweatpants. A lot of ranges are now fusing comfort with elements of style - for example, pants in nice fabrics that look formal but have a sweatpants silhouette and an elasticated waist band. I also disagree with the view that no one wants formal. That isn't true: many people still like it and want to dress up for certain occasions and there have been recent upticks in the sales of dressier apparel.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2021

    Wawa goes big on self checkout tech

    Self checkout divides consumers. Some hate it and others love it. It does create problems, such as theft, but there are ways of minimizing that. However the general trajectory in retail is for more automation so I believe self checkout-style systems will grow over the next few years. In grocery stores, the best systems (aside from Just Walk Out technology, which is expensive and complex) allow customers to scan on their smartphones when putting things in their carts. Not only does this save customers the hassle of having to load and unload groceries at the register, it also gives a retailer intelligence on individuals shoppers - including the order in which they put groceries in their carts, etc.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2021

    What lessons should retailers take from the Theranos fraud debacle?

    Clearly the retailer vetting process did not work, hence the massive scandal that eventually ensued! There are some lessons that come out of this. The first is to not be awed by technology without first understanding how and if it works: there are so many technology solutions being sold to retailers - some of them are absolutely excellent, some of them are not. The second is to cut through the fluff and bluster of the financial community: so many companies are overhyped and overvalued, but those values are supported by little more than warm words. All that said, we must not forget this was an (alleged) act of fraud: retailers were the victims here as they were deceived and duped like so many others. They should have done better due diligence, sure, but those who orchestrated this are the real culprits.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2021

    Will Best Buy’s latest acquisition be a healthy addition for the chain?

    A lot of retailers are trying to diversify from products into services, mainly because there is significant opportunity for growth. This isn't anything new as companies like Sears had their fingers in all sorts of pies many, many years ago. However Best Buy's choice of digital health and wellness is very interesting as this is potentially a huge growth area over the next decade. As technology is paramount to the emerging industry, Best Buy's skills in helping customers use devices will be valuable as they develop this side of their business.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2021

    Stores? Kroger don’t need no stinking stores

    I interviewed the Ocado CEO at a conference a couple of years ago. He told me that Kroger deliberately picked a combination of locations for their first automated warehouses so they could understand the impact in different markets. One of the choices they made was Florida, to see how the model would work in a region where they had no stores. Clearly that has gone well given the push into similar markets. All that said, it would be interesting to do a deep dive on the profitability of such operations. It is worth remembering that Kroger benefits from huge economies of scale from its operations across the U.S. If it were online only across the whole country, the economics would change substantially and for the worse - as Ocado's own model in the UK demonstrates.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2021

    Should retailers set time guarantees for curbside delivery?

    In theory this is great. In practice I have mixed views about it. First, it could create enormous pressure on retailers, especially during busy times. This may not be so much of an issue for Office Depot, but for bigger retailers like Target it may be unrealistic. Second, giving a voucher for not meeting the guaranteed time is great and all, but it doesn't always make up for the frustration. Third, given so many retailers can't even guarantee the things ordered for pickup are actually in stock, this may be a case of learning to run before they can walk.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2021

    Rather than compete, Walmart inks exclusive deal with Netflix

    Walmart gives Netflix a significant sales channel and enormous reach for branded merchandise. Netflix provides Walmart with another point of interest that will drive traffic online, and a lineup for interesting merchandise that should sell well. It's a win-win situation. That said, don't discount Netflix doing much more direct to consumer stuff in the future. As for stores, this could work very well in shops - but Walmart would need to get its act together on merchandising things well for it to be effective.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    Is the internet the great price equalizer or anything but?

    In grocery, online price files are often linked to the price files of individual stores as that's where products are most often picked and then checked-out. In turn, prices in those stores reflect local competition, labor costs and so forth. Given that a consumer in Manhattan isn't likely to change their location to Phoenix for the purposes of price comparison, most of this goes unnoticed. What's more of a problem is when prices online are different from the local store a consumer shops. Although they have become better, Target is a devil for this - the prices online and on their app often don't match the shelf-edge label. They will always refund the difference, but it's a niggle!
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    Lunds & Byerlys gives associates Thanksgiving and Black Friday off

    It always surprises me that grocery stores open on Thanksgiving Day. I get that some consumers are in the habit of buying food for their special meal on the day itself, but surely this could be done in the days before so that associates can have a day off with their families. In the UK, no big grocery store opens on Christmas Day so everyone gets their food shopping done by Christmas Eve. It's really not that hard!
  • Posted on: 10/11/2021

    How should retailers communicate supply chain snafus?

    I don't think consumers want a long thesis from retailers about the whys and wherefores of the supply chain problems. However retailers should be sharing information about availability, including when out-of-stock items are expected to become available. It is also important for retailers to be clear about things like cut-off times for delivery during the holidays. All of this is particularly important online and, ideally, no retailer should be taking orders for out-of-stock items without being clear about delivery timescales and potential delays.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2021

    Should retailers be looking to leverage free return shipping?

    Consumers often expect online returns to be free, especially in apparel. However returns cost retailers a huge amount of money. This should be built into the business model, but anything that can be done to incentivize better behavior - especially in terms of timely returns - is welcome. Like anything in retail, more power lies with those who offer very differentiated products that people want. That's perhaps why DTC firms, which often have unique, compelling items, are less likely to offer free returns - they don't need to as they know consumers can't go elsewhere to get their products and they can build loyalty in other ways.

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