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: 05/05/2021

    Are retailers making it too tough for seniors to shop online?

    My grandma is in her 90s and she uses online to do large, bulky grocery shops. We all assumed that this is because she found it tiring and too difficult to go to the store, but she adamantly informed us it's because she has more important social things to do and doesn't have time to go to the supermarket! When she first started shopping online we walked her through how to place an order and helped her set up an account and lists. That initial "tutorial" was important as she wasn't familiar with how to use an iPad, how to swipe and click, and so forth. But now that she knows she is good to go!
  • Posted on: 05/05/2021

    Remote work is rough on big retail districts

    Big cities have had it hard. Migration of residents (temporarily and permanently), a sharp reduction in commuter traffic, and a drop in both residential and domestic tourism have all damaged sales. Districts like Midtown Manhattan suffer disproportionately as there are fewer residents to make up the balance of sales. This is further exacerbated by the fact that retailers in these locations often own big, expensive properties with high overheads. I am sure cities will come back, especially as travel opens back up. Until then retailers have to try and reduce costs, perhaps use stores more to support online (as Whole Foods did in its Bryant Park store in Midtown), and look at how they can appeal to local footfall.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2021

    Will CVS make a breakthrough as it expands in-store mental health services?

    Kudos to CVS for offering these services, which are important and provide real value to consumers. Given the reach of CVS and Walgreens, if rolled out these services would have tremendous reach across all parts of the country and would make mental health services more accessible and, hopefully, reduce the unfair stigma sometimes associated with them. That said, physical environment plays a big role in well being and I do think CVS should look to improve the rather grim nature of its stores. There's a store near us which has a new HealthHUB. The design is nice but it is often full of random boxes and junk and the rest of the store looks so down-at-heel. This does not suggest wellness!
  • Posted on: 05/04/2021

    Kroger takes flight with drone delivery test

    I love the idea of being able to quickly order products for delivery to your current location and I do see some potential in this. However it's pretty niche and given the weight limits and other operational challenges I cannot see drones becoming a big part of Kroger's fulfillment infrastructure any time soon. That doesn't mean they're not right to test and trial these things though.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    Do retailers have to catch up to Amazon’s logistics powerhouse?

    You know what's growing faster than online sales? It's omnichannel - a subsegment of online retail where physical stores are used as part of the purchase or fulfillment journey. Smart retailers are investing in stores as part of that ecosystem - and that includes Amazon which has plans to open up quite a lot of physical outlets. This isn't a battle between stores and online: it's about using all assets to create a seamless, efficient experience for the customer.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    Do retailers have to catch up to Amazon’s logistics powerhouse?

    Amazon’s investment in logistics is a major competitive advantage, especially in terms of the speed and flexibility with which products can be delivered. Given Amazon’s volumes, such investments make sense. Few other retailers could, profitably, invest to such a degree. However a lot of traditional retailers have an advantage Amazon doesn’t: stores. These can be used as points of collection or fulfillment to increase fulfillment capacity and efficiency. That's where a lot of future investment will be directed, along with a ramp up in third-party logistics via companies like Instacart.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2021

    7-Eleven spending $70M to promote the convenience of its new tech

    In many ways, 7-Eleven is a great retailer. However, its U.S. stores are variable - some are great, others are in dire need of an upgrade. As such, it is good to see it focusing on elevating the experience. The new campaign - or at least the ad in this article - looks reasonable, but it's not exactly scintillating nor does it really explain why people should use 7-Eleven or the improvements that are being made. I think placing more emphasis on services like delivery and rewards (which are briefly noted at the end of the ad) or on the upgrades happening, or on what 7-Eleven has to offer would be sensible.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2021

    Should retailers welcome vaccine passports?

    Passports for foreign travel are reasonable and, given the myriad of existing security and identity checks, do not impose too much of an additional burden or imposition. However I am adamantly opposed to government mandated passports for everyday activities such as going to shops or movie theaters. It's potentially discriminatory, an invasion of privacy, and represents a very serious erosion of freedom. President Biden has similar concerns, which is why he has ruled out federal mandated passports. Of course what individual businesses do is entirely up to them, but I don't think there will be much take-up given that it will deter customers and potentially reduce takings. Our priority now should be to roll out the vaccine and get back to normal as quickly as possible - not to use this as an excuse to create some kind of authoritarian, Big-Brother society.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2021

    Will Americans open their garages and homes to Amazon and Walmart?

    The idea of delivery into people's houses is a good one. It overcomes the problem of people having to be home to take delivery of perishable products and of packages being left outside. However the barrier here will be the reluctance to let delivery drivers into homes and, especially, into fridges! I suspect there will be less reluctance with garage delivery if there is no, or locked, access to the main house. Ultimately, this really comes down to personal preference and I suspect opinions will remain very polarized.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2021

    Will retailers be rewarded for giving ex-cons a second chance?

    Once a person has served their time, their debt to society has been paid and they have a right to move on and rebuild their lives. In the U.K., Timpson - a shoe repair/key cutting retailer - has a one of the best ex-offenders programs of any company. Something like 10 percent of their workforce is made up of those who have criminal convictions. They have a full program of risk assessment, provide proper training and support and monitor the progress of colleagues. They also have a foundation that helps train people while they are incarcerated. The benefit is that they get super loyal staff who work incredibly hard. Apparently, the retention rate for ex-offenders is 75 percent.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2021

    Report: Amazon will surpass Walmart as America’s biggest retailer by 2025

    If third-party revenue is included then I am sure that, at some point, Amazon will overtake Walmart. Once again, this raises the question as to whether third-party sales actually belong to Amazon or if Amazon is acting more as a "mall" where lots of brands sell their wares. The consumer makes little to no distinction on this, but from a regulatory and analytical standpoint there is a world of difference between first-party and third-party sales. The wider point here, however, is that by 2025 the retail market in the U.S. will be worth around $5.2 trillion. So there is plenty of room for Amazon, Walmart and a whole stack of other retailers big and small. And a lot of those sales will continue to be made through stores and omnichannel where Walmart, and others, currently have an advantage over Amazon.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Are consumers getting less creeped out about being tracked online?

    For me, one of the creepiest things is when I talk about a brand that I've never looked up online and then I see ads for that brand appearing in my various feeds. Other things, like ads for brands I have used or reviewed online, are less creepy. However they can become annoying which makes me think ill of the brand and I sometimes try to block the ad - which is the opposite of what the advertiser intended!
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Vaccinated Americans like getting retail thank you freebies

    If offering a freebie persuades people to get vaccinated then it's no bad thing. I don't believe that such offers trivialize the significance of the pandemic; honestly, that's just the misery brigade trying to create issues where none exist. As for donuts being unhealthy: yeah, they are if not eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It's the responsibility of the individual to manage their consumption of foods.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Why did Amazon open a hair salon?

    I do not believe Amazon necessarily has a burning desire to build thousands of hair salons all over the U.K. and other countries. However Amazon is a very experimental company and opening a real-world salon to test how various technologies, such as AI, work allows it to learn and refine its offer so that the technology can be used in a variety of situations and even sold and licensed to third parties. The salon will also allow Amazon to learn more about the beauty business from both the consumer and salon/supplier side. These insights can be used to refine its own beauty offer, especially in the business-to-business space which is an enormous market with untapped potential.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2021

    Will stock ownership work as a loyalty program perk?

    It's an interesting concept and I'm sure it will have some takers. However it seems a little involved, with participants having to sign up for an app, then linking bank account information, and then essentially track stocks to understand the value. Getting cash to spend via Target Circle or a dividend from REI based on the amount spent in the prior year are much simpler and more tangible loyalty rewards!

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