Andrew Blatherwick

Chairman Emeritus, Relex Solutions
Andrew Blatherwick joined leading UK and International retailer Boots in 1977 rising to become Group Product Manager Foods before moving on to frozen foods retailer Iceland where he spent ten years, the last five years as Supply Chain Director. He joined inventory management systems company E3 Corporation as International President in 1995 and drove the business forward so that at the time of its acquisition in 2001 it had more than 500 retail and wholesale customers in 20 different countries. Andrew served as President of JDA International before joining Manchester-based Alphameric Retail as Managing Director where he helped reverse the business’s decline. He’s since brought his business development expertise to CoreProcess International (as Group CEO), Argility (as Executive Director – International Business Development), Manthan Systems (as President of Manthan Systems Europe) and is currently CEO at business consultancy A2B4P. He advises a select stable of companies in a non executive capacity focusing on business development and change management.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2020

    Has BOPIS changed holiday selling?

    All the evidence that shoppers are leaving it for later and BOPIS is becoming the channel of choice puts extra emphasis on getting the inventory right in the stores. If customers are relying on a store to be able to fulfill their order at the last minute before the holiday then the possibility for major failure and customer disappointment is evident. Getting the right inventory to be able to fulfill these last minute orders while not getting left with too much inventory will separate the winners from the losers over the next couple of years.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2020

    Does convenience trump price for today’s consumer?

    It is human nature to say that price is one of the most important factors when shopping. It is also true that price is one of the major factors determining where people shop. However, as stated in the research, most people have pulled out of a transaction if it is inconvenient or time consuming, people want to be able to shop in a pleasant and efficient environment. From the research, it suggests that consumers are willing to pay more for convenience, the sharp rise in BOPIS has proved this as has the increase in store of things like self-checkout. Convenience has become a staple part of a shoppers expectations these days, but new innovative ideas can provide a competitive edge for retailers. However, there are some ideas that run counter to a retailer's DNA. The desire for customers to have BOPIS collection points at the front of the store, meaning that they do not walk through the store with the opportunity to buy more is not something retailers will want to rush into. The beauty of BOPIS from a retailer's point of view is that it links the online shopping experience to the in store experience and creates traffic and a selling opportunity. Stopping this may be one step too far until someone does it and then everyone else has to respond. A bit like next day delivery - the customer did not know they wanted it until some bright spark in marketing came up with the idea!
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Is Walmart’s Alphabot what the future of e-grocery fulfillment will look like?

    One of the biggest problems with automated warehouses is the lack of flexibility they offer the retailer. While they can be scoped for optimum performance, they are often difficult to scale up or down as demand varies beyond certain parameters. It becomes very difficult to work around them to increase volume. However, they do have the advantage of being able to work round the clock if necessary. Robots are undoubtedly coming and they will have a place, particularly in supply chain operations like warehouse picking. The replacement of large numbers of jobs is another matter but will inevitably become an issue if in the future robots take a significant share of the operation in retail.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2020

    Walmart U.S. CEO: Good retail jobs are much more than good pay

    It is amazing that in Italy and the U.S. senior colleagues in restaurants, Maitre d's, are revered and very well respected in their community yet senior team leads in retail outlets are seen as dispensable and of low value. It is not surprising that they move on often and do not treat their positions as long term career roles. I congratulate Mr. Furner on identifying these people as being critical to a good retail operation, delivering higher customer satisfaction and therefore greater customer loyalty. A good Maitre d' is king on the floor watching, directing and ensuring that all customers at the restaurant are happy and enjoying their meal and experience. Retail has to learn from this and replicate the experience consumers receive if they are to survive in today’s multi-channel world.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2020

    Will 2020 be the year of elevated shopping experiences?

    The advent of pop-up shops will certainly provide new innovative retailers and online retailers the opportunity to test their concept on the High Street. However, it is a big step from a one-off pop-up shop to a fully functional group of stores. The management of the supply chain is the biggest single challenge for most retailers whether they be bricks or clicks.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2020

    Better-for-you foods produce healthier results for convenience stores

    It is not surprising that c-stores are continuing to see good sales performance as customers who do more shopping online need smaller top-up shops and pure convenience. The shop at a fuel station is the utmost in convenience as you are there anyway. All food retailers are also seeing higher sales in better-for-you foods as the publicity surrounding weight and health issues grows. In a convenience store, it’s just more noticeable as the range is smaller and space is more valuable. This is the trick for operators - how to accommodate more of this new sector of foods while not losing out on the more traditional areas. It’s so important for convenience stores to understand their customer profiles at a local level and get the right range and display to best fit their shopper. Better-for-you foods is not an all-store trend. Understanding your customers, their purchasing profile and merchandising your store is way more critical for convenience stores than for larger stores where the whole range can be stocked. Technology will be a big enabler in allowing c-stores to maximize the opportunity. NACS and other groups should bring independent or smaller groups of convenience retailers together to take advantage of these solutions and the opportunity which is very hard to afford as a standalone independent.
  • Posted on: 12/23/2019

    Is BOPIS over its growing pains?

    While many retailers have improved greatly, there are still many who have a long way to go in sorting out their inventory tracking and management to be able to offer acceptable BOPIS service. Customers will become disenfranchised very quickly if they do not get good availability whether that is in store, online or BOPIS. It is essential that retailers get this right before they make BOPIS a major part of their go-to-market strategy. The next problem comes when BOPIS is so successful for a retailer that it impacts their operating ability at the store. In the U.K., a major retailer last year had so many BOPIS orders delivered to their stores for collection they struggled to keep their stores operating at peak time. The operation needs to be well planned and thought through, especially at peak trading times like Christmas.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2019

    Will same-day delivery make for a merry Old Navy Christmas?

    This is a change that could push Old Navy further to the edge, the cost of the delivery being taken directly from their margin will be one hit but also they will reduce the number of customers coming to their stores to pick up online orders. What we do not know is how successful their BOPIS development was and how many customers it drove to the store but this must be a risk. Are Old Navy customers crying out for same-day delivery to their homes? Has the research been done to identify that this is their problem? If not then this looks like a shot in the dark which could prove very costly. The fact that Amazon and Walmart offer this does not make it the answer for all retailers, especially as Old Navy does not really compete in this space. If it is a last resort and purely for marketing then someone needs to count the cost at the end of the period. If it works can they afford to continue with it?
  • Posted on: 12/06/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    The pertinent statement here is "there is no right answer and that is what makes retail so exciting." Either of these concepts can work provided they are done well and are relevant to the local market. That does not mean they have to trade only in local products but they must make themselves relevant to the local market by understanding their customers and delivering the products they want. To become a global brand you need to be true to your brand while still making the offering relevant. If you go down the local products route you need to find the statement that creates the brand value. There are no right answers but there are some guides that successful retailers need to follow, with online retailing offering such a wide choice, making a statement and creating a difference at all locations is all important.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Retail apocalypse? How about a disruptor meltdown?

    Having created mayhem and destruction at many traditional retailers, we are now faced with many online retailers collapsing under huge losses. Well, surprise surprise. Many people in retail have said for some time that the business models of many online stores are not sustainable,. Research some time ago showed that only a very small percentage of online retailers were making any money, yet the private equity companies poured huge sums into supporting them allowing them to survive, grow and inflict further damage on the traditional retailers without ever understanding whether it was a sustainable business model. Even well-established traditional retailers have struggled to make any money out of their online business, so why should we expect the many and varied online retailers with little or no retail knowledge would be able to perform a miracle? The topic has been covered many times on this site - online retailers offering shorter deliver windows, free delivery and low prices does not add up and now we are seeing the reality. Does anyone remember the dot-com boom of the early 2000s? Well, here we go again!
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    What will drive food trends for 2020?

    Anyone with children or young adults living at home will tell you that their focus is on sustainability more than consumerism and that saving the planet is at the top of their agenda. The pressure on food retailers and individuals will increasingly be to reduce food wastage at the store and at home, and to reduce food miles by buying more product that is in season locally rather than imported. Certainly the Whole Foods list has some items in sympathy with this direction but some are almost contrary to it. Regenerative agriculture and meat-plant blends are very much in line while out-of-the-box-into-the-fridge snacking much less so. The coming year will surely see yet more protests and international pressure groups forcing the ecology agenda and any retailer that does not give this serious consideration will eventually find people power working against them.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2019

    Will Nike’s new CEO accelerate its consumer-direct digital transformation?

    When does a supplier and business partner become a competitor? If Nike is targeting 30+% of their sales direct to consumer then they are real competitors to the retailers that have grown the brand to what it is today. Will other brands take the opportunity to move into that retail space and truly build a partnership with retailers displacing Nike's distribution and market presence? Very few brands are strong enough to believe that they could take on their own distribution channel as a competitor. However, Nike are one of those. Over the years, they have tried their best to upset their retailer customers by rationing stock, failing to deliver and more. Yet, they are still the brand retailers want to stock. Witness Sports Direct in the UK. But how far can that be pushed? Retailers have to make sure they spend and continue to build the brand loyalty with end customers so the demand remains. Nike might just get away with it but this is a dangerous route for weaker brands to follow.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2019

    Best Buy is ready for Christmas with free next-day deliveries for almost everyone

    The race to the bottom continues. Given that Amazon and Walmart had already announced free next-day delivery, Best Buy had little option but to follow suit. However, does nobody plan for Christmas anymore? Is it a surprise that it is happening on the 25th of December so you need an urgent drop of your holiday shopping? The only good news is that Best Buy is utilizing their store base by encouraging customers to buy online and pick up at store, a much more ecologically friendly way of handling online shopping. It is also the best way to compete with Amazon because they cannot offer the same service. So why follow them down their route and play to their strength? Better to compete with something they do not have. If retailers continue to allow Amazon to dictate the game they will find it very difficult to survive. Be more creative, look at your strengths and capabilities and fight on your own ground -- not theirs.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Should Amazon be charging for ‘curated’ toy guide placements?

    There is a long tradition of retailers charging brands for placements in their catalogs, advertisements, etc. When I was in retail some years ago now, we always charged brands for features and, yes, the better the feature the more you paid. However, I should also add that the sums were considerably smaller then - paying millions of dollars is prohibitive to the smaller players. There is also one very significant difference from what we are seeing now. We would always select the range first and then offer everyone a deal in the promotions. We did not sell to the highest bidder. How can you say you are selective if you simply take money from anyone willing to pay a very high price? That is a danger to the brand - if they sell rubbish because that company is happy to pay, customers will soon show their feelings by shopping elsewhere. So in essence, it is standard practice but it seems as with all things Amazon that they are doing it in a bigger way and one that sails close to the edge of commercial propriety.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

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

    Is this really about brands wanting to sell through differentiated retailers, which is a very good thing if it defines the brand? Or is it about price management? Sports Direct could not be described as a differentiated retailer and sells at very sharp prices. Are the brands more worried about maintaining their pricing? Sports Direct are also not the easiest retailer to deal with, but they are large and powerful and Mike Ashley is not known for lying down and accepting what others say. This could be a fun fight that could potentially have massive ramifications to brands and to retailers.

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