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: 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.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    Will Best Buy wrap up Black Friday sales with a price match guarantee in October?

    This is a very clever promotion. Best Buy is in complete control but the customer thinks they are getting a great deal. If the price is dropped at other retailers for Black Friday, then all Best Buy has to do is ignore that particular item therefore not having to refund anything. They get more loyalty and sign ups to My Best Buy and also bring forward Black Friday deals to beat the competition with very little risk. However, will this just bring forward Black Friday earlier in the year? If other retailers react then probably so. Best Buy will then have to match the promise on competitors' prices and then there will be a potentially very big cost. Only time will tell but on the face of it this is a clever promotion.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2019

    REI ventures into drop shipping

    For specialty retailers that have limited space in-store, the ability to offer a wider range of product, size and color online is a very attractive proposition. What they need to ensure is that they have rules of engagement and delivery standards that will not detract from their brand value. This is the biggest danger for these retailers as the whole experience will reflect on their brand so it has to be good. The upside is huge with better sales, profit and customer satisfaction with very small impact on their business. Would this be appropriate for all retailers? Probably most but not all and what is critical is making sure that the retailer maintains control and sets the rules and standards. They also need to make sure that they do not get seduced into areas that are not their core business and outside their area of expertise as consumers will quickly distrust retailers who try to become what they are not. The fight against Amazon is strong and well with this sort of initiative from specialty retailers like REI. If they build the brand and the trust correctly they will win. Who would you go to for unique products if the experience is the same - a specialist like REI or a generalist like Amazon?
  • Posted on: 10/07/2019

    Should Amazon rent out its Just Walk Out tech?

    It’s interesting that just as we hear that the Amazon roll out of its Go stores is going slower than expected we now see them considering leasing their technology to other retailers. Is that because they are finding traditional retail hard and would prefer others to do the hard work while they remain a technology business? Do they want to have others finance and debug their technology or is it that they just want to increase the use of AWS that is profitable for them? The article says it all. They are competition to other retailers and they are not trusted as such. Why should any retailer queue up to assume the very high costs of their Just Walk Out technology to provide even higher profits for AWS? There is a reason Amazon have slowed their stores program. Let’s not kid ourselves that they are now doing this out of the goodness of their hearts to help other retailers.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2019

    Can grocery shopping make people less lonely?

    Just because the latest trend is for online shopping we should not expect that all customers want the isolation and speed that comes with that form of retailing. As this article states, many people need to have the social interaction of shopping and self-checkouts. Robots and other ways of reducing that social interaction may work for some but not for all. We have talked many times about retailing being a social activity. If people do not have other forms of social activity in their lives then we must not remove this substitute. Clearly Jumbo in Holland has realized that by offering these social, interactive activities in its store it is firstly offering a public service but also gaining customers and probably very loyal customers too. The whole store does not have to look the same or provide the same service. This is a great initiative and one that should be applauded. Other retailers should consider if they could gain from introducing similar initiatives - It will certainly help fight the online businesses. If automation and robots take more and more of our jobs then isolation is going to become and even bigger problem because large numbers of the population use work as their social activity. Without this they will join this growing group of people needing an outlet to meet and talk to other people. It would be a sweet irony that robots replace people in retail jobs for other people to be employed in retail to talk to those replaced!
  • Posted on: 09/23/2019

    Will free same-day delivery boost Macy’s online sales?

    If Macy's had double digit growth in their ecommerce business for 40 consecutive quarters, what makes it so important to introduce free same day delivery at this point, other than a marketer’s dream? The supply chain cost of achieving this will be high and especially as we approach the peak Christmas trading period. Are they so concerned that they will be wiped out at Christmas, are Macy's customers so transient that they will go to other online retailers? This would seem to be an unnecessary step at this point. We have read on this site recently that customers are not as desperate for same day delivery as the retailers are to push it at them and Macy's must surely be at the far end of this need. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot easily be put back. They are setting themselves up for a long and costly marketing campaign. I wonder if the marketing department is paying for this out of its budget?
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    Many retailers today are reluctant to invest in new technology and sweat their current assets because they are concerned about the threat of online and/or protecting their profitability. The new technologies are still to be proven and most retailers do not like to be on the bleeding edge of technology. Frankly, they need to get their core technology up-to-date before they start to think they can take a run at some of the more advanced future technologies. The larger retailers will always push the boundaries first. They will then either benefit from the advantages gained or write off the costs which smaller retailers can ill afford. Getting the basics right must always be the first priority. If they can’t get their inventory accurate or prices right then to move forward to robotics will only cause more distress and pain, and will not solve their issues. If a retailer is already at peak performance, then it is right to look for the next possible improvement and some of the new technologies undoubtedly will give them a competitive advantage. However, if they do not have the basics right then they should not rush down this route first.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    Is Amazon Go heading for a hard stop?

    RFID has been around for a long time. It was going to be THE game changer in retail technology but has still not become commercially viable and practical even though recent advances in tag reading technology are very effective. The problem is that the number of customer and product movements is very large and fast moving in grocery and related channels. Is it worth the massive investment in development? Would the technology transform customers' satisfaction and change their allegiance to a retail brand or do customers enjoy some form of contact in-store? Self-service checkouts have proved popular in smaller stores and even for smaller baskets in larger stores but have not replaced the checkout. RFID will move this process forward once the cost of tags enables their use in lower price grocery items but where next? I recently used a self-checkout at my local grocery store only to find it still open from the last customer. The retail assistant simply said "oh that's another one who has walked off without paying." I for one am not happy paying more for my groceries because a number, and potentially growing number, decide to walk off without paying.

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