PROFILE

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.
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  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are outsized private label gains in grocery a foregone conclusion?

    Store brands do well in hard times and the longer those hard times go on the stronger the retailer brands become as people try them and then get into the habit of buying them. There is an age profile difference as older people who have built up a trust with their regular grocery retailer are more likely to try and then stay with their own brands, younger generations who buy more online do not build that trust in the same way. However as the economy bites and they do trade down they are likely to continue buying own label provided that they deliver quality and value. It is the retailers who need to make sure they set the bar high and deliver high quality great value on their own label products as that is the best way they can gain and build loyal customers.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Kroger CEO says customers are ‘rethinking their shopping’ habits

    It is a great opportunity for retailers to build own brand share of sales. I hope more frequent visits results in less wasted foods. Waste is the biggest enemy as it is a waste of precious food, supply chain resources and money.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Ultra-fast delivery may burn out or fade away

    It is not surprising that these companies are finding it hard to keep up the momentum they built during the pandemic, it is also not surprising that some of them will go to the wall as the market matures. There will be a place for this type of service, the good ones will fine tune their operations and improve which will make them more attractive to consumers. Will they be mass market? Probably not, but if they take a few percent of the massive grocery market that can sustain a few big businesses. They are now investing in inventory management and supply chain solutions to improve availability. The ones who do will be better placed than the ones who don't.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2022

    Should analytics drive category planning?

    AI should be helping retailers make better decisions and not just providing greater efficiency through automation. With the need for retailers to use every inch of space productively and really understand what is happening in their stores it is imperative that they use AI based solutions for planning and assortment; it is impossible for humans to manage this amount of data in a productive manner and make the right decisions. What retailers need is to get to the lowest level of detail, not clustering stores but working at the individual store level to get the very best results, then coordinating that merchandise planning activity with the supply chain planning, inventory and delivery scheduling and they can really show great results.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2022

    Are consumers going to take a vacation from buying things?

    It is hardly surprising after three years of being unable to travel and meet other people at concerts, etc., that consumers are really flooding back into vacations, concerts and experiential activities. We must not translate that into the end of retail as we seem to try and predict the doom of retail too often. Millennials do not have the same need to own "stuff" as previous generation but that is largely because when they were growing up they had everything they wanted. They do still spend large amounts online and that will continue. Retail has always been very good at adapting to new trends and levels of activity, moving to more experiential retailing was happening prior to 2019 and it will form part of the future. Just give it time to get past the last few years.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2022

    Has online grocery shopping hit its sales ceiling?

    You would expect that the online share will fall after the last couple of years but overall it is still significantly higher than pre-2019. There will be shoppers who want to shop in-store because they can choose their own short-life and fresh produce, there are also the shoppers that want convenience and will continue online. This becomes a debate for our own purpose. There will be a mix and shoppers will continue to shop online and in-store, let's continue to watch the movement but not make it a preoccupation. There are more critical factors in retail right now.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2022

    Should retailers charge for curbside pickup?

    This is a case of a competitive edge, the operational costs of curbside pick up are not insignificant but the benefits to customers are also valuable. As a marketing tool free curbside pick-up can be useful and certainly as a tool to build basket size by having a minimum is valuable. It's not easy for smaller retailers to compete if free becomes the norm.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2022

    Walmart shifts truck pilots into gear as a start to meeting its zero emissions goal

    It really is going to be a mix of technologies going froward as different uses require different solutions. What is certain is that electric vehicles are not the answer for the whole supply chain, even though so many governments around the world are jumping on the electric bandwagon because it is the easiest option at the moment. JCB, the earth mover and digger company, have done a lot of work on hydrogen power plants for their vehicles and they are looking very encouraging. The comment on cost has more to do with the volume at the moment than a long-term problem, the infrastructure required, speed of refueling and range makes hydrogen a very attractive option long-term. Natural gas has many of the same attributes, but is not as environmentally friendly. Walmart is being smart by keeping options open and testing all three power trains in different situations. The rest of the industry will no doubt learn and benefit from this work.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2022

    Is an urban retail recovery underway?

    While many people are returning to the office in London, it seems that this is not for the full five days a week. There has been a move to three days in, two days working from home or some other split. This does impact local business, especially it seems to be happening that people want to work Tuesday to Thursday in the office and Monday and Friday from home. This is almost the worst situation for the restaurant industry and it creates an imbalance across the week which is difficult to staff and cover. Many small family-run lunch stops have not reopened. The larger chains must be happy about that as it helps their business. Tourism in London is coming back both from UK based and foreign tourists. The Queens Platinum Jubilee certainly helped that trend last weekend.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2022

    Target isn’t wasting any time in cutting the glut from its inventory

    There are conflicting messages here. Target is working hard to reduce inventory, taking the hit on margin, yet at the same time increasing warehouse capacity to enable a more efficient supply chain if supply is disrupted. That suggests that their buyers simply bought the wrong merchandise and now they are having to re-balance to be able to move forward again. If this is the case, they are making a good job of hiding the fact that they got it wrong, unlike Amazon which has simply removed the man in charge.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2022

    What will Dave Clark’s exit mean for Amazon’s retail business?

    Is Amazon changing its spots?! To say that Clark’s ruthless management style is a reason for his departure sounds ludicrous. He has been with them for 27 years, very successful in his previous roles and been a major part of the Amazon success story. Supply chain logistics is after all their business. Does his face not fit the new management team? Possibly. Do they need a fall guy for the latest results? Very likely. Was he ready to move on? The last few years for any online retailer have been tough, but let’s not cry crocodile tears as they were also very, very good for them too. Clark did a great job getting Amazon through this period, as well as anyone if not better than most. The downturn was predicted but just when to turn off the tap was anyone's guess. If he is being blamed for that then take back all the good he did over the previous few years.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2022

    Are off-pricers holding a glass that is half-full or half-empty?

    In the current trading conditions, off-price clothing retailers are in a very different position from discount food and housewares retailers. In food and household goods, people are looking for value and trading down so they are very strong. In fashion and clothing, the spend is more discretionary and hence people with less disposable income will just stop spending and that will offset the benefit of people trading down. If off-price clothing retailers price competitively and look after their customers, they should see some uplift from people looking for more value. But the key is getting the right environment so people trading down are not alienated by what they find in the stores. This is an opportunity and to not see it as such could be a major loss for them longer term. Will full-price stores be discounting heavily? Many of them do not have much bandwidth to do so as margins have tightened and trading has not been good.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2022

    When the going gets tough, consumers shop dollar stores

    Congratulations to Dollar Tree and Dollar General. Yes they are in the right place right now with consumers looking for better value for their dollar but they have also taken the very bold step to move above the $1 price point on every item. Consumers have seen the rate of inflation rise so would not expect everything to remain at $1, but still see the chains as great value places to shop. Dollar Tree and Dollar General therefore gain with the sales and customer increases from other retailers but also have given themselves a lifeline by cracking the $1 price barrier once and for all enabling them to maintain margins. They are very efficient retailers, as all cut price retailers have to be, so they are better placed to absorb some of the cost increases than most but now they have the ability to pass on some of those as well. Great timing for a strategic move like this.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2022

    Amazon tests same-day delivery from malls

    This is more Amazon following and reacting to the market than leading. Several companies already offer this service. Amazon does have the scale to seriously damage the competition, so the smaller delivery-only companies will find it tough to compete if Amazon pushes this out nationally. Target and Walmart are, however, already there so no longer does Amazon have an open market to exploit.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Walmart and Target report higher sales and lower margins

    With inflation as it is, this is not a surprising set of results. Turnover will be higher as inflation will account for much of the 3 percent sales increase and the increased operating costs from fuel, supply chain cost increases will erode profit margins. The product mix just makes the situation worse. The forecast is that the inflation period is likely to be months not years so we may just have to ride this out. What consumers need now is help from retailers in keeping prices in check, not pushing up prices and thus inflation higher still by increasing prices to cover margin erosion. It is at times like this that the most efficient retailers will prosper. Those that have not invested in up-to-date technology will be hit harder and find this to be a very tough period.

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