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: 02/28/2020

    ‘Be your brand’ and other lessons for succeeding in the phygital world

    I cannot argue with anything written here, but there is one huge message missing -- "get the basics right first." In the last paragraph it states; "It all comes down to retailers and brands understanding customers and fulfilling the reasons for their visits," which sure says that they need to do all the techy stuff written about, but they also need to "fulfill the reason for the visit" which is buying something and being able to get it. Too many conferences are held and white papers are written about all the technologies and processes surrounding retail and e-tail. They often miss the basics of getting their supply chain right and having stock to fulfill the customer demand. Many new retailers fail because of this as it is now so easy to move your business elsewhere. I was in a shop today. They were out of stock of the two items I wanted to buy. They said they could order it for delivery to the store for me to collect tomorrow. Well I could have done that online without making the trip to the store. Retailers who get it wrong are driving customers online and then complaining about it. Get it right, guys.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    What are the biggest barriers to AI adoption for retailers?

    I’m surprised that they are surprised that 64 percent of retail insiders say AI is currently more about hype than reality. This coming from KPMG, who are part of the cause of this, along with their other consulting friends, by hyping AI as the solution to everything. They don’t realize retailers live in the real world not the test tube world of the consultant, who can spend time reading and understanding this stuff but have NO risk whatsoever if it goes wrong because they can walk away from an implementation if it fails. Retailers are realists who live in the real world and have busy jobs to do - they will not take risks at the bleeding edge until it is proven to work.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why are so many organic grocers landing in bankruptcy court?

    It is very hard for small specialty grocery retailers to compete with major players who have efficient supply chains and significantly bigger buying power. Starting out you are different, interesting places to shop and with one or two stores the supply chain can be kept very simple and direct. As the chain develops and grows, the complexity of the business becomes greater, sourcing product has to be more widespread and the ability to maintain quality fresh product and good prices becomes harder. Also, the competition will have taken notice and slightly changed their offering to take you out of the game. Like in any business, starting is relatively easy -- growing and becoming sustainable is much harder especially in the ultra-competitive world of grocery.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Kimberly-Clark solves some mysteries around click-and-collecting

    It is correct that understanding the purchasing point today is significantly more complex than it used to be, but at the same time it is so exciting as there is so much more opportunity to build a brand and sales through the different channels. Brands are waking up to the fact that they have a bigger part to play in this and can help retailers build click and collect, home delivery and shop in store programs. To hear of this activity by Kimberly Clark is really encouraging. They have seen an opportunity and tried to understand what has been happening with a view toward making changes. Working with retailers to get this right is a big win for the trading partners and customer. Yes they have some particularly sensitive product groups but many other brands should take note of this. Some brands have chosen to go directly to the consumer. Kimberly Clark’s is a significantly more powerful approach to safeguarding their brand. Why fight the retailer when you can embrace them and make it work for both?
  • Posted on: 01/30/2020

    Will 2020 be the year of less flash and more substance for in-store tech?

    Technology has always been at its best when it is business driven and not technology for the sake of it. However, with new groundbreaking technology there has to be someone who is brave enough to see if it can deliver a business benefit, otherwise there would never be any customer success stories on which the followers can base their decision. Sometimes fortune does favor the brave, provided there are good sound business reasons for deploying the technology.
  • Posted on: 01/28/2020

    Will online food and beverage sales be even bigger than imagined?

    To really understand the speed of change and trends in the online food and beverage market you need to dig a little deeper into what they are buying. It is undoubtedly correct that the increase in people shopping online and in-store often referred to as omnichannel customers has increased faster and larger than initial expectations. This is largely due to the fast adoption of BOPIS or click and collect, which is becoming a major change force in food retailing, however how much of this is for fresh and short life product compared to long life items and heavy or bulky items that customers use on a regular basis. Look at what is standard versus discretionary spend and that will give a much better view on how far this trend may go. It is interesting that it is Boomers and older profile customers who are shopping this way. No surprise about the locations (as it is always going to be city dwellers who take advantage of the convenience of online) and no surprise about the wealth profile of higher earners (for whom time is money). What will turn off shoppers from online and click and collect is if the quality of the product fails. Hence the importance of short life vs. long life. If retailers get their inventory wrong on short life product and are out of stock then people will switch stores very fast. Similarly, if they are sent product that is not fresh they will do the same. For retailers to get this right is hard but becoming a must-have if they are going to be successful with this emerging market trend.
  • 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.

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