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: 06/01/2020

    Retail ensnared in nationwide protests

    As someone looking from the outside America it is wonderful to read the comments of retail leaders. The support for a community that is feeling the pain of many years of suppression is heartwarming. The looting and the protesting are two different things and should not be treated as one group of people. Those protesting are showing their anger at yet another murder on a Black person by a white policeman. Those looting are carrying our criminal acts under the guise of the protest. How do retailers protect their staff and their property during these times? As almost all retail executives have stated they are in sympathy with the Black community and feel their pain, but they are not the target of the protesters. The best thing retailers can do is work with all stakeholders to solve this problem and put right the wrongs that have been committed. That is not a political statement, it is a human one -- man needs to stand up for man and ensure that this does not happen again.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2020

    Are store brands set for a big growth spurt?

    During the early stages of the pandemic when stocks were short and people were panic buying, consumers would have bought anything that was available. They were just happy to have got something. Many of these consumers will have been surprised at how good the private label was and may well continue to purchase it. This will be reinforced in the aftermath of the pandemic when money is tight and people look to save pennies on every purchase. The habit is formed, loyalty to the premium brand broken and future purchasing patterns formed. This only needs to be a relatively small percentage of the population and you see a big growth of private label sales at the cost of the premium brands. Advertising money will be spent to bring back customers but it is very difficult once the purchasing habit is formed and the belief that ”brands are best” is dispelled. Retailers should look at this as an opportunity to push forward their advantage and establish stronger private label sales using promotions to establish that habit. The advantage for them is that they have significantly better control of their private label supply chain, availability, quality and profitability. When the brands chose to support only the very largest retailers at the peak of the panic they may have caused themselves a big problem.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2020

    Should grocers keep paying their associates like heroes?

    During the COVID-19 period, the public has realized the value of the grocery supermarket workers who have for many years been one of the lowest respected groups and whose pay very much reflected this. Grocers need to appreciate that they have very loyal and dedicated workers who can make a real difference to their business. Walmart once again gets it right as they have throughout this tough period. The increase should change from being a hero's bonus to being a standard for the industry. This epidemic is not going away any time soon and retailers need to retain the loyalty of this group, it will pay off and prove a good investment.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2020

    What has made Walmart a shutdown star?

    With 3,100 fulfillment centers, BOPIS collection centers and retail stores, Walmart has a massive advantage over pure play grocery online shopping, they can offer every method of getting product to consumer making it easy, cost effective, timely and efficient. Other retailers with large store networks can also take advantage of their assets in the same way, they have just got caught in the Amazon headlights. When you have an efficient supply chain already in existence and the ability to truly deliver to local consumers quickly and efficiently you must have an advantage. It is significantly quicker to develop and put right your online presence than it is to build a large network of stores. Amazon have tried to replicate it and found it much tougher than they thought. Walmart have shown how you can make it work, other retailers just need to get out of the headlights and make it work too.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is curbside pickup just getting started?

    The pandemic has undoubtedly increased the number of people trialing curbside pick-up but it already had momentum and was destined to become a major part of the retail strategy anyway. What has happened is more people have now tried it and many of them seem to want to continue using it. The reasons are obvious, so what are the potential risks? First is the inability of retailers to maintain good availability at store level -- customers will expect to be able to get what they want when they want it. This is all about convenience and convenience is about not having to try to get what you want many times over when you want it now. Second is the retailer’s ability to handle a growing demand for curbside pick-up -- again convenience is not about queuing in a long line of people waiting to pick up your order. The retailers who get this right will see it grow and become a major part of their strategy. It is after all a lot cheaper to offer free curbside pick-up than free home delivery.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2020

    Will COVID-19 turn us into a society of health nuts?

    If this virus, with its clear the connection to health and fitness and the mortality rate, doesn’t have a positive effect on people looking after their health then nothing will. It has been widely publicized, in the U.K. at least, that people with obesity issues, diabetes and generally poor health are at higher risk than healthy people. There has been a move to healthier eating for some time but this will undoubtedly accelerate that trend. However, there are some anomalies to that at the moment. People are locked away in their homes and are looking for some comfort eating so as the article states pizza and comfort food sales are also lifting. There is some evidence in the U.K. that people are buying more packaged foods at the moment for fear of contamination from unpacked foods. So it is not that clear at the moment that everyone is eating more healthily, but as time progresses and governments analyze the impact of the health of patients who survived and sadly those that did not I am sure it will drive people to think again.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2020

    Kristin’s farm-to-consumer model fills in food supply gaps at a critical time

    During the current COVID-19 virus outbreak, most food retailers have increased home deliveries and BOPIS/Click and collect capacity. However, most have been unable to cope with the massive increase in demand. This has created an opportunity for smaller players who were not the first port of call to be able to pick up business as consumers looked for any form of home delivery. To claim that they are better, have more control of hygiene or able to flex their supply chain more than major players is a stretch that is not necessarily a logical one. Farm direct to consumer is a wonderful ideal, but if volumes suddenly rise greatly they are unlikely to be able to fulfill customer demand any more than major food retailers and producers can. Yes, it is a good marketing opportunity, but take the high road at your risk of falling flat on your face.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2020

    Has COVID-19 made the ‘shop local’ message more real for consumers?

    It is great to see that humanity is pulling together during these difficult times. People are looking at their surroundings and wanting to help each other. Strangely, whilst we are more isolated, people are talking more than ever either online or when they do pass others in the street -- albeit at a distance. The same is true of shopping. People are looking at their local community and wanting to help local retailers. The big world outside is less important -- the focus is much more local. This will help local retailers, or at least the ones that survive, but it will also depend on those local retailers thinking about what they have done to their business during this time and the innovations they’ve started like curbside collections. And they’ll need to stay innovative and adaptable to what is going to be a very different world after Covid-19. If a retailer sits back and expects that people will shop more local, they will lose. There is no given right to get customers from the local community -- you have to earn them and deserve them.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2020

    Best Buy is getting back to business with scheduled appointments

    If Best Buy has developed an app that can accurately check the health of their staff for COVID-19 then their best bet would be to launch it internationally -- they would make much more money that opening stores for appointments. However, this is a good way for retailers of high value items to be able to start to open their stores again. I am sure this can be done safely for staff and customers, and is an easy way to control the whole process. Is it more of a marketing statement than genuinely expecting to do volume sales? Probably. But if it allows people to get what they want again, some of whom are probably distress purchases, then this is a good thing. Well done Best Buy for at least trying to come up with an innovative solution.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2020

    Will the new normal look a lot like the old normal?

    A lot of retailers will be looking very hard at their retail stores and will reduce space where it is not productive. With the pandemic, more people have started shopping online. It has just increased the speed of change and this will put pressure on brick and mortar stores. Any retailer that is over spaced is likely to look at closing stores that are not productive and profitable. They may also look to using those stores for local online fulfillment centers rather than retail stores. It will take people time to have the trust to go back out shopping in densely populated shopping malls, so the impact will last longer than the lockdown and hence reduce the profitability of some stores longer than retailers would like. If the online channel holds up after lockdown ends, there will be a greater need for local fulfillment centers to meet the demand, this may lead to retail locations changing their use. The losers will be the companies that are not adaptable and believe that we will go back to the old norm. At times like this, it is the innovative flexible and adaptable companies that will win.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2020

    Tyson Foods chair says ‘the food supply chain is breaking’

    The best way to increase sales and panic buying is to tell the public that there are going to be shortages! So if meat is going to be in short supply, why say so as this will only make it a self-fulfilling prophesy. However, if you want to increase your sales, it is a very good strategy. In the UK, food sales went up over 7% this year on last in the period to April -- people are not eating more so they are just stockpiling and panic buying. Most food production companies are having to take extra care and measures to ensure safety at this time. It does not mean that there will be shortages. I am not sure that shouting about it is the right approach unless, as I say, they are worried about their sales and want to get them up.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2020

    Can grocers help sit-down restaurants stay afloat with to-go meal programs?

    I am sure this is a great way of helping restaurants survive but it does bring with it a few concerns. Restaurants have to maintain the quality and standards they set in their locations - they can still control the creation of the food but not the cooking so their brand could suffer. For the retailer, there is a huge difference between creating enough product to serve in a restaurant and enough product to sell in a store. Is this going to create disappointment if the stores have something one day and not the next? There is also the question of temperature control through the supply chain. Restaurants are not factories and do not have temperature control distribution because they do not need it. If the control is poor both the quality and safety suffers. Great idea but it will take a lot of managing and planning to make this a workable solution on a larger scale.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2020

    Is now the right time for retailers to actively pursue AI?

    The problem with the way people talk about AI is that they make it sound like a solution - it is not, and retailers should think about what they are trying to achieve not about "AI initiatives." They will then identify where AI may and almost certainly will be able to help them. But as long as we keep referring to AI as if it is a solution, the greater the chance that people will dismiss it because they do not understand or see it.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2020

    Should grocers close their doors to customers for safety’s sake?

    Grocery stores and their workforces are key workers in keeping people alive in the current situation. If people don't eat they starve and die. We need to protect these key workers as much as possible and make the retail store environment as safe as possible. However, to close all food stores would create big issues. What about people without access to the internet to place orders? How would we get enough delivery vehicles and staff to do the work? People have to be responsible about maintaining social distancing and stores need to protect staff at checkouts with screens and masks, etc. There are limits to how much you can protect people. Everything possible should be done to make them safe places to work and for the public but closing stores is not the answer.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2020

    Will old-time retailing skills fix the supply chain mess created by COVID-19?

    I hope all major retailers are using a combination of good merchants with excellent solutions to get the best results. If anyone thinks a black box with no input from a merchant will provide the best results for all items at all stores then they are mistaken. However, to go back to replenishment at category level or manually overriding modern solutions is a step back in time. The problems mentioned were issues in the past but a modern solution can work out what is a spike caused by exceptional circumstances and still provide a better result than a completely manual process. Modern solutions have the ability to analyze this sort of activity, then suggest the right strategy and order volumes. A really smart solution would already have taken the current situation into account as it unfolded, looked at building additional safety stock and understood the good and bad supply channels taking these into account as well. Let’s not head back into the dark ages just because we have nothing better to do.

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