Neil Saunders

Managing Director, GlobalData
Neil is Managing Director of GlobalData’s retail division. In this role he oversees the development of the company’s retail proposition and its research output. He also works with clients to help them understand the retail, shopper and market landscape – advising them on how best to develop, evolve and implement business strategies. Prior to GlobalData, Neil worked at retail research firm Verdict for ten years. He latterly held the post of board director with responsibility for Consulting, Corporate Development and Planning. Before Verdict, Neil worked for the John Lewis Partnership where he was involved, among other things, in the planning and relocation of new stores, the development of the ecommerce business, and the creation of technical and information systems. Before moving to the United States, Neil served as a non-executive board director for the Great Western Railway – a role he held for just under 11 years. He currently serves as an advisory board member for the faculty of business and law at the University of Southampton, as an Honorary Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, and as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Surrey. For more information, visit:
  • Posted on: 01/15/2021

    NRF 2021: Retailers make an appointment with the future

    In some categories where people want advice or enhanced service appointments will certainly be relevant. Apple, for example, has always had an appointment system for its Genius Bar. Tailored apparel or interior design are other examples of where appointments will be relevant. However appointments for normal shopping. No, that's for the birds! The vast majority of retailers operate on a model that relies on passing footfall and free and easy access to stores. That won't change longer term.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2021

    Is Amazon on its way to becoming America’s favorite grocer?

    There can be no doubt that Amazon has been growing, and will continue to grow, market share in groceries. Its online operation is very efficient and easy to use and that is one of the reasons it is so attractive to consumers. On top of all that, this year's acceleration of online in food has acted as a catalyst for Amazon's growth. As for being the favorite grocer, I think that's interesting but it's a bit of a qualitative statistic based on a limited sample. There are lots of grocers (Wegmans, Publix, etc.) which while smaller should probably come much higher on the list.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Will becoming a fintech powerhouse make Walmart an even more formidable retailer?

    From what Walmart has said on this, it seems that their focus is on providing a range of financial products to existing shoppers. There is some potential demand there as their core customers are generally "underbanked." Obviously this will help Walmart strengthen relationships and gather more data and insights. Whether it makes Walmart a powerhouse in the financial services markets remains to be seen, a lot will depend on how much they want to push beyond their traditional customer base.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2021

    Convenience retailers aren’t letting the pandemic get them down

    The vast majority of the categories that convenience stores sell grew strongly in 2020, so from that perspective they were well positioned for growth. On top of that a lot of consumers shopped more locally and closer to home, especially for top-up purchases - a dynamic that benefitted the convenience sector. That said, there is no room for complacency as there are plenty of challenges on the horizon. Price pressures from rivals, the expansion of convenient dollar stores, and the consolidation of shopping trips including the ongoing shift to online are just a few of the issues the convenience sector will have to grapple with in 2021.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2021

    Should your DNA data be used to sell products?

    There are serious and sensible consumer applications for DNA data such as exploring food allergies, helping people with fitness and diet, and so forth. However I see these as medical matters and the use of any data should be subject to medical confidentiality and control. Using DNA for general marketing is a step too far. And it can be inappropriate - for example, offering people discounting based on their Mexican DNA! I mean, seriously! The keys here are strict rules over how DNA data can be used and to give consumers some control within that framework as to how they want to share information.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2021

    Shopify dumps Trump’s stores from its platform

    Every retailer is entitled to determine what is sold in their stores and on their sites. And, equally, each retailer must make a judgment call as to what political causes or campaigns - if any - they wish to be associated with. That can sometimes be an extremely difficult balancing act: but there is a clear line between having different political views and denying democracy and promoting violence.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2021

    Retailers call on Trump to end the national chaos he created

    Retailers and brands should support the truth. That truth is simple. There was an election. Biden won it. Trump lost and, despite his accusations of fraud, no one - including Republican judges and Republican governors - has found any solid evidence to support those claims. As such, there must now be a peaceful transition of power. It doesn't matter what your politics are, who you support, or how you feel about the result, the democratic process must be respected and upheld. The alternative is total chaos, anarchy and dictatorship. That is not the country I wish to live in and it should not be the country any retailer, or other business, wishes to operate in.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2021

    Chewy is barking up the right tree when it comes to customer loyalty

    Chewy spends a lot on customer acquisition, which is one of the reasons it takes a big loss. However the business model relies on retaining existing customers and increasing their spending over time - which is where a strong customer service ethos comes in. By and large this is working as retention rates are pretty solid. Ultimately, Chewy understands that for most owners pets are part of the family - and its initiatives that play into these feelings create a strong sense of loyalty.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2021

    Have retailers solved their long line problems?

    There has been innovation in line management, but the fact remains that for popular retailers there is often a line. No matter what time of day we visit Trader Joe's, there's a line to get in. The same is true of Apple where there is always a line to enter. The interesting thing is that although the friction is increased for these retailers, their popularity and strong offer means that people mind queuing far less because the perceived reward of shopping there is greater. Most of the big box stores like Target and Walmart have sufficient capacity to make lining up a fairly rare occurrence.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Are local retailers ready to flex their omnichannel muscles?

    Omnichannel is critical for all retailers: big and small. Fortunately, there are many platforms and technologies that smaller retailers can deploy to quickly get online and start offering services. Many have done so and have benefitted as a result. There are some challenges in implementing the processes, but most retailers can easily adapt. The bigger challenge is often getting the word out to local people and getting them to use the online store in a habitual way.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2021

    Albertsons ditching in-house drivers to deliver online orders

    Online grocery delivery is expensive and margin eroding, especially as consumers do not bear the full cost of the service. As such, it is not surprising that Albertsons is looking to reduce costs by switching from contracted employees to informal contractors - something that Proposition 22 has facilitated. While there are inevitably some savings, there are risks too in that service standards are harder to maintain and enforce. There is also a reputational risk as some will see this as reducing working conditions and benefits.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    Will Giant Food’s shelf labels with diversity call-outs drive sales?

    It is good to provide the customer with information about brands and products. However most shoppers choose based on factors such as price, taste, quality, and so forth. So, for many, this information will probably be ignored or overlooked.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    J.C. Penney is searching for a new CEO

    Jill Soltau was not the author of J.C. Penney's problems and, in some ways, her customer-centric approach was the right one. However the turnaround was slow and broadly unconvincing. As such, it is not surprising that the new owners decided to make a change at the top. That said, changing the jockey does not suddenly make the horse a thoroughbred. J.C. Penney remains a weak brand operating in a weak segment of the market. Tweaks can be made to make the business more stable and more profitable, but it is going to take a lot of work and skill to give the company long-term vitality.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    Will store closings in 2021 beat last year’s record total?

    2020 was a very disrupted year. However the disruption is not yet over. Some pressures will continue into 2021 and retailers will also use the year to take stock and assess their store portfolios. Inevitably this means more closures of both stores and underperforming malls. The biggest factor driving this dynamic is that there is too much bad retail space in the U.S. which is simply not productive. The pandemic has hastened its demise and, while painful, this probably isn't such a bad thing for the long-term health of the retail sector.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2020

    Will the FAA’s new rules speed commercialization of drones?

    If drones are at a height where they are quiet and unobtrusive then that's fine. However if they are too low and too noisy I can see them being used for target practice by some annoyed homeowners.

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