PROFILE

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: www.globaldata.com/
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  • Posted on: 07/01/2022

    Is H-E-B’s e-grocery playbook a primer for taking on Amazon?

    The rank of players depends on the metrics you use. In terms of efficiency, speed, accuracy and so forth, Amazon is certainly up there. When it comes to profitability, range of compelling own-labels, ability to collect from physical stores, and so forth - Amazon likely isn't so good as some of the traditional players, especially ones like H-E-B which has an excellent track record in areas like range innovation and customer service. The bottom line here is that e-commerce in grocery is extremely difficult and profitability is often elusive: Amazon will find it more difficult to win here than it has in other categories.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2022

    Should more retailers aim for their customers’ funny bones?

    I think it is bigger than humor. What customers want from brands and companies is for them to be human. That means speaking to them normally (not using corporate jargon), being honest in transactions and marketing, and occasionally using humor where it is appropriate to do so. The thing is about humor is that it, in many instances, is spontaneous. It comes out of a human-centric culture where people are empowered to be themselves. It's not something you can really engineer or program.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2022

    Should investors be worried after RH lowered its forecast for the second time this month?

    It is worrying from the perspective that RH is clearly seeing further deterioration in the market that warrants a downgrade in its forecasts. However it is not alone in seeing this trend. Moreover, RH has a very unique business model that, over the longer term, will be fine. Plus it has plenty of opportunities for expansion both in the U.S. and overseas.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    Retail workers want the right to defend themselves

    If a customer is acting with physical violence against a member of staff or aggressively shoplifting then that customer completely loses their rights; it is perfectly legitimate for reasonable force to be used against them. The question is who should use that force? The answer in retail is usually that trained security personnel are in the best position to act and restrain the shopper. Other frontline workers would be entitled to use force if they were personally being endangered, but it is not really a desirable solution and runs the risk of escalation and putting them in greater danger. The bottom line is that retailers need to work harder to keep their people safe.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    Will a gas tax holiday drive retail in the right direction?

    This may help a little, but it is really a drop in the ocean compared to the whole basket of inflationary pressures consumers are facing. The fact is inflation is largely a monetary phenomenon and there has been way, way too much money injected into the economy - not just over the pandemic but in the years preceding it. Coming off this high will be incredibly painful and protracted.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    What worked at Target didn’t work for Mark Tritton at Bed Bath & Beyond

    Good turnaround strategies in retail need two ingredients: an understanding of the current customer and a clear view of who the future customer might be and how to win them over. The common ingredient is the customer; it’s always about the customer! Sadly, Bed Bath & Beyond failed on both fronts. When he arrived at the company as CEO, Mark Tritton put in place a strategy that he largely copied from his former employer, Target. He spruced up stores, introduced new brands, and moved Bed Bath & Beyond away from its promotional roots. But he didn’t ask those critical questions about customers - and remember Bed Bath & Beyond's customers are not the same as Target's customers. Fast forward to today and the results are plain. Bed Bath & Beyond has lost its some of its traditional promotional shoppers – the ones who were driven to buy by the coupons the store gave out. But it has not gained many new customers because the new brands and stores are undifferentiated and bland – and nowhere near as good as the competitors from which Bed Bath & Beyond would like to steal share. External conditions are unhelpful, but they are not the root cause of all these problems. Sadly, with losses nearing a third of a billion dollars in just one quarter and with sales down by 25%, the market has completely lost confidence in leadership and Mark Tritton has lost his job. The customer, it seems, is both the king and the kingmaker.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    Can in-store coffee add pep to retail sales?

    I am sure there is some truth in this. However caffeine can't make up for a poor retail offer. And the reason Target does well goes way beyond having Starbucks in the entrance.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    Retailers tell their customers to keep their returns

    There are two issues with returns. One is the cost of processing them which, for online retailers, is often punishing and profit-eroding. The other is accepting more inventory at a time when stock-levels are sky high - something few retailers want. As such, a pragmatic solution is not to require goods to be returned. The issue is that this is potentially open to customer abuse. However retailers can track this and put in place solutions such as offering it to mainly repeat customers who they know are honest, etc. A wider solution, especially in fashion, is to try and reduce return rates by proving better images, more reliable sizing, and perhaps charging for returns to discourage over-buying.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are outsized private label gains in grocery a foregone conclusion?

    Yes, and (in my subjective opinion) a lot of Target's own brand products -- like Good & Gather, Favorite Day -- look and taste better than some of the national big brand alternatives!
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are outsized private label gains in grocery a foregone conclusion?

    Elevated own-brand offers are not new. Many retailers have been offering mid- and top-tier own-labels for quite some time. Indeed, Target and Kroger were developing these long before the current crisis. However inflation has increased the number of people switching brands and this has been advantageous to retailers. This is aided by the fact that some of the big CPG conglomerates are hopeless at innovation which is why they are losing out to both retailer brands and smaller, niche brands.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Kellogg thinks it makes more sense apart than together

    I see this move as financial engineering rather than as a decision to allow the various divisions to perform better. From a strategy perspective, Kellogg already had a degree of separation between its business units, so there is no particular advantage in formally separating them. The truth is that other divisions weren't really starved of investment because of the snacking division: they just weren't as innovative and forward thinking as that division so performance has been somewhat weaker. I am sure investors will make some money out of this in the short term, but I don't see it as a particularly advantageous move in the long term.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are mall shoppers hungry for in-stock data?

    This is a useful tool for shoppers, allowing them to ensure things they want are available before they visit. The main issue here is ensuring that the data are accurate and up-to-date. There is nothing worse than making a special visit on the basis of things being in-stock only to get there and find out they're unavailable. The only other downside is that if things are out of stock, people may elect to go to a destination that isn't a Simon property!
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Is the metaverse opportunity getting any clearer?

    You will be waiting a long time for a call...!
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Will a new rewards program prove Bed Bath & Beyond’s critics wrong?

    With Target, I mean the playbook of developing own brands and and making stores more inspirational, etc. Target's loyalty scheme -- Target Circle -- is free and works extremely well -- way better than this muddled approach from Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Will a new rewards program prove Bed Bath & Beyond’s critics wrong?

    Yes, including in Arizona stores. In the summer. Not a good idea.

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