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: 09/30/2022

    Lululemon subscription plan offers fitness where, when and how its customers want it

    Oh, yet another subscription program! When does subscription fatigue set in? That said, I think Lululemon has a better chance than many at making a success of this, mainly because of the loyalty of its customers and because a high percentage of them regularly undertake yoga or other fitness as part of their lifestyles. The in-person element/discount is an essential component as there has been a strong pivot back to classes, gyms and studios.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2022

    Will most Americans spend Black Friday shopping on their phones?

    Despite holiday creep, Black Friday will remain a big day for retail. It's not just about the discounts - important though those are - it's also something for families to do after staying home on Thanksgiving. That point is often missed and should not be underestimated in terms of why people go out to physical shops. That said, consumers have become very savvy at using multiple channels across the whole Thanksgiving and Black Friday period to get the deals they want - especially at a time when inflation is running high and people are laser focused on securing the best price.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2022

    A bag ban is all part of the brand at Wegmans

    The Wegmans we shop at offer paper bags, which are more than adequate. The only issue is that if you intend to carry them, rather than take them in your cart to the car, you need to double bag as the handles quickly break. This is also a big issue at Whole Foods. So while it is good to see plastic eliminated, it would also be good to make bags that actually work properly!
  • Posted on: 09/28/2022

    Will Gently become the Kayak of secondhand apparel?

    Given the proliferation of secondhand and resale sites, having an aggregator makes searching a lot easier. Plus Gently has some good features, like daily alerts for new products. The only downside is that Gently does not search every site so there are some, such as retailers' own secondhand selections - a growing part of the market, which are missed.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2022

    Walmart enters the metaverse on Roblox

    Walmart has the right approach. Most customers want to be entertained and engaged by the metaverse, which is where Walmart is pitching its tent with these new ventures. Trying to partner with younger consumers is smart as this is the cohort where Walmart currently under-indexes and needs to do more to convert people into shoppers. Only time will tell what the impact of this activity yields, but it is a sensible experiment and has some solid thinking behind it.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2022

    Is Ralph Lauren positioned to accelerate its growth?

    Ralph Lauren is in a better position than it was five years ago. There is more discipline around the brand, although from our consumer data there is still some confusion about what Ralph Lauren stands for and where it is positioned in the market. Most of this arises from the fact that Ralph Lauren still has too much exposure to certain department stores which do not take care with the merchandising and display of its products. It needs to pull back on this, but to do so it needs to open more stores as RL has far too few of its own stores compared to other luxury brands. There are plans to do this, which are welcome and should help with the next phase of growth.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2022

    Is the customer really the most important thing in retail?

    The customer is critical and should be considered in all decisions. Unfortunately, for some retailers "customer first" is a meaningless platitude that is rarely acted upon. Of course, the customer is not the only consideration as there are many other stakeholders - investors, staff, communities, etc. - that need to be considered and have their needs balanced into decision making. I'd also say that properly understanding the customer is vital. How good a grip do retailers really have on who their customers are and what they actually want?
  • Posted on: 09/27/2022

    Amazon is not letting Walmart and Target get a head start on Christmas

    While I don't think the holidays will be a disaster, there is no doubt sales will be more subdued than last year - especially in volume terms, and particularly for online. So retailers need to pull out all the stops to get people shopping and many want to start that process early to secure a slice of the action. As we've seen from Amazon's recent results, product sales growth is flat to slightly negative and they will want to turn that around in the final quarters.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2022

    Can Instacart marry in-store and online grocery shopping experiences?

    From Instacart's perspective this is all about creating a technology stack so that it can be seen as more of a service provider for retailers which, in turn, will help its eventual IPO valuation. For many retailers - especially smaller and medium ones which will not want to build out technology themselves - the functions it offers will be useful, some more so than others. I think smart carts are an over-engineered, costly solution that don't add enough value for many retailers to implement. Scan and shop is interesting, so long as it has built-in protections against shrink which has become a real issue. Overall, however, it won't do any harm for Instacart to branch out in this way.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2022

    Is ‘productivity paranoia’ from remote working solvable?

    Companies need to measure outcomes and not inputs. That means setting clear goals and objectives which are measurable and then monitoring and discussing them with employees regularly. Companies being paranoid about working from home suggests that they're not managing people properly and/or there is a lack of clarity and trust in the organization.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    FTC commissioner says it’s time to enforce the Robinson-Patman Act

    One of the rare occasions I disagree with you, Paula. Most things the FTC touches end in failure because they don't understand the market and their judgment is inferior to the collective judgment of the actors, including consumers. Like that time it made Dollar Tree divest 330 stores when it acquired Family Dollar on the grounds of competition: Dollar Express was born and it soon went bankrupt because it was too small to compete. Or the time it forced Albertsons to sell Safeway stores to Haggen which then went belly up because of the debt it acquired during the purchase. Quite frankly, the FTC is a menace which often makes things worse, not better. So it is with this latest intervention.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    Is an influencer a legit career?

    A self-sustaining career as an influencer is only an option for a handful. For everyone else it is a hobby or a side-hustle. Schools should absolutely not offer social influencer training - which is a gross waste of taxpayer money. However they should provide business related education including marketing, finances, brand building, entrepreneurship, etc. which is useful for aspiring influencers and people who want to take other career paths.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    Did Target just move Black Friday up to October 7?

    Consumers are planning to start shopping earlier this year to spread out the cost of the holidays. Retailers are responding to this and to the fact that they are keen to get an early bite of spending in a market that may be more subdued. Of course, once one retailer starts the bandwagon, everyone else jumps on for the ride. This includes Amazon, which will likely run some kind of deal day in late October. Target is in a reasonable position with regard to sales this holiday, but profit is another matter: there is still a lot of inventory to clear down and they have to keep a lid on prices if they want to keep consumers impulse buying. Margins will be crimped.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    FTC commissioner says it’s time to enforce the Robinson-Patman Act

    The FTC does not seem to have a clue about the principle of economies of scale - which is why a much larger customer can secure a better deal than a much smaller one. There is nothing suspicious or strange about this, it is a common business practice based in logic and hard-nosed financials. Indeed, it is thanks to economies of scale that big chains like Aldi and Walmart and Dollar General can offer low prices which is extremely beneficial to many hard-pressed consumers. In short, the FTC should not meddle in markets that are working just fine in order to make them work in a way they subjectively believe to be "fairer."
  • Posted on: 09/22/2022

    Should CPG brands cast their DTC businesses in a supporting role to stores?

    They launched Heinz to Home in the UK late in the pandemic. It worked incredibly well. Sensibly, the focus wasn't on buying individual items like a bottle of ketchup; it was on people wanting to stock up on multiple cans of soup or store cupboard essentials. That shows the importance of thinking about the specific purpose of DTC for big, common CPG brands rather than seeing it as a channel that competes with retail.

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