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: 10/21/2020

    Will Lowe’s customers ‘gift’ their homes for the holidays?

    Don't give them ideas, Paula - they'll be offering wool and knitting needles next!
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    COVID-19 Essentials is a startup designed to end with the pandemic

    I think this is best described as a temporary pop-up. I am more than happy to wear a mask while the pandemic is a threat, just as I am comfortable taking any other sensible precautions. However once the pandemic is over and it is safe, my mask is going in the trash! That said, there may be a longer-term demand for masks from people who are immunosuppressed or those who have colds or flu and don't wish to spread their illness around. But the volume of such demand won't be sufficient to sustain this kind of store.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Lowe’s customers ‘gift’ their homes for the holidays?

    Home spending has been elevated over the entirety of this year and I don't see that slowing down much as we get into the holiday season. I think Lowe's is smart to focus on home. Its holiday displays look great and are appealing to those who want to buy decorations and trees. There is an opportunity to offer softer home products beyond improvement, and that includes decor, cookware, and so forth. However, an extensive number of retailers already play across all these categories so while I am sure there is some upside from this I see it as an opportunistic play rather than a big strategic move. It will be interesting to see how Lowe's promotes these ranges to ensure it entices customers while not losing focus on its core categories.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Whole Foods draw more Prime shoppers with one-hour curbside pickup?

    I have no doubt that this service will be popular and used by many consumers. The concern, however, is how stores cope with fulfilling the orders. Many Whole Foods stores are already crammed with workers picking and packing orders. Some stores have makeshift fulfillment centers in lobbies and entrances. This could well make things worse. In the push for digital, Whole Foods must not forget that the customer experience for those making the effort to visit physical shops is very important. Unfortunately, that aspect seems to have been neglected of late.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2020

    Albertsons offers a new refrigerated take on store pickup

    One of the great things about the lockers is that, other than loading them up with the product, there is minimal use of labor when it comes to collection. I guess this also helps with social distancing during the pandemic. The other plus point is that, in theory, the lockers can be installed anywhere so you could have them located in places distant from a supermarket. There is obviously a logistical effort in taking products to the locker location, but that can be less costly than last-mile delivery to homes. This sort of thing has already been trialed in the U.K. In 2014 Waitrose put temperature-controlled collection lockers at railway stations for commuters to collect their groceries on the way home from work. That's probably less relevant now that fewer of us are traveling for work, but there is still some potential for the idea!
  • Posted on: 10/20/2020

    Will Panera’s climate-friendly labels spur sales?

    This is a great initiative that empowers consumers and allows them to make informed decisions. However, in all honesty, I think the majority of consumers will simply ignore the climate information and order based on what kind of food they want, the price, and other factors. But for those that want to make choices based on sustainability, the information is now there to help them do that.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?

    There's nothing wrong with this campaign but, in my personal view, I do not find the negative and attacking tone particularly appealing. There is more than enough of that around right now with the election! I'd rather hear about all the many positive things local bookstores are doing and have to offer - and there are a lot of great things to focus on! To be fair, some of these things are referenced but they get rather drowned out in the "us versus Amazon" narrative. All that said, I applaud bookstores for standing up and fighting their corner, I just wish the tone was slightly different.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Retailers need to prep for in-store COVID conflicts

    Sadly, there are all too many conflicts over mask-wearing and other COVID-19 related requirements that have made this training necessary. Ultimately while I think training is a good thing and will help, it will not de-escalate every situation. Advice such as offering options to provide flexibility will not work in every case. After all, if a retailer or law mandates a mask to be worn the outcome is binary: wear or mask or don't; if you don't, then stay out of the store. Ultimately, the responsibility of front-line retail workers should only go so far. Security and law-enforcement should have to deal with the worst and most aggressive offenders.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2020

    Amazon follows record-setting Prime Day with Holiday Dash Deal events

    This year the promotional calendar has changed. The holiday is starting earlier than ever and spend is going to be more spread out across the fourth quarter. This is both a good and bad thing for retailers. This year, the good is that it will hopefully avoid crushes and crowds in stores and will allow retailers to cope with fulfilling online demand. The bad news is that it is training consumers to expect early and continuous promotions, which isn't particularly great for margins.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Has Rite Aid found the right prescription for growth?

    Rite Aid is performing well right now, especially compared to CVS and, to a certain extent Walgreens. Some of this is down to the investment in stores and a better customer proposition. It is also a function of some good locations, particularly in more rural areas, where Rite Aid can capitalize on being a convenient location for top-up shopping - this has been particularly beneficial during the pandemic. It is worth digging into the numbers a bit because Rite Aid is up against some softer prior year numbers which are flattering retail growth. It also excludes tobacco sales from the headline numbers which, if included, would bring down growth a bit. That said, there is no denying that Rite Aid is moving in the right direction and is showing some creativity and flair that is so often missing from drugstore retail.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Macy’s is turning stores dark for the holidays

    This is a sensible move and one that will help Macy's cope with elevated online demand. However it has to be said that turning stores dark is also a function of the fact that too many of Macy's stores simply do not work. They are not pulling in customers and they are not driving sales and profits. Some of this is down to the pandemic, but a lot of it is down to Macy's atrocious retail standards, its chronic underinvestment in shops, and its inability to put together compelling assortments. After all, if stores did work properly, there would be no reason to turn them completely dark: they could and should operate as combined retail and distribution outlets.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2020

    Is a new store concept the start of something big(ger) for Aldi?

    Aldi is extremely successful and has disrupted the grocery industry across many countries. However it is not always so good at flexing to local needs and it needs to experiment more. This now seems to be happening with attempts at smaller local stores in the U.K. and slightly larger stores in the U.S. Both are customer and market focused. In the U.K., local convenience stores have been a growth point for many mainstream grocers like Tesco, Sainsbury's, and the Co-op. Asda is only just moving into this space and Aldi senses an opportunity too. In the U.S., we have studied Aldi across a lot of markets and there is a divergence of customer opinion. A lot of people love the low prices, but there are significant numbers of Americans who dislike the relative lack of choice and the more sparse produce sections. Larger stores should help remedy this. All that said, Aldi's operating model relies on simplicity and uniformity, it will be interesting to see how they balance that with the need for flexibility and local adaptation.
  • Posted on: 10/14/2020

    Bed Bath & Beyond CEO’s turnaround plan may just work

    I am a firm believer in Mark Tritton and I agree with all of the steps he is taking. They are both logical and customer-centric. Under his leadership, I have no doubt that Bed Bath & Beyond will improve. However this is going to take time. Many stores have not yet changed and still exhibit the old "pile it high" mentality which makes them look cluttered and unappealing. The brand also needs to work harder on its point of differentiation, including private label products. All of this needs to be done against a backdrop of increasing competition and a market that may soften after this year's boom. In short, Bed Bath & Beyond is in the right hands but it still has some convincing to do!
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    eBay to guarantee the authenticity of collectible sneakers

    Sneaker resale is a massive business with both casual purchasers and serious collectors contributing to significant uplifts in sales over the past few years. Platforms like Goat and StockX generate massive traffic volumes and have helped fuel the boom. As such, while eBay's Authenticity Guarantee is sensible, it is a little late to the game and will need to fight hard to win customers from more established vendors.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Will FAO Schwarz make Target a bigger player in toys?

    The toys category is always a holiday battleground because as well as directly generating sales, it also drives footfall and clicks from family shoppers who spend on all sorts of other things. The problem is that price competition is so intense and margins have been thinned substantially. That's why Target's exclusive FAO Schwarz range makes sense. It is point of differentiation and because prices can't be compared to other retailers it provides a degree of margin insulation. It's another smart move from Target which I expect to be a holiday winner this season.

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