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: 03/31/2020

    Teleconferencing workers change Walmart’s sales mix

    Lots of interesting trends are emerging. Spend on rental apparel is down sharply, mainly because a lot of consumers use such services for workwear and for going out or big occasions. All of those needs are lessened during the current crisis. I don’t expect these trends to linger much. The idea that everyone will suddenly love working from home and will want to stay in all the time is garbage. We are a sociable nation - we like interacting with others and most of us can’t wait until normality resumes!
  • Posted on: 03/31/2020

    Canceled orders and furloughed employees are part of today’s retail reality

    This is a very sad situation in which many retailers will need to make tough decisions to survive. Most need to preserve cash and that does mean cancelling orders and furloughing staff. That said, retailers should be as generous as they can to their employees - including keeping health plans intact and so forth. Pain is unavoidable in this situation, but humanity and decency are essential.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Is Kroger’s pick-up only store a solution for grocers now and in the future?

    In theory, this is a good idea. However there is no way that an online-only store can serve as many shoppers as a normal store. This also needs to be done on a selective basis; making a store online-only in some areas will inevitably deprive access to groups with no or limited online service or those who are less digitally savvy. Longer-term, I don't see this as a viable solution save for a handful of locations where online ordering is highly developed. Online only shops are way less profitable than traditional shops, or shops where online picking and normal public access are mixed. They are also not able to drive volume like bigger online picking centers. So in essence, they are an imperfect solution.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Crocs, Walmart, Unilever and others have stepped up during the coronavirus outbreak

    This crisis is revealing a great deal about corporate ethics. Fortunately, many retailers have stepped up and gone out of their way to help communities and the country. A minority, however, have not behaved at all well. I hope customers will recognize those differences when this is all over.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Should working in retail warehouses be safer than stores?

    A warehouse environment is more controllable than a store, mainly because you don't have customers coming in and out. That said, there are still dangers and some workers, even with protections, are concerned and afraid. Retailers need to address that, perhaps by making working voluntary and/or rewarding employees better. Ulta has just put up wages by $2 an hour to recognize the efforts of their distribution center workers.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2020

    The coronavirus outbreak has shifted the online competitive landscape

    We track discounting on a regular basis and over the last year there has been an enormous rise in the number of apparel products on promotion with a significant rise in the average depth of discount applied. It's hardly surprising; all retailers are looking to stimulate sales and clear down inventory. They are doing whatever they can to keep their businesses moving and discounting is one of the easiest things to help with this. That said, if everyone is discounting it becomes a blunt weapon. Good retailers will be telling stories, creating engaging content and pushing products in a way that resonates with consumers and their present circumstances. They will also be doing good things that help out during this difficult time. All of this can be hard, but authenticity and genuine connection become increasingly meaningful at this time.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2020

    Can Nike’s coronavirus playbook work for others?

    Nike is a strong brand and it has powerful direct-to-consumer channels. On top of this, China is a very digitally enabled market with a lot of consumers used to shopping on mobile devices. The combination of these two things helped Nike. Here in the U.S., most retailers can learn things from Nike but, sadly, I don't think they have the same brand power or platform advantages.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2020

    Should retail associates be treated like frontline health responders?

    Yes they do. They are putting themselves at risk, their stress and work levels are up because of the crisis, and they are critical in keeping us all supplied with essential goods. Such effort and dedication deserve to be rewarded.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2020

    Joann Stores and Neiman Marcus sew hope for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus

    It is great to see retailers and businesses stepping up. Joann's donation of material to Neiman Marcus is to be applauded. My only concern about having customers make masks in stores and employees serve them is that it does expose people to some risk, even if that risk is minimal. There have also been some reports that the mask making at Joann shops is not well organized and is unpopular with employees, as discussed in the article Georganne shared above.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2020

    How should retailers guide staff through the coronavirus crisis?

    All of the suggestions are sensible and are things that will become much more critical going forward. The one thing that is a shame is distancing between customers and staff. Protections like sneeze guards at registers are vital, but it is a shame that physical distance between customers and staff will become more common. Retailers need to think about how they can deliver personal service while keeping their employees and customers safe.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2020

    Are retailers and landlords destined to head to court over rents?

    All businesses are under immense pressure, and that includes landlords and retailers. As such, everyone should work together to find solutions. Unfortunately, there will be some that show inflexibility and it is here that disputes will emerge. From the perspective of a retailer, it is not unreasonable to expect rent to be reduced when stores are closed and unable to trade. From a landlord's perspective, it is not unreasonable to expect something to be paid. There is a middle ground here, but parties need to work together to find it and both need to make sacrifices. If they don't it becomes legal which adds to costs and sours future relationships.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2020

    Costco is refusing returns on hoarded items

    Costco is right. Hoarding is bad enough, but trying to return unused items and adding to the pressure on retailers like Costco is beyond the pale. If hoarders find themselves with an excess of product, I suggest they give it away to the vulnerable and needy.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2020

    Which retail businesses are ‘essential’ during the coronavirus outbreak?

    As stay at home orders are currently being mandated by state governments, it is really up to state governments to provide guidance. This is not ideal for retailers as it will lead to a patchwork of arrangements across the country, but that is a consequence of a federal system of government. However, guidance does need to be given by someone to avoid silly situations such as GameStop claiming they are essential. To my mind, essential is something that is vital to life. That means food stores (including mass merchants that sell food like Target and Walmart) and drug stores for certain. The scope can perhaps be broadened to include home improvement stores as people may need to do repairs and maintenance, and possibly electrical stores that are seeing elevated demand for work products as people transition to working from home. Craft shops, gaming shops, and others are nice things to have. But at the end of the day we can live without them!
  • Posted on: 03/20/2020

    How can indie restaurants survive the coronavirus?

    It is a very sad fact that not all independent restaurants will survive this. However, many are going down fighting and deserve huge respect for doing so. One potential solution is to try and switch to delivery and focus on marketing to local people with meals designed to be eaten at home. Perhaps offer a subscription or service where people can pay in advance and then get so many meals delivered over a period of time; that will help with cash flow. Of course, that may not be enough: the problem with this crisis is that everyone and everything is affected so aggregate demand and spending power are way down. Good luck to all the independent restaurants and retailers.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2020

    Will GameStop lose more than it wins keeping stores open during the coronavirus outbreak?

    For a retailer like GameStop to stay open and force staff to work at this time is disgraceful. For them to tell staff to break the law and ignore the police is beyond contempt. GameStop's management should be held fully to account for this.

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