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EPISODE 105 : 03/16/2023

Neil Saunders

Neil Saunders is Managing Director at GlobalData Retail, a retail research agency and consulting firm. Neil and his team work with many of the world’s leading retailers to help Them maximize success through developing a thorough understanding of the sector and its likely future performance. As a retail analyst, Neil studies many aspects of the industry, including consumer behavior, brand preferences, channel dynamics, competitive strategies, and market forecasts. Neil is a contributor and speaker known for sharing retail analysis that is understandable, relevant, actionable, and exciting. Yes, analytics can be exciting!

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Neil Saunders

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Detailed small business insights from Olympia, Washington
  • Small business resiliency and adaptation during COVID
  • Doubling community outreach during the pandemic
  • Opportunities for small business loyalty programs

Watch Spark Loyalty’s Small Business Success Channel

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:00] Welcome to Spark Plug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology brought to you by SnowShoe, your smarter loyalty leader Spark Plug. It is happy to welcome Neil Saunders to the podcast today. Neil is the managing director at GlobalData Retail, a retail research agency and consulting firm. Neil and his team work with many of the world’s leading retailers to help them maximize success and develop a thorough understanding of likely performance for retail stores in the future. So as a retail analyst, Neil studies all aspects of the industry, including consumer behavior, brand preferences, channel dynamics, competitive strategies and much more. We’re really excited to have his extremely relevant retail expertise here on the podcast today. So welcome. 

Neil Saunders [00:00:46] Neil. Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Ashley Coates [00:00:48] So glad to have you here, Neil. And I’m just going to kick off with I know that you tend to say that analytics can be exciting, data is exciting, and I know that that’s often the approach that you take when you’re giving speeches and other things like that. So can you tell us when did you first become interested in data analysis and what excites you about this field? 

Neil Saunders [00:01:07] Well, I think in terms of when I first became excited, it’s rather a long time ago. It’s probably when I was about ten, I was given this sort of geography book. It was like an atlas, but it was an atlas that had maps and lots of statistics in it as well. Things like the coproduction of certain countries and ranking those kind of metrics. And I was just absolutely fascinated by all of the data and all of the things you could find out about different places and different industries. I think that just really stuck with me. And so when I went to college, I did a degree in geography and it had elements of economics and other sort of statistical and mathematical modules in it. And I just very much liked to look at data, but not just for the sake of looking at data, for the sake of trying to discern trends and patterns and link them to human behavior. So it’s almost like the data tell a story in a way. In the story they tell us about what human beings are doing. And of course that’s extremely applicable to retail because retail is a very human centered, very customer centered business. And I think that’s really stuck with me ever since. I still, in a very nerdy way, get excited about data. I think it’s very, very interesting when we get to new datasets. It’s always great to sort of really dive in and make sense of it all. 

Ned Hayes [00:02:26] Well, I’ve rarely heard people say that they really are excited about diving into data, but I’d love to know what kind of data really excites you. What kind of data are you looking at in any given day? 

Neil Saunders [00:02:37] We, as the name of our company, suggest global data and we do have a lot of data inputs then. So some of the data that we look at on a daily basis, we have data from our consumer panel which looks at what people have purchased, why they’ve purchased, where they purchased it, enormous sets of data around the consumer. We get a lot of data from retailers, sales data, receipt data till all data. So we’re looking at all of those sorts of things. Then of course, on top of all of that, we have constant streams of macroeconomic data coming in and there’s always something coming out from an economic level, whether it be very high level things like GDP or more granular things like consumer expenditure and inflation. And then of course we have loads of other sort of inputs from things like footfall data to other particular retail metrics like sales data that come in from different retailers. And I suppose in a way our job or part of our job is to put all of those things together to find out really what’s going on in the retail world. And you have to look at all the different angles and complexities to try and really discern what’s happening on the ground. 

Ashley Coates [00:03:48] Yeah, well, and we’re really looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on what you’re seeing right now with the data. But I’m curious, what kinds of tools do you use to actually manipulate and analyze the data each day? 

Neil Saunders [00:04:01] So obviously, I’d say that the tool we use the most, or at least I use the most, is probably trust the old Excel. It’s where I do a lot of calculations and well, trend out and charts up a lot of things. And it is a very, very powerful tool and I think we make pretty full use of it with all the very complex formulas and we use the VBA Visual Basic on the back end to do certain tasks. But then of course if you have really big sort of datasets, the Excel isn’t quite so good by analyzing and crunching them. So there we’ll turn to other tools like SPSS Tableau to visualize things. We’ll use some specific tools within consumer research data to segment and to look at those. And we also built a lot of our own tools as well. We actually have a data science team and they sort of do a lot of coding in Python and other languages to build out sort of tools that can manipulate data and do forecasting and all sorts of other. So we have a lot of tools at our disposal. But I think when I’ve done all the data sifting and crunching it at a deep level, it’s always back to excel, to try and make sense and to do the sort of end part of the modeling process. 

Ned Hayes [00:05:14] Yeah, trust the old Excel is the way to go, right? 

Neil Saunders [00:05:17] I think so. I mean, it does it does the job very, very well. And as I say, you know, you can do it. Use it for really simple things. You know, one sell out, two to another. So when you start using the visual basic, the back end, it becomes really powerful. And, you know, we built a lot of dashboards for our clients in Excel because it’s also something that more or less everyone has in business if we do something. And so we do something in Tableau, not everyone has access to those trends, whereas all of our clients have Excel. So if we build a dashboard, most people can use that then can get the value for value out of the data. 

Ned Hayes [00:05:53] Right. So during the pandemic, we saw a number of retailers kind of shift their approach to technology. Instead of really emphasizing front of House, they began to really look at the back end, to look at how they could use technology to improve. So I’m curious if you’ve seen a sea change in how retailers are using data to inform decision. 

Neil Saunders [00:06:13] I think we are seeing a change and I think the change is for the better. I think retailers have focused more on using data, whereas previously they were very focused on gathering data. I think some retailers do still have a problem in gathering data, but a lot of retailers, the problem actually has shifted and they almost have like too much data. And it becomes a question of, well, what do you do with it? How do you make sense of it? How do you create actionable insights out of that data? So I think a lot of retailers now are using data and data analytics to really get a better handle on what’s happening in their business. And I think the pandemic did, as you say, bring that home to them, because suddenly what happened is we went from retailers always changing, but we went from a relatively steady state with understandable change to this period where it was completely unprecedented. No one knew what was going on or what came next. And so retailers started to lean more heavily and said, well, we need to look at our data to make sense of what’s going on, what’s happening on the ground and how we need to respond to it. And I think that’s something that stuck with a lot of retailers as we’ve moved into sort of post-pandemic periods. They are much more attuned to using the data they have to make decisions. And I think an important reason for that is although we’ve kind of emerged from the pandemic, we’re still in a period of quite unprecedented change. There’s a lot of change flailing about and no one quite knows what’s happening and what comes next. So again, it means that reliance on the data sector to try and make sense of things is much, much more important than it was maybe in 2019. 

Ashley Coates [00:07:54] Yeah, well, and maybe to illustrate the power of using data, can you share a success story of how one of your clients has used data effectively to inform how they remember their business? 

Neil Saunders [00:08:09] Sure. I mean, I think there are lots of very good examples. I mean, some of the ones that I would pull out as being success stories. One of them is certainly targets. I think Target has really shifted the whole business to focus much more on data and analytics. And of course they have a very powerful engine for gathering that through that loyalty skiing target circle, which has been extremely successful. And it really allows them to understand their customers in a lot more depth than they could do maybe five or so years ago. And importantly, it allows them to join up customers across different channels. So if someone has the Target Circle app, they can generally understand how people are shopping online and then they can also understand how that person is shopping in-store and they can go down to very granular levels in terms of what’s being bought, where they shop. When they shop, they’ve got a lot of really great data. And what’s powerful for me is not just the gathering of that data and the discipline that Target’s puts around that data, but it’s also using it really effectively to develop products. And Target has been extremely successful in developing new products, and I think almost all of the new products that they develop are informed on some level by this great data that they have. So if you look in food, for example, where they’ve launched a lot of new lines like Good Gasser or Favorite Day, which is like a treat brand for things like cakes and pastries and sweet treats, they’ve gone back to the data to help inform what they need to do with something like Favorite Day, For example. One of the triggers for that was saying, well, we probably on the index and the number of people buying treat based products from us and we in the index, most in the younger generations who are actually buying quite a lot of these treats for consumption at home. So that’s a first sort of insight. And then you build insights around, well, what do those people like, What are their habits like? And that’s helped inform the design of the products, the products themselves, the packaging, even the name favorite day. I think it’s been informed by an input from data analytics and favorite has been phenomenally successful at the target. It was one of the fastest growing new brands in the grocery segment when it was launched and it really has helped them to capture a much bigger share of the younger generation and of the treating spend that all consumers make. And I think they could have probably done a good job without the data analytics. But the data analytics have allowed them to do a fantastic job. 

Ashley Coates [00:10:43] Yeah, that’s a great example. Well, I’m curious, I wonder if we could widen the lens a little bit and talk about the state of retail right now. We’d love to hear your perspective on that. From a data standpoint, what is the current state of retail and how do you see it evolving. 

Neil Saunders [00:11:01] Is a big question is and this probably the question that a lot of people are asking, because the key thing I’d say is there’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment. And I think we all see that you’ll read an article one day and say, oh, retail is going to recession, everything’s terrible. You’ll read another article, a look at a static retailer results, and suddenly it’s all everything’s actually okay. And I think everything is a bit schizophrenic in retail at the moment. And we kind of switch between, oh gosh, it’s terrible. And oh, it’s actually not that bad. And sometimes, oh, actually it’s quite good. So I think that state of flux is something that characterizes retail at the moment. The thing I would say in terms of how retail actually is, is when you look at the data underneath some of these headlines, retail is in a reasonable place. It actually was very, very successful during the pandemic. We had enormously good growth during the pandemic period. If you look at 2021, retail growth was in mid sort of a low double digits. It’s like 14% growth. If you look at last year, retail was growing quite strongly, growing well above the long run average. So we’re now coming into a period, I think, of resetting. I think retail growth this year will come down. It will probably be about 3.3% in value terms. So it’s not bad. That’s probably near the long run average. But of course a lot of that is driven by inflation. So underlying volume is much more negative. And I think that’s sometimes why you get this kind of switching between everything’s great and everything’s not so good. It’s because actually the headline number is very driven by inflation, which is unusual compared to recent periods, whereas the underlying volume numbers are a lot weaker. So what you’re tending to find is that a lot of retailers sales lines look okay, but often the bottom lines are much more pressured because the volumes down and retailers have got a lot of cost pressures that they’re having to deal with as well. So in a very sort of strange position at the moment, but I think all the data at the moment is suggesting that whilst retail is certainly coming down to a more normalized level of growth, it’s a relatively soft landing. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be an enormous consumer crash. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a major recession, at least on the consumer consumer front. So I think that’s very good news for retail. But of course, as we said, underneath that, there’s a lot of churn and change in the way shoppers are behaving, the way retailers are having to do business, the channels they’re having to use, how they’re managing the costs of that products. So, you know, along on the top, it’s like a sort of reasonably graceful swan sort of gliding along with some reasonable growth. But underneath that, I think retailers are sort of padding pedaling furiously to get things right for this sort of next phase, this post-pandemic phase that they’re moving into. So it’s quite a complex picture, I think. 

Ned Hayes [00:13:51] Right. It does sound complex. Well, so long with retail changing and complexity entering the picture there, what have you seen in terms of consumer behavior? What have been some of your findings in terms of how consumers are acting? Because, of course, that that plays out in terms of retail performance. 

Neil Saunders [00:14:09] Indeed, it does. And consumers drive a lot of the change. And I say the biggest change that we saw last year and we’re still seeing play out as consumers move from position of being pretty profligate in 2021 to being much more considered. And the reason they were profligate in 2021 is because we had an enormous amount of stimulus injected into the economy. People were quite pleased that the core of the pandemic in 2020 was over. So they felt that they should indulge and treat themselves, and they still want spending on things like services, dining out, travel, entertainment as much as they usually did. So it was a bit of diversion of that spend into retail. So 2021 was just this boom year and people just went out and bought things. They treated themselves, they indulged 2022 that really changed and the consumer became a lot more considered. Inflation started to tick up. We didn’t have all the stimulus injected into the economy and people said, Hey, you know what? I need to think much more carefully about what I’m buying. I need to think much more carefully about my budget. I need to think much more carefully about how I’m spending and where I’m spending. So there was a big sea change, I think, in terms of how people were were behaving. And underneath that, we saw lots of shifts in behavior. So, for example, more people were searching for bargains and deals than they did before. More people were shopping around. They use more stores than they did before to find the right products at the right price. People were trading down in certain categories and at the same time they were trading up in other categories. So it’s almost that they’re trying to balance their budgets by cutting in one place and then being able to spend more in another place. And they were spending a lot more time just doing research, especially on big ticket items that they were buying. So there’s been a lot of shifts in customer behavior, but I think many of them just linked back to that kind of macro trend of being much more considered and in some cases being much more careful about consumption. And of course, if you think about it, that has a very, very strong impact on retail, because if you’re spending like crazy, it’s a rising tide in a way, and it’s all retail. About as soon as you become more considered, you start to see a much more polarized performance in retail because people will say, well, where shall I go to get the best value for money? And if you’re not the retailer giving the best value for money, potentially you can lose out on that spend. I think that’s very much where we are now. We’re in that polarization where some retailers seemingly are doing quite well, but others we’re starting to see them fall back a bit in terms of performance. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:52] Right. So things are always changing there. I’m curious what trends you think will stick around and what trends will go back to old behaviors kind of post-pandemic? 

Neil Saunders [00:17:02] Well, I think the trend of consideration, the one I’ve just mentioned in all this kind of little micro trends that sit under that, I think that’s here for the time being. I think that we will see a reversion as the kind of economic headlines become more positive and people feel a bit better off and inflation drops back. But what’s interesting there is things don’t always go completely back to normal. One of the really interesting things that we’ve seen over the past year or so is the very big upswing in the number of consumers using value players, especially in food. We’ve seen enormous growth from places like Aldi and the dollar stores. We also see in non-food categories the results from TJX and other off price players have been quite strong, for example, because people are trading down and now when the economy picks up, you do get people reverting back and sort of migrating away from these stores to a certain extent. But what we saw in the last downturn is that not everyone goes back. People sort of keep those behaviors. So they’ll say, well, you know, I can get some really good value from Aldi or from the. I’m going to keep shopping for certain things. So the gains that the value players make often stick around even when the economy becomes better. So I think we’re going to see that more elevated share of value in terms of retail market share that will kind of continue going forward. And that’s going to put more pressure on the middle market players. So that’s something that’s going to stick around to some extent. And then, of course, we have the whole thing about channels and what channels people are using. And we saw a very big spike in online during the pandemic, understandably, because for some periods, non-essential stores were closed. Also, people didn’t want to go out as much for health reasons. We’re currently seeing that drop back a bit and people have become much more favorable about stores. And I think that will continue. But I think online will start to resume and have more sort of healthy growth maybe as we get out of 2023 into 2024. So we’ll start to see those channel patterns resume. But when you actually look underneath that from the consumer’s point of view, one thing that’s remained quite consistent, I think, through the pandemic before the pandemic and now is that consumers really blend the channels they use. They don’t really see channels. We speak in channels in terms of analysts and retailers, because it’s interesting for us to see and attribute sales. But the consumer really just blends those channels and they use them seamlessly. You know, research online before you go to a store, maybe looking and starting, coming back home and buying online, maybe buying online or picking up in-store, that channel fusion is becoming much more complicated and much more integrated. And that’s something retailers are having to respond to. 

Ned Hayes [00:19:49] Right. We’ve definitely seen that with our retail customer base that someone will, for example, see a product online, go to the store, not be helped by a clerk, buy the product on mobile, and then expect to pick it up physically in the store while they’re there. And so that whole confusion of being at your computer, being on your mobile phone, being physically in the store, it should be ideally one seamless retail experience, but it’s harder than it looks to pull it off, doesn’t it? 

Neil Saunders [00:20:15] Well, it is a very hard point, right? I mean, it’s it should be seamless and easy for the consumer. But of course, behind the scenes, there are an enormous number of considerations and just one that’s very simple to talk about, but very difficult to get right is having a single view of stock, because if you think about it, if someone is coming into a store to buy something and it’s a pick up from a store and you’re ordering it online, you need to know that the store has stock of that product and that product can be picked and put aside for the consumer because the worst thing in the world is to allow the consumer to buy it, say yes, ready in an hour to come and pick it up. And then they get to the store and it’s not bad for them. Or you then send them an email saying, Yes, sorry, we have to cancel this order because we didn’t have stock. That’s really frustrating for the customer. But to join those things up, it requires the retailer to have a very good grasp on stock levels, to have a real time inventory system, because if there’s only one item in the store and someone buys it, you need to know that it’s gone and you can’t operate online in that particular store anymore for immediate pick up. And you also need to have degrees of sensitivity built in because, you know, if you have a laptop, for example, and you only have one of them and someone picks it up off the shelf and puts it in that car to buy, that hasn’t yet bought it. And at the same time someone’s going online to buy it or potentially the stock has gone. You can’t monitor that because it hasn’t gone through your health system. So you need to have these kind of tolerances built and based on stocks and levels and inventory turn and it becomes very, very complicated to build those things in. So yeah, really simple to talk about. But as you say, it’s extremely complicated to execute because stock and single view of stock is only one of the many variables you need to get right? 

Ashley Coates [00:22:02] Yeah, absolutely. Well, another topic we’d love to chat with you about is the Metaverse and Global Data. Retail actually posted an article at the end of 2022 about how retailers are responding to the metaverse. So curious if you can talk a little bit about the trend of virtual shops and virtual apparel in relation to the metaverse and what you see for the future of retail with respect to the metaverse? 

Neil Saunders [00:22:27] Yeah, sure. Well, I think I’m very split on the metaverse in a way, because one side of me thinks it’s very interesting and I think that it does have some really significant and relevant applications. I’m certainly really excited to see how it develops. The other side of me looks at the kind of human side and the social side of retail and also looks at some of the hype surrounding the metaverse and really strongly disagrees with some of the forecasts that come out. So I think when you put those two things together, my view is probably much of a very middle ground view. So I think the metaverse is going to become more significant, I think. Is certainly going to have an impact on shopping, and I think it has an impact on shopping in two ways. I think that there are the digital products like the digital apparel that an avatar, your avatar in the metaverse might wear. That’s certainly going to become a more significant area, but it’s going to be relatively small. It’s never going to eclipse the amount of digital apparel. Both is never going to eclipse the amount of physical apparel just because physical apparel is needed for many, many reasons. Digital apparel is very much a luxury. It’s a very discretionary purchase. And, you know, there will be a lot of people who just won’t even engage in that sort of thing. So I think there’s definitely something that with the digital side of products, but it’s going to be a relatively small part of the metaverse. A bigger way in which it impacts shopping, I think is the shopping experience. So it’s taking the existing online experience and it’s making it into something much more immersive, much more engaging and much more interesting. I think for of like apparel, that can be significant because whilst the online experience is okay at the moment, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. In most cases it is very one dimensional. You know, you see a product, maybe a video of it, maybe you look at sizing of it. I think in the metaverse, if you have sort of virtual reality, you can probably see yourself with the product. You can look at it in 3D, see how it fits your body type. Maybe you can actually look in 3D at people, other people at models or avatars wearing these products. At the moment it’s all a bit rudimentary and it’s a bit, you know, sort of poor in terms of how it’s visualized, But give it time that will become much better. And so I think you can really add a richness to the shopping experience for physical products that you’re going to buy. You going to order them online and pick them up and still them delivered to home. I think there’s a real significance there that the metaverse can bring. We’re not quite there with it yet, but the technology is starting to move in that direction. I think it’s going to be really helpful. That said, I think you have to be very careful because I think when it comes to something like apparel, you can see a really good and interesting application there because how something fits looks is very important when it comes to food shopping. You know, people say, Oh, you walk down a virtual grocery, I’ll put things in a virtual cart. My question is why? Why would anyone actually want to do that? Because it’s not not significantly better. In fact, it’s probably significantly worse and less convenient than the existing quite static shopping experience that we have at the moment, because you can actually shop quite quickly online for grocery by searching things, looking at the, you know, one dimensional pages, looking at lists and things like that. There’s really no reason to replicate a grocer in the online space. It just has no real application for consumers. So I think you have to be very careful about how you apply this technology and not just say, Oh, everything is going to become a facsimile of what exists in a real physical store, but we’re going to do it in a metaverse setting. I think that is really very, very simplistic of view, and I don’t think it really thinks about what is adding value to the consumer. 

Ned Hayes [00:26:30] Right. So just to build on that, adding value to the consumer, the fascinating set of technologies is the use of augmented reality. So instead of fully pushing you into kind of this artificial space, being able to walk into a retail store and see kind of price tags jump up in an augmented way, either through your glasses or through a headset or just kind of using your phone. So you can see the visual space that is the actual physical space, but it has a different set of data overlaid. So that kind of augmented world seems to me to be much more useful because it kind of bridges between the metaphor and the physical space, you using those things as being useful in the future. 

Neil Saunders [00:27:09] I think they’re incredibly useful. I think, again, they’re not going to be used by everybody, but I think that they’re going to be used by an increasing number of people because they add value. And that’s what it’s really about. Whether technology is successful or not, I think is in retail, is whether it adds value to the customer experience. And I think augmented reality does add value in a lot of different settings. In a store, as you mention, you can provide additional information, you can bring products to life, and especially when you’re purchasing big ticket things, it can be very useful to have that product information. I mean, you might not want it for your, you know, simple grocery shop, but when you’re buying a new mattress or an item of furniture, I think it’s really useful to be able to have all that information in one place. And I think customers will use those kind of tools. You know, we’ve seen it in Sephora, for example. You know, Sephora has developed apps that. Allow you to give yourself virtual beauty makeovers. That does have some application because you know it’s a hat. So if you are putting on a shade of eyeliner or something. Doing it physically means you have to put it on and you have to wipe it off if you don’t like it. Know, it’s it’s a it’s a sort of it’s a process. Doing it virtually allows you to really quickly see different looks and try them out. It’s kind of fun. It’s interesting. It can be quite humorous. You can take screenshots, send them to friends. How do you think I look? It’s a really good use of technology that adds value to the customer, so I can see real applications and that sort of thing. I also think even for use in the home for retail, augmented reality has become quite important to a lot of retailers now like IKEA and Target allow you to take products and actually on your own see them in your own setting so you can see how an item of furniture would look in your home. Now, again, sometimes it’s it’s it’s good. Oftentimes it’s very rudimentary. It sort of doesn’t look that great. It just gives you an idea of the size and how it might fit. But fast forward maybe ten years where maybe more of us have, you know, virtual and augmented reality headsets, you can actually see how it would have a real application. You know, you could design a whole room. Retail could help you to do that. And in the space by putting on your headset, you actually see how the room looks in really good detail and you can sort of, you know, move around and see how things look as they would do if you bought those products. I think that’s why you will see some really good and very solid applications for some of these technologies in retail. 

Ned Hayes [00:29:49] Well, so we’ve talked broadly about retail, but many of our listeners actually run small business at small retail stores. So, you know, every small retail store has the potential to become big. So, you know, Wal Mart started as a mom and pop shop, Right. So I’m curious, what’s your advice for smaller retailers, for strategies for success? What should smaller retailers be paying attention to? 

Neil Saunders [00:30:12] I think it’s a really great question because small retailers are the backbone of the industry in a way. We often focus on the larger players, but there are so many small players doing so many good things. And I think one of the things I would say that they should do, and indeed many of them do already do, is to really focus on the customer. I think that’s something that they have a real advantage over because a lot of small retailers, from my experience, really do understand their customers extremely well. They have immediate and direct connections with their customers. And in some ways we talk about data analytics. The data analytics are necessary for larger retailers because they have so many customers, they don’t know them personally. You know, Target doesn’t know me when I walk into the store. It doesn’t know most people, when they walk into the Target store, it knows this numbers and it can do fancy aggregations and pull out lots of things with algorithms to find out more about customers. A small retailer doesn’t need those technologies. Sometimes it’s useful to have technology that they don’t need that because actually they will know that customers by name, they know them personally, they know what they like, they know the trends that are in the market. And I think that’s a real advantage for smaller retailers. And I would say to leverage that to great possibility, really use that knowledge to keep moving forward, capitalizing on trends, making sure it is satisfying customers, really improving that loyalty so that they keep shopping with you of going to some of the larger players. And you know that it sounds simple. It’s it’s a job of work. You have to be really on top of things. But I think that’s one of the critical things that some of these smaller retailers can do, and it does differentiate them over many of the larger players. They can also respond, I think, a lot more nimbly and quickly to trends just because the business is smaller, but sometimes because they see those trends happening before some of the larger players have picked up on them. 

Ashley Coates [00:32:02] Absolutely. That’s definitely what we see too, and all the conversations we have with small retailers. Well, Neal, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been such a great conversation. We actually have one last question for you before we let you go, which is, what do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be remembered for? 

Neil Saunders [00:32:20] Oh, wow. That’s a kind of a big question is another. 

Ashley Coates [00:32:23] Question for. 

Neil Saunders [00:32:24] You. Another day, another big question. I in in a work context, I think it goes back to something you mentioned at the beginning. It’s about excitement. I would like to be remembered as someone who was very enthusiastic about retail and the retail sector, and hopefully through that enthusiasm that I think I helped people understand the sector better what was going on and maybe help them to make better business decisions. But in doing all that, just retained a sense of fun and maybe a sense of wonder about retail as well, because I think, you know, it’s a hard business for all, whether that big or small retailers, it’s a hard business. There’s so much that flies at you. Things move so fast these days. It’s still a really exciting business, and I think it is just wondrous in the way that trends play out. And you can see small players grow into big players and you can see someone have success because they’ve done something innovative. And what I really like about it is that it’s all very intimate. We can all relate to retail because we all shop. We can all go out and see the malls and see what’s going on. The stores are going to the websites. So I think as well just really retain that sense of wonder and excitement. I think that’s what I’d like to be remembered for, at least in a in a work context. 

Ned Hayes [00:33:42] Sense of wonder and excitement. That is really quite a legacy if you could be remembered in that fashion. Yeah. 

Neil Saunders [00:33:48] Yeah. Maybe it’s a hard one to sum it up. It’s a it’s a it’s a good aspiration for sure. 

Ned Hayes [00:33:55] Absolutely. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time today. And it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you. 

Neil Saunders [00:33:59] Yeah, well, thank you for having me on. It’s been my pleasure as well. 

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