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Retail Think Tank

KPMG/Synovate Retail Think Tank announces new member Neil Saunders

Neil Saunders of Verdict Research joins retail industry commentators

Neil Saunders (pictured below) of Verdict Research has joined the KPMG/Synovate Retail Think Tank (RTT) as its newest member.

Neil joined Verdict Research in 2001 and in his role of consulting director advises many of the UK’s leading retailers to help develop and implement business strategies.  He previously worked for the John Lewis Partnership, working on store planning, the development of its website and the creation of technical and information systems.  Neil also serves as a non-executive director of the train operating company First Great Western and is a visiting fellow at the School of Management, University of Surrey.

He is a frequent commentator on retail issues within the broadcast media, national press and trade publications and regularly appears as a guest speaker at retail conferences.  Neil said: “I am delighted to have been invited to join the RTT and look forward to adding my views to those of the group.  It is currently a fascinating and fast-changing time for the sector and I believe our work can help to provide valuable insight for UK retail businesses.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG and a founding member of the RTT adds:  “Neil’s wealth of knowledge and insight regarding retail strategy will add an authoritative new voice to contribute to our debate on retail health and the issues facing the sector.”

The RTT was established in February 2006 to provide an authoritative, credible and trusted view on what is happening in the retail sector and develop thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing in the UK.  Following its quarterly meetings it produces the Retail Health Index, which assess the state of retail health by examining the effect to demand, costs and margins on the sector, as well as regular white papers on issues facing the sector.

Neil Saunders joins the eight-strong panel which also includes Nick Bubb, Arden Partners; Prof. John Dawson, Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling; Dr. Tim Denison, Synovate; Helen Dickinson, KPMG; Richard Lowe, Barclays Retail & Wholesale Sectors; Vicky Redwood, Capital Economics; and Mark Teale, CB Richard Ellis.

To view the RTT’s press releases and thought leadership material, go to

Date Published: 6/1/2010 5:00 PM

Note to Editors:

The RTT panellists rely on their depth of personal experience, sector knowledge and review an exhaustive bank of industry and government datasets including the following:

Members of the RTT are:

  • Nick Bubb – Independent Retail Analyst
  • Dr. Tim Denison – Ipsos Retail Performance
  • Jonathan De Mello – Harper Dennis Hobbs
  • Martin Hayward – Hayward Strategy and Futures
  • Maureen Hinton – Conlumino
  • James Knightley – ING
  • Richard Lowe – Barclays Retail & Wholesale Sectors
  • David McCorquodale – KPMG
  • Martin Newman – Practicology
  • Mike Watkins – Nielsen

The intellectual property within the RTT is jointly owned by KPMG ( and Ipsos Retail Performance (

First mentions of the Retail Think Tank should be as follows: the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank. The abbreviations Retail Think Tank and RTT are acceptable thereafter.

The RTT was founded in February 2006. It now meets quarterly to provide authoritative ‘thought leadership’ on matters affecting the retail industry. All outputs are consensual and arrived at by simple majority vote and moderated discussion. Quotes are individually credited. The Retail Think Tank has been created because it is widely accepted that there are so many mixed messages from different data sources that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the true health and status of the sector. The aim of the RTT is to provide the authoritative, credible and most trusted window on what is really happening in retail and to develop thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing in the UK. Its executive members have been rigorously selected from non-aligned disciplines to highlight issues, propose solutions, learn from the past, signpost the road ahead and put retail into its rightful context within the British social/economic matrix.

Definitions:  The RTT assesses the state of health of the UK retail sector by considering the factors which influence its three key drivers.

1.  Demand – Demand for retail goods and services.  From a retro-perspective, retail sales, volumes and prices are the primary indicators.  When considering future prospects, economic factors such as interest rates, employment levels and house prices as well as others such as consumer confidence, footfall and preferences are used

2.  Margin (Gross) – Sales less cost of sales; the buying margin less markdowns and shrinkage.  Cost of sales include product purchase costs, associated costs of indirect taxes and duty and discounts

3.  Costs – All other costs associated with the retail operations, including freight and logistics, marketing, property and people

The Retail Health Index – how is it assessed?

Every quarter each member of the RTT makes quantitative assessments of the impact on retail health of demand, margins and costs for the quarter just completed and a forecast of the quarter ahead.   These scores are submitted individually, collated and aggregated in time for the RTT’s quarterly meeting.  The individual judgements on what to score are ultimately a combination of objective and subjective ones, drawing upon a wide range of hard datasets and softer qualitative material available to each member. The framework follows the example of The Bank of England Agents’ scoring system on economic intelligence provided to the Monetary Policy Committee.

The aggregate scores are combined to form the Retail Health Index (‘RHI’) which is reviewed at that meeting and occasionally revised after debate if members feel it appropriate.  The RHI tracks quarter on quarter changes in the health of the UK retail sector and as such provides a useful and unique measured indicator of retail health.  The index ‘base’ of 100 was set on 1 April 2006.  Each quarter, it assesses whether the state of health has improved or deteriorated since the previous quarter.  An improvement will lead to a higher RHI score than that recorded in the previous quarter, and with a deterioration leading to a lower score.   The larger the index movement, the more marked the shift in the state of health.

The RHI has two main benefits.  Firstly, it aims to quantify the knowledge of the RTT members in a systematic way.  Secondly, it assesses the overall state of health of the UK retail sector for which there is no official data.

For media enquiries please contact:

Max Bevis, Tank PR

Tel: +44 (0)1159 589 840


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