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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

University retail networking event held at The British Academy

Published: 22 April 2016
Busy retail environment
Exploring data and retail against increased competition and declining consumer spending.

Retail’s finest gathered to discuss and debate the ‘Data Transformation of Retail’ at a recent networking event, held at The British Academy.

The University of Southampton Retail Impact Community, supported by a two year award from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account devolved to the University, held its latest event in March. Hosted by Professors Neil Wrigley and Michelle Lowe and Erin Brookes, Senior Fellow, Retail Business Engagement, the event was attended by retailers, retail specialists and academics.

Chaired by Neil McCourt, Head of European Operations, Amazon, the event featured insightful presentations from Matthew Hopkinson, Director, Local Data Company, Benjy Meyer, Customer Director, Majestic Wine, and Kirsty Needham, Head of Online Insights & Customer Experience, Morrison’s, and Jo Munson, University of Southampton. This session was part of a project that tasked the team with creating a community of practitioners and extending the research impact of Southampton’s in retail related research.

In his opening remarks, Neil McCourt observed that each of the presentations touched on the subject of data, the understanding and application of which he felt was critical to the success of retail against a backdrop of increased competition and the decline of consumer spending.

In his presentation, Matthew Hopkinson demonstrated the capability of the Local Data Company’s online portal and gave extremely insightful case study showing some of the sources of data available to retailers, using Winchester as a sample. The group learned about the breadth and depth of Winchester’s retail offer in the context of its dynamic high street, and how it compared with national averages, notably sharing that the city houses double the national average of jewellers. Matthew then shared insights about how the Local Data Company collects data and works in partnership with companies such as Morgan Stanley to offer ‘a Bloomberg for the retail sector’.

Benjy Meyer’s career has spanned working at some of the largest and most successful retailers in Britain, including Tesco and Marks and Spencer, and his presentation charted his career alongside the development over time of increasingly sophisticated applications of customer data. He offered real insight into how different approaches to the application of data either helped or hindered retailers in making business critical decisions, as well as influence colleague and customer behaviours. Benjy surmised that no one can avoid ‘the data transformation of retail’, and that multi-channel retailers should be learning from the successes of pure online players.

Kirsty Needham and Jo Munson shared details of the research partnership that is ongoing between Morrison’s and the University of Southampton that looks at the evolution of online grocery consumption. Jo and Kirsty discussed the research objectives and methodology, and demonstrated to the attendees the significant research impact that has been created by the relationships between retailers and academics fostered by the University of Southampton Retail Impact Community.

Following the presentations, there was a lively debate about the ‘Data Transformation of Retail’, which further underlined the importance of this current retail issue, and also validates the early stages of the interdisciplinary research partnership between the University of Southampton’s Web Science Institute, the Faculty of Business, Law, and Art, and the Faculty of Geography & Environment.

In closing, Professor Michelle Lowe summarised the work that the Retail Impact Community had achieved in the past year, notably creating a tight knit community of engaged practitioners and retailers via a series of well attended and high profile events. Michelle announced the forthcoming launch of the , the website for the University of Southampton Retail Impact Community, which showcases the University’s credentials, research, and continued impact in the retail sector.


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