Richard Cuthbertson is a Senior Research Fellow and Research Director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. He is a leading expert in the development of consumer-facing companies and the convergence of online and in-store retailing.
Richard's interest in retail and service businesses focuses on the interactions between customers, technology and the firm, as well as their influence on society, culture, politics and global development. His research investigates not only the economic impact of rapid changes in how we buy products and services, but also the social implications of consumer buying behaviour.
Richard believes 'we're seeing a divergence in retailing between the big players and more niche, specialist stores. The big players are getting bigger and more global through the efficiencies of their back office, through their investment in supply chain, IT, and so on. At the same time we're also seeing the growth of more specialist stores that focus on a particular customer.'
Much of his research interest lies in understanding and assessing the challenges of the increasingly digital world on retail, particularly through technology innovation and the use of customer data. A current research project is examining the merger of online and in-store retailing and how high streets and retail businesses will evolve in the future. Cuthbertson’s work is international in scope, in particular looking at how retail practice and policy are developing in countries like India and China, and he regularly acts as a consultant to retailers and governments around the world.
Richard earned his undergraduate degree at Lancaster University Management School and his PhD at the University of Southampton. After a commercial career in distribution management and marketing operations, he moved into academic life in 1993. After five years as a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, he joined Saїd Business School in 1998.
Richard is a Board member of the Charity Retail Association. He was awarded the Emerald Literati Network Award for Excellence (2010) and the Pegasus Prize for eBusiness Future Insights (2006).
As the author of over 100 published articles, and Research Director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management within Saїd Business School, Richard has extensive experience of leading research teams. His fundamental research interest lies in the long-term question: 'Where is the consumer society heading, and what does it mean for the firm?'
Bestlog: The European Commission (2006-2010)
One of the most significant areas of Richard's research has been a large European Commission project looking at the supply chain and distribution aspects of consumption, which has identified and disseminated best practice, not just economically and commercially, but also socially and environmentally. The aim was to share best practice across the European Union and so increase the efficiency, effectiveness and efficaciousness of distribution systems. The European Logistics Association was involved in the research and is now involved in its dissemination.
India Retail Research Programme: RPG (2010- 2012)
Another strong research interest for Richard and his team are the booming retail markets in India and China. For the India Retail Research Programme, Richard is currently researching how India, as a newly emerging mass consumer society going through dramatic urbanisation, can avoid some of the mistakes made in the US and in Europe. 'Retail is just developing in India, and there's a major issue around how it should develop – and whether it should follow the Western model' says Richard. His research also explores retail practices in a nation with far less public information available to businesses compared to the West such as information on populations and socio-demographic groups in different markets.
Value Driven Service Innovation: global comparisons: The Norwegian Research Council (2008-2013)
This research is examining how to innovate in services, taking into account differences across countries. The research team is comparing innovations in public services and those in commercial services. For example, the team is making comparisons between public health services in the UK and privatised, commercial operations in the US. In particular, there's a focus on the role of technology in innovation: identifying how it is best done and who the leaders are.
Richard works with retail practitioners and policy makers in the UK and overseas.
He encourages policymakers to understand the importance of retail and how it can create wealth, employment, and a more representative society. As well as working with governments in Europe, Asia and the US, Richard and his colleagues liaise frequently with retailing practitioners, such as Sainsbury's, Intel, P&G, BP, Santander, Wipro and KPMG, advising them on a range of issues including loyalty marketing, distribution systems and the future of retail.
Through a mixture of research projects, executive education programmes and consultancy, he has educated retailers about the changing nature of retailing and services, helping them to understand the impact of the increase in digital technology and the consumer society. His work has direct practical implications for the sector. Richard demonstrates this by reference to his ongoing research on Intelligent Retailing, commenting: 'We talk a lot about multichannel retailing - online retailing versus in-store retailing - and this research will look at the merger of these two things and the implications of this development'. His team's research points to the fact that these elements cannot be wholly separated. With major retailers leaving high streets, especially in deprived areas, and the increasing dominance of internet shopping giants, what increasingly survives locally are niche stores such as quirky cafes and artisanal markets which provide a unique shopping experience. Larger players like John Lewis and Waitrose, Richard believes, have also done very well in the downturn 'because they're focused on a particular group of customers'. Richard foresees the likelihood of shops turning into places of connection where customer relationships are built or broken, for example with consumers browsing before buying online, but perhaps still in-store. One such business model development will be the online world entering the store, with bricks and mortar shops earning a referral fee for directing customers to online stores or suppliers, such as Amazon or Coca Cola.
In committee work, Richard has sat on Boards and steering groups in public policy and business associations, such as the industry-led Global Scorecard Initiative and European Commission review bodies. He is currently a Board Member of the Charity Retail Association.
Richard has given expert comment on retailing issues to newspapers, business magazines and broadcasters around the world, including the BBC, Retail Week and The Times of India.
He serves on the Governing Body, the executive General Purposes Committee, and is the Secretary to the Governing Body at Green Templeton College, Oxford.
Richard teaches graduates, senior business executives and board directors.
Richard’s teaching of senior business executives is focused on developing innovative leaders, customer relationship management, responsive service systems, and the future of retailing in different markets.
Richard teaches on the following Executive Education programmes:
He also teaches on the MBA: Entrepreneurial Project and on the Emerging Economies course on the Diploma in Global Business.
'My philosophy is to try to get students to understand the big picture and to challenge existing mindsets,' Richard stresses. 'People often aren't paying attention to long-term trends, particularly in consumer service businesses, because they are very concerned about the new fashion that is going to bring in the money today. Part of what I try to do is to open up the longer-term questions, but at the same time recognise immediate realities and explain how this translates into best practice today.'
Richard is currently Chairman of Examiners for the MSc in Major Programme Management, as well as the Diplomas in Financial Strategy, Global Business, Organisational Leadership, and Strategy & Innovation at the School.
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street