This is the second article in our series based on a research report JustEnough recently sponsored with Boston Retail Partners into the current state of the industry around Merchandise Planning and Allocation.
Here is part two:
The value added by employing formal planning processes is not going unnoticed in today’s retail market. Of the retailers surveyed, 89% undertake a formal merchandise and financial planning process, which is up slightly from 85% in last year’s survey.
Formal Planning Proccesses
In addition, over half have formalized store planning, allocation and assortment planning processes. Advances in planning tools have certainly supported a wide range of merchandising and planning capabilities, and will increasingly continue to do so with the expansion of technological network developments in the retail environment.
Despite this, more than 60% of retailers still maintain separate assortments and separate inventories for different channels. Brick-and-mortar locations are still operating largely independently from e-commerce and vice versa. Further, collaboration with marketing initiatives is minimal, with only 32% of retailers managing marketing concurrently with planning.
maintain a separate brick-and-mortar assortment
The significant business opportunity to leverage business intelligence came to light through the survey results. Respondents claimed they most commonly use basic reporting and analytics capabilities to obtain performance data. Only 25% are using business intelligence for cross channel planning, indicating the existence of a large improvement opportunity for retailers when analyzing their financial performance.
The balance in staffing plans and right-sizing the ratio of buyers to planners seems to have been struck. Organizationally, only a low percentage of respondents are planning to increase staffing of buyers and/or planners. That being said, assortment accuracy remains a concern for retailers. When asked to identify their business priorities, 67% of respondents identified enhancing assortments as one of their top 3 priorities.
Not surprisingly because enhancing assortments is a top priority, 65% also plan to upgrade or replace their assortment planning application within three years. These figures evidence a desire on the part of retailers to get their product offerings right. Taken together, the strong focus on micro-merchandising paired with the desire for enhanced systems reveals a growing appetite to rely upon technological efficiencies instead of increasing headcount.
Top 3 Priorities
JustEnough recently sponsored research by Boston Retail Partners into the current state of the industry around Merchandise Planning and Allocation and uncovered considerable windows of opportunity for retailers as they evolve to support unified commerce. Over this and the next several posts, I’ll be sharing the research findings and conclusions. I hope you enjoy this series of articles.
Here is part one:
Merchandise planning and allocation is the retail supply chain discipline to initially predict, and subsequently react to, changing consumer tastes and buying patterns. Merchandise planners and allocation specialists are responsible for both inventory budgets and determining the movement of merchandise to the stores. When done correctly, inventory moves, sales grow and profit margins reward. Get it wrong and the retailer sees markdowns, out of stocks, poor performance and an inventory bubble that needs to be digested through the selling cycle, consuming space, inventory dollars and profits. Even worse, while this is happening, retailers don’t have room or the budget to fill the racks with better-performing merchandise. Many selling seasons have been won or lost through planning and allocation decisions. The fact that many retailers now operate across multiple selling channels (online, in-store, mobile, etc.) further complicates these processes.
- the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays, etc.
- the selection and display of goods in a retail outlet
As the challenges have grown, so have the technologies supporting retail merchandise specialists. Consumers expect a fast and efficient selling and delivery process, where the physical and digital selling channels converge to provide a cohesive shopping experience. These unified commerce shopping concepts have grown significantly, requiring retailers to put more functional capabilities in place than ever before. With dozens of emerging tools and techniques to support and expand business, it is an exciting time to be a retailer.
The elimination of individual channel silos to offer a holistic customer experience across all customer touch points by leveraging a single commerce platform
Despite a significant growth in technological capabilities, adoption of a transparent cross-channel inventory has yet to become a reality at most retailers. While the desire is strong, replacing legacy systems, realigning processes, expanding associate visions and the incentives to do so have made the process challenging. Developing a strategy and roadmap for offering a real-time view of retail is now essential for success.
We believe business analytics will play a key role in this retail transformation. Evaluating and incorporating all available insights when inventory planning and allocation decisions are made greatly enhances the outcomes. For instance, merchants should be considering every data point available in the planning process, including: business intelligence, inventory movement, shopping behavior, customer relationship management (CRM), social media, clienteling data and customer demographics/segmentation.
Boston Retail Partners’ 2014 Merchandise Planning and Allocation Survey explores the current state of the industry and how technology is shaping retail capabilities, highlighting the priorities, processes, tools and strategies of today’s retailers. Further, it uncovers considerable windows of opportunity for retailers as they evolve into enhanced business models to support the growing need for unified commerce.
In the next article we’ll review the current state of merchandise planning and allocation.
Some of the best pratices identified in this year’s survey include:
- 31% of retailers utilize a single inventory across channels
- 26% of retailers have real-time visibility of in-store/online inventory
- Nearly 50% of retailers have integrated business processes and systems across channels
- 33% of retailers utilize CRM data to feed their business intelligence tools
- Nearly 40% of retailers use social media to facilitate planning within product development
This Easter, consumers will be on the hunt for candy and new spring apparel and spending more on it.
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Easter Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics revealed that the average person celebrating the holiday will spend $140.62, slightly more than last year’s $137.46. Total spending for Easter, including apparel, decorations, gifts, candy, flowers and food is expected to reach $16.4 billion. 45 percent of those celebrating will purchase clothing, spending more than $2.9 billion on bright colored apparel items for themselves and their families.
“Easter will be the perfect segue into spring for both consumers and retailers who have longed for warmer weather for quite some time,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “As one of the busiest times of year for several retail sectors and as shelves begin filling with both traditional spring and holiday merchandise, retailers are looking forward to welcoming shoppers with attractive promotions on home goods, garden equipment and traditional Easter items.”
Planned Easter Spending - In Billions
With so many items to purchase, more than half (58.6%) will head to often one-stop-shop discount stores. Another four in 10 will shop at department stores, nearly a quarter at local and small business and another 21.8 percent will head to specialty stores for their Easter articles. Just 18.8 percent noted intent to purchase online.
Busy Easter shoppers will take advantage of their mobile devices to help them find what they are looking for. Of smartphone owners planning to celebrate the holiday, 21.4 percent said they would use their phones for research and product comparisons, and 13.5 percent said they would actually buy the items with their mobile device. Almost 25 percent of tablet owners said they would do product research on the device, and 16.6 percent said they will complete a purchase from it.
“Easter remains a beloved affair for consumers young and old, and this year it looks like families are ready to dig into their budgets to make the most of the special day,” Prosper’s principal analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “The warm weather should help fuel some interest in celebrations, especially given the record-breaking winter much of the country experienced the last several months.”
Read the full article
Dan Pahomi, JustEnough’s Vice President of New Business Initiatives, recently shared some thoughts on the importance of promotion management in today’s omnichannel retailing world with RIS.
Q: How would you define promotion management and why has it become a prerequisite in today’s omnichannel retailing world?
Dan Pahomi: Promotions have evolved from merely activities used by the advertising department to promote products to include all customer-facing tactics and communications used across multiple departments. Promotion management is the practice of planning, creating and executing customer communications to ensure that the right message reaches the right customer at the most relevant time. Because of the ever-increasing ways to interact with customers, retailers are not able to present a unified message to the customer without coordination between all departments involved in the process. Effective promotions can no longer be created in a stand-alone environment. Understanding each promotion’s role in the overall campaign is extremely important. For example, a promotion that emphasizes a brand may not be that relevant by itself, but it can provide important brand awareness if executed at just the right time. It’s like an orchestra. Each promotion is an instrument and they have to come together to create perfect harmony.
Some retailers are reporting up to a 50% reduction in the time it takes to plan promotions allowing them to get to market much faster than their competitors.
Q: What do retailers continue to struggle with when it comes to supporting promotion management?
Pahomi: We see retailers struggling in three distinct areas when it comes to managing promotions:
Understanding customers. Retailers not understanding who their customers are and what they want is still one of the biggest struggles. Even though the amount of customer data has increased exponentially in the past several years, many retailers are still challenged in finding relevance in the data. Because of this, promotions often miss their mark and do not produce the expected results.
Old techniques. Applying old techniques to new challenges is another area that many retailers still struggle with. They realize that with new communication channels and more sophisticated customers, they need to adapt and change how they reach them, but this understanding is often not reflected in their actions. One glaring example is the imbalance of advertising budgets that are heavily invested in newspapers while readership has been steadily dropping, especially in the younger demographic.
No foundation. For some retailers the struggle comes with the introduction of new processes and systems. Applying new techniques without a solid foundation may help in the short term, but cannot be sustained. The most common issue we see is the lack of consolidated and centralized systems. Different channels are still being planned by separate teams using different systems without coordination.
Q: JustEnough promotes managing all types of promotions across all channels in a centralized system. How has this improved promotion management initiatives?
Pahomi: As retailers are implementing new processes to go along with the new tools they have, we find that they are often surprised by the lack of coordination they had in the past and the duplication of effort that took place. As retailers start planning centrally, they are achieving higher ROI by reducing the time and effort it takes to create and execute promotions, by reducing costs and creating more relevant promotions that drive a higher customer response.
Q: What kinds of results are possible by using promotion management software?
Pahomi: The main areas of benefit are sales improvement, margin improvement and expense reduction. Both tangible and intangible results can be achieved using promotion management software. Some retailers are reporting up to a 50% reduction in the time it takes to plan promotions allowing them to get to market much faster than their competitors. They are also reporting improved inventory positions during promotional periods.
Founded 25 years ago, Kathmandu has grown from a small retailer of clothing and equipment for travel and adventure, to a vertically integrated business with a significant retail presence in New Zealand and Australia. In 2012, the retailer selected JustEnough's Assortment and Item Planning solutions to improve its planning process. Following this successful implementation, Kathmandu decided to address its manual, Excel-based allocation and replenishment processes by implementing JustEnough's Demand Forecasting, Inventory Planning, Replenishment and Allocation modules. Watch
Kathmandu's CIO, Grant Taylor, describe how the retailer is gaining efficiencies using JustEnough's retail planning solutions.
Shopko, a $3 billion retailer that operates over 320 stores in 21 states across the U.S., has implemented JustEnough Promotion Management to support its promotion planning and execution process.
“Shopko was seeking a new promotion management solution to replace our existing system that was discontinued by its vendor. We needed a new solution to support our complex promotional planning process that spans both print and online media.” said Ray Petersen, CIO, Shopko. “JustEnough’s offering and extensive promotion management experience is a perfect fit for our company’s needs. The flexible and modern system will allow us to improve our promotions planning and execution.”
The implementation was completed using a two-phased approach that first focused on installing the base system to replace the complex, existing system and adding high-impact new functions. The second phase will add two new modules and additional functionality to the base system.
“We are pleased to be able to deliver a promotion management solution that will help Shopko meet the workflow needs of its advertising team and allow the merchandising team to create better promotions,” said Malcolm Buxton, CEO, JustEnough. “Our solution will help Shopko to attract new customers, increase revenues and reduce marketing costs.”
Beall’s recently announced that it has completed implementation of JustEnough’s Demand Profiling and Replenishment solutions.
Beall’s Inc. was founded in 1915 and now operates more than 530 stores in 17 states under the Bealls Department Stores, Bealls Outlets and Burkes Outlets nameplates. Beall’s offers a broad assortment of brand name clothing, swimwear, accessories and home goods.
Beall’s chose the JustEnough Demand Profiling and Replenishment solutions to meet the company’s objective of maintaining superior customer service through improved demand forecasting and inventory management. The solutions were implemented on schedule and under budget.
“We were seeking a robust, yet easy to use solution to help us accurately predict and fulfill demand for our broad assortment of basic replenishment products,” said Victor D’Amato, director of allocation and replenishment, Bealls Department Stores. “The newly implemented JustEnough solutions will enable us to identify and direct our inventory investment towards those products that our customers want with greater accuracy and less effort for our planners.”
“We are pleased to be able to provide Beall’s with a solution that provides them better visibility into the styles and sizes that their customers wish to purchase,” said Malcolm Buxton, president and ceo, JustEnough. “JustEnough solutions enable our customers to increase competitiveness and improve financials through improved demand and inventory planning and user productivity.”