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Caroline Proctor

  27 Sep 2016 • By Caroline Proctor in Industry News

  

Aligning Marketing and Merchandising Practices to Meet the Needs of Buy-Now, Wear-Now Customers

The vast majority of shoppers don’t hesitate to rip the tags off new clothing purchases, according to retail research agency Verdict. Its June 2016 clothing survey found that nearly 86% of consumers say they purchase clothing they can wear right away, and 51.4% prefer not to buy clothing too far in advance of the upcoming season – a tricky proposition considering that most retailers launch their seasonal lines months before the weather turns.

Statistics like these suggest that traditional buying cycles no longer reflect the way that consumers like to shop for clothing. Unpredictable weather patterns certainly don’t help, but the buy-now-wear-now trend is more likely propelled by social media, which has shortened product lifecycles by giving users greater exposure to more styles and feeding a perpetual desire for new products.

However, the research found that slightly more than 75% of consumers believe apparel retailers offer sufficient transeasonal options. As a result, the Verdict article speculates that the culprit for weak sales is actually misguided marketing and merchandising strategies that have traditionally been aligned towards peak seasons, versus product selection. For example, a shopper who is looking for a sundress to wear to a Labor Day picnic in California will likely have to find what she’s looking for on the sale rack despite relatively warm weather.

Some retailers are thriving despite this buy-now-wear-now shift by aligning their product and merchandising strategies with consumer shopping behavior. Two standouts in this space include a contemporary British-style clothing company and an international Spanish clothing and accessories retailer. The former focuses on selling transeasonal ranges, while the latter’s in-store display strategy embraces stylish layering. The Spanish retailer’s vertically integrated supply chain provides the foundation to adapt quickly to weather changes via flexible phasing, reactive product drops and regular visual merchandising updates. A global luxury brand is also taking a forward-thinking approach by making its collections “seasonless” – i.e., available to buy immediately and referring to them as February and September, versus the more traditional Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter labels.

To follow in the footsteps of advanced retailers, the article suggests that organizations should:

  • Ensure in-store and online inventory reflects current weather conditions
  • Showcase outfits that can be worn immediately in window displays
  • Use mannequins, hangers and online and social media channels to show how existing stock can be layered to accommodate changes in weather
  • Gear marketing strategies toward current fashion trends, versus upcoming seasons

Modifications to marketing and merchandising practices like those mentioned above will help retailers circumvent declining sales and customer satisfaction; however, the long-term fix requires fundamental changes to current product buying and phasing cycles to become more flexible, frequent and responsive. Such changes require the support of modern IT technologies. JustEnough’s fully integrated, highly scalable and agile suite of solutions support the end-to-end retail planning process, enabling businesses quickly adapt to trends and shifting customer buying behaviors in order to garner greater profits and market share. Contact us today to learn more.


Caroline Proctor

  20 Sep 2016 • By Caroline Proctor in Industry News

  

Integrating Assortment Planning and Allocation: The Key to Succeeding in a Dynamic, Customer Insights-Driven Retail Environment

The retail landscape is unquestionably complex: Selling channels are on the rise and customers expect nothing less than to find exactly what they are looking for in the right location and for a price they’re willing to pay. Technology and processes must offer a high degree of flexibility and efficiency for retailers to keep pace in a rapidly evolving industry shaped by shifting customer demand and short-lived trends.

The August issue of Apparel shed light on the urgent need for greater integration between two critical processes that, by and large, are disparately managed: planning and allocation. Advanced retailers are latching onto the concept that planning and execution should no longer be a one-way street; rather, bidirectional processes are critical to facilitate the back-and-forth flow of information.

Despite inherent omni-channel challenges, many retailers have made strides in breaking down planning silos. And it’s common for many organizations to now look at inventory as a single pot for meeting demand across all channels. However, unless further improvements are made to coordinating assortments and allocations, customer and demand trends can be missed, resulting in lost sales and lower customer satisfaction.

For real change to take effect, the Apparel article suggests that retailers must pair new technologies with updated organizational structures. Tearing down divides in merchandising is where it begins.

In a traditional retail organization, planners create assortments and then order inventory. A separate team decides what to do with it when it arrives. Today’s fast-paced omni-channel environment is forcing retailers to rethink this approach. Without clear visibility into both the assortment and allocation processes, retailers risk not being able to cater well to local and cross-channel demand trends. This can be avoided by enabling greater collaboration between planners and allocators, as well as providing a means for both sides of the house to analyze business conditions and revisit their plans based on the latest financial targets, sales activity and forecasts. Deciding how best to implement a checks-and-balances system is critical. Without a cohesive plan, determining how assortments from a shared inventory pot should flow into different channels is difficult, and reacting to sales trends outside the plan can result in brand inconsistencies that wind up confusing potential customers.

The modern merchandising process is seamless and iterative, starting with the financial plan and moving through to assortment planning and finally to allocation. Shared IT solutions enable all members of the retail team to reconcile plans at each step.

The article spotlighted outdoor retailer Kathmandu, which operates about 160 stores across Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. Looking for an integrated solution that would help it better manage its multichannel business, Kathmandu replaced its spreadsheet-based merchandising system with JustEnough Software for assortment planning, demand forecasting, inventory planning and replenishment. The JustEnough solution also fully integrates with its Microsoft Dynamic AX ERP system. In addition, Kathmandu is an early adopter of JustEnough’s pre-season and in-season planning capabilities, which enable its teams to execute to their original assortment plan while remaining flexible about how they replenish the style range once in season.

A new approach to end-to-end planning has resulted in significant gains for the retailer. Kathmandu reports that it has less excess inventory, which it attributes to starting each season with better plans based on more accurate forecasts. In fact, Kathmandu is holding about 10% less stock, and more of the stock it has on hand sells at full-planned margin. The retailer sold 20% less clearance items in the first half of 2016 and had 35% fewer clearance units on hand. Simultaneously, its sales went up just shy of 10% and profits increased 15.8%. Finally, the new system has provided Kathmandu with greater omni-channel customer insights, allowing it to use data from customer orders to stock its shelves appropriately and capitalize on trends it would have otherwise missed.

Success stories like Kathmandu’s underscore how this generation of retail planning systems help businesses embrace customer-centric merchandising, leveraging built-in analytics to tailor assortments to store clusters. As a result, companies can accommodate specific tastes of local markets and online consumers. However, as the article points out, it’s key to have an allocation strategy in place to distribute product based on how that particular item performs in certain locations, whether in-store or online.

Read the full article here, and contact us today to learn how JustEnough can help your organization successfully integrate its assortment planning and allocation processes.


Caroline Proctor

  13 Sep 2016 • By Caroline Proctor in Industry News

  

Retailers to Invest in Assortment Plan Visualization and Merchandising Integration Technology

Last week, we highlighted the top three challenges retailers must overcome to optimize their assortments according to the new EKN 2016 Assortment Management & Optimization report, sponsored by JustEnough Software.

To address these obstacles, close to half of the 50 North American retailers surveyed said they are focused on investing in assortment plan visualization technology this year for a couple of reasons: First, they lack adequate visibility into frequently changing multi-attribute assortment plans across various store formats. Second, there is a strong need for more effective retail store execution.

Retailers have typically lagged behind consumer product companies in adopting 3D visualization tools to help them plan better assortments and understand what their products will look like in distinct store settings – i.e., big-box, small-store and express-store formats. In order to adopt 3D visualization tools, retailers must loosen their grip on tedious 2D planogramming, which requires constant updates to the product selection, shelf-level facings and aisle placements.

The next biggest investment retailers plan to make is in solutions to help them better integrate their merchandise and assortment plans. Retailers either develop top-down or bottom-up merchandise plans. Such plans typically reside in separate modules within a software platform – or, they are created using spreadsheets. Either way, they are developed separately from the assortment plan, resulting in a disconnect in terms of overarching strategy, production and even marketing.

There is an immediate need for deeper integration between these two critical merchandising pillars so that a common vision and business objectives are followed by all stakeholders. Assortment plans that are linked more cohesively with targets in the merchandise financial plan will ultimately help the retailer achieve its revenue goals.

Next week on the blog, we’ll spotlight the key capabilities needed for deeper integration between assortments and core merchandising areas. In the meantime, check out the EKN 2016 Assortment Management & Optimization report here.


Caroline Proctor

  06 Sep 2016 • By Caroline Proctor in Industry News

  

Top Business Challenges Standing in the Way of Optimized Assortment Planning

Last week, we talked about the current state of assortment planning according to the EKN 2016 Assortment Management & Optimization report, which surveyed about 50 North American retailers.

Sponsored by JustEnough Software, the report also shed light on the top business challenges retailers face when it comes to creating the perfect assortment. Below is an overview of three major obstacles:

  • First, retailers find themselves in a tricky position: They need accurate demand forecasts to plan assortments more effectively for their stores and channels, but prevailing demand forecasts leave much to be desired. The average retail forecast accuracy stands at a mere 60% regardless of the forecast methodology used. In addition, legacy ERP and Excel-based forecasting tools do not possess capabilities that utilize heuristics and algorithms for identifying causal and predictive relationships between demand, assortment buys, price elasticity, sales, allocation and supply planning.

  • The second most pressing business challenge gets at the heart of the assortment planning process for one-third of the companies surveyed: Over the years, the growing range of complexity within retail categories has led to the adoption of assortment planning based on attributes like size, color and style, to name a few. However, many prominent retailers still do bulk top-down plans and universal year-over-year assortment planning without much emphasis on attribute-based segmentation of buys. While multi-attribute based planning helps address scale and assortment specificity, retailer migration towards attribute-based planning has been tepid at best.

  • Speed-to-market is the third biggest obstacle getting in the way of optimized assortment planning. To meet shifting consumer demand, many retailers are expanding their current assortments daily to add new products. However, assortment expansion introduces speed-to-market and lead-time risks as new products need to be backed by strong marketing, operational plans and field sales training. The average four-month design-deliver cycle time is far too long for both the retailer and its customers.

In the next blog post, we'll explore the top investment areas and strategic levers retailers can pull to overcome these assortment planning obstacles. Be sure to download the EKN 2016 Assortment Management & Optimization report here.