Viewpoints: Merchandise Planning Perspective

Kalypso, a leading innovation consulting firm, interviews leaders in the retail industry about their thoughts on the challenges merchandise planners face today, and what we should be thinking about for tomorrow. This installment highlighted responses from a VP of Merchandise Planning with over 10 years experience in the retail industry.

We’ve highlighted some of the responses below. You can read the full article here.

What current challenges do you see with planning in the retail industry?

Systems are often used as a crutch in planning. Many planners don’t understand the science behind planning and often times plug their numbers into a planning system without understanding how the various components interact or which levers to pull to adjust the plan appropriately.

The different planning functions can also be a challenge. When you’re dealing with merch planning, store planning, allocation planning, etc., there is often confusion about who’s responsible for what. The planning process is usually not methodical or clearly defined. In addition, not every company uses the same terminology when it comes to roles and responsibilities. So a merchandise planner at one company might be planning at the style level, and at another company they are planning at the category level. Moving jobs from one company to another can be challenging because the planner’s skill set might not match up to the new role.

How do you think customer data could best be used to support planning?

It’s not being used enough today. A lot of planners are still relying on historical sales. Customer data can help planners better understand selling trends, how customers behave around peak times, etc. Customer data is also essential when planning for new trends. For instance, if the design and merchant teams want to chase a new trend that has no historical data, planners need to understand the customer needs and shopping patterns to better plan for these new products.

Customer data can also help planners get more intelligent about regional and store variances. Currently, planners typically only look at how regions are performing at a high-level, but they are not digging into why they perform the way they are. Customer data is typically not tied to planning data, so it is really hard to leverage it. At the same time, even if planners had access to customer data, they may not have the time to dig into the information to find key insights.

What do you see as the key benefits of an integrated planning system?

Haven’t seen a truly integrated system in my experience. Most companies are still using multiple planning systems that are not integrated with each other. Ideally, it would be great to have everyone in the planning organization on one system so that they can work together more efficiently and have better visibility cross-functionally.

What is one major change do you see in the near-future of planning in the retail arena?

With retail moving towards omni-channel, the role of planning will change. Companies are evolving and now need to manage multiple business models across their channels and geographies. There is no longer a one-size fits all approach to planning. 

Read the full Viewpoints article here to gain more insight into one planner’s perspective, and let us know what you think about merchandise planning in today’s omni-channel environment in our comments section.

At JustEnough, we help leading retailers to merchandise assortments and maximize product inventory across physical and digital channels so products are available when and where shoppers want them – all on a single integrated platform.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help you improve your planning processes for success and meet the demands of your customers.