Jeff Sward

Founding Partner, Merchandising Metrics
Jeff's experience spans both retail and wholesale assignments in both the apparel and home segments of the business. Department stores (Macy's and Sak's) as well as specialty store (Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters). Branded and private label. Concept to execution. Merchandising Metrics is a consulting firm that challenges how retailers are executing versus their competition in the mall.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2017

    Do retailers need teen consultants to really understand Gen Z?

    I know what I know and I have several clues about what I don't know. I have blind spots and there is terrain my radar has never mapped. Blind spots are best addressed by those with 20/20 vision in that perspective.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Is BOPIS degrading the in-store experience?

    Shopping is situational. Sometimes you want to cruise and browse and sometimes you just want to grab and go. It's the HOW of each retailer's execution that will determine whether BOPIS adds to or subtracts from that retailer's brand promise.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2017

    Nordstrom tries a no-merchandise store

    Nordstrom didn't wake up one day as a bunch of knuckleheads when it comes to customer service. They took a look at Bonobos and said, "Hmmmmm...I wonder...." I give them credit for being a great example of "continuous improvement." Let's try this new model and see what we LEARN. They are being pro-active about their evolution in an evolving market. What's not to like? It's a test ... it's a prototype. Judge it a year or two from now. If they put a Nordstrom Rack store-in-store like Macy's opened Backstage inside their own stores, I'd be throwing up. Instead, they are exploring a service and experience centric idea. What's not to like?
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Gap Inc. leans more heavily on Old Navy and Athleta

    Gap and Banana Republic would do themselves a big favor if every now and then they actually said something with their assortments. I have watched them improve tremendously over the last 18 months, but mostly from offering less "D" and "F" product and not more "B" and "A" product. Especially the Gap. Even they have permission to surprise us every now and then. Of course they are consolidating the store base. Same for every retailer.I have also walked into Gap stores and wondered, "...why don't they convert this into Athleta TOMORROW...???" Athleta seems to be doing a great job of creating a lifestyle brand that goes seamlessly from workout to street. And they have some fun in the process with fabric, body, color ... the whole equation. They are giving themselves permission to be a brand with an actual Brand Promise. They are not tethered to some decades old mind set. I know both Gap and Banana Republic tried a reinvention of sorts. They've stabilized ... and now they need to try again.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2017

    Will lower everyday prices boost Target’s traffic and sales?

    Be the lowest price, or at least price competitive where you HAVE TO BE, and get higher margins where you CAN. Easier said than done, but the several comments about Target's differentiated apparel offerings point to the margin opportunity. Walmart has already promised the lowest prices ... "always" ... so promising "lowest" is a little dangerous. More race-to-the-bottom stuff. "Best value" might be an easier sell. If consumers feel that they are being treated fairly on price and Target can offer the better shopping experience, on and off line, they will do great.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2017

    Is Kohl’s giving away the store to Amazon?

    I love everything about this move on both ends. It's counterintuitive for a few seconds, but I love the fact that it breaks a lot of old rules and starts to write some new rules.Amazon is stealing customers anyway, and that's not going to abate any time soon. So aligning with Amazon and getting their customers to come into your store sounds brilliant. Amazon is stealing your foot traffic so you use them to help build it back up. And yeah, then the competition kicks in. This is a bold move on Kohl's part — new thinking, new rules. Potentially a great combination of B&M and internet shopping.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2017

    Are retailers squandering store traffic?

    Unless you think there is a time coming when the malls are all closed and Amazon is the only retailer left, then OF COURSE conversion has to be one of the key metrics of the business. You KNOW you are going to have less traffic, so you HAVE TO convert more of it to actual sales. Kind of a no-brainer. You are competing for customers emotions. They buy when and where they FEEL it's the right moment to buy. It might not be rational, but it's what they feel.I think it was RetaiWire that I read that people FEEL faster than they THINK. I love that observation. It explains a lot. Customers are developing a FEELING within mere feet of entering a store. It's PRODUCT and PRESENTATION first. It's assortment planning and color management.Customers are developing their FEELING before they encounter a human. PRODUCT and PRESENTATION...then the humans can finish the emotional engagement and overall experience.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2017

    Should the same-store sales metric be retired?

    I would never suggest to a retail store manager or group of managers that their individual comps were not important. "Same trade area" might be useful in an omni-channel environment, but each store still has to evaluate their own ongoing health. So it's not strictly versus LY. Now it's about versus a trailing 1 month or 6 month or 12 month trend. We were dropping versus LY but now we are dropping less. Our course corrections are helping. Or, we were dropping versus LY and now we are dropping more. Gulp. Traffic? Conversion? Product? Presentation? Staff? Just measuring a group of stores in one bucket doesn't provide the surgical information necessary to look at all the moving parts.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    Should L.L.Bean ditch its legendary return policy?

    The trust that people put into the quality of L.L.Bean product may be their most valuable asset. I have watched the depth and breadth of their promotional activity over the last two winters and it's amazing to watch them take 10 percent to 15 percent markdowns on some items while the mall is at 50 percent or more. Customers believe the ticketed price is the real price for a reason. I am sure there is abuse of the return policy and that some careful refinements can be made, but I would caution them to proceed carefully. This is not fast fashion or disposable fashion or even fashion. The brand is all about the predictability of the quality. The word "forever" does not have to be part of the return policy, but durability and longevity of L.L.Bean product is a big part of the brand promise. Tread lightly with changes.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2017

    Is Macy’s about to be sold?

    I think I understand the wide-eyed wonder in evaluating Macy's balance sheet and wanting to unlock all that value. It's gotta be irresistible to a real estate player. Unfortunately that does nothing in and of itself to solve the dilemma of fixing Macy's role in the mall. Sears has been plundered in the process of unlocking value. It may not ever have survived as a soft-goods retailer, but it certainly could have had a long-term role as a hard goods retailer. So now Macy's balance sheet can be plundered. To what end? Another carcass at the other end of the mall? I worked at Macy's. I love the place. The most vibrant department store around in its heyday. I vote that they take the five years they will need to re-invent themselves and their role in the mall. (And they will need an intact balance sheet to do that.) The last thing I wish for Macy's is to stay as it is.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2017

    Is omnichannel cannibalization retail’s biggest challenge?

    At any given moment there is X amount of demand for a given product or brand. If part of that demand is satisfied through the Internet then there is that much less being satisfied through brick-and-mortar. It's classic competition, it's a battle for market share now made all the more complicated with multi-channel battle fronts. Brands don't cannibalize by performing well in omnichannel. Omnichannel is a simple recognition of a new shopping model in today's market. It is not cannibalizing. It's competing. If a brick-and-mortar retailer lost business to another retailer's website, you wouldn't call that cannibalizing. You'd call it a failure to recognize a new shopping paradigm.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2017

    Has Amazon fundamentally changed the way Americans shop?

    I'll start with a possible definition of Amazon's brand promise. Painless, information-rich couch shopping devoid of any sensory input. Mall shopping = see, touch, smell, feel texture, sensory-rich, information-rich shopping. Amazon = left-brain shopping. Malls = right-brain shopping. Both work. Both have a role. If you have a right-brain platform already established for a brand, Amazon shopping works. If you need to develop a right-brain model for a brand, you are headed for the mall. So I think the separation between Amazon and other retailers is pretty simple. One is not better than the other. They have different roles in the range of shopping experiences. Brands and retailers can model accordingly.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2017

    Will free two-day shipping give Walmart an edge over Amazon?

    Walmart is making up lost ground -- better and faster than a lot of other retailers. If shipping is a leveling of the playing field or table stakes, then it's not an edge or advantage. It's going to get really interesting when Amazon makes some kind of slam dunk into brick-and-mortar. I semi-joked the other day about Amazon taking over Sears and reinventing that space into something mall shoppers would actually visit. Now I'm going to say, "Amazon, what are you waiting for?" Sears' market value has been plummeting in the last couple of days to multi-year lows. Pretty soon they will be very affordable. Will Amazon wait for them to go bankrupt?
  • Posted on: 01/30/2017

    Should Macy’s have never gone national?

    My thumbs up re: the beige-ing of the mall comes with a caveat. I can't agree that Federated is responsible. Back when Macy's, Federated and May Co. were separate companies, they had very different platforms. Macy's was almost pure right brain ... highly creative and dynamic. May Co. was almost pure left the numbers. Federated did a great job of balancing the two ... and survived. Federated operated many of their divisions with very real connections to their local markets and at the same time exercised solid financial disciplines.Federated/Macy's does not deserve to be singled out. Beige-ing is a virus that many retailers are suffering from. Tough to inoculate against and tough to cure. This one has to run its course.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2017

    Should Macy’s have never gone national?

    20/20 hindsight ... well said. But there are also those of us that viewed Macy's commoditization of regional department stores with horror and heartbreak. I always viewed My Macy's as an embrace of the late recognition of what was lost in nationalizing the chain. My Macy's used to be Bullock's, and Burdines, and Foley's, and Filene's, and Woody's, and Hecht's and so on. I grew up at Bullock's at the same time as Terry Lundgren. He was a stand-out then and I continue to view him as one of the real exemplary retail executives. But at the time, the siren song of nationalizing Macy's was irresistible. Of course they could keep the local touch but bring the power of a national brand to the equation. Impossible to argue with at that moment. Oops. The loss of a powerful local perspective was a brain drain that left a vacuum filled with cookie-cutter stuff. Which would have been fine if the market didn't already have Sears, J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Target, etc. How many layers of commodity stuff can the market digest? Not as many as we now have. Local relevancy + emotion = some level of insulation from being dragged into the race to the bottom.