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: 11/16/2017

    Amazon Go still plans to transform convenience in retail stores

    Exactly ... small store format. LOTS less moving parts, MUCH more controllable. There is an experiment under way in China called the Moby Store. Portable bus-sized stores. No human beings. 100 percent technology. It's predicated on the overwhelming tendency of the Chinese to pay for everything with their phone. This tech-driven model will surely emerge and evolve -- sooner than later.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2017

    Are retailers shortchanging the digital transformation?

    Mark nails it — this is NOT an either/or proposition. Yes, mall traffic is down and, yes, some malls will close. Now let's talk about quality of execution in the remaining bulk of the business.The quality of basic merchandising and brand management is all over the place in mall retailing. Color management, seasonal conversion, balance between high risk and low risk product — simple, clear story telling on the selling floor. I see skill levels ranging from A to F throughout the mall. And no amount of digital razzmatazz is going to solve the sales and margin issues for those retailers getting a grade below B.Of course digital is the driver of much of the future growth and, of course, it needs its share of the investments in the business. But retailers with skill sets in need of upgrading at the brick and mortar level do not necessarily do themselves any favors by over investing in digital "solutions" before they have their primary house in order.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2017

    Are store brands a ‘fundamental defining piece’ of the retail experience?

    There aren't many "moats" available to retailers these days. "Exclusivity" — or "you can only buy it here" — can certainly be a powerful tool. Private or proprietary brands provide that opportunity...IF well done. Mediocre or poorly executed programs will have exactly the opposite effect.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2017

    Amazon gives teens their own Prime logins

    A great way to put it. Teen data is NOT co-mingled with other household data, but standalone. Another week, another brilliant move by Amazon.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2017

    Is Ace on-brand with The Grommet acquisition?

    I heartily applaud this move by Ace. What a great way for them to EVOLVE. I subscribed to The Grommet after one cursory read. It's fun, innovative, unexpected, fresh ... I LEARN something with each exposure. Sometimes it's frivolous, sometimes it's serious. But I look forward to it. The hardware store of the future will have to help us with gadgets and gizmos and projects we hardly know enough about today. Great move for Ace!
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?

    I think it's a function of what decade or century you are operating in. Customer service may have reigned for many decades up until recently. But now, if the retailer is not consistently providing a good customer experience across the many channels of business, then somebody else is. A good customer experience is a couple of clicks or a couple of yards down the mall away. Evolve and prosper, or ...
  • Posted on: 10/06/2017

    Costco ups its delivery game for online orders

    I have to view this as a total plus for Costco. They are not losing impulse sales, they are saving sales that would go to some other e-commerce site if delivery were not offered. The "treasure hunt" aspect of shopping at Costco is indeed part of what makes the store experience terrific. You see something you were probably going to buy somewhere else anyway, but the value/quality quotient at Costco makes it so easy to just do it on the spot. Some kind of delivery component is becoming table stakes.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2017

    Have retailers killed off Black Friday?

    Good point Mark ... turning the reality of fewer customers into an opportunity to improve the actual shopping experience. More inventory on more fixtures with deeper markdowns taken earlier in the season. How's that working out? How about 5R inventory (right product, right price, right place, right time, right quantity) and a staff that knows their stuff. With that combo the retailer has a very good shot at converting and making money in the process.
  • 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.
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