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.

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  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Are retail HQs and stores suffering a communication breakdown?

    Too often I walk into the front entrance of a mall retailer and find myself saying, "Really? After all the planning, designing, merchandising, editing, and massaging ... this is what everybody agreed was the story they wanted to tell in this moment? Really?" Something gets lost between finalizing a floor set and how it gets executed when the product finally hits the store. Often it's trying to put four pounds into a two pound space. Sometimes it's the difficulty in populating stores of wildly different sales per square foot. Two stores of equal size. One does $1,000 per square foot and one does $200 per square foot. How does HQ plan and merchandise for those variances? In the old days we called it "branching." Buyers and merchandisers visiting stores and understanding physical space and capacity differences. Impossible to do reading spreadsheets. So what is the "Listen & Learn" platform in place at any given retailer that informs the overall process? The solution lies in HOW technology informs both the initial planning and merchandising and finally the execution.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Should retail boards include seats for store associates?

    Agree. The right kind of "listen and learn" platform within the company would surface all the issues employees at every level want to get on the table for consideration and action.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Growing demand for local products leads to out-of-stocks

    Space is finite. Capacity is finite. Given those parameters, deciding on breadth and depth of the assortments shouldn't be that difficult. But a quick tour of the mall will demonstrate that even before "localization" comes into the equation, different retailers have different skill levels in how they populate space. Some are meticulous (AEO). And a much longer list subscribe to a "more is more" mantra. And the (lack of) story telling in those stores reflect that undisciplined approach. My definition of "localization" would be "instead of" rather than "in addition to." This particular localized customer choice is going to be offered instead of a more nationalized style. This localized customer choice will appeal to more customers more often in this region than the national style. It's a better use of space in this location. Trying to shoehorn in more breadth with less depth and then saying the solution lies in the supply chain is a dangerous bet.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    How should retailers raise prices to offset tariffs?

    This is not so much an exercise in math as it is an exercise in understanding the customer's pain points. Tip #4 is critical. Where do you start to lose the sale completely and would you be better off banking a narrower margin rather than no margin at all? Basics and commodity items will have a tough time hiding price increases. Fashion and novelty are a little harder to shop on a price comparison basis.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Should Kohl’s buy At Home?

    I always applaud evolutionary thinking in action. This makes total sense to me. Expanding and growing in a way that allows the retailer to become the go-to outlet for so many of the family's needs. I don't see this so much as a move away from the department store model as a complete redefinition of the model. One retailer serving the family with a full range of products. And if they do that with more than one brand name on the front door, so be it. The data mining opportunities will be significant.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2019

    Do treasure hunt experiences provide the key to discounters’ fortunes?

    Absolutely. The more senses involved the better.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2019

    Do treasure hunt experiences provide the key to discounters’ fortunes?

    "Treasure hunt" is foundational to all kinds of shopping, ranging from T.J.Maxx to Hermes. Surprise me. Delight me. Elevate my life somehow. I can't think of everything. Bring some kind of unexpected treat into my life.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Study says Whole Foods is the priciest grocer of them all

    The last sentence about Prime members only saving an additional $1.54 on a basket of $400 makes me raise an eyebrow on the whole study. That just doesn't sound plausible. My own one-person shopping survey showed Whole Foods hitting parity if not lower prices than my former first-choice grocery store on the produce I buy most often. And Whole Foods had obviously better quality. No I do not buy any of the exotic, organic packaged goods. They were and continue to be ridiculously expensive. A review of the summarized data here would be interesting. I'm not sure it's so easy to create apples-to-apples comparisons with before and after Whole Foods to before and after "other" grocery stores. No pun intended.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Why is Amazon paying employees to quit their jobs?

    I find this to be innovative, out-of-the-box, evolutionary thinking. Sounds like it might accelerate the implementation of DSP. Populating DSP with existing employees sounds like it will integrate DSP versus create it as a bolt-on. Yet another rule book Amazon is rewriting.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2019

    Lands’ End is looking to get out of Sears like a bat out of hell

    Lands' End could have been the bedrock to Sears apparel, if that was ever even possible. It's certainly not Lands' End's fault that it didn't happen. Lands' End was the lipstick. Sears was the -- well, you know. It's not the fault of the lipstick. Lands' End has a clear, obvious and believable brand promise. Solid quality. Fair value. No confusion. Applause for not getting seduced by what would have been an awkward quest for fashion.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Is anyone going to buy Sears’ rebranding?

    This is a non-starter. A waste of time, energy and money. It's not even lipstick on a pig. Look at all the great attributes the pig has! It keeps getting back to "why?" Why is this being drawn out over the y...e...a...r...s...? Why is this the best use of Mr. Lampert's time, energy and capital? It just gets more and more curious.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2019

    Will Schick parent’s acquisition of Harry’s create a ‘next-generation consumer products platform’?

    The biggest asset that Edgewell is acquiring is the way that the Harry's founders think. If they can stay grounded in their disruptive/start-up/entrepreneurial mind set, then Edgewell has acquired market-busting potential. This is a great evolutionary move for all concerned. I think the joint statement that talks about the opportunity to have a CPG platform that delivers on their vision nails it.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2019

    Will Walmart’s new online pet pharmacy and vet clinics draw more pet parents?

    This makes enormous sense for Walmart to pursue. It is a logical extension of being the go-to store for so many family needs. I don't think it will be a stampede though. Pets are beloved family members. A relationship with a current, trusted vet will not be easily broken. But this is a long term equation. New and younger pet owners will welcome the opportunity to care for their pets at Walmart.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2019

    Will a buyer step up for Lord & Taylor?

    A deal would have nothing to do with what Lord & Taylor was or is today. What can it be, what does it have to be five to 10+ years from now? Who has both the check book and vision to do this deal?
  • Posted on: 05/06/2019

    Will a strategy built around changing people’s lives transform Lululemon’s business?

    There are brand followers, fans, loyalists, devotees and more. Lululemon has brand worshipers. Loyal and devoted beyond anything normal or ordinary. As Lululemon expands into broader health and wellness businesses, these folks are going to not just follow but participate enthusiastically. A community of health and wellness is a lot more engaging than a trip to the gym or health food store.

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