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: 05/05/2021

    Remote work is rough on big retail districts

    First it was the diminishing level of foot traffic in malls that was forcing a re-rationalization of that space. And that was pre-pandemic. Now it is entire sections of cities that face the same dilemma. The bottom line is that there are locations that will experience a permanent drop in the level of foot traffic. So I guess the definition of resilient is not so much being strong enough to wait out the disruption until normal bounces back, as being smart enough to know the past is gone forever and flexible enough (both emotionally and financially) to form and evolve to a new model.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2021

    Is the future of retail being cooked up in a lab?

    I'm not a student of the jewelry market, so lab grown diamonds prompts a "...who knew?" kind of response from me. But hey, if it's earth- and or/human-friendly I'm all for it. I'm intrigued by lab grown meats but will confess to being in no hurry to sample them. The lab product I am anxious for is biodegradable plastic and polyester. Not just recyclable, but biodegradable. It's great when we recycle, but for the amount of product that inevitably ends up in a landfill, we need for it to be biodegradable. From apparel to packaging, sustainability will be a bigger and bigger driver of product development going forward.
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    Do retailers have to catch up to Amazon’s logistics powerhouse?

    Is the competition at the logistics level or the experience level? Is this about the convenience offered by logistics and delivery or about the experience of shopping? Do I want to eat every meal at home just because there are great delivery services? NO! Sometimes it's all about the experience of eating out. Ditto apparel, groceries and other products. Sometimes it's all about the experience of shopping at the store or mall. Brick and mortar retailers have to maximize their strengths, rooted in the physical store. And of course offer solid e-commerce and delivery services. But brand loyalty built at the store level has got to be one of the biggest competitive weapons retailers have. Explore + Experiment = Experience. Offered and refreshed at the store!
  • Posted on: 05/03/2021

    DoorDash tries tiered commission structure to deal with restaurants’ complaints

    I understand a restaurant having to lock in on a certain level of marketing, but why not let the customer choose some portion of the service/expense package? Why limit a restaurant to one radius in their package? How difficult would it be to simply charge more for larger radius deliveries? These commissions sound outrageously high, so additional finessing of the model won't be surprising.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2021

    Should retailers welcome vaccine passports?

    This is a really dismal, emotional, gut wrenching -- and necessary conversation we have to have. Things are improving because of all the actions being taken by believers, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. It's not because the deniers are right about anything. Low compliance or early relaxing of standards will give us more scenarios like we are witnessing in India. It's exhausting that this still has to be debated, but I know which retail establishments I'll be visiting.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2021

    Starbucks’ opens green innovation center

    Sustainable solutions are important enough at this point that they absolutely deserve a separate innovation center. The whole subject deserves a focused, dedicated effort. The tricky part is extracting solutions from that new silo and implementing them at scale. "Skunkworks" have long been an effective model for innovation, but implementation at scale is the ultimate goal. STORY before Macy's was a terrific innovation center. It sounded great as a Skunkworks project at Macy's. Implementation at scale didn't happen.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2021

    Will Americans open their garages and homes to Amazon and Walmart?

    "More convenient" is a huge driver in the relationship between any retailer and their customers these days. The pandemic put a huge exclamation point behind that. So the underlying logic of this program makes huge sense. But there are risks, just like any pioneering effort. As a customer I won't be an early adopter here. I'll watch and learn while the bumps in the road are figured out. But there is no doubt that this delivery mechanism will one day be widely embraced. And when the thinking extends beyond groceries, just how many different retailers is the homeowner going to give access to? I might be figuring out some kind of external locker rather than giving the world access to my garage.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2021

    Will immersive experiences revitalize U.S. malls?

    The mall, as a patient, is sick with multiple maladies. Broken bones, bad allergies, impaired vision (literally). Even if the entertainment experiences helped to restore foot traffic, that doesn't mean individual retailers will benefit. Lots of mall tenants have their own individual content issues that also need resolution. Each retailer needs to figure out its own "treasure hunt" offering, other than the size of the number on the % savings sign. There has to be a reason for the customer to leave the wonderful new food court to shop and buy in the individual stores.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2021

    Report: Amazon will surpass Walmart as America’s biggest retailer by 2025

    I think the distinction between Amazon as a marketplace and Walmart as a retailer is part of the point here. Amazon simply has more growth opportunities than Walmart. The significant other third party in this conversation is the mall. Now that the pandemic has shaken everybody out of their hand-wringing race to the bottom mentality, the new level of competition for the customers' time and wallet share is going to be good for everybody. Explore + Experiment = Experience. How will each of these competitors manage this equation?
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Why did Amazon open a hair salon?

    This is all about personalizing product and process -- at scale. Groceries, health care, personal care. Amazon becomes the go-to purveyor of a personalized (or family) range of products and services.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2021

    Are consumers getting less creeped out about being tracked online?

    It's one thing to get a notification about something I might not have specifically sought out for myself. It's downright irritating to be hounded by a brand or retailer about something I do NOT want to buy. I looked. I passed. I passed again on your last eleventeen emails. Enough!
  • Posted on: 04/26/2021

    Schnucks displays St. Louis pride with streetwear store-within-a-store concept

    Grocery stores are going to find themselves with unproductive square footage as e-commerce and delivery programs siphon off foot traffic. But grocery stores will still have a very high frequency of visit numbers. So available space + high foot traffic = non-grocery opportunities! Sounds like opportunities galore!
  • Posted on: 04/26/2021

    Will stock ownership work as a loyalty program perk?

    Was this concept tested in both up and down markets? Miles and points may be boring by now, but I'm not aware of a program where the value fluctuates based on external market forces. This fractional ownership idea is easy to love in an up market. Let's see how it weathers some uncomfortable market fluctuations.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2021

    Amazon has mad upskills

    Wow. I had not previously heard of this Amazon initiative and I'm impressed. Really impressed. It reminds me of the hypothetical exchange between two executives: "Q: What happens if we spend a lot money training people and they leave? A: What happens if we don't make the investment and they stay?" The whole idea moves Amazon to the front of the line as a desirable place to work -- and learn, and grow.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2021

    Will Americans go shopping for dressier clothes as the COVID-19 threat is reduced?

    Absolutely people will want to dress up again, but at the same time we will be redefining what dress up looks and feels like. People may want to forego the office uniform for something a little more fun and expressive. Hopefully we see a shift to color and comfort. Color is an easy way to express upbeat feelings and there can't be any doubt about the new emphasis on comfort. There is a big opportunity here for different segments of the apparel business to express some real creativity. Dressing up denim and dressing down the suit should give people the opportunity to be newly expressive and shake off the doldrums of a year we all want to move on from.

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