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: 03/25/2019

    Is there anything special about specialty retail?

    USP ... unique selling position ... therein lies the answer. How many specialty stores are truly unique? How many have a brand promise that gives them any kind of moat? How many have a USP that makes them the go-to store? Good example in REI. Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie? Yep. Gap? Nope. Best Buy and Apple? Yep. Abercrombie? They did, and blew it.
  • Posted on: 03/25/2019

    Is there anything special about specialty retail?

    Product is not the fix -- really? At the end of the day, after the store renovations, after the mobile apps, after the gathering spaces and after the showrooming ... money finally changes hands based on product. AND the quality of the experience along the path to purchase. But if the product isn't right, then all the backflips along the path to purchase are for naught. Seems to me obsessing over the right product is the right thing to do. PLUS getting path to purchase right. Path to purchase is now trickier than finding a parking spot at the mall.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2019

    Are people investments paying off for retailers?

    Retailers have spent years trying to cost-cut their way to profitability. As usual, the pendulum was pushed too far. "Right-sizing" now means staffing up, not down. Surgically for sure. Tech-enabled when possible. But retailers now know that when sorting through the knowns and unknowns of shopping and buying, human interaction is a big value adding plus.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2019

    Can Instagrammable moments turn into immediate and direct sales?

    Can the viewer be converted into a shopper and then buyer? Does the viewer want to be sold on Instagram? How aggressive or subtle will the selling effort be? Instagram is already a great storyteller, so part of the selling mission is done. If this initiative is finessed well, it could be a significant extension of Instagram's role.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2019

    Will a new name and private labels give DSW a leg up on the competition?

    This all sounds very smart, on all fronts. Proprietary labels make abundant sense when executed ala Costco and Trader Joe's. Why wouldn't a retailer take advantage of the leadership, differentiation, and margin opportunities presented by proprietary brands? Good for DSW. All smart moves in a turbulent market.
  • Posted on: 03/19/2019

    Are Amazon’s private labels falling short or just getting started?

    Amazon is an experimenting and learning machine. And they've got the means to learn from all the products from all the brands currently selling on Amazon. It's the perfect laboratory. Of course they will not bat 1,000, but they will get enough singles, doubles, triples and the occasional home run to create a big success with their proprietary labels. Think Kirkland at Costco. Kirkland worked because Costco just kept executing great quality product after great quality product -- from pickles to dress shirts. I am not suggesting that Amazon emulate that breadth of product strategy under one label, but Kirkland does suggest that consistency and patience pay off in building a proprietary label.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Burger King launches $5-a-month coffee subscription service

    Great idea. Absolutely test-worthy. They'll get some takers and sell a few more bacon/egg sandwiches in the process. But it's not as big a needle mover as donut sticks. Those are a serious incentive for an early AM visit.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2019

    Will Walmart’s new tablet burn into Amazon Fire’s market share?

    This feels like a low-profile stroll into a developed market. Certainly nothing earth shattering. It's a way to begin to expand what the brand promise of ONN stands for. It's a reach beyond accessories into what is probably higher margin territory. It's a low-expectation, low-risk move versus trying to take on Apple or Samsung in a higher profile, sexier product. Sounds smart to me.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2019

    Will customer hosts raise the shopping experience bar at Walmart?

    The hosts could add to the shopping experience in very simple and straightforward ways. I liken this to a page out of Home Depot's playbook. I don't go to Home Depot to just cruise or browse. I have a mission. I have a problem in search of a solution. I invariably have a question and the host at the front door clarifies the path to the solution immediately. Not quite the same context as a visit to Walmart, but this still sounds like a smart move in elevating the customer experience. Good old fashioned customer service.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    Other possible metrics: frequency of BOPIS, repeat of same customer BOPIS.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    Thanks Mohamed. And I vote that it gets tested in a "B" mall. Get proof of concept at a moderate level, and then scale in both directions.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    This new thinking is terrific! Let's make it a race; a contest. Which mall retailer can get the first testing of this thinking in place the fastest? And then scale the fastest?
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Will ending its price parity rule take the antitrust heat off Amazon?

    It's amazing that Amazon got away with this "rule" for so long. "Suggested" retail could only be suggested because retailers are supposed to be able to sell at their discretion. Brands could demand absolute fealty so why did Amazon get away with it? I know, silly question. But this move is long past due.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    What will it take to make department stores relevant again?

    "Living brand labs" is a great place to start. I also think Ron Johnson's plan for J.C Penney is a great place to start. Ron was just slightly off on his calendar and breadth of mission. He provided a template for all department stores over the course of a decade, not just J.C. Penney in a year or two. Unfortunately Macy's put themselves on an evolutionary path to TJMaxx with Backstage. Now they have to reconcile that with current efforts. Tough. And Primark proves it possible to have great looking stores AND great value. They are not mutually exclusive. Movie title for retail in the near future = "The Agony and The Ecstasy."
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will Costco’s new $15 minimum wage hurt or benefit the chain?

    This isn't just appropriate and generous, it's smart. Costco has a habit of smart decisions. Sharing the savings of tax cuts was the whole point. Costco once again proves to be a great corporate citizen.

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