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: 11/15/2019

    Walmart has a too much grocery problem

    Walmart has an "SOS" problem. "Stuff On Sale." And it's not that it's bad stuff or bad value. It's just presented as stuff. Seas of racks. No storytelling. Walmart is a very unemotional environment to shop in. And that worked fine for a long time. But now I think the bar is set a little higher. Macy's is working hard on their SOS problem. So is J.C. Penney. The good news for Walmart is that their grocery business gives them the traffic. Now how do they leverage that traffic? Walmart could also benefit from their own version of Kirkland. A proprietary brand with an unassailable price/quality profile. Maybe they have it and it's my blind spot. So -- back to storytelling. Walmart has an opportunity to trade up and attract department store customers. If department stores can't solve their SOS problem, Walmart can take a shot and win on price/value.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Are mixed reality apps set to skyrocket?

    It seems to me there are two completely different questions being asked here. It's very easy to see how mixed reality apps will facilitate and enhance the shopping process, both online and in-store. It's a very natural extension of the shopping evolution we are experiencing. The leap to cumbersome AR glasses/headsets feels like just that -- a leap. And now I'm ready to hear the response: "OK Boomer."
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online

    Knowns and unknowns. If I know exactly what I want to get somebody, online shopping can save some time. If I don't know (and I often don't) then the discovery and treasure hunt of brick-and-mortar shopping can actually be fun. Take a deep breath, prepare to troll for a parking space, and actually enjoy the experience of mall shopping, especially for families. It's not like Santa is going to knock on your front door to ask the kids what they want for Christmas.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    What happens now that Nike has called off its deal with Amazon?

    "Commoditized space" is a great way to put it! Probably necessary for many businesses just looking for entry into the market. Totally unnecessary for brands at Nike's level of development. Amazon might have become the big box department store at the end of the mall for some brands. Better to be your own specialty store and tell your own story.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Retail apocalypse? How about a disruptor meltdown?

    This whole article is a hugely welcome reality check. "Investing" in customer acquisition in one thing. "Investing" in customer retention above and beyond the rate of ever being able to make a profit turns out to be unsustainable. That's not exactly new news, but there are disruptors and entrepreneurs who continue to think they are the ones who can beat the odds. And actually I am thankful for their revolutionary behavior. They make it possible for the evolutionary players to learn from their execution and results. Nothing wrong with being a fast, and profitable, second place in this environment.
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    I like Neil's list a lot, especially #1, which I view as the race-to-the-bottom and last-mile cloud under which businesses seem to be stuck. "Free" is not a sustainable long term strategy. So how will product innovation and all the great tech gizmos help differentiate a retailer or brand to a level of customer experience that they will be glad to pay for? And ... what does the mall of 2025 look like and behave like? And I don't mean Hudson's Yard. I mean a suburban "B" mall. The first steps down the road to that mall will continue in 2020.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

    How about that -- experiential retail at the simplest possible level. AI not necessary. VR not necessary. New app not necessary. New digital/tech anything not necessary. Clever and thoughtful wins the day. Treasure hunt wins the day.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Express Launches digital-first DTC wellness brand

    This sounds like the established retailer and the pop-up are both exercising some very pragmatic efficiencies. The retailer gets to launch a brand extension with minimum investment and the pop-up gets to their (presumably) target customer in a faster and less expensive way than if they did it on their own. Great learning opportunity for both businesses. Next question -- are they dating, or engaged or halfway down the aisle already? Curious how this will play out under different possible outcomes.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Will ‘HoliDeals’ put Target over the top for the holidays?

    Six fewer days and one less weekend tend to get everybody's attention. Now the mission is to comp for November plus December. I can't wait to see 4th quarter margins.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    This is a perfect example of how all the investment in the world in tech and digital can't compensate for disappointing the customer at the product and merchandising level. Most disappointing is that "the CEO search will focus on strong leadership candidates with operational excellence to drive greater efficiency, speed and profitability.” Not a word about product, merchandising, marketing, or alignment with customer. They've got operational excellence! They've got efficiency! Otherwise they would be constantly in the red! Their operational excellence and efficiency have been saving them! It's 2020 -- how about some merchandising strategies not mired in 2002?
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Will ‘HoliDeals’ put Target over the top for the holidays?

    Looks like Target is taking an "all of the above" approach. Can't say I blame them. It will be interesting to see how the "preview" differs from the real deal. I hope they pack some power into the "real" Black Friday event (odd that I even have to say it that way). It's already diluted into Black November, so let's see what is left for Black Friday. It would be great to see something clever, other than an even bigger number in front of the % savings.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    Several of these initiatives could very well work. And some may prove to be viable in "A" stores only. It gets very simple very quickly. What worked? What is now scalable? On what time/action calendar? With what budget? Now take a deep breath. None of this will work if they don't change product, pricing, and presentation. J.C. Penney didn't need a lab store to study, learn and implement what is working for Primark. Primark will be no less a threat tomorrow than they are today if J.C. Penney doesn't deal with its merchandising mindset. Changing the thinking isn't easy, but it also doesn't have to cost a couple billion dollars.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Will consumers decide that buying less is better than buying ‘green’?

    Reduced consumption and "green buying" both sound like a drift away from disposable and towards quality, longevity, durability ... value over the long term. Not many apparel businesses are built around that ethos. Nothing wrong with being pragmatic, but let's hope we can figure out how we don't lose the fun and excitement and differentiation of fashion.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Food halls drive mall traffic, not clothing sales

    Are there any malls that track food hall comp sales relative to apparel retailer comp sales? If the food business is shrinking less than the apparel business, that means people eat and then walk by the apparel stores to go home and shop from their couch. That's a pretty severe indictment on the kind of storytelling that the mall apparel retailers are executing. Surely there are aspects of "discovery" and "treasure hunt" shopping where the store beats the internet. How about store-only product? How about frequency of fresh deliveries that might incentivize the shopper to visit more frequently out of a little curiosity? How about ANYTHING other than making the % savings a bigger and bigger number?
  • Posted on: 11/05/2019

    Retailers are ‘satisfied’ with their online customer journey optimization efforts

    So marketers are grading themselves? Is there any external customer-driven data to compare with these self endowed high marks?

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