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: 09/20/2019

    Is AI at the center of the retail technology universe?

    I like the idea that AI can reduce waste, whether it's fresh tomatoes or cashmere sweaters. A walk through most mall apparel retailers during any week of the year will find anywhere from a couple of rounders to an entire room of prior season inventory. Every week, all year long. It's particularly bad in January and February. It seems overbuying is a common malady. Maybe AI can help inform the retailer better as to breadth and depth of the buy. I hope the "what" is still very much driven by real human intelligence, aided by AI. Apparel retailing is still a sensory and emotional activity. I hope that means humans have a role for a long time to come.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2019

    What is retail’s role in building a better society?

    Since companies and corporations are "citizens," yes, I think they have a responsibility to act as a good citizen. This is not to suggest they replace government in any way, but good citizens help and contribute when and where they can. The examples in the article are terrific. CVS especially has woven good citizenship into being a core part of their brand promise. It's a perfect fit. A win for all. Businesses can do nothing, or do something, and whatever choice is made it ultimately becomes part of the brand promise.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    Merchant tech insecurity ... MTI. Love it!
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    Injecting cutting edge tech in most retail environments might be a good example of a scenario where the smart move is to be a fast second -- or even a slow second.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Are grocers falling short in selling better-for-you foods?

    Visual merchandising can boil down to one very simple rule. "Important and obvious." If it's important, tell me why. Is the retailer making the important attribute obvious? How? Better-for-you may require more information, but that can quickly go on overload. "Important" needs to be "obvious" and, yes, that will probably be a little different for some product categories versus others -- whether it's groceries or apparel or home improvement, etc.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2019

    Have U.S. malls lost their sense of community?

    I think people are social animals and they crave social experiences. And malls have a huge opportunity to provide those social experiences. And oh by the way, shopping experiences as well. Malls stuck in the '80s and '90s will die, just like retailers stuck in that era. Evolved and reinvented malls will thrive. We will need less space invested in shopping and more space invested in social interaction. It will take a little exploring and experimenting, but an evolved mall will emerge and thrive.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    Will bringing the outdoors inside stores work for J.C. Penney?

    This is a perfectly logical step for J.C. Penney to take, but it all lies in the execution. If this is a banner hung over a fixture of flannel shirts or fleece jackets, it will be crickets. Can they really compete with L.L.Bean and Eddie Bauer? Remains to be seen, but I like the thought process and intent.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2019

    Old Navy is ready to set sail on its own

    I don't think all the speeches about the future of Old Navy and the Gap survive a real world reality check. One of the big lessons of the past couple years is that the USA is over mall'd and over store'd. And here is an already big business talking about doubling. And doubling against competition like TJMaxx, Ross, Burlington -- and -- the emergence of Primark. It doesn't sound plausible. I was in a mall yesterday (Danbury, CT) where Primark and Old Navy are literally next door neighbors. Both stores looked good, but Old Navy had crickets chirping. Primark was genuinely busy. Wish I could attach pictures. I should have counted heads or people lined up at registers. And what if JCP gets their act together? And what about Macy's and Backstage? And what about the emergence of rental and recycle businesses? It's not like the opening price point segment of the market is hurting for options and the door for growth is wide open. None of this makes any sense to me. Let's hear from a financial guy that says this financial engineering actually makes sense -- if you believe the speeches. But I don't believe the speeches about the available upside.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    In power move, Walmart expands Delivery Unlimited

    Very smart move. Capture the customer based on perishables and they tack on their non-perishable purchases to boot. This is not just an Amazon strategy. Any other local grocery store better take notice also.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    Is Amazon Go heading for a hard stop?

    The article mentions "a wave if experimentation" in this technology since the announcement. Why rush if there might a new breakthrough in this new shopping paradigm? And it sounds like there very well may be. Amazon may be taking their foot off the gas pedal just to be students of the competition. Or they themselves have a new gizmo in the works. Amazon is already first. They just don't want to get ahead of themselves. Sometimes cautious is smart.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2019

    Will Walmart have more success creating consumer direct brands than acquiring them?

    Walmart is better off developing and running businesses through a Walmart model, not an Amazon model. It's not a function of creating or acquiring. It's about identifying the right market opportunities and acting. An internal idea is going to start from scratch. If they spot an external idea that is small and not yet a needle mover, so what? If it puts them ahead of an internal development, go for it. It's about the quality of the idea, not pride of authorship. It's a big planet with a lot of very smart people working on new ideas. Walmart is going to out-think them all? Losing a billion dollars was not a function of internal or external development. It was about choices made in the running of the business.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2019

    Will a loyalty program give Americans more reasons to shop at Target?

    Once the first airline had a frequent flyer mileage program, they all had to have it. "Membership has its rewards." It seems like a loyalty program of some kind is table stakes these days. Except -- is it really loyalty when everybody has their version in play? The playing field has been leveled so the customer gets the goodies wherever they shop. Just like everything is on sale everywhere all the time (this is a slight exaggeration). What is the truly distinguishing and differentiating element?
  • Posted on: 09/09/2019

    Ace Hardware builds through acquisition in the do-it-for-me market

    More and more retailers have to extend their brand promise from being in the "stuff" business to being in the "service" business. This is a perfect example. I can handle a fair amount of projects around the house with my own skills, but the minute a project elevates from DIY to DIFM, Ace now has a built-in solution.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2019

    Would you go to Walmart to see a doctor?

    Sure, why not? Convenience, speed, and value are the touchstones for what a customer expects from services and retailers these days. Now that I get my flu shot at the pharmacy at the grocery store, I'm open to their approaches. Why not a medical clinic at the mall? Lots of Sears, J.C. Penney, and Macy's stores are available for remodeling.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2019

    Whole Foods wants a hand from shoppers at checkout

    Seems like a lot of effort and expense in order to save three to four seconds. Three to four seconds -- really?

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