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: 07/30/2021

    Amazon forecasts slower growth as it laps last year’s insane online sales gains

    Slower growth from Amazon in a world emerging from the pandemic has to be some of the least surprising news ever. They had solid growth and a record Prime Day. Third party sales are up. The migration to ecomm continues. Alibaba is lurking nearby. Walmart is selling its platform tech. When Amazon has difficulty comping on Prime Day or when third party sales slip, we'll know they are having real challenges.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2021

    Store associates shouldn’t have to be the mask or vaccine police

    It's now abundantly clear where voluntary action or lax masking and vaccination behaviors are taking us. All this "freedom of choice" is giving the virus the freedom it needs to do as much damage as possible. The simple lesson about vaccination and disease eradication was learned a long time ago. The new lesson appears to be how politics can override science. (I almost inserted the most grotesque pun ever.)
  • Posted on: 07/28/2021

    Weather forecast predicts retailers will face more record-setting heat waves and storms

    This isn't just a retail thing. It's a planet thing. And apart from some activists, nobody is doing enough. "Sustainable" and "green" need to become the umbrellas for our thinking and behavior on a level way higher than we are currently performing. Kind of odd that we have a billionaire space race (3 of them no less) when there are a couple of projects on planet Earth that could use some additional attention.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2021

    Will smaller retailers pay to use Walmart’s tech and transform their own businesses?

    I don't see this as shifting focus from serving shareholders to serving stakeholders. Serving stakeholders IS serving shareholders. This is just plain smart stuff, both strategically and financially. If Amazon is a digital mall, then it looks like Walmart is grabbing some of that action also. If they can digitally enable other smaller retailers faster and more economically than they could do it themselves, they it sounds like a win on all sorts of levels. Including providing Amazon with some additional competition.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Macy’s should have stayed local

    Yep, Macy's should have stayed local. I started my journey in retail with Federated (Bullock's) in Los Angeles, and then became part of Macy's in 1988 when the ill-fated Campeau deal was done. There's no question that Macy's was a better merchandising and marketing organization than Federated. And there's also no question that Federated was a far more disciplined organization than Macy's. That's the reason the Federated corporation survived and the reason the Macy's brand survived. When the Macy's South deal was done, Macy's left an entire regional buying team in place in LA. Perfect. Macy's strategies but with localized insight, implementation and support. I was part of the team that went to Atlanta, but even though my heart was totally invested in my 14 years with Bullock's in LA, I have to admit that in the maelstrom of that whole event, I personally didn't give Bullock's the attention it deserved. Turns out it's damned difficult to regionalize and localize. A regional team has to be truly empowered to do their job. That's how Macy's South started, but over time "efficiencies" won the day. And let's remember that they tried "My Macy's" for a while. I suspect that "My Macy's" suffered a similar fate of not enough true local empowerment — and OTB!!! In today's data driven world, it would theoretically be easier than before to regionalize assortments. But it's about way more than data. It's about a commitment and the patience to let it bear fruit.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2021

    TikTok goes to the mall

    Malls used to be social hangouts. We even coined the term "mall rats" at one point. TikTok can instantly makes the mall a social hangout again. And the new nickname for those hanging out will be...?
  • Posted on: 07/22/2021

    Should retailers reconsider bringing their HQ staff back to work?

    I don't think this is a "should" question anymore. I think it has now become a "can" and "how" question. So many lessons have been learned about remote work and work from home that the pandemic is now only one of the variables to consider in establishing a company work model and ethic. Productivity, work/life balance, time utterly wasted on commuting, and the expense of travel are all variables that have new metrics, metrics we didn't know would be possible a year ago. Forget "should." It's now "can" and "how."
  • Posted on: 07/21/2021

    Will a new private label be a good fit for Macy’s customers?

    It's a given that private label makes sense as part of a merchandising strategy. But it's all in the execution. Product, presentation, and now especially social media marketing. What is the overriding strategy that will take Macy's proprietary brands to top-of-mind awareness rather than one-day sales and Backstage? If this is just another brand they throw out there with high/low pricing then sure, it's a fit -- but it's not a solution.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2021

    Is it time for retailers to reinstate pandemic protocols?

    The case rate and hospitalization rate variance between highly vaccinated and moderately vaccinated areas makes it pretty clear what is going on. It's pretty amazing that we have hard evidence of a solution in hand and yet the level of misinformation, and belief in that misinformation, remains high. I never put my mask away and it looks like it will be a while before I do. And I live in a high vaccination area. Retail, offices, public venues in general are all going to have to play a role in reminding people what it's going to take to stay safe. But at the end of the day it's the people themselves who have to have enough respect for themselves and their fellow citizens to finally get this thing under control.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2021

    Is the Walmart/Justice tie-up a harbinger of more retailer brand partnerships?

    With all the examples in the article and also in the comments, it's pretty clear that collaboration is the strategy of the moment, and for a while to come I suspect. And definitions will get a little fuzzy. Is Justice still a national brand or is it now effectively a proprietary brand for Walmart? Malls and retailers that are still standing by 2025 will have survived a brutal shake-out. That doesn't mean that the retailers and brands that didn't survive still can't have a role. Justice is a great example of how a retail brand can have a bountiful second life. And look at the roster of brands that ABG is building. Collaboration will be their very lifeblood. How many of those previously national brands will have continued life as a national brand? Or will they find future life as a collaborating exclusive brand with some parent retailer or mall?
  • Posted on: 07/16/2021

    Has Authentic Brands Group created a new brand-building model?

    In the article the paragraph starting with "Under the model..." goes on to describe a decades old model. Signing a core licensee partner agreement before an acquisition is executed might be a new twist, but then it sound like the model reverts to a very long standing licensor/licensee relationship, albeit with new digital tools and social marketing opportunities. ABG gets a lot of credit for being a great student of the market and taking advantage of the plethora of opportunities the recent market turmoil has provided. Now comes the hard part -- execution at the store, mall and e-commerce level. And the execution is in the hands of the licensees. Mr. Salter is very clear that ABG is "purely focused on brand identity and marketing." That leaves a lot of very important work to be done by the licensees, and it's still a very tough market out there.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2021

    Bed Bath & Beyond adds off-hour pickups and speedier fulfillment to its ‘omni-always’ suite

    Smart. An efficient way to incentivise online ordering and store fulfillment. Early hours for seniors made sense during the pandemic and I'm sure was appreciated. This makes even more sense to more people with hectic schedules. Any bets Target follows suit?
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    When will predictive models become more predictable?

    Yes! Data has a "shelf life." Or, data on season-less basics has cumulative meaning over the long term. Data on the hottest current fashion has limited value. It might be a best seller, but can you reorder and get delivery before the item or trend fizzles out? And then does the data have any meaning next season or next year?
  • Posted on: 07/14/2021

    When will predictive models become more predictable?

    Predictability does not lend itself to a one-size-fits-all solution. The model I have come to adapt in the apparel business has four levels of predictability, ranging from basics, to key items, to trend, to novelty/fashion in descending order of predictability. In the most stable of times the predictability of trend and novelty/fashion product is going to be limited. That's the nature of the beast. It's all about data + design. Data is a huge factor at the basics level. And data has a very small role at the novelty/fashion level. It could have a larger role if -- big if -- the supply chain could respond to best sellers in season. When you are developing and buying product six to 12 months out, the data on basics is a heck of a lot more useful than the data on novelty/fashion. That's when the novelty/fashion level is pure guess work. When I worked in China we could test and have almost any product on the floor in three to six weeks. All of a sudden data has a huge role in the novelty/fashion level of the business. When you are only buying three to six weeks out it is impossible to get into too much trouble. So it become a function of all three variables. Data + design + supply chain = level of predictability.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2021

    Will ‘Scan & Ship’ give Sam’s a leg up on club competition?

    This is a great idea for heavy or bulky items, with or without anything digital or tech. I'm in the store and I can see, feel, touch, measure and make an informed decision. So whether I talk to a salesperson or use my phone, it's a good idea. It's a good non-tech idea made all the better with a little tech.

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