• Jeff Sward
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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.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Is Amazon killing Barnes & Noble’s chances for a turnaround?

    Well said. Brick-and-mortar will always present an opportunity for differentiation and experience; a reason to leave the couch rather than stay on the couch. As always, it becomes about the HOW. It used to be that being just a book store was enough. It used to be that just being a golf driving range was enough. A quick look at the evolution of golf driving ranges provides a good lesson.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2018

    Merchants seek the right balance between classics and fad items

    Thumbs up! This is part of the whole basis for my approach to assortment planning. Knowns and unknowns. Low risk and high risk. What is the right balance? As pointed out, few do it well. Science + art. Left brain + right brain.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It

    Yep, we agree. Hate to be sold, but love to buy. My examples were merely meant to speak to the extremes of selling -- why selling sometimes gets a bad name. And yes, Zig Zigler was a very smart guy. But information and education are on a different plane than feelings. I develop feelings in at least two different ways. By first impressions based on zero information. And then by second impressions, after processing some information. Thanks for the pause for thought.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Reasons you’re afraid of retail sales training and what to do about It

    I have a personal aversion to being "sold." Think used cars. Or robo-calls for a "free trip to Florida" so I can be sold a condo. I welcome being informed or educated or just plain helped. Maybe if sales training had a different name? Language and delivery are both part of selling.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Best Buy as "digital plumber." Brilliant! For apparel retailers I like "We are in the business of managing people's emotions." People feel faster than they think. If you can't make them feel better than the next guy, how will you survive? Are you just offering stuff on sale? Or do customers actually look forward to your next delivery? A retailer who manages emotions well probably has a longer life than a retailer trying to win the race to the bottom.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    I think it comes down to knowns and unknowns. CPG products have lots of built-in knowns. You know exactly what they are and how you are going to use them. Apparel items have lots of built-in unknowns, like fit, weight and hand-feel. Buy a brand you know well and the odds of not returning the item improve. Experiment and buy a new brand and who knows. Yes each retailer and each category has to figure out the model that works for them. But abusers of the business should not have to be tolerated, whether it's in brick-and-mortar stores or on the internet.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Are retailers short-changing national grocery brands?

    Too many retailers cheated and disappointed too many customers over too many years. Quality out, margins up, customer perception down. Done correctly, PL is a retailer's best friend. Done poorly, it is a retailer's worst enemy.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Are retailers short-changing national grocery brands?

    Kirkland forever! Private label done right. Value + superior quality.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Why did Bon-Ton fail while Macy’s did not? 

    Let's remember the skill sets of the institutions that were cobbled together to form what we now know as Macy's ("Federated Renamed," as I think of it). The simple version of the equation is "Federated + Macy's + May Co. = Macy's" as we know it today. Federated was very disciplined. Macy's bordered on being out of control. (I worked for both.) Macy's was the better merchant and great at marketing. Federated + Macy's was a great combination of strengths. Adding May Co., another disciplined business, made sense (sort of). Yeah, I was horrified to see Bullock's disappear, but times were changing and a national chain was born. Only now is it remembering that regional and local sensibilities are important. The key was that complimentary strengths were the basis of a lasting marriage.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    Retailers get real with high-touch service

    Honest, genuine, real, transparent, authentic. Bonobos, Warby Parker, Everlane, Honest Co. Yep ... customers very definitely recognize the difference between songs and noise.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

    The idea is as old as retailing. Salespeople and their black books. Unit buyers who knew many of their customers by name ... and size and color preference and.... Now the salespeople have a vast new array of tools and channels of communication. Evolution works! How about that!
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    Is data-driven marketing holding back storytelling?

    I'll second Doug Garnett's comment about the difference between truth telling and story telling. There is a critically important difference. I draw my own distinction between data and knowledge. Knowledge provides context and insight. It begins to answer the questions of "how?" and "why?" In apparel it's not enough to know style X is a bestseller. WHY is it a bestseller? Style, fabric, color, hand-feel, fit, trim ... one of the Kardashians wore it on an evening out? If we want more best sellers, what exactly are we trying to replicate? Customers are telling you THEIR story through bestsellers. Understanding the WHY and HOW of their story seems like a pretty good start to writing your brand's next chapter.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    Points well made, but I would say that if the pop-ups are doing "great," then mission accomplished. It's up to the rest of the departments and the rest of the buyers to compete.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    " ... find something new on every visit ... " Perfect! As opposed to "find something old at an ever-decreasing price." New + Fresh + SCARCE. Sell out. Replace with new and fresh. Repeat. It's impossible on a large scale but very doable on a small scale. There are sufficient seasonal events (Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day) and regional/local reasons for this to work. Yep, it's same concept as Macy's/STORY. Start the process. Experiment. Test. Find the evolutionary mechanism that can diminish the power of the word "sale."
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’

    Centralize vs. localize. Turns out it's extremely difficult to strike the right balance. Ask Macy's. I just returned from a one year assignment in China where the client is centralizing 2400+ stores. Vast geography. Widely varying climates. Multiple ethnicities. My advice -- slow down! Centralize what you can and localize what you have to. Whole Foods wants to expand their reach? Great! No surprise under Amazon's umbrella. I have to believe that Amazon knows how to slice and dice the data to optimize local opportunities.
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